The richest man on the planet, Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, took detailed bids from American cities looking for two perfect locations to host his new Amazon centers. The cities offered Amazon all sorts of enticements to get Mr. Bezos to locate a new plant in their city. New York City offered $3,000, 000,000 (three billion) in gifts to Amazon and Bezos, the richest man in the world, was set to make NYC one of Amazon’s new hubs. Recently, due to massive opposition on the ground, from local residents, unions, and a number of NYC politicians, Amazon backed out of the deal with NYC.
Those in favor of the deal pointed out that NYC will be losing 25,000 new jobs by letting the deal with Amazon’s fall through. Others pointed out that giving Amazon a massive tax break to locate HQ2 in Queens was not worth the few good jobs that would be created. I had the picture of $15/hr jobs for Amazon serfs. It turns out these jobs at the planned HQ2 were high paying Amazon jobs. From the Bezos-owned Washington Post:
Opponents, including freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), protested that the influx of Amazon employees, to be paid an average salary of at least $150,000 a year, would cause housing costs to skyrocket, drive out low-income residents and worsen congestion on the subway and streets. source
Most Amazon jobs are not the kind of meaningful jobs that make any kind of positive difference in anyone’s lives, except for fast food worker income. They are what economists call “bullshit jobs”, repetitive factory jobs that will soon be done by robots. Virtually all of these jobs would be non-union jobs (Amazon is a big opponent of unions) at $15 an hour. Warehouse jobs, fetching and carrying, hustling to make ambitious hourly quotas. Working conditions at Amazon fulfillment centers are famously hellish.
I immediately reached for my calculator since I already knew that it would take one of these workers 591,412 hours, or 68 years, working twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, without taking an hour off, to make what the boss, Mr. Bezos, Jeff, makes in an hour. How about these 25,000 new workers, I wondered. How long would this whole group of typical Amazon workers have to work to earn what Jeff makes every hour whether he shows up or not?
With so many sharing the load, turns out it would only take those 25,000 new workers a shade under 24 hours to make, together, what their boss makes every hour, whether he is sick, flying in the air or sailing on a yacht. Individually, of course, it still would take each of those 25,000 new workers sixty-eight years, working twenty four hours a day seven days a week without a break to make what Bezos earns every hour.
What about a hundred new workers, how long would they all have to work, to earn what their boss gets in one hour? Only 5,974 working hours each. That’s only 149 forty hours weeks each for these hundred assuming they took no breaks. Barely three years, if they worked without vacations.
Jeff makes $191,000 a minute. It would take one Amazon worker several years to make that, what her boss makes in sixty seconds. A year’s salary for that typical Amazon worker? A few seconds of her boss’s time. Those working the now gone high paying HQ2 jobs would earn Jeff’s one minute income in about a year. Fair is fair. We owe everything to our visionary billionaires, after all.
Asked by a surprisingly dogged interviewer on FOX if there was any precedent for a president asking Congress for money, being refused and then declaring a national emergency to take the money anyway, Stephen Miller missed an obvious line of attack. Not a great line, admittedly, but, given the circumstances, maybe the best defense of this impulsive, repulsive president that he had.
The pugnacious little shit stain could have smirked and said: Yes, idiot. It was called Iran-Contra. Congress passed a law that forbade US taxpayer money from going to the fund Freedom Fighters in Nicaragua. A covert group of the president’s men contravened an arms embargo and sold weapons to Iran, a hardline theocratic state who had recently taken American hostages. Profits, part of the “mark-up” from those sales, were sent to Central America to fund the pro-democratic operations of the anti-Sandinista fighters who, it has long been alleged by a worldwide cabal communist sympathizers and freedom haters, also, sometimes, raped (it was only a handful of nuns, by most accounts) and tortured, as well as killing.
Sure the interviewer would have pointed out that the arms sale and death squad funding deal were both clearly illegal, and not the same as the president invoking a manufactured, non-urgent state of emergency. Worth a shot though, I think, since nobody was ever punished for the Iran-Contra affair. Like a drunk who found a rich man’s wallet, treating the bar to drinks, the George HW Bush administration was generous with the pardons, before and after trials. Why let the former Secretary of Defense undergo a criminal trial that could end up a mess for everybody? The pardons made the sickening scandal evaporate into the fond mist of the glorious Republican Revolution.
