Tuesday, June 30, 2015

In voluntoury servitude

The professionals object (to the competition?) to amateurism;
Rapid growth in the multi-billion dollar volunteer tourism industry has prompted calls for tighter controls with concerns over exposing vulnerable communities to unskilled foreign labour and dodgy operators exploiting foreigners for profit.

....But with no industry regulator, campaigners within the sector are concerned about the rising numbers of companies involved, with no mechanism to hold them to account for the work that they do.
Try this at home, not in our bailiwick? We really like this;
"One of the challenges facing people wishing to volunteer responsibly is that there is no independent quality standard, no recognised regulatory body," said Simon Hare, development director of British charity Globalteer.

"There are small local outfits as well as big corporations who see volunteering as a way of driving profits rather than an integral part of a long term strategy for communities with real needs. At best this can make volunteering a waste of time and at worst it can actually be harmful."
Not that anything like that ever happens with organized charities...or governments' foreign aid. Natch.

'What difference does it make?'

Well, former Sec'y of State Clinton, it makes this difference;

The Tunisian gunman who carried out the hotel attack last Friday that killed 38 people, mostly British tourists, trained in a jihadist camp in Libya at the end of last year, Tunisian prime minister's spokesman Dafer Neji said on Tuesday.

Neji said investigations showed Saif Rezgui, a student who was shot by police during Friday's attack on the resort town of Sousse, was in Libya at the same time as the two Tunisian gunmen who attacked the Tunis Bardo museum in March.
Without her;
Hillary Clinton has another Libya problem.

....she'll face a broader challenge in what's become of the North African country since, as secretary of state in 2011, she was the public face of the U.S. intervention to push out its longtime strongman, Moammar Gadhafi.

Libya's lapse into the chaos of failed statehood has provided a breeding ground for terror and a haven for groups such as ISIS. The U.S. attack this Sunday on the terrorist leader behind the 2013 seizure of an Algerian gas facility, in which three Americans were among the more than 30 other hostages killed, highlights the continuing threat posed by Libyan elements -- and that the U.S. still hasn't fully extricated itself from the engagement Clinton advocated.
When even CNN sees it, you've got a problem if you're running for the Democrat's nomination in 2016.

GRenter laughing

Wow, now this is a real surprise;
Greece on Tuesday requested a new bailout amid a last-minute diplomatic push before the country’s current rescue deal expires and it defaults on a payment to the International Monetary Fund.
Wonder if they took the advice of Greece's most recent Nobel laureate Chris Pissarides;
What would be crucial elements of a good agreement? Besides the fiscal issues of balancing the budget and making pensions proportional to contributions, a good agreement should emphasize microeconomic reforms. It should greatly simplify the procedures for running a business in Greece and reduce business taxes, in order to attract investment and create a productive, export-oriented sector, new jobs, and debt-repayment potential. It should reduce the huge and inefficient state sector that weighs down on the private sector and the taxpayers. The procurement mechanisms of the state should become competitive. Greece should proceed with privatization of trains, airports, ports, and the energy sector. The "closed sectors" of the economy (such as pharmacies and transportation) should be opened to competition. The labor market should be liberalized and the state should crack down on the underground economy that pays no taxes and no pension contributions.
Our bolds above, of course. All good and proper economics. This, not so much;
A Grexit and move to a new drachma would be a complete disaster for Greece. The banks would collapse as depositors would withdraw their euros not knowing whether they would be able to withdraw them later and at what exchange rate. The new weak currency will make imports very expensive, cutting the purchasing power of Greeks by half or one third. Irresponsible politicians would print too many new drachmas, feeding additional inflation and eliminating any international competitiveness gains resulting from the weaker currency. Shortages of even necessities such as medicines and fuel would become the norm.
First, Europe has plenty of experience with currency reforms--watch almost any French movie made prior to 1960 when the franc became the nouveau franc for example--and could pull off another one in Greece. But, it's a little startling to see Phds in economics claiming that inflation would create shortages.

Inflation is one way to resolve disequilibrium in goods markets that have been rendered non-functional by regulation. You'll have higher prices...but, you won't be unable to find goods available (i.e. shortages).

