Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Mighty River

The largest river in North America will soon be the Amazon.  I have been harping on this company the last 24 hours due to the grandstanding and hyperventilating over the Amazon announcement regarding HQ2 and the Operations center, designated the Operations Center for Excellence,  is almost laughable given what I know about Tennessee and Nashville; Not only does it fit as it contradicts itself it does so in regards to the community at large and that is very much the Nashville Way. 

First let's talk about the "city" itself.  True they are finally building a downtown after not having one and with this announcement they may actually have one.  As admitted the buildings that will house the Amazon did not have any tenants secured and the one housing the sole company that had announced its relocation sometime in the 2020's, Alliance Bernstein, had H&M and the Steak Shack so this may mean that the Nashville Yards that will house Amazon will actually host a movie theater and other businesses that want to affiliate themselves with the new hub.  I saw this in Seattle and what happens is that Amazon makes most of their offices highly secured and inaccessible. I was kicked out of a coffee shop when I was told it was Amazon only.  I lived in the Apartments next door and the hood was once a mix of housing, industrial and little retail and then the river overflowed and many of the businesses found themselves awash of new business that eventually died off an in turn rents and costs pushed them out when the waves became overwhelming.  The Amazon is always full of pirhanas.

Nashville has none of that it has a hodge podge mix of third rate shops and businesses that will go once Amazon arrives. The local seamstress is already speaking of retiring and that arcade where her shop is another mix of fast food and odd retail will likely be sold and remade in a vision that will of course reflect the waters of the Amazon.  Not that it doesn't need it but it should be organic and with the idea of enabling artists and others to remain on site but given a site that reflects this supposed city of it.

Shop on Sunday in Nashville.. after Church. Again this is the biggest draw here and with a highly educated tech crowd they are less likely to partake in parking their cruise ship on that pier.  If they are supposedly paid an average of 150K per gig.. again the average.. really three times higher than the current average wage? Why is that?  What job is that that of 5000 supposed jobs that would mean the lowest would be 50K and the highest 300k.  Really? And again this is over seven years.  And Amazon that just raised the lowest bar to $15/Hr but in doing so removed the stock option bonus is clearly aware of the bottom line. This is a company that spent better part of a decade avoiding paying sales tax on online transactions so please tell me that they are really going to pay 5000 people $150k annually regardless of the position?  That would put their payroll at 750M.  Really, that is higher than even Vanderbilt the current largest employer with over 125K in jobs.  All of that in Nashville? Really?

This would decimate the industries surrounding them and force many to raise wages to be comparable and that would include the Alliance Bernstein assholes who used the same figure and EY or Ernst Young to do the same.   They were less vocal about wages when they made their announcement and when you look at their website they are very clear about what their wages are in varying positions.  So to hit the three figure mark you need a lot of experience and education in which to attain said level. Again this is wages and with the cost of health care and any type of retirement benefit you do not take home 150K.  Add to that the jump in costs as it will in Nashville when the river rises say goodbye to having a significant disposable income.   But you as the smartest person in the room would know all that right?

Then we have the endless violence and a city surrounded by public housing and a history of racism and discrimination that will have to be addressed.  How it was in Seattle was that the late Paul Allen simply bought the sole public housing unit in Seattle and changed it to mixed housing.  I don't see Bezos doing that.  In turn the homeless crisis in Seattle is just that a crisis and the Council was confused and frustrated in how to deal with it.  Good luck with that in Nashville as that issue is beyond the scope and scale of that crew.

So Nashville  has three years to prepare for what will be around 300 people taking on the jobs "advertised" and can be applied for next spring in 2021 when the property they have designated as their new op center is ready for occupants.  Okay then what?  This is according to Amazon who if you note comes from a former Obama press secretary whom they hired to secure more connections and access... remember availability and access are not the same.
Operations Center of Excellence, will be responsible for the company's customer fulfillment, transportation, supply chain and other similar activities. The Nashville jobs will include management and tech-focused positions, including software developers, with earnings expected to average $150,000, Carney said. He said he expected Amazon to recruit locally and from outside the area.

