Tag: Jeff Bezos

Brooding Over Cicadas? Just Eat Them. The UN Says So.

 

“Brood X” Cicadas are making their appearance in a big way this weekend in northern Virginia. They’re a nice, harmless, and (eventually) noisy diversion from our current theater. But just wait – someone will politicize them, too. You know it’s coming.

In a sense, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan already has. He’s declared the months of May and June as “Magicicada Months.” Never missing a chance to promote his state, he notes that the bugs sport the official colors of Maryland.

Make Amazon Pay … for What?

 

A Yahoo! finance article brought to my attention a recent open letter sent to Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. The letter has been signed by “401 parliamentarians” from around the world including some of the usual suspects from the US, among them Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Talib.

In the article, Talib is quoted as saying “This pandemic has exposed just how broken and wrong it was to allow a man with this amount of wealth to get away with not paying his fair share.” Everybody knows what someone’s fair share is and it’s obvious when they’re not paying it. Right?

James Rickards, Editor of Strategic Intelligence, a financial newsletter and New York Times bestselling author joins Carol Roth to discuss the various reasons why different companies pay no federal income taxes, what the New York Times got wrong with the “exposé” on President Trump’s taxes and how you can reduce your own tax burden. Plus, a discussion on the Fed, the money supply and inflation. 

Plus, a “Now You Know” segment on gold. 

Colin Quinn (stand-up comic, actor, writer, Saturday Night Live alum) stops in to talk about his book Overstated – A Coast-to-Coast Roast of All 50 States, and he and Bridget manage to cover, the election, why Bridget should be a criminal profiler and write a book about U-Haul rentals, Colin’s plans for modern-day Constitutional Conventions, the fact that everybody’s crazy now and nobody seems to notice, and they compare psychic experiences (Colin’s involves OJ Simpson). They discuss how odd it is that our society has reached a place where people on the extreme left and right give people in the middle sh*t rather than vice versa, Colin’s elaborate plan to become best friends with Jeff Bezos, how he almost starred in Crocodile Dundee 2, why giving your opinion can be very expensive, and learning the meaning of the word “consequences.”

Jeff Bezos Is a Fool

 

Mr. Bezos has decided to throw away 10 Billion Dollars. Yes, the world’s wealthiest man has “Committed 10 Billion Dollars to Fight Climate Change.” So, he is spending his own fortune, giving money to “scientists, activists, and non-profits” who are intent on saving the planet from climate change. Activists? Non-Profits?

Well, he’s welcome to spend his money any way he wishes. It’s too bad that not one of those ten billion dollars will have one iota of effect on the climate.

Jeff Bezos Should Buy Every Homeless Person a House?

 

On Monday nights I get together with friends at a local coffee shop to play cards. One of the people in our little play group is a young lady. She’s 27, has an MSW, and works as a substance abuse counselor.

This young lady is an intelligent person, but sometimes she says breathtakingly stupid things. They’re the kind of things the sound good … for about three seconds. Then they fall apart as soon as you think about them a little more.

She said one such thing last night: “Jeff Bezos should use his billions of dollars to buy every homeless person in America a house.”

Member Post

 

There’s been a lot of media buzz and debate this week over Amazon’s decision to raise its internal minimum wage to $15 an hour for its 250,000 regular workers and 100,000 seasonal hires here in the United States. Conversations are flying back and forth about the long and short-term economic impact.  Will this force higher […]

Join Ricochet!

This is a members-only post on Ricochet's Member Feed. Want to read it? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

The Bezos Busters

 

Trust the New York Times to go gaga over bad ideas concerning antitrust law. This past week, the front page of the print version of its business section featured an article entitled, “Be Afraid, Jeff Bezos, Be Very Afraid.” The drumbeat continued with the online version, entitled “Amazon’s Antitrust Antagonist Has a Breakthrough Idea.” Its author, the journalist David Streitfeld, profiles Lina Khan, a recent Yale Law School graduate, in his lead article. Khan, he claims, “has reframed decades of monopoly law” with a student note published in the Yale Law Journal entitled “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox.” Khan thinks Amazon should be broken up because its large size and pervasive reach allows it to extend its tentacles into too many markets at the same time.

The title of Khan’s note is intended to be an attack on the late Robert Bork’s influential 1977 book, The Antitrust Paradox: A Policy at War with Itself. Bork’s Chicago-school critique of antitrust law was largely directed to what he called the “reckless and primitive egalitarianism” of Chief Justice Earl Warren’s Supreme Court, which sat from 1954 to 1969 and wrought havoc over many fields of legal study, antitrust included. On antitrust, the Warren Court often held that mergers that resulted in virtually no increase of market power could be enjoined by the government, even though they had no adverse affect on either the price or quantity of goods sold. In so doing, the Court deviated from the original antitrust design which was intended to supplement state law, as argued in another Yale law student note, in dealing with large combinations—the so-called trusts—that did exert enormous market power.