Monday, June 29, 2015


As goes Greece, so goes Puerto Rico, according to the WSJ;
Puerto Rico, seized from Spain after the Spanish-American War of 1898, has amassed debt that is nearly half that of California’s for a population that is less than one-tenth the size.

The economy, meanwhile, faces big structural problems. Sprawling bureaucracy and high electricity costs stunt business investment. Tax evasion runs rampant. Unemployment is high, at 12%, and fewer than half of all civilians are in the labor force, compared with around 63% on the mainland.

Economists say a bloated welfare state discourages work—the share of the working-age population on disability is nearly 50% higher than in the 50 states —while a minimum wage that is high relative to productivity and local income reduces job opportunities for young and low-skilled workers.
Textbook example of the power of bad incentives. It's Other People's Money, so why care about it?

 Why should the U.S. care about Puerto Rico, if they didn't care about us?

Try-out of Utrecht

This bears watching;
Alderman for Work and Income Victor Everhardt told DeStad Utrecht: "One group ... will have compensation and consideration for an allowance, another group with a basic income without rules and of course a control group which adhere to the current rules."

"Our data shows that less than 1.5 percent abuse the welfare, but, before we get into all kinds of principled debate about whether we should or should not enter, we need to first examine if basic income even really works.

"What happens if someone gets a monthly amount without rules and controls? Will someone sitting passively at home or do people develop themselves and provide a meaningful contribution to our society?"
Now that's going Dutch.

Whoo oo oo oo

Johnny Mercer, call re-write--Google/bugle...?;
Google will add audio and visual alerts to warn drivers about upcoming railroad crossings on Google’s navigation system, the U.S. Federal Railroad Administration announced on Monday.

The agency also asked four other companies – Apple, Garmin, Tom Tom and AOL’s MapQuest – to join similar map partnerships using the agency’s data to pinpoint the crossings, it said. AOL
Hey Jim, better get the rig/Got a list of RR crossings that's mighty big

Penn's tell

Incentives work pretty much the way everyone (especially Jonathan Gruber) thought, just ask the Governor of Pennsylvania;
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration said Thursday that it will withdraw its application to take over some functions of the insurance marketplace created under the 2010 federal health care law now that the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the law’s nationwide tax subsidies.
Pennsylvania had a contingency plan for the Supreme Court actually following the text of the law known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. I.e., it could read the plain English of, 'an Exchange created by a state' and act accordingly. Like grown-ups.

Now that John Roberts and company have hidden their eyes from that, Pennsylvania will save themselves some money. By letting George do it.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The business of Washington state cities is business

They're Bottom Line Guys in the Pacific Northwest;
Cities and counties won’t be forced to accept the marijuana industry, but those that do will get a cut of the revenue.
That’s what state lawmakers decided as they approved new tax levels and regulations for the state-licensed marijuana market Saturday.
Chump change for now, but who knows?
Once the year-old marijuana market has been around long enough for the state to collect more data on it, lawmakers will have a better idea of how much legalization has increased or decreased local governments’ workloads, said Rep. Reuven Carlyle, another negotiator and a Seattle Democrat.

Regulation of the new businesses may cost money, but legalization could also reduce costs associated with pursuing illegal drug dealers.
Not to mention housing and feeding them once they're arrested and convicted of crimes.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Fidel's Famous Fiasco

It's been half a millennium for Santiago de Cuba, so naturally it's time to celebrate the Castros' heroism (that's their story, and they're sticking to it);
The emblematic site of the Moncada Barracks is preparing to celebrate the 62nd anniversary of the heroic deeds lead by Fidel Castro on July 26, 1953, and the 500th anniversary of the founding of Santiago.
The heroic deeds being Fidel and Raul getting their men slaughtered (mostly) in an ill-planned and executed assault on an army base in July 1953. According to Georgie Anne Geyer, who knew Fidel personally in the 1960s, the Maximum Leader to be, forgot his glasses and barely got to the site of the assault himself, since he couldn't see to drive.

