Amazon: Travel with Care

In recent years, Amazon has used its dominance in ways that we believe harm the interests of America’s readers, impoverish the book industry as a whole, damage the careers of (and generate fear among) many authors, and impede the free flow of ideas in our society.

  • Amazon, to pressure publishers over the past eleven years, has blocked and curtailed the sale of millions of books by thousands of authors;
  • Amazon, during its dispute with Hachette in 2014, appears to have engaged in content control, selling some books but not others based on the author’s prominence or the book’s political leanings;
  • Amazon has used its monopsony power, and its ability to threaten punishment, to extract an ever greater share of the total price of a book from publishers; this has resulted in publishers dropping some midlist authors and not publishing certain riskier books, effectively silencing many voices;
  • Amazon routinely sells many types of books below cost in order to acquire customers for unrelated lines of business and to drive less well capitalized retailers – like Borders – out of business. This practice, extending over many years, has caused price deflation across the industry and reduced the amount of revenue available for publishers to invest in new books, thus depriving readers of wider choice;
  • Amazon routinely uses its market power to steer readers toward its own books and away from books published by other companies;
  • Amazon dictates pricing to self-published authors, requiring them to price their books within a specific range or be subjected to a 50 percent cut in royalties.

Read Author’s United open letter.

And Caille Milner at SF Gate issued her own self-revelation and plea last week.

I’m no consumer saint. After the whole Hachette fiasco, I stopped buying books on Amazon last year. I moved all of my online book shopping over to Powell’s, and I’m a happy frequenter of local stores such as Christopher’s Books, Green Apple and the Alexander Book Co.

But I buy other things from the site — all of my weird vitamins and hippie tonics, scarce beauty products, the odd MP3.

I do this even though I know how bad Amazon is.

Donald Trumpet

I’ve been immersed in reading the history of Benito Mussolini and the rise of fascism this summer and I have to say, the content, the declamatory reach and the wide hearing his views got come from the same chord Donito Trumpet is playing now.

For example, “Mexicans of being responsible for “tremendous infectious disease … pouring across the border”.

As with Mussolini, facts don’t matter.  If caught out, repeat louder. Someone who sounds that sure of himself is surely right

Many are mocking.  In fact, David Letterman came out of retirement to do so.  He said Trump’s presidential race made him regret he had retired.

David Letterman’s Top Trump Ten

But should they (we) be mocking?  At least one analyst says “stop laughing.”

… writing Trump off is dangerous. The billionaire may play the buffoon, but he is an important one — one whom Americans appear to adore. A USA Today-Suffolk University poll released Tuesday shows him leading all Republican presidential hopefuls. And while establishment candidates in both parties might want to ignore him, or express a milder version of his anti-immigration opinions, an enormous number of voters clearly like his views.

WaPo William Frey

And, from the middle of the road, Newsweek, comes an opinion piece that actually links Trumpet’s name with fascism.  Sitting through a long speech, Jeffrey Tucker writes:

I’ve never before witnessed such a brazen display of nativistic jingoism, along with a complete disregard for economic reality. It was an awesome experience, a perfect repudiation of all good sense and intellectual sobriety.

Yes, he is against the establishment, against existing conventions. It also serves as an important reminder: As bad as the status quo is, things could be worse. Trump is dedicated to taking us there.

… Since World War II, the ideology he represents has usually lived in dark corners, and we don’t even have a name for it anymore. The right name, the correct name, the historically accurate name, is fascism. I don’t use that word as an insult only. It is accurate.

Though hardly anyone talks about it today, we really should. It is still real. It exists. It is distinct. It is not going away. Trump has tapped into it, absorbing unto his own political ambitions every conceivable resentment (race, class, sex, religion, economic) and promising a new order of things under his mighty hand.

I myself, would not use the word fascism in relation to what Trump represents; in fact it is wrong to refer to Hitler’s nazism as fascism — different animals of the same species.  I suggest, as a native moniker, Trumpetism.  But Tucker and Frey are on to something.  Mockery may be a weapon to be used but it should be used without believing he is simply a fool.  A fool with millions of adherents is a danger to us all.

 

The Hidden Hand, Indeed!

Libertarians and free market fans love to talk about the hidden hand of the marketplace as God’s way of ensuring fairness, making sure the most good comes to the most people.  What they never like to talk about are the actual hidden hands — those market makers, market manipulators who shred the idea of free markets, and trample on the idea of markets regulated for the public good.

Why have almost none of the accounts of the Greek crisis over the last several months whispered the name Goldman Sachs?

Here’s a guy who will: Robert Reich.

 

The Greek debt crisis offers another illustration of Wall Street’s powers of persuasion and predation, although the Street is missing from most accounts.

The crisis was exacerbated years ago by a deal with Goldman Sachs, engineered by Goldman’s current CEO, Lloyd Blankfein.