Reagan, after all, was the Great Communicator who promised to make America Great Again and said it was morning in America. President George HW Bush, the former CIA director long considered by Ann Coulter the biggest wimp president of our lifetimes, has since been replaced on this dubious pedestal by the whining schemer we have there now.
And look, honestly, the televised hearings into the Iran-Contra scandal made a patriotic hero of current NRA president Oliver North. The NRA presidency is a lushly compensated position . North has been lavishly praised by NRA Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre as “a legendary warrior for American freedom, a gifted communicator and skilled leader.” Ollie wasn’t going to let the law stop him from waging war for freedom.
Being indicted as a result of the investigation also didn’t harm the hawkish Elliott Abrams, who is currently overseeing efforts to free Venezuela from a modern-day Hitler, as he did decades ago in explaining that the reign of terror illegally funded US-backed fighters in Central America unleashed on their countrymen was only the glorious prelude to democracy and the liberation of oppressed people. He may have lied to Congress, but, as they say, extremism in defense of liberty is no vice.
 More recently, the NRA has paid LaPierre an annual salary of roughly $1 million. But in some years, LaPierre has earned far more. In 2015, for example, LaPierre took home $5.1 million, the Washington Post reported. Feb 28, 2018
There is nothing to stop
the kid in the angry red baseball hat
from crunching down the gravel path
through an always open gate
to the spot where a large stone
marks my father’s grave
A tempting canvas
for some malicious mischief
a few shakes of the can
the whoosh as a crooked cross
splays itself over the Hebrew words
that remember the skeleton
as a bright and modest man
The boneyard is on the road
where local klansman
hurled fist-sized rocks
to smash the heads of folk singers
when my father was an
idealistic college student,
the moral arch of history finally
bending the right way
if the line could only hold
Seventy years later
no guard or locked gate
defends the graves of
those helpless dead
who are, anyway, beyond harm now
It’s the honor system,
I have written harshly about the president from time to time. It is partly in reaction to his frequent, reckless spouting of “alternative facts” and partly the hard-line partisans he appoints and the damaging policies he promotes. Still, like all Americans, he deserves a fair trial, so let me point out that nothing has ever been proved about this man or his character that disqualifies him as commander-in-chief.
You can say paying $25,000,000 to defrauded customers of his now-defunct Trump University is an admission that one of his self-named companies committed fraud on a large scale. The jury’s out (of the picture), the settlement terms are not public, or if so, are very boring, outside of the amount he paid (“pennies on the dollar”) and that he admitted no wrongdoing in settling the class actions .
You can attack his now shuttered Trump Foundation the same way. You are free to draw any conclusions you want, but they are not legal conclusions, nobody is going to jail.
This is even more true for the assumptions flowing from the criminal convictions of several of his confidants, including his longtime personal lawyer and his former campaign manager.
His “fixer” Michael Cohen was convicted of tax evasion, illegal campaign contributions and lying to Congress. How any of this has anything to do with his boss, Mr. Trump, has yet to be shown. It is a huge leap, to say that the CEO of a closely held family business, even one famous for its CEO making every decision, was involved in any of the illegality his unprincipled personal lawyer is going to prison for.
The same goes for his one-time campaign manager, Paul Manafort. He’s been convicted of tax fraud and bank fraud and made his situation worse by lying to federal investigators, violating his deal with them by sharing details of the ongoing Mueller probe with the president and his lawyers. Sure Manafort pleaded guilty to “conspiracy to defraud the United States” and witness tampering, but how does this make Mr. Trump guilty of anything? Manafort was Trump’s campaign manager for only two months, for godsake!
It may look suspicious, sure, that Manafort had many dealings, continuing through the short time he was managing the Trump presidential campaign (for free), with Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, the man known as Mr. Putin’s favorite oligarch. Is it illegal now to be friends with a Russian billionaire?
It may be illegal to commit bank fraud, to commit tax fraud, to tamper with witnesses, to lie to federal investigators. It might be stupid to violate the terms of a deal with the Special Counsel, but, again, what does any of this have to do, specifically, with Donald J. Trump? Just because some of these illegal acts appear to have been done to benefit Mr. Trump, why is that his fault?