Fidel had summoned his men from all over Cuba to an old farmhouse he'd rented outside Santiago, ostensibly for Carnival on July 25th. Then he told them (according to Geyer's Guerilla Prince) the real reason they were there;
"We will attack at dawn," he went on, "when the guards are only half awake and the officers are still sleeping off their drunkenness from last night's Carnival parties. It will be a surprise attack and should not last more than ten minutes."
Well, the surprise turned out to be on them, as the over 1,000 soldiers in the barracks easily handled the attack by a little over 100 Fidelistas. As Fidel himself was warned would happen by his own doctor--madness, even a crime--a few hours before the attack was launched. That doctor was killed a few hours later by Batista's army.

Fidel and Raul seeing the disaster developing, took off the uniforms that covered civilian clothes and simply walked away into the Carnival crowds. The Castros' soldiers who weren't killed in the fighting were later tortured to death.

Party like it's 1953.

We Grare you!

'If you cross this line...we'll draw another one';
Euro-area finance chiefs poured scorn on the Greek government’s decision to call a referendum on the terms of the country’s bailout and said the door was closing to any further discussion on resolving a standoff over aid.
.... “It’s a very sad decision for Greece because it’s closed the door to further talks, a door that was still open in my mind,” Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister who chairs the meetings, told reporters as he arrived.
The 'crisis' has only been going on for five years, but this is your last chance...until the next one.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Zinging well is the best revenge on your colleagues

Footnote 22 of Justice Antonin Scalia's dissent is;
If, even as the price to be paid for a fifth vote, I ever joined an opinion for the Court that began: "the Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity," I would hide my head in a bag. The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie.
Our bold above. Scalia is too nuanced a guy to have emphasized his dig.

Monty Python skit or SCOTUS decision?

If this is Friday at the Court, it must be Chief Justice John Roberts (of the living in glass houses Robertses) day to get out of his bed on the side of the Constitution.

Today, after denying the legislature its constitutional prerogatives in King v. Burwell, John Roberts is a born again believer in judicial restraint (in his dissent);
...this Court is not a legislature. Whether same-sex marriage is a good idea should be of no concern to us. Under the Constitution, judges have power to say what the law is, not what it should be. The people who ratified the Constitution authorized courts to exercise "neither force nor will but merely judgment." The Federalist No 78...A. Hamilton....
Which happens to be exactly the reference Justice Scalia made yesterday is HIS dissent in King v. Burwell, when he and Roberts were on opposite sides!

Quit your day jobs...Pleeease.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The last time I fled Paris

I dodged the same old taxicabs that I had dodged for years.
The chorus of their squeaky horns was music to my ears.

The last time I saw Paris, her heart was warm and gay,
No matter how they change her, I'll remember her that way.

Maybe Jerry Kern and Oscar Hammerstein did, but Courtney Love seems to have a different impression;
Travellers going to and from the airport walked alongside roads with their bags or got caught in ambushes, like singer Courtney Love, who was rescued by two men on a motorcycle.

Love tweeted: "they've ambushed our car and are holding our driver hostage.
"They're beating the cars with metal bats. this is France?? I'm safer in Baghdad."
At least the distressed damsel was rescued by two galantes. Not everyone was so lucky;
Taxi drivers complain that livery services like Uber unfairly undercut them and in recent weeks nearly 100 Uber drivers have been attacked, sometimes while carrying customers. One irritated taxi passenger was left with a broken face and black eye after he praised Uber.
C'est la vie. Or la guerre.