No one in their right mind will take jobs in the hospitality and service industry. Certainly no one will take Substitute Teaching jobs which pay $11/13 hour based on experience and licensing. Right now an unlicensed inexperienced individual can sub here in the Nashville schools and make $11 hour. They make 1.42 cents LESS than I do, a licensed, experienced veteran educator. Again lets not forget health care and any type of retirement so just that alone puts Amazon in a higher classification as they will offer benefits which few do here.  We have massive issues with health care coverage here another irony upon a contradiction here in a medically centered city.  But that is okay as soon Amazon is planning to become a health care insurance provider!  How convenient or coincidental?  Hmm. 

As I watched the coterie of white men brag about the upcoming Amazon center of excellence outright lie and claim that their is a wealth of tech talent and educated individuals ready to step in and take jobs I laughed my ass off.  Really the numbers speak volumes and right now Tennessee has moved from 47 in level of education to 45.  The rating for innovation falls in the same according to Wallet Hub.  Then we have the politics and that religion thing again.  And health and wellness thing.  We don't do so well so I think recruiting may come from outside so that will somehow again validate the 100 people a day claim that dominates the landscape.  Tell that to my coffee shop in the hotel I go to which now is closed with no hours on the door as they cannot keep staff.  Sure there are tons of people moving here and apparently with jobs already lined up so go figure and that is before Amazon.  Cannot wait to see what happens when they do come here.  Oh wait no I will be gone like the wind fabulous. 

But this is a clue as The Atlantic reminds us

For decades, economists have said that locating innovative companies in cities helps raise wages and the quality of life for everyone. But that’s no longer the case in all places. In cities with inflexible housing markets, a 2017 paper from the London School of Economics found, the addition of tech jobs in fact reduces real wages, since rents and other costs go up significantly. “While the paychecks in the pockets of barbers and phlebotomists in tech agglomerations might be larger as a consequence, housing and other rising costs might make these workers considerable worse off,” the paper concluded. Another paper that studied the trickle-down effects of high-wage jobs in housing markets put it more succinctly: “In tight housing markets, the poor do worse when the rich get richer.”
If nothing else, Amazon’s HQ2 decisions may accelerate America’s great divergence, where highly educated urbanites are doing better and better, and everyone else is doing worse. Amazon has jobs outside of cities too, of course, but those are often low-paying and grueling jobs that don’t have much room for upward mobility. “If you project forward to the dismal geography of a future in which Amazon utterly dominates, you have a handful of places that are doing well, where there are high-paid tech jobs,” Stacy Mitchell, the co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, told me. “Then you have a bunch of cities and neighborhoods, that if they’re lucky, will maybe get some warehouse jobs at $15 an hour and nothing else.”

But I am not alone in those examining the politics of Amazon and their unrestrained growth which again will include soon drones, planes and delivery services to rival UPS, USPS and FedEX.  And of course outer space.  Next on the hiring list, Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

 From Facebook to Google we have failed to see these behemoths as what they are - large conglomerates that control and manage our personal data, our shopping habits and more importantly our access and availability to information and knowledge.  It is manipulated, exploited and in turn limited.  We have to do better. We need to do better.  When a group of white men stand on a stage to tout lies and brag like children about largely subsidizing a major company's whims to build offices and in turn their business and take money from them while eschewing the greater needs of a much larger community that sits in the shadows tells you all you need to know about whom you elect to represent your needs.  Here in Tennessee we have a Plumber and a former Beauty Consultant to do just that.  I cannot imagine that they have the intelligence, ambition and desire to change the status quo as they truly believe they were elected by a majority in which to carry on doing this.  I would like very much to see the total numbers of the voting electorate versus those registered and in turn broken down by region on who elected these fucktards.  But again I have a year left and I can only hope that they do as little damage as possible in that time frame.  Oh who the fuck I am kidding look at the #winning The Resting Dump Face managed to do and here nearly two years in it is only worse.  Bless his heart!  And yes this insane process of poaching, bidding, extorting and largely ignoring the needs of the community while kissing the ass of the Oligarch belongs in Russia not America.   Why is this going on.  Again The Atlantic asks this question: How is this legal? 