Also, it’s not as though Trump is such an outlier as president, every president does things some people think are bad.
Ronald Reagan’s two terms were clouded by the illegal sale of arms to Iran that illegally funded the Contra death squads (“freedom fighters”) in Central America, though he was personally untouched by it (due, in part, to his affability and the increasing perception that he was senile). Reagan retained his popularity and his successor were generous with presidential pardons that pretty much neutralized the scandalous conspiracy, undertaken in the name of freedom by a small group of patriots like the current head of the NRA, Oliver North.
One of George HW Bush’s last acts as president was pardoning Iran-Contra principal, former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, on the eve of a trial that would have likely implicated Bush in the illegality.
Bill Clinton signed off on the end of Glass-Steagall, resulting in the financial disaster a few years later. He signed bills that tightened already strict Welfare qualifications and vastly increased the incarcerated population of the United States. He also, famously, lied under oath about a series of blow jobs he received while president. Thanks to Ken Starr’s diligent, unredacted report, posted on-line, children in America also learned that their perjury-committing president also inserted an unlit cigar in the young woman’s vagina, and then lewdly put it in his mouth.
George W. Bush brought back torture and turned worldwide sympathy for the US after the 9/11 attack to worldwide fear of the US, after he unleashed the perpetual, borderless War on Terror, starting with the invasions and long-term occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. He was the first American president to maintain an active kill list and execute suspects extrajudicially, by drone. His administration engaged in widespread illegal surveillance of millions of Americans and covered this up. He cut taxes to the rich, unsuccessfully lobbied to end Social Security and left office with a record low approval rating.
Barak Obama used the 1917 Espionage Act, more than all past presidents combined, to threaten and intimidate the press. He also gave wonderful speeches about the importance of government transparency and accountability. He expanded George W. Bush’s international secret drone war, killing suspects and civilians in many countries. Obama was the first to cooly execute American citizens without trial, or even charges. He gave speeches that warmed the hearts of millions while always serving his corporate and financial constituency. He gave a good speech as he lied to the people of Flynt, Michigan about their toxic drinking water being perfectly safe to drink (and pretending to drink it, to the horror of his Flynt audience and later during his press conference). Obama used executive orders more than most presidents (and, in fairness to him, he had rigid, amoral Mitch McConnell and a hard-line “tea party” Congress to impede him every step of the way), even once invoking emergency powers.
So, just because Trump has been closely associated with a large number of people indicted for felonies, and a few convicted for serious crimes, doesn’t automatically make him a bad person or a guilty one. It’s easy for someone like me to hate the rich, and revile their unaccountable privilege. The president deserves a fair trial, and hopefully a long prison sentence.
The question of whether he can pardon himself, preemptively (as in HW Bush’s pre-trial pardon of Caspar Weinberger, who could implicated him in the criminal conspiracy), is an interesting one that Boof Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch (Trump’s replacements for the less doctrinaire Merrick Garland) will consider fairly, as will Attorney General William Barr, the impartial legal mind who helped George HW Bush with the pardons of Elliott Abrams, Caspar Weinberger and other defenders of freedom (whatever Congress may have said about the illegality of their specific acts) back in the winter of 1992.
As always, we are a nation of laws, not lynch mobs, except as needed.
 USA Today:
Trump claimed as a candidate that he “never” settled lawsuits, and would not do so in the case of Trump University. “That’s why I won’t settle,” Trump told MSNBC in 2016. “Because it’s an easy case to win in court … How do you settle a case like that?”
But Trump entered settlement talks days after the 2016 election, agreeing to pay the millions under terms that let him admit no wrongdoing.
This bears repeating.
America’s greatest genius, the man who figured out that America loves to shop and loves convenience, and designed and built the vast empire that makes this American dream come true, makes almost $9,000,000,000 AN HOUR.
Per hour, Jeff Bezos makes $8,961,187 — roughly 315 times Amazon’s $28,466 median annual worker pay. An Amazon worker earning the $15 minimum wage would need to work about 597,412 hours, or 24 hours a day for about 68 years, just to earn what Bezos makes in one hour.