In his book, Bork urged his readers to forget the razzle-dazzle of the multi-dimensional sociological arguments the Warren Court often relied upon. In Bork’s view, the sole objective of antitrust law “is the maximization of consumer welfare,” a test which, when rigorously applied, “provides a common denominator by which gains in the destruction of monopoly power can be estimated against the loss in efficiency.” Why he thought that his book exposed a “paradox” is, well, paradoxical. Bork’s complaint is quite simply that early antitrust law constituted “a system of vigorous enforcement coupled with internal contradiction and intellectual decadence.” Bork wanted antitrust enforcers to narrow their focus so as to avoid administratively wasteful and economically inefficient enforcement escapades, which, as he acknowledges, thankfully abated after 1970.

The Virtue in Jeff Bezos’ $2 Billion Fund to Help Preschoolers and the Homeless

 

The $2 billion Bezos Day One fund might do a great job at helping the homeless and educating preschoolers from low-income families. Or it might be a bust. It’s obviously too early to make any sort of reasonable prediction about whether Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos will succeed as a philanthropists.

For critics, however, all that is pretty much beside the point. The effort is inherently “morally complicated.” Some see it as a tax dodge on the Amazon founder’s $160 billion fortune. They would prefer — in the name of “democratic accountability” or some such — for Uncle Sam to somehow grab a big chunk of that massive wealth to fund government efforts to help preschoolers and the homeless. (As if Bezos’ efforts wouldn’t be accountable to the democratic process that produces laws and regulations or accountable to parents who voluntarily choose to enroll their kids.)

There’s also an objection to the private sector getting involved — Jeff Bezos especially — in the provision of public goods such as education or housing for the homeless. (Critics note Bezos lobbied to kill a $500 per employee tax on Seattle’s largest companies. The proceeds would have gone toward homeless shelters. I think Team Amazon had a point.) The growing anti-tech activist movement views Amazon as a harmful monopoly that’s bad for consumers and its own workers. He can keep his pricey PR ploy. This bit from the Bezos’ announcement, in particular, seems to grate: “We’ll use the same set of principles that have driven Amazon. Most important among those will be genuine intense customer obsession. The child will be the customer.” What Bezos apparently views as a beneficial promise, the critics see as a threat.

Richard Epstein parses President Trump’s economic criticisms of Amazon — and examines a Supreme Court case that will determine how online retailers pay taxes.

What Is the Upside, Exactly, for the US Economy from Trump Bashing Bezos and Amazon?

 

To quote historian Bernard Lewis: “It is not possible to be rich, strong, and successful and be loved by those who are none of these things.” That elegant bit of microanalysis often pops into my head when I think about Big Tech. It’s not especially surprising that these companies have enemies who would like to chain them with regulation or smash them with antitrust.

Still, Amazon seems a less likely candidate for wonkactivist ire given its popularity and consumer benefits. (It’s been estimated there are 90 million American adults with access to an Amazon Prime membership, and the investment bank Cowen believes Amazon continues to add new Prime members at a double-digit annual percentage rate.) Sure, it’s a supervaluable megacompany, but as The Wall Street Journal notes, “Current regulations typically only kick into effect when a company is dominant in one market or is hurting consumers — neither of which experts think currently apply to Amazon. While Amazon has about 43% of the US e-commerce market, it is still less than 4% of total US retail, according to eMarketer.”

What’s more, Jeff Bezos is worth $125 billion not because of cronyism but because he is an excellent entrepreneur and businessman. This from the Financial Times:

Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America are pleasantly stunned to hear Saudi Arabia’s crown prince publicly state that Israel has a right to live in peace on its own land and wonder if things are truly changing in the Middle East or whether this is a temporary thaw in order to confront Iran.  In the wake of the very public feud between Fox News host Laura Ingraham and gun control activist David Hogg, they also discuss how the rise of populism leads to political debates becoming a referendum on the people in the debate rather than the ideas involved in the debate.  And they wonder why President Trump is spending so much time blasting Amazon and the rate it pays to mail packages, suspecting it might have something to do with another business venture headed by Jeff Bezos.

Even with Big Tax Breaks, a City Landing Amazon’s HQ2 Would Be a Lucky Break

 

Some observers see as unseemly the city vs. city bidding war for Amazon’s HQ2. They also think it’s a short-sighted economic gamble, perhaps becoming a catastrophic success for the winning city with their dreams of $5 billion of investment and 50,000 high-paying jobs dancing in the heads of local government officials. All those tax breaks “could undercut a locality’s ability to fund good public schools, hospitals, and infrastructure — the very qualities Amazon is looking for,” notes Axios reporter Kim Hart. And what if a population boom means middle- and low-income families get priced out of the lucky city’s housing market?