The most dangerous branch

It should be interesting next First Monday in October, when the Supreme Court convenes again, to see who is speaking to whom. I.e., are Ginsburg and Scalia still willing to pal around with each other? Roberts and Alito still the twins of George W. Bush? It would be pretty hard for the six members of the majority in King v. Burwell to avoid the fact that Scalia, Alito and Clarence Thomas think that they have violated not only their oaths of office, but are drunk with power. Consider;
The Court's decision reflects the philosophy the judges should endure whatever interpretive distortions it takes in order to correct a supposed flaw in the statutory machinery. That philosophy ignores the American people's decision to give Congress "[all] legislative Powers" enumerated in the Constitution. They made Congress, not this Court, responsible for both making laws and mending them.
Trying to make its judge-empowering approach seem respectful of congressional authority, the Court asserts that its decision merely ensures that the Affordable Care Act operates the way Congress "meant [it] to operate."
I.e., the majority is intellectually dishonest. Oh, and by the way, asks Scalia, how do they know what Congress intended if not by the actual words Congress used in the Act itself? Rhetorical question aside;
More importantly, the Court forgets that ours is a government of laws and not of men. That means we are governed by the terms of our laws, not by the unenacted will of our lawmakers.
Those of a certain age will recognize the phrase we've bolded above, as a popular slogan during the Watergate controversy that ended with the POTUS, Richard Nixon, having to resign from his office before he was impeached. But, it gets worse;
Even less defensible, if possible, is the Court's claim that its interpretive approach is justified because this Act "does not reflect the type of care and deliberation that one might expect of such significant legislation."
It is a mark of the self-control of Antonin Scalia that he does not become any more indignant over that astonishingly naked power grab (and blatant violation of the Constitution's Separation of Powers) than;
It is not our place to judge the quality of the care and deliberation that went into this or any other law. 

Just ponder the significance of the Court's decision to take matters into its own hands. ....What a parody today's decision makes of [Alexander] Hamilton's assurances [in Federalist 78] to the people of New York: "The legislature not only commands the purse but prescribes the rules by which the duties and rights of every citizen are to be regulated. The judiciary, on the contrary, has no influence over...the purse, no direction...of the wealth of society, and can tke no active resolution whatever.
Well Jack Lew fixed that guy, didn't he?

Seven is their lucky number?

We continue with some of the Scalia dissent that exposes six of his Justice colleagues as either fools or knaves;

...other parts of the Act sharply distinguish between the establishment of an Exchange by a State and the establishment of an Exchange by the Federal Government. The States' authority to set up Exchanges comes from one provision...the [HHS] Secretary's authority comes from an entirely different provision.... Funding for States to establish Exchanges comes from one part of the law...funding for the Secretary to establish Exchanges comes from an entirely different part of the law.... Provisions such as these destroy any pretense that a federal Exchange is in some sense also established by a State.
So Scalia describes the Court's majority decision as, beyond giving words bizarre meanings, it leaves the limiting phrase "by the State" with no operative effect at all. Which is a problem, because the lawmakers used the phrase more than once in the PPACA.
Making matters worse, the reader of the whole Act will come across a number of provisions beyond 36B that refer to the establishment of Exchanges by States. Adopting the Court's interpretation means nullifying the term"by the State" not just once, but again and again throughout the act.
....It is bad enough for a court to cross out "by the State" once. But seven times?
Then he points out that congress did not merely repeat Exchange established by the State by rote throughout the Act. Au contraire, clause after clause finds two different phrases;
It is common sense that any speaker who says "Exchange" some of the time, but "Exchange established by the State" the rest of time, probably means something by the contrast.
All the majority managed to do to overcome common sense, writes Scalia, is  to come up with feeble argument after feeble argument to deny the plain English meaning of the words. Describing such as jiggery-pokery.

Theater of the Absurd

That's what Justice Antonin Scalia thinks of six of his colleagues in his dissent (and joined by Justices Thomas and Alito);
The Court holds that when the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act says "Exchange established by the State" it means "Exchange established by the State or the Federal Government" That is of course quite absurd and the Court's 21 pages of explanation make it no less so.
In order to receive any money under §36B, an individual must enroll in an insurance plan through an “Exchange established by the State.” The Secretary of Health and Human Services is not a State. So an Exchange established by the Secretary is not an Exchange established by the State—which means people who buy health insurance through such an Exchange get no money under §36B.

Words no longer have meaning if an Exchange that is not established by a State is “established by the State.”
Under all the usual rules of interpretation, in short, the Government should lose this case. But normal rules of interpretation seem always to yield to the overriding principle of the present Court: The Affordable Care Act must be saved.
(Impossible possibility, thy name is an opinion on the Affordable Care Act!)
Six Justices of the Supreme Court have no clothes!