Truth hurts choke on it with your sweet tea. 

Amazon’s fast expansion invites growing political scrutiny

The Washington Post
By Jonathan O'Connell and
Rachel Siegel
November 13 2018

When Amazon told the country that it was going to anoint one winning city with 50,000 jobs, the announcement triggered excitement in city halls and statehouses across North America.

They mailed gifts, they created sports promotions, they filmed catchy videos featuring Amazon products. New York lit its skyscrapers Amazon orange. A small city in Georgia offered to hack off 345 acres from itself and rename it Amazon.

But when Amazon announced Tuesday that it would move 25,000 people each to New York and the suburbs of Washington, it was less clear who had won. The company, which eclipsed $1 trillion in stock market value for a time this year and is led by the world’s wealthiest person, extracted $2.4 billion in incentives from New York, Virginia and Tennessee, where it plans to open a 5,000-job operations center.

The concerns about Amazon’s process for selecting the winning cities — as well as the taxpayer subsidies it gained — underscore how the company’s furious expansion is inviting increasing political scrutiny. And as the company prepares to enter its 25th year in existence, the political risks aren’t likely to ease.

“Increasingly, Amazon will be challenged as being the big Goliath,” said Thomas Cooke, a professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. “Attention will turn to Washington, D.C., and certainly Capitol Hill. . . . I can’t think of a better location to be in to fight those battles than to be in Washington.”

Many of the technology industry’s giants are facing extra political skepticism today. But Amazon is unusual in that it is becoming geographically entrenched across America — offering it potential grass-roots support — as it also becomes formidable in a number of sectors such as retail, government contracting and entertainment. Amazon is now the second-largest employer in the United States after Walmart, giving it access to more lawmakers, mayors and public officials whom it can try to influence and whose support it can try to enlist.

Indeed, in naming two new cities for additional headquarters, as well as a third major expansion, Amazon could gain additional support from at least six senators, three House members and many other local officials.

At the same time, Amazon is running up against political concerns in many dimensions of its business. President Trump has repeatedly questioned the company’s business arrangement with the U.S. Postal Service and its record on paying sales taxes. Liberals such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have criticized how it compensates workers. Others have raised alarms about whether it is becoming a modern-day monopoly, as well as its efforts to sell lucrative technology to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and the Pentagon — efforts the company has strongly defended.

Amazon “is becoming a constituent of a number of senators and lawmakers,” said Stacy Mitchell, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, an advocacy group that has raised concerns about overdependence on Amazon by municipalities. “This whole notion of ‘Amazon is going to be in one city’ ” was shortsighted, Mitchell said. “Amazon wants to be everywhere.”

The reaction to the new headquarters offers a microcosm of the challenges Amazon faces. Prominent political leaders hailed the decision, but others raised fears that the company had manipulated dozens of cities in a beauty contest that allowed it to gain valuable insights and extract economic concessions while ultimately landing in two of the most vibrant cities in America.

“Amazon is now treating even the biggest of American cities with the same disrespect it shows for the suppliers and the merchants who depend on its website to reach customers,” said Barry Lynn, executive director of the Open Markets Institute, a group that has raised concerns about excessive political power held by tech companies.

Amazon officials took pains, however, to stress that they were mainly motivated by the talent of the workforces in Washington and New York, and noted that they are building outposts in other cities, too. They said they were also sensitive to the notion that an influx of high-wage workers could have negative effects on local communities, after learning tough lessons in Seattle.

“One thing that’s different here is we are planning in advance with these cities. Amazon started in a garage. Nobody foresaw, not even Jeff, when they got launched that Amazon would become what it became or that we would have tens of thousands of employees in Seattle alone,” said Jay Carney, a former White House press secretary who now serves as Amazon’s senior vice president for global corporate affairs.