I’m skeptical of such skepticism. Lots of the bidding cities are already trying hard to become leading tech hubs by developing the necessary ecosystems such as launching tech incubators and working with local universities. And with good reason. As an AP story recently pointed out, of the five large US cities whose workers averaged real annual pay increases of at least 2% from 2012 through 2016, four were tech hubs: San Jose, Seattle, San Francisco, and Raleigh.

Unfortunately for the wannabees, as economist Enrico Moretti has noted, “If you look at the history of America’s great innovation hubs, they haven’t found one that was directly, explicitly engineered by an explicit policy on the part of the government. [Hubs] often get developed because of idiosyncratic factors like a local firm succeeds and it starts attracting more firms like that. And this creates a cluster that then becomes stronger and stronger, and that feeds on itself.”

The Best Worst Place in the World

 

millPity the poor Amazonians:

At Amazon, workers are encouraged to tear apart one another’s ideas in meetings, toil long and late (emails arrive past midnight, followed by text messages asking why they were not answered), and held to standards that the company boasts are “unreasonably high.” The internal phone directory instructs colleagues on how to send secret feedback to one another’s bosses. Employees say it is frequently used to sabotage others. (The tool offers sample texts, including this: “I felt concerned about his inflexibility and openly complaining about minor tasks.”)

Apparently, Jeff Bezos has created a neo-Dickensian nightmare. The article goes onto describe workers in tears at their ideas being destroyed in meetings. Other horror stories include people recovering from grave illnesses who are given terrible performance reviews. Even the miscarriage of a child seems to provoke little sympathy from managers and executives.

Amazon: Hellish or Fun?

 

amazon-package-oI’m a bit late to reading what’s supposedly a New York Times’ expose of the hellish working conditions at Amazon. Jeff Bezos was apparently distressed by it: He seems to think it was a hatchet job, and sent an e-mail to his employees lamenting it:

The NYT article prominently features anecdotes describing shockingly callous management practices, including people being treated without empathy while enduring family tragedies and serious health problems. The article doesn’t describe the Amazon I know or the caring Amazonians I work with every day. But if you know of any stories like those reported, I want you to escalate to HR. You can also email me directly at jeff@amazon.com. Even if it’s rare or isolated, our tolerance for any such lack of empathy needs to be zero.

The article goes further than reporting isolated anecdotes. It claims that our intentional approach is to create a soulless, dystopian workplace where no fun is had and no laughter heard. Again, I don’t recognize this Amazon and I very much hope you don’t, either. More broadly, I don’t think any company adopting the approach portrayed could survive, much less thrive, in today’s highly competitive tech hiring market. The people we hire here are the best of the best. You are recruited every day by other world-class companies, and you can work anywhere you want.

A Modest Appreciation of Vox.com

 

Do be sure to check out this brilliant, marvelous, incandescently stupendous piece by our very own Messiah of the Moment, Max “I used to be Otto von Bismarck in a previous life” Fisher, in which Fisher explains the Obama Administration’s attempt to deter Vladimir Putin from gobbling up any of the Baltic states. Especially wonderful and heartwarming is Fisher’s tendency to breathlessly explain the principles of deterrence to his audience as though (a) he just learned about those principles and (b) his audience consists exclusively of two-year olds. Consider the following excerpt:

President Obama gave a speech on Wednesday, in a city most Americans have never heard of, committing the United States to possible war against Russia. He said that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a Western military alliance better known as NATO, would fight to defend eastern European members like Estonia against any foreign aggression. In other words, if Russian President Vladimir Putin invades Estonia or Latvia as he invaded Ukraine, then Putin would trigger war with the US and most of Europe.

Member Post

 

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos never expected he would end up in the news business, but that is exactly what happened when he purchased The Washington Post for $250 million. Now that he’s had time to settle in as the Post’s owner, it appears some interesting changes have arisen at his new company. Some might say, even […]

Join Ricochet!

This is a members-only post on Ricochet's Member Feed. Want to read it? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

Matthew Yglesias: Not the Sharpest Tool in the Vox

 

Time ZonesLongtime readers are well aware that I do not take Matthew Yglesias seriously as a thinker.  Yglesias is one of the sources of inspiration — if not the source — for Yousefzadeh’s Law, which states that “[t]here is no meritocracy in the field of punditry.”  (Alternately, one may use the Peter Principle to explain Yglesias’s rise in the punditry world.)

Today, Yglesias gives us yet another reason to wonder whether his entire career in punditry has just been one long attempt to troll the planet.  He advocates — dear God, I really don’t believe this! — abolishing all time zones, and having all of us run on Greenwich Mean Time.

Why is this necessary? Yglesias voxsplains in the excerpt below: