Make A Run For The Border

Chimpy BarfingTaco Bell Lobbyists Thank Congressional Staff With 6,000 Tacos

“Taco Bell franchise owners are lobbying Congress to help prevent their workers from organizing a union or qualifying for employer-based healthcare. They’re also asking for assistance with real estate tax credits and other issues on their legislative agenda.”

“On Tuesday afternoon, to thank congressional staffers for all they do on behalf of the fast food industry, franchisees hosted their annual reception at the Rayburn Office Building on Capitol Hill, a free food giveway in which staffers and interns gorged themselves on unlimited free Taco Bell tacos and nachos.”

This gives me heartburn: Taco Bell had their under-paid workers make free food for the congressional staff who have been working on novel ways to to keep them down.

News That Will Drive You To Drink: Staples Edition

piles of cash


FRAMINGHAM, Mass. & BOCA RATON, Fla.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Staples, Inc. (Nasdaq: SPLS) and Office Depot, Inc. (Nasdaq: ODP) today announced that the companies have entered into a definitive agreement under which Staples will acquire all of the outstanding shares of Office Depot. Under the terms of the agreement, Office Depot shareholders will receive, for each Office Depot share, $7.25 in cash and 0.2188 of a share in Staples stock at closing. Based on Staples closing share price on February 2, 2015, the last trading day prior to initial media speculation around a possible transaction, the transaction values Office Depot at $11.00 per share. This represents a premium of 44 percent over the closing price of Office Depot shares as of February 2, 2015, and a premium of 65 percent over the 90-day average closing price of Office Depot shares as of February 2, 2015. The transaction values Office Depot at an equity value of $6.3 billion.

…The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including antitrust regulatory approval and Office Depot shareholder approval, and is expected to close by the end of calendar year 2015. Staples will remain focused on its strategic reinvention plan, and Office Depot will remain focused on its integration of OfficeMax during this period.

Oh, please. The regulators would not raise an objection if the entire Fortune 500 merged into one company called “BiteMeBitches LLC.”

And for those of you who say, “so what, I’ll buy my ink cartridges online” – here’s the ugly twin sister to the word monopoly: monopsony: a market form in which only one buyer interfaces with would-be sellers of a particular product.

In other words, if Staples is the only retailer that 3M realistically can sell its post-it notes to, well, then Staples can dictate for how much. It is essentially what Walmart is and what Amazon wants to be. The implications for this are HUGE, and hugely bad for all of us.

Side note: Staples was controlled by Mitt’s Bain Capitol, and he bragged about how he turned it around while on the campaign trail. So each time you plunk down $50 for an ink cartridge (the Monopoly side of the equation), you can feel really comfortable knowing you didn’t vote for Willard, though now you have the pleasure of sending him your money.

Whip-it Good


JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon made calls to lawmakers on Thursday urging them to support the “cromnibus” spending bill, House Financial Services Committee ranking member Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) told reporters.

The bill sets the banks free to gamble with taxpayer dollars, so gee, I guess cancer-free Jamie might have felt it was worth his time to become the unofficial whip for the Republicans?

(The Hill)

Employee Non-Discrimination Act Needs to include…

The Finger

…discrimination against political parties, too?

Viviana Janer is a Democratic nominee campaigning for a seat on the Osceola County Commission. She’s also newly jobless.

Her longtime employer, Marriott Vacations Worldwide, fired her after giving her an ultimatum: Quit the campaign or lose your job.

It seems that her Republican opponent was their preferred candidate, and amazingly they told her:

But the time-share company where she had worked for 11 years dismissed her Friday, saying her candidacy and possible service on the commission created a conflict of interest. Janer was given the choice of leaving the campaign or resigning. She declined to do either and was fired.

(Orlando Sentinel via Lester & Charlie Review)

So Bill Gates walks into a bar…

…and the average income rises.

choo-choo train

However, median income is in some ways a better measure?

The census numbers on what American families made last year are as mediocre as they are predictable. We now know that if your household brought in $51,939 in income last year, you were right at the 50th percentile, with half of households doing better and half doing worse. In inflation-adjusted terms, that is up a mere 0.3 percent from 2012. If you’re counting, that’s an extra $180 in annual real income for a middle-income American family. Don’t spend your extra $3.46 a week all in one place.

There’s a chart in the NYTimes article that shows more clearly than anything how far we’ve fallen with The Miracle Of The Bush Economy began. The GDP has grown by leaps and bounds as America’s multination corporations have benefitted greatly from killing off the working class and moving operations off-shore.

I know technically we left the Great Recession years and years ago, and outside of the rarified air of Silicon Valley (the board rooms and suites, not so much in the cubicle farms and veal-fattening pens) and Wall Street, I really don’t know of anyone who is doing better; I do know some people who are holding steady, but most people in my circle are doing considerably worse. So while the technical definition is that the US is in good times, to most of us we are well on the way to a lost decade, if not a lost generation.

Hum The Flight of the Valkyrie…

…as you read this:

Amazon has officially requested that the FAA allow the company to test drone-based package delivery in its own backyard. In a letter published at, Amazon described the state of the program and asked regulators to grant the Internet retailer an exemption to drone-testing rules, which restrict flights to six official staging areas throughout the country.

“We are rapidly experimenting and iterating on Prime Air inside our next generation research and development lab in Seattle,” reads the letter, which reveals the drones have been through eight generations of development and can now carry 5-pound loads at over 50 miles per hour. But FAA regulations prohibit outdoor flights by commercial enterprises like Amazon, and testing inside isn’t ideal. “Granting this request will do nothing more than allow Amazon to do what thousands of hobbyists and manufacturers of model aircraft do every day,” the letter continues. If the request is granted, outdoor flights and potentially a pilot program would take place in the Seattle area.

