Monday's HOT MIC
Is it time to break up Amazon? I, for one, certainly think so. If you're wondering why the parking lot of that big mall near you now is the home of tumbling tumbleweeds, chances are good that its retail outlets have been put out of business by the online giant. Throw in Jeff Bezos' ownership of the Washington Post, his official lobbying mouthpiece in the nation's capital, as well as his proposed acquisition of Whole Foods, and you have something that looks very much like a commercial monopoly with an influential, First Amendment-protected newspaper attached to it.
Fresh off its biggest Prime Day yet, the Whole Foods Market Inc. bid, and a slew of announcements including Amazon Wardrobe, Amazon.com Inc. was the subject of two investor calls last week that raised concerns that it is getting too big. In one case, hedge-fund manager Douglas Kass said government intervention could be imminent.
“I am shorting Amazon today because I have learned that there are currently early discussions and due diligence being considered in the legislative chambers in Washington DC with regard to possible antitrust opposition to Amazon’s business practices, pricing strategy and expansion announcements already made (as well as being aimed at expansion strategies being considered in the future,” wrote Kass, head of Seabreeze Partners Management.
As Amazon AMZN, +0.49% has grown, so has speculation about which retail category it will rule next. The company already dominates books, the cloud and electronics. And with moves in fashion and grocery, it appears the company has its eye on those sectors next. Its dominance has created major stress for brick-and-mortar retailers, who are suffering badly as they scramble to catch up.
Lower prices, consumer choice, convenience, blah blah blah. The primary question here is moral: do you want to put your neighbors on the unemployment line? Because you could be next.
Performer R. Kelly, who has been in trouble before for having sex with underage girls, is now being accused of holding women against their will in a "cult."
R. Kelly is being accused of holding women in a "cult" where he dictates everything from what they can wear and eat to their sexual behavior and controls any communication they have with the outside world, according to a Buzzfeed report on Monday.
A rep for R. Kelly did not return Fox News' requests for comment on the shocking report.
Buzzfeed claims the R&B singer, who has homes near Chicago and Atlanta, houses up to six women.
Three people who say they used to be a part of Kelly’s entourage -- Cheryl Mack, Kitti Jones, and Asante McGee -- gave information on Kelly’s alleged lifestyle.
Mack told Buzzfeed that Kelly runs every aspect of these women’s lives.
"No. You have to ask for food. You have to ask to go use the bathroom… a master at mind control. ... He is a puppet master,” said Mack.
According to Mack, Jones and McGee, there was a 31-year-old “den mother” who recently vacated Kelly's residence. The women claim there is currently a 25-year-old woman, a 19-year-old model, a 26-year-old aspiring singer and an 18-year-old singer living with the R&B artist.
The mom of one of the women, who was not identified, spoke to Buzzfeed and claimed that her daughter was 19 when she met the now 50-year-old star in 2015. She hoped Kelly would help her daughter’s singing career. Instead, she alleges her daughter moved into the recording artist’s home. Soon after, the mother claims her daughter's contact with her parents dwindled to include only two vague texts -- on Christmas and Mother’s Day.
The mother told Buzzfeed she has not seen her daughter since Dec. 1, 2016.
He's already settled one lawsuit from a woman who claims he had sex with her when she was 15. He was also arrested in 2002 for possession of child pornography stemming from a video showing him having sex with another underage girl. He was miraculously acquitted of all 14 charges.
These women are apparently of legal age, but the urge to control is the same. This guy has a net worth of about $150 million and if things get dicey legally, he will no doubt buy his way to another settlement.
Michael, you know, I've been doing health care analysis for some time. I regularly get comments saying that morality insists we must provide everyone good, affordable health care. Every time, the core of my counterargument is "but the arithmetic doesn't work."
Now you're asserting that even if Amazon and other big retailers make things more affordable for everyone, Amazon should be broken up. You say: "The primary question here is moral: do you want to put your neighbors on the unemployment line?"
Well, it's the same answer: the arithmetic is against you. If you think you can go against arithmetic, check Venezuela.
Any second now, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is expected to make an announcement on the nuclear agreement with Iran, which President Donald Trump has repeatedly called a "bad deal."
Under U.S. law, the State Department must notify Congress every 90 days of Iran's compliance with the 2015 deal. Monday is the deadline, and a senior U.S. official said last week the administration was very likely to say Iran was adhering to the agreement although Trump has reservations about it.
"The secretary of state will have an announcement very shortly on that deal," Spicer told reporters. "I think you all know that the president has made very clear that he thought this was a bad deal, a bad deal for the United States."
Tillerson was expected to certify the deal, albeit with Trump's misgivings -- but rumor has it that a last minute change in policy has been made. Tillerson is presently conferring with the president in the Oval Office and an announcement is imminent.
It appears that the president has been paying attention to the advice of former UN ambassador John Bolton:
See this Security Studies Group exclusive for more.
Michael, sorry but I agree with Paula on this one. The toothpaste is WAY out of the tube. Amazon is an amazing service and vastly more convenient than going to the store for most things with a far bigger selection than a hundred malls, as I'm sure you know.
