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 Regulations.gov, 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?

THIS

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 Amazon.com 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 Amazon.com 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)

Boss of the year?

McDonald’s manager tells diabetic employee he’ll ‘put a bullet’ in her head if she’s sick again

Carmen Navarrette has worked at the River North McDonald’s for more than nine years. According to a statement released by Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago, she asked her manager whether she could go home after she suffered what was described as “a severe diabetic episode.”

Her manager allegedly told her that he would “put a bullet” in her head if she asked again.

Aside from the cruelty of the manager, and the sad thought of a diabetic person working for a diabetes vendor, doesn’t this scream that there needs to be Sick Days available for workers?

The Morning Quote

“We’ve got a country that the poverty level is wealth in 99 percent of the rest of the world. Money’s all over the place, and the guy that’s making, oh my God, he’s making $35,000 a year, why don’t we try that out in India or some countries we can’t even name. China, anyplace, the guy is wealthy.”

–Bud Konheim, Nicole Miller fashion brand CEO, suggesting that America’s poor would be rich elsewhere, so get over it.

So, Who’s Destroying America Today?

The Koch Brothers Left a Confidential Document at Their Last Donor Conference—Read It Here

In the annals of comic-book supervillians, no evil genius is so inept that they leave behind their secret membership roster when they flee their caves, but apparently that lesson was never learned by the super-rich Koch Brothers.

Mother Jones has the list and has done the legwork to itemize who these people are. I would say it is fascinating reading, but it also is stomach turning.

(Mother Jones)

Ann Frank weeps for Tom Perkins

…because being wealthy is exactly like the Kristallnacht:

Regarding your editorial “Censors on Campus” (Jan. 18): Writing from the epicenter of progressive thought, San Francisco, I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its “one percent,” namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the “rich.”

From the Occupy movement to the demonization of the rich embedded in virtually every word of our local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, I perceive a rising tide of hatred of the successful one percent. There is outraged public reaction to the Google buses carrying technology workers from the city to the peninsula high-tech companies which employ them. We have outrage over the rising real-estate prices which these “techno geeks” can pay. We have, for example, libelous and cruel attacks in the Chronicle on our number-one celebrity, the author Danielle Steel, alleging that she is a “snob” despite the millions she has spent on our city’s homeless and mentally ill over the past decades.

This is a very dangerous drift in our American thinking. Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendent “progressive” radicalism unthinkable now?

Tom Perkins

“First they came for Venture Capitalists…” just what the hell is he trying to accomplish? Sympathy? Lessons from history?

For those of you outside of Silicon Valley, the name might not be on the tip of your tongue, but Mr. Perkins is a founder of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, which is pretty much the mother ship of Venture Capital, and yes, he is one of the richest men in the world.

Fun fact: Tom Perkins is also one of the few people to ever have been convicted of killing someone using a yacht as the deadly weapon.

His comment was so offensive that KPCB actually had to disclaim it:

As for me, I’m also offended that he considers his ex-wife and not-really talented dirty book writer Danielle Steel to be the #1 celebrity in SF. Poor old Tom doesn’t get out much anymore.

(WSJ)