Working more than half a million hours to make what your boss makes in one HOUR? Fair is fair, we live in the land of unlimited freedom, but… something about the grotesqueness of this disparity seems… I don’t know…
Accumulating a billion non-hereditary dollars means the person is a very successful genius, smarter and harder working than the average bear. Here we call such persons philanthropists, when they choose to give some of their money back in the form of charity. We often call the billionaires in other countries by less flattering names, like oligarch and kleptocrat. In America there is no connection between any sinister motive, or simple greed, and the accumulation of a few billion dollars. That’s why we are the land of the free, baby.
But 597,412 hours to make what your visionary boss makes in ONE HOUR? I don’t know, something seems rotten about that arrangement. Doesn’t smell fair, somehow, though I can’t quite put my finger on it.
Germany, 1932, my fellow Americans. Bury your head in distraction at your own peril, and your children’s.
The unthinkable becomes normalized by endless repetition through a giant, stinking megaphone. If the lying mass media was actually publishing fake news about the president, the litigious, thin-skinned dotard-in-chief would have multiple front-page lawsuits against the many libeling liars who regularly, if measuredly, contradict his strikingly alternative facts, his often outright lies.
How about the failing New York Times writing in detail about his unethical father’s many frauds to avoid paying tax, so he could pass $400,000,000 on tax-free to his little self-made second son? Didn’t the president win a huge lawsuit and put those lying fucks out of business? Yeah, he did, I remember that now. That’s why the NY Times no longer publishes their failing scandal rag.
National emergency? Seriously, your recent thirty-five day long Christmas and well into the new year temper tantrum wasn’t taken seriously enough, boss? You want real emergencies? How about 1,200 school children shot to death, at school, during the one year since the Valentine’s Day mass-murder at the high school in Parkland, Florida; a thousand times that number, the survivors, best friends of the victims, traumatized for life. Dead veterans, dead by their own hand, in unthinkable numbers, year after year, heroes we thank for their service, dying out of despair, succumbing to hopelessness. More Americans dead of opioid overdoses last year than died in car crashes and all alcohol related accidents, or even shot to death. Climate catastrophe already delivering one deadly, devastating hundred or five hundred year storm after another, while one part of your administration denies the findings of another part (the scientists). How about pick one of those actual emergencies, boss?
The sudden “National Emergency” of a below-average (forty year low) annual number of attempted illegal border crossings at our southern border — you are certainly shitting us, vindictive, pouting, brazen, scheming, floundering Mr. President, sir. (Interested readers really should read the transcript linked here to see what a national disaster this “emergency” by presidential fiat could become.)
Of course, if you can get away with this gambit, sir, declaring an emergency you admit is not urgent to circumvent the democratic will of the so-called People expressed through their so-called elected representatives in Congress, the future suddenly looks much brighter for you, Mr. President, sir. An emergency order banning public protest, recruiting and funding so-called Death Squads in Venezuela (Elliott Abrams is the perfect experienced man for this job, as you know, sir), or anywhere, really, banning whatever you perceive as a threat to your power. Go for it, sir.
Many people see this guy as the villain of the worst Batman movie of all-time, a falsely inflated 39% on Rotten Tomatoes. Raining revenge from a gold tower named after himself, recruiting iron-willed Turtleman and other powerful extremists to secure a record number of loyal Federalist federal judges appointed for life to support his autocratic whims and subvert the will of the 71% who think his movie sucks and he is the worst comic book villain of recent memory. A villain who scrawls his comically large signature on executive orders he himself freely ignores.
Trump signed an executive order stating that people working in his administration must not have been lobbyists for any part of the two years prior to their appointment. His new Secretary of the Interior is in violation of this order, Trump has absolutely no problem with that.
As for the predecessor Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, he was forced to resign in disgrace amid numerous scandals and investigations — but it didn’t take the former governor long to slither into a lucrative post at a top DC lobbying firm (that’s Washington, DC, not DC comics, sadly). Not long at all, in fact. Like a couple of months.
Zinke is a lobbyist for the same high powered Washington firm as Trump’s former (and later angrily fired, by Don Jr.) campaign manager — the one who isn’t headed for prison, or an Elliott Abrams style presidential pardon (speaking of current AG William Barr, who worked on that and five other pardons including a pre-trial pardon for an accused Iran-Contra principal who likely would have implicated George HW Bush during his trial ), the former campaign manager not convicted of serious crimes, and subsequently lying to the Special Prosecutor after making a cooperation deal with him.