Which isn't funny. Unless you think Dred Scott was.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Noah Dear, You've critiqued the stage directions, not the play

Noah Smith says three-fiftieths of a Deirdre McCloskey paper is all he needs to make up his mind;
This is NOT a post about Piketty or his arguments (of which I already have more than enough reason to be skeptical). It is NOT a post about McCloskey's rebuttal to those arguments. This is a post about McCloskey's style of argumentation.
Which Phd program taught Noah that he could do that without actually reading the argumentation?

Reading and critiquing McCloskey's thoughts on Piketty would be a bad move for me. First of all, it would require me to read dozens more pages of McCloskey than I have already read.
Which is not dozens, by his own admission;
Second, it would require me to know more about Piketty than I do (I haven't read Capital, nor do I own it). Third, it would turn the discussion political, which would detract from the main point of this post, which is that McCloskey is prone to silly-talk. Fourth, it would get very very very long, and you would get very very very bored.
So instead, I will simply critique the first three pages of the review, which are an introduction to the rest of the piece.
And he can't even get much right about those three pages, as a few of his commenters have pointed out to him (including Deirdre, politely, herself).  We wrote about how much we enjoyed the McCloskey piece last year (unlike Smith, we read things before we write about them), but only briefly. That was because the McCloskey review was so good we didn't want to dissuade anyone from reading and enjoying it in its entirety. However, since Noah Smith is adamantly denying that there is anything to be gained by actually reading McCloskey's style of argumentation--as opposed to the polite preliminaries (Thomas, such a nice boy; so sweet, so clever...) that are customary in the scholarly groves--we'll produce a little of that style;
 Piketty does not acknowledge that each wave of inventors, of entrepreneurs, and even of routine capitalists find their rewards taken from them by entry [of competitors], which is an economic concept he does not appear to grasp. Look at the history of fortunes in department stores. The income from department stores in the late nineteenth century, Le Bon Marché, Marshall Fields, and Selfridge's, was entrepreneurial. The model was then copied all over the rich world, and was the basis for little fortunes in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and Benton Harbor, Michigan. Then in the late twentieth century the model was challenged by a wave of discounters, and they then in turn by the internet. The original accumulation slowly or quickly dissipates. In other words the profit going to the profiteers is more or less quickly undermined by outward-shifting supply, if governmental monopolies and protectionisms of the sort Matt Ridley noted in recent British history do not intervene. The economist William Nordhaus has calculated that the inventors and nowadays earn in profit only 2 percent of the social value of their inventions. If you are Sam Walton the 2 percent gives you personally a great deal of money from introducting bar codes into stocking of supermarket shelves. But 98 percent at the cost of 2 percent is nonetheless a pretty good deal for the rest of us.

Noah Smith would have had to get all the way to page 17 for that. Such a big sacrifice for scholarship, too much to ask of a professional economist?

Eso demostración 70s

The staff at the Pan Am Post says, la guerra for oil is Cuba's game in Venezuela;
Studies released by the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies (ICCAS) at the University of Miami have revealed that the Cuban regime is training Venezuelan paramilitary groups, including Los Tupamaros, La Piedrita, Simón Bolívar, and Alexis Vive. These groups have killed more than 25 students during protests, and injured over 300.

These studies show that for years the Venezuelan government has sent regime supporters to Havana to learn repression tactics in order to help their leaders stay in power. Furthermore, there is evidence that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a group designated as a terrorist organization by the US government, also trains these groups on Venezuela’s border with Colombia.
This should come as no surprise, as Cuba did this in Chile in the 1970s. There were thousands of paramilitaries trained by Cubans inserted into that country after Salvador Allende became el presidente in 1970. It took Augusto Pinochet over a decade to root them out with the Chilean military. In the process of that dirty war, Pinochet almost lost his own life in a rocket attack on his motorcade.