Blankfein and his Goldman team helped Greece hide the true extent of its debt, and in the process almost doubled it

On Reich’s Blog: How Goldman Sachs Profited from the Greek Debt Crisis.

2015 Setting New Heat Records

My seat of the pants (literally) judgment of heat is that even fog shrouded July southern Marin country is hotter than I’ve known it in twenty some years.  Folks with far better measurement than my seat agree.

Climate NOAA-JUNE2015

NOAA’s latest monthly climate report confirms that 2015 will crush previous global temperature records.

That’s especially true up here in the northern hemisphere, where the first half of 2015 is a remarkable 0.36°F warmer than the first half of any year since records started being kept 135 years ago.

 

Climate Progress

Seabird Populations Diving

They’re not canaries but their deaths may be signalling high danger.

Climate Diving Birds

Writing in the journal PLOS ONE, the researchers from the University of British Columbia say that there has been a 70 percent drop in the populations of seabirds around the world over the past 60 years, equivalent to the loss of about 230 million birds.pollution.  Climate change, entanglement in fishing gear and the overfishing of species the birds rely on to eat are among the most important factors behind the sharp decline.

See Earthweek and PLOS One for more….

Moms Clean Air Force Goes to D.C.

Climate Moms Clean Air Force

Exxon knew of climate change in 1981 – but funded deniers for 27 more years

“ExxonMobil, the world’s biggest oil company, knew as early as 1981 of climate change – seven years before it became a public issue, according to a newly discovered email from one of the firm’s own scientists. Despite this the firm spent millions over the next 27 years to promote climate denial.

“The email from Exxon’s in-house climate expert provides evidence the company was aware of the connection between fossil fuels and climate change, and the potential for carbon-cutting regulations that could hurt its bottom line, over a generation ago – factoring that knowledge into its decision about an enormous gas field in south-east Asia. The field, off the coast of Indonesia, would have been the single largest source of global warming pollution at the time.

See: Guardian U.K

Scott Walker, the Quieter Trump

From Bloomberg News, Margaret Carlson spots fraternal twins, Donald Trump and Scott Walker.

 

“On the surface, you couldn’t ask for two more different candidates than the real-estate mogul and the preacher’s son.

Trump is, well, Trump. Walker, on the other hand, is genial, affable and low-key. As a teenager, he filled in for his father delivering the Sunday sermons and flipped hamburgers at McDonald’s. He quit college, as he explained it to his parents, to make sure there was money to send his younger brother. Democrats who worked with him over the years admit how pleasant he is.

This is where the contrast between Walker and Trump ends and the similarities begin. In his political life, Walker has tried to bring about the America that Trump says we need. He did so first as an assemblyman (calling for a harsh “truth in sentencing” law, prison privatization, and voter-ID laws) and then as Milwaukee county executive (making cuts to spending on parks and public transit, and focusing on making life better in the suburbs rather than helping those in the city). By the time he left that post, Milwaukee had the second-highest black poverty rate in the U.S. and an unemployment rate almost four times higher for blacks than for whites.

He was elected governor with high turnout among his white base. His first act was to bust the public unions and give businesses a tax break.”

More on the Greeks Germans

Eduardo Porter, business columnist at the NY Times, is only the latest to point out the forgotten half of the German-Greek crisis.  Germany is insisting that Greek pay-up or get out, forgetting that the world was far kinder to the Germans on at least two occasions  in the last hundred years.

Major debt overhangs are only solved after deep write-downs of the debt’s face value. The longer it takes for the debt to be cut, the bigger the necessary write-down will turn out to be.

Nobody should understand this better than the Germans. It’s not just that they benefited from the deal in 1953, which underpinned Germany’s postwar economic miracle. Twenty years earlier, Germany defaulted on its debts from World War I, after undergoing a bout of hyperinflation and economic depression that helped usher Hitler to power.

Punishment for Felonious Banks

Robert Reich, economist, author, blogger, public servant, is always worth turning to in order to understand the world, and some striking alternatives to the status quo.  Here is a June article from his web site, robertreich.org recommending some innovative punishments for felonious banks.

When real people plead guilty to felonies, they go to jail. But big banks aren’t people despite what the five Republican appointees to the Supreme Court say.

The executives who run these banks aren’t going to jail, either. Apologists say it’s not fair to jail bank executives because they don’t know what their rogue traders are up to.

Yet ex-convicts often suffer consequences beyond jail terms.

In many states they lose their right to vote. They can’t run for office or otherwise participate in the political process.

So why not take away the right of these convicted banks to participate in the political process, at least for some years? That would stop JPMorgan’s Dimon from lobbying Congress to roll back the Dodd-Frank act, as he’s been doing almost non-stop.

Why not also take away their right to pour money into politics? Wall Street banks have been among the biggest contributors to political campaigns. If they’re convicted of a felony, they should be barred from making any political contributions for at least ten years.

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