Amy Goodman spoke to a man today who pays close attention to this sort of thing and heads an organization fighting this kind of rogue shit. He said this (after analyzing and laying out the real dangers if the president is able to get away with this groundless, cynical Emergency Decree):
ROBERT WEISSMAN: Well, this is one of just the most amazing, but now normalized, features of the Trump administration. What we’ve seen, in agency after agency, is they have a scandal at the Cabinet level, the Cabinet official is forced out, and he—it’s always been a he—is replaced by a lobbyist. So, their response to ethics challenges in the Trump administration is to hire lobbyists who worked on the agency that they’re now going to be in charge of.
That happened at EPA, where there’s a coal lobbyist in charge, replacing Pruitt. It happened at HHS, the Health and Human Services Department, where Tom Price was replaced by a former executive of a drug company; and now at the Department of Interior, where an oil lobbyist comes in to take over for Ryan Zinke, who, as you just mentioned, by the way, leaves the department and goes and becomes a lobbyist himself. This guy, Bernhardt… source
If you’re not paying attention to politics now, not getting involved in organizing to oppose this lying, authoritarian grifter, his slimey ilk and all they stand for — what on Jesus Christ’s good, green earth is it going to take?
The Republican independent counsel [Lawrence Walsh] infuriated the GOP when he submitted a second indictment of Weinberger on the Friday before the 1992 elections. The indictment contained documents revealing that President Bush had been lying for years with his claim that he was “out of the loop” on the Iran/Contra decisions. The ensuing furor dominated the last several days of the campaign and sealed Bush’s defeat at the hands of Bill Clinton.
Walsh had discovered, too, that Bush had withheld his own notes about the Iran/Contra Affair, a discovery that elevated the President to a possible criminal subject of the investigation. But Bush had one more weapon in his arsenal. On Christmas Eve 1992, Bush destroyed the Iran/Contra probe once and for all by pardoning Weinberger and five other convicted or indicted defendants.
The shorthand of this title, which I already regret, typically renders a more complicated universal problem black and white, in that moronic (to the death) way that racist formulations always do. This problem I am referring to is a consumer problem, affecting any customer who needs service from virtually any company, though in this particular case it only affects consumers with enough money, and options in life, to be messed with by it. It applies to a large class of privileged consumers believed, rightly or wrongly in our racist nation, to be disproportionately white (which most likely they are).
It is part of our generally downward plunging expectations for anything flowing down to us from our masters, the corporate psychopaths and their human avatars, by way of “service”. The corporations are not in business to serve anyone but the shareholders, who regard the rest of us as ungrateful, eternally taking serf motherfuckers, useless for anything but generating revenues. In their defense, corporations do care enough to create lovely ads telling you how much they care, and their recorded announcements are also eternally upbeat and grateful for our business, and our patience.
Admittedly, I am an almost broken man. Friends have been urging me to take a restful mental health break from my unpaid toils here, leave New York City for a week or two, breathe some fresh air, hike in new hills, play music with strangers far away, walk the streets of a city I don’t know by heart, refresh and reset. It is good advice. I had an invitation to visit friends on the other side of the country, by the Pacific. I finally took them up on their offer. All I needed to do was book a flight.
Not as easy as it used to be, unless you’re prepared to pay at least twice the “economy” fare, of course, for a particular seat. If you have arthritis in both knees, for example, and need to get up and move around frequently to avoid pain, you might want to be sure you have an easy access seat.
The situation I’m describing is a purely middle class, middle-aged problem — a wealthy person will not be affected by it, nor will a healthy young person, a poor person can’t even consider it. You need to have the free time to travel, some extra cash, the need for an airplane to take you three thousand miles and the need not to spend all your vacation dollars on air fare. These are not things the average American needs to worry about. They will only afflict you if you qualify for a vacation in the first place, have some extra money and you are a squirmy baby with a so-called medical need to stretch your legs when you need to during a long flight.
I have been on a short hold with the airline now, after twenty minutes on their website yielded no answer to my yes/no question– is my aisle seat guaranteed? I have ten hours left to cancel the tickets if that’s not the case.