Fortunately for Chile, the (comparative) good guys won, and Chile became a free and prosperous society. Also, fortunately, Chile wasn't cursed with large reserves of petroleum;
“Cuba has even created a contingency plan in case there is a change of government in Venezuela. They have prepared groups that are ready for action to prevent that change in politics,” lawyer and researcher Pedro Roig asserts.

Roig says Cuba cannot afford to lose the oil they receive from Venezuela — around 50,000 barrels per month, and roughly 100,000 before the economic crisis — and that is why they train these Chavista groups.

“Cuba needs to protect the oil that comes from Venezuela. For Cuba, this is vital, and they are doing what they need to do in order to keep it,” he adds.
The question is, do non-Communist Venezuelans realize what they need to do to free themselves from their nightmare.

Exports are up!

Zimbabwe has a jobs program;
Government is inviting college graduates to register for jobs in African countries, such as Angola, Botswana, Namibia and South Sudan. Deputy Minister of Higher & Tertiary Education, Science & Technology, Godfrey Gandawa said “We are coming up with a policy as a ministry to help our skilled manpower get jobs because there are countries with vacancies in various fields, but our people do not have access to those vacancies out there. We have taken the initiative to look for jobs in those countries.”
Maybe they should look for a job for President Mugabe in one of those other countries.

Got a right to sing the blues bins

N.C. State's Craig Newmark links to a WaPo story about the self-inflicted wounds to recycling;
Once a profitable business for cities and private employers alike, recycling in recent years has become a money-sucking enterprise. The District, Baltimore and many counties in between are contributing millions annually to prop up one of the nation’s busiest facilities here in Elkridge, Md. — but it is still losing money. In fact, almost every facility like it in the country is running in the red. And Waste Management and other recyclers say that more than 2,000 municipalities are paying to dispose of their recyclables instead of the other way around.
Trying to encourage conservation, progressive lawmakers and environmentalists have made matters worse. By pushing to increase recycling rates with bigger and bigger bins — while demanding almost no sorting by consumers — the recycling stream has become increasingly polluted and less valuable, imperiling the economics of the whole system.

“We kind of got everyone thinking that recycling was free,” said Bill Moore, a leading industry consultant on paper recycling who is based in Atlanta. “It’s never really been free, and in fact, it’s getting more expensive.”
Just dump everything in the big blue bins and let the pros sort things out, who could have known that would not work? Oh, maybe Betty Smith's protagonist  in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, which opens with this description of early 20th century New York;
 For Francie, Saturday started with the trip to the junkie.
No, not that kind of junkie.
She and her brother, Neeley, like other Brooklyn kids, collected rags, paper, metal, rubber, and other junk and hoarded it in locked cellar bins or in boxes hidden under the bed. All week Francie walked home slowly from school with her eyes in the gutter looking for tin foil from cigarette packages or chewing gum wrappers. This was melted in the lid of a jar. The junkie wouldn't take an unmelted ball of foil because too many kids put iron washers in the middle to make it weigh heavier. Sometimes Neeley found a seltzer bottle. Francie helped him break the top off and melt it down for lead. The junkie wouldn't buy a complete top because he'd get into trouble with the soda water people. A seltzer bottle top was fine. Melted it was worth a nickel.
No government recycling agency required.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Ministry of Skinny Jeans?

Surely that can't be too far off, given the tragedy in Australia;
A doctor is Australia is warning wearers of skinny jeans to avoid squatting after a woman in Adelaide lost feeling in her legs, leaving her temporarily unable to walk, according to a report published Tuesday in the "Sydney Morning Herald."
While helping a relative move house, the 35-year-old patient spent a whole day squatting while cleaning out cupboards and packing boxes. Neurologist Dr. Thomas Kimber said she felt her legs and feet grow numb as she was walking home through a park.
She fell over and lay there for hours until she managed to get the attention of a passing taxi, which took her to a hospital. Where they cut off her jeans, which were so tight they'd cut off the supply of blood to her calf muscles.

Where was the government!

Ich bin nicht ein gum chewer on the stairs either

Just following orders, that's all;
Effective June 1, the non-stopping lifts became off limits to anyone who hasn’t taken a class in how to use one and been issued a certificate to that effect.