Your faithful correspondent happens to live in the Seattle area, and to put it frankly Mr. Bezos can eat a flying bag of dicks. He promises enormous benefits to Amazon Prime customers, but let’s not kid ourselves: what he really is doing is cutting out the jobs the delivery people, USPS, UPS, FedEx and so on. The enormous benefit is to Mr. Bezos.

The Hobby Lobby Silver Lining

Uncle Sam with Speculum

The LA Times tells us…

As it happens, Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Anthony M. Kennedy, in their majority and concurring opinions, respectively, implicitly acknowledged the wisdom of single-payer healthcare as a way forward.

… Rather than forcing the businesses to pay for those methods, the justices said, the government could follow the path it already has laid down for nonprofit religious organizations objecting to the birth control mandate. In those cases the coverage mandate and its cost are transferred from the religious employers to their insurers — but the insurers are compensated for the expense via a reduction in a healthcare tax they’re required to pay under the ACA.

In other words, the U.S. government becomes the single payer for those groups’ employees choosing those birth control methods. Alito and Kennedy would expand this accommodation to closely held businesses whose owners assert religious scruples.

The pertinent question then becomes: Why stop there? Offer the same accommodation for all employers for all coverage, and you have a single-payer system at last.

I left out a lot of the story to get to the pertinent points, so go read the whole thing. On Monday, when I read the part of the opinion where Alito really says that the government can perform this function is what started me saying that it was the first step to socialized healthcare.

Another Reason To Leave Facebook

Regular readers know that I loath Facebook, but this really takes the cake: Facebook Conducted Psychological Experiments On Unknowing Users

Essentially, when you agree to their terms and conditions, it includes conducting studies on you, and in this instance they manipulated the content seen by more than 600,000 users in an attempt to determine whether this would affect your emotional state.

Guess what? It did!

The experiments sought to prove the phenomenon of “emotional contagion” — as in, whether you’ll be more happy if those in your Facebook news feed are. They took place over the week of January 11th-18th, 2012, and targeted 689,003 English-speaking Facebook users.

The study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. was successful. It found that, indeed, manipulating the algorithm to show more “positive” posts in your news feed will actually inspire you to write more “positive” posts yourself. So, for example, if you see a lot of people happy about their jobs or excited to be seeing the concert of their favorite band, then you’re more likely to post that you are happy about something in your life, too.

Now then, think for a moment about what Mark Faceberg actually is in the business of selling.

Come’on, it’s E-Z. He sells you.

You are the product that he sells to advertisers, and they are the client, it is not the other way around. They gather information about you and slices and dices it to package up your demographics to an advertiser. The more of your info he has, the better he can sell you for a higher price to an advertiser.

So why is this study cause for alarm? Because Faceberg is showing his clients that Facebook can manipulate you. If you are happy, you are likely to go on a shopping trip. If your status and feed are full of happy stuff, you become that much more sellable. Guess what? He can now do that, he can make you happy (or sad, apparently). He just proved it. You think that isn’t valuable to his customers?


Pay the writer

I get a fair amount of pushback about Amazon (my loathing of them, that is) but here is yet another example of why I despise them:

Not done yet… some of you have been asking why your pre-orders for select Warner Bros, Paramount catalog, Viz Media (and other Warner-distributed) titles have been suspended. We’ve learned through industry sources that Warner Home Video and are in the middle of negotiations on a new contract, so pre-orders on Warner titles have been suspended until a deal is reached. Hopefully, the situation will be resolved soon.

You are a bargaining chip to Amazon. They are more than willing to deny YOU a product or a service if it helps THEM. You can argue all you want that they are trying to get you the lowest price (just like Walmart), but look around your mainstreet for indy book stores, mom & pop retail of any kind. Next time you do find an indy bookstore, see how many people are showrooming there and ordering on Amazon.

Everyone focuses on Walmart (and rightly so), but the death of retail in America is the business plan of Amazon. They want it all and will screw you in the process of getting it.

There’s a lesson here…

Dracula Starring

…but I’m not sure what it is:

Two hundred fifty employees of the United Parcel Service (UPS) walked off the job for 90 minutes in February to protest the firing of one of their coworkers, Jairo Reyes. Reyes had driven for the company for over 20 years, and they felt his firing (which occurred after a complicated saga over the hours that senior UPS workers could hold) was unfair.

This week, all of those employees were given a pink slip, New York Daily News reports. “They just called me in … (and) said, ‘Effective immediately, you are no longer on the payroll,’” one UPS employee told the outlet.

The workers are represented by the Teamsters, so what happened?

UPS workers are unionized under the Teamsters, and UPS alleges that the protesters not only delayed package delivery for customers, but also violated their union contract. Gaught invited the Teamsters of Local 804, where the workers were fired, to appeal the termination under contract rules. But the union insists it already has.

“Since UPS fired Jairo Reyes and 250 drivers walked off the job in protest, Local 804 has repeatedly tried to bring UPS to the table to settle the issues,” the group’s local wrote on its page. “Local 804 will continue to work with political leaders and the public to bring UPS management to the table to reach a fair settlement. We will do whatever is necessary to achieve this goal.”

Oh, wait a moment! I know what the lesson is: USE THE GODDAMN US POSTAL SERVICE TO MAIL YOUR PACKAGES.

(Think Progress)