The hold was predicted to be about eight minutes but is already twice that (thankfully without ads or muzak) waiting to cancel flight plans I made last night. I assumed that the cancellation line would be shorter than the other lines, wrongly, it turns out. I will have plenty of time to edit this piece, once it’s done, before my simple yes/no question is resolved by a simple yes or no. The answer is nowhere on their snazzy website, where you are instantly afforded the chance to evaluate their services in a survey.
I think about the arthritis in both of my knees, my need to move them frequently to avoid pain. The flight west is about six hours, strapped into a seat. I was looking for an aisle seat. A seat on the aisle is now, apparently, a premium seat, even in “economy”, the rearmost section of the airplane. Airlines no longer guarantee that the seat you buy in economy class, which used to be called “coach”, one of two former “classes” on a plane, will be the seat you reserved when you bought your ticket. You buy a cheap seat at your own risk, asshole. Guaranteed sufficient legroom must now be purchased also, loser.
I ring off after 36 minutes on silent hold and again check my other customer service options. I send the following email (not all that easy to find the option for email, I assure you).
I need to know that the additional $300 (tickets more than twice the price of “economy”) I spent last night on airfare ensures me an aisle seat. I could not confirm this on your website and it has proved impossible to reach a representative on the phone in well over an hour of trying. If my seat is not guaranteed, I have a few more hours to cancel my reservation. Please advise.
To which a robot promptly replies:
Thank you for your questions and comments. As a valued customer, your input is most appreciated and we will make every effort to ensure a quick response.
Note, I would not have spent the extra $300 for this “peace of mind”, I probably would have cancelled my trip. Thankfully my mate, a wage-earning shopping machine, has racked up a large store of credit card points over the years she was generously willing to spend a portion of on this ticket.
Back to the answer to my simple yes or no question. Delta airlines, on the case! This arrived just a few minutes later:
RE: Case Number 29940314
This is an automatically generated message to acknowledge the receipt of your email. Please do not reply to this email.
Thank you for taking the time to write to us; what you have to say is important. Emails and letters are answered in the order they are received. Usually you’ll hear from us long before 30 days have passed. Sometimes though, it can take almost that long. We appreciate your patience.
If you need assistance with a current reservation, please contact Reservations directly at 1-800-221-1212 or visit delta.com for our international reservations offices. They will be happy to assist you.
Got to love the human emotion behind that exclamation point on the Thank you!
As my father always said of me, whenever I belly ached about anything: “you’d complain if you were hung with a new rope.”
This is customer service in 2019. If you don’t like it, send us an email, we will try our best to reply within 30 days. Don’t hold us to that, you cheeky rascal, it’s not a promise, only a promise to try to promise, a precatory promise, if you will.
Maybe I’m just extra touchy today because I never received the corrected blood pressure medication I requested ten days back, after hours and hours resolving that potential health fiasco. The drug the kindly psychos sent me was four times the strength of my prescription. Thankfully the snafu got resolved in only five business days! Still haven’t received the meds, though I got the other prescription I ordered a few days later, a Vitamin D super-pill, in my mailbox within four or five days. Oh well. I know those hardworking Nazi bastards are working harder to serve me better!
Bill Maher did a piece a few weeks ago about the death of a thousand cuts that it is the nickel and diming of the airline industry. This stands in for the ever-diminishing piss pot of what the masses of Americans are entitled to, by the reckoning of the corporations we do business with. Maher conceded that he has flown only first class since becoming a rich, successful comedian many years ago. Still, he did an excellent piece about how customer comfort and convenience has been whittled down, piece by chintzy piece, by the ever grasping, ever more ingenious, airline industry. Their independent subcontractors are undoubtedly working on a way to monetize the amount of oxygen you get on the plane. Those corporate airline persons are truly the psychopath’s psychopaths, though the healthcare industry is not far behind in its concern for the safety, comfort and convenience of its customers.
Just to be safe, I’m going to bring food for the flight crew and the captain, just in case the airline no longer provides them with a meal, or even a snack, on the long flight. I figure it’s the least I should be expected to do, and I wouldn’t want any of them to be cranky or off their game. It’s going to be a long flight.