Nevertheless, it is a huge problem. Again, as I'm sure you know, that problem is that Amazon is only the tip of the proverbial ice berg as far as jobs are concerned. We're all being phased out by technology. That includes (ahem) novelists and similar pretentious creative types. Did you see the ""modern paintings" now created by AI? (I know, I know, "modern"art... but still. Oh, computer, paint me a Vermeer - and off you go.)
Of course, no politician is going anywhere near this subject (mass unemployment) because the proverbial can of worms is endless. Is there a solution? Do you want the minimum basic income? Like it or not, it may be inevitable.
Amazon is like "the bomb." You have to learn to love it. (And I detest/envy Bezos as much as the next man. Wouldn't you like to own the WaPo as a loss-leading hobby that costs you perhaps .00002% of your income?)
Michael, count me out if you're arguing for less convenience, fewer choices, and higher prices. I have no desire to go to a mall — ever. The parking is a hassle, they're overrun by teenagers, and yes, the prices are high because the rent they charge for space in those mammoth complexes forces retailers to charge more than many of the products are worth. There are a couple of malls that opened near here in the late '70s/early '80s that were like palaces, complete with massive chandeliers and gold-plated fixtures in the bathrooms. They were nice for a while until someone got the bright idea to put them on the bus line. Suddenly they were packed with teenagers who showed up on weekends to cause trouble — including some full-blown riots. People stopped going there because they were dangerous and the malls were having trouble keeping tenants. Now those two malls lie in ruins (literally). The retail industry is going to have to retool itself it if wants to compete in this new Internet-fueled economy. It's possible that only specialized stores with exceptional customer service will survive — dress shops with fitting rooms, niche boutiques, and small fresh food markets. Or pop-up Amazon pickup locations (staffed by humans). That's part of the ebb and flow of a survival-of-the-fittest free market economy. The worst thing we can do is tell consumers they've got to pay higher prices so that Joe Neighbor's teenager can keep his job at Best Buy. We've become accustomed to the convenience of online shopping with quick delivery. That toothpaste isn't going back into the tube. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got some shopping to do. "Alexa...order toilet paper."
The significant downturn in the number of illegal border crossers between the U.S. and Mexico is "nothing short of miraculous," National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd said on C-SPAN Monday.
"As far as the Trump administration's efforts on immigration, this is something they campaigned heavily on," he said. "At six months, where we are on meeting those promises, we are seeing nothing short of miraculous. If you look at the rhetoric that President Trump has given, it has caused a number of illegal border crossings to go down. We have never seen such a drop that we currently have."
"There's a vibe, there's an energy in the Border Patrol that's never been there before in 20 years that I've been in the patrol," Judd added in a separate Fox News interview.
Sometimes the threat of enforcement is almost as effective as enforcement itself. And when you combine the two...
If the Pooh fits...
It looks like this Qatar situation is not going away anytime soon. Over at The Federalist:
While the disagreements stretch back over decades, the current impasse culminated in broken diplomatic relations and severed air, sea, and land links. It represents a far more serious retaliation than that of a few years ago when its neighbors last deemed Qatar to be abrasively paddling in the wrong direction. That dust-up resulted in the Riyadh Agreement in 2013 and additional arrangements a year later. The stern response today is a consequence of Qatar not only breaking those commitments but of stepping well beyond them.
This time around Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt issued 13 demands that Qatar promptly rejected. Their foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman bin Jassim al-Thani, called the demands and their actions, “clear aggression and an insult.” Predictably, the responding statement the four Arab countries released on July 7 was full of fire and brimstone.
The main points of contention involve Doha’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood, coziness with Iran, financial support to Sunni jihadis in the Syrian civil war, and using its state-funded Al Jazeera network as a regime mouthpiece and propaganda tool aimed at undermining its neighbors.
To get a full sense of how the policy discussion about Qatar has been influenced, head over to The Federalist and read the whole thing.
Good for the Italians. Forza, Italia!
Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni has said conditions are not right to push through a bill giving citizenship to the children of immigrants. The law would make some 800,000 people citizens and has already taken years to reach the upper house, or Senate.
Right-wing parties hailed the prime minister's delay but migrant groups said they were bitterly disappointed. Meanwhile Luxembourg has warned that EU funds may be helping to drive migrants into Libyan "concentration camps".
Responding to an Italian plea for help, the EU has been helping to train Libyan coastguards. Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said "we have financed these coastguards and it's right", but migrants were being rescued in Libyan territorial waters and "can only be taken back to Libya, but back to these camps we've seen pictures of. "Those are sometimes concentration camps, camps where people are raped, where there is no law."
More than 88,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean to Italy so far this year, and more than a quarter of them arrived in June alone.
Even in the United States, where until recently most people simply accepted the notion that babies born in the U.S. were automatically entitled to American citizenship, the notion of "birthright citizenship" needs serious re-examination. One anomaly: we accept babies of illegal aliens as citizens, but not the children of duly constituted foreign diplomats. What sense that does make?
In any case, "birthright citizenship" certainly needs no adoption or acceptance in Europe, where your nationality is not simply decided by your passport, but by who you are: your family history, your ethnicity, your cultural background, etc.
Italians are Italians because they're Italians -- not because they hold passports from Italy.