Amazon spent years avoiding Washington, running its operations a world away in Seattle, its hometown. Its biggest policy issue was whether it would pay local sales tax, which it had been able to avoid in the early age of the Web.

But in recent years, as it has sought to be a major player in multiple areas, it has stepped up its influence operations.

Amazon’s political action committee spent $1.8 million this campaign cycle, 16 times what it did 10 years ago. It has 102 lobbyists, including five former members of Congress, who focus on 24 policy areas — four times the 2008 number, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

“It’s a pretty stark increase in the amount of money they’ve invested, both in terms of lobbying and in terms of campaign donations,” said Sheila Krumholz, the center’s executive director.

Amazon’s new footholds could help keep it closer to debates in Washington around whether the power held by tech companies is excessive. Companies such as Facebook and Google have been under intense scrutiny recently, and a generation ago Microsoft was sued by the government on antitrust concerns. Microsoft leaders famously recalled that they were slow to understand the importance of deepening connections in Washington.

Some experts now argue that Amazon, too, is growing into a kind of monopoly, one that can’t be reigned in under current antitrust law. But others argue that the company is nowhere near achieving pricing power for any of its businesses, from cloud computing to digital advertising to entertainment.

Amazon opened its own downtown lobbying office in 2014 and hired Carney in 2015.

Bezos has turned his focus to the Washington area as well, buying The Post in 2013. Three years later, he purchased the city’s largest home, a $23 million former museum, where he began a massive renovation, according to public filings.

He and other Amazon executives are backing Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner’s 2020 reelection campaign. He and his wife, MacKenzie Bezos, also gave a $10 million gift this year to a super PAC focused on electing veterans across political parties to public office.

One area where Amazon’s presence in the Washington region could be particularly important is its work with the federal government — particularly in contracts servicing defense agencies. Amazon was the first company to meet the government’s secure-cloud-computing guidelines. And in 2013, the CIA awarded Amazon Web Services, its cloud-computing business, a $600 million contract.

Now, analysts say, Amazon is favored to win a $10 billion cloud contract from the Pentagon, as the Defense Department begins a long-term effort to build artificial-intelligence capabilities into its operations. The company may beat out Microsoft, IBM and Oracle.

Other would-be competitors, such as Google, have steered clear of supporting weapons systems, sometimes under pressure from employees over excessive contact with the military.

But Bezos has embraced working with the Pentagon. In February, Amazon chose Herndon, Va., — about 25 miles from Crystal City — for the long-term home of Amazon Web Services.

“If big tech companies are going to turn their back on the U.S. Department of Defense, this country is going to be in trouble,” Bezos said at a recent conference.

Of Amazon’s 613,000 global employees, 250,000 are hourly workers in the United States, and its expansion of shipping operations has provided a silver lining to some cities that lost on the new headquarters. In Charlotte, officials were so distraught at not making the list of 20 finalists for the project that the city reworked its economic development operation. The pain was softened when Amazon announced plans in June to open a $200 million distribution center there with 1,500 workers.

“It’s only when they got to this size, and they had to do things like build campuses in cities, that they realized they have to pay attention to the political stuff,” said Heather Redman, a Seattle venture capitalist and recent chair of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.

Amazon has also quietly been growing its white-collar tech hubs, populated with the type of $150,000-plus-a-year jobs it promises for its headquarters expansion.

Most are already clustered in top coastal cities, with 7,000 in the San Francisco Bay area, 2,500 in the D.C. area, 1,500 in Los Angeles and more than 2,000 in New York, with another 2,000 on the way. Offices in Boston and Vancouver will roughly triple from 1,800 and 1,500 respectively in the coming years.

“They are making investments in these communities,” said Krumholz, from the Center for Responsive Politics. “They are providing jobs, which is a good thing. With that comes more defenders in Congress.”

For some analysts, the question is whether the new headquarters will be enough.

“Who’s to say five years from now we’re not looking at a third location or a fourth?” Cooke, the Georgetown professor, said.

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