That means visitors to places such as the Schoeneberg town hall aren’t allowed to use them, though, as officials note, they are impossibly tempting, especially to novices. The result has been that public buildings equipped with the elevators either have had to post guards on every floor or turn the elevators off.
And it's much cheaper to just turn off the elevators and make everyone walk up and down.

At least it will eliminate the rash of injuries from riding?
A recent Der Spiegel magazine article noted that Paternosters, on average, have one accident for every 250 years of operation. German insurance reports actually note more people are killed by traditional elevators than by Paternosters (there are, however, a lot more elevators).

Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2015/06/23/3853455/germany-bidding-farewell-to-its.html#storylink=cpy
 After all no one ever fell down a stairway did they?

Just make sure we get ours

The Attorney General of the state of Washington enters the restaurant business (from the backdoor);
— Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson says businesses can add surcharges as a way to cover the costs of new minimum wage laws in some cities, but those charges must be clearly disclosed.

Ferguson released guidelines on the issue Tuesday, following reports that some Seattle businesses, including restaurants, were adding a surcharge in response to the city's new minimum wage law, which will eventually bring minimum pay to $15 an hour. SeaTac has a similar ordinance.
It's all consumer protection, of course.
The attorney general said he wants to make sure customers understand what they're paying for.
But eventually the Tacoma News Tribune gets to the real reason the AG is sticking his nose into other people's businesses;
Among the guidelines, businesses must clearly disclose the charge, not mischaracterize the charge as a tax or government mandate, and not use the money for anything other than paying workers' wages.
I.e., don't you dare blame us politicians! Nor have we forgotten that you exploiters of labor have a partner (in gross, not net)
They also say the surcharge is subject to the state's business and occupation tax and retail sales taxes.
Effectively a double tax on the same sale.

Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2015/06/23/3853425_attorney-general-minimum-wage.html?rh=1#storylink=cpy

Monday, June 22, 2015

Too bad the U.S. Open golf course thing has been done

The Port of Tacoma has a gravel mine on its hands that it would like to unload;
The port has had the rural tract on the market since 2013 when a sand and gravel consortium that had contracted to buy the property withdrew from the deal. The company had agreed to pay a total of $17 million in cash and sand and gravel, but backed out after paying only $1.2 million, the port announced.
$17 million for property that;
The port bought the acreage in 2006 for $21.25 million with an ambitious plan to use the tract for a rail yard to improve the storage and switching of long container and unit trains destined for the port’s Tacoma Tideflats terminals and industrial sites. The port also sought to mine the glacial sand and gravel on the site for building activities. Together with environmental and site improvement costs, the port has invested a total of $27.5 million in the site.
Which wasn't enough to make the environmentalists happy, so the county government impeded the mining operations there, and ended up losing a lawsuit that is being appealed in the state's courts to this day. The $12 million dollar judgment against the county presumably being the value of the 'sand and gravel' mentioned in the first paragraph quoted above.

Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2015/06/22/3850854/port-of-tacoma-once-again-puts.html#storylink=cpy

How ya gonna get 'em back to the farm...

After they've seen Beijing? Market forces, says the Chinese government;
Chinese government has promised support for migrant workers, college graduates and army veterans who wish to return to their rural hometowns to start businesses amid a national campaign to boost entrepreneurship and employment.

The State Council, China's cabinet, released a guideline recently saying the government will lower the threshold for them, offer tax breaks, cut administration fees, subsidize business loans and optimize supporting policies.
Take it from the top;
"Cost reduction is vitally important for startups. These policies serve them right," said Zhou Tianyong, professor with the Party School of the Communist Party of China Central Committee.
As the Big Guy himself once said; Many things may become baggage, may become encumbrances if we cling to them blindly and uncritically.

Be down to get you in a taxi, Comrade

Morning Star The People's Daily proudly announces another Venezuelan initiative;
CARACAS has announced measures to help end a shortage of spare parts for buses and taxis which it blamed on the “economic war” against Venezuela.

Following localised transport strikes, the government unveiled a series of measures last week to address the situation under the banner of its “transport mission.”
As always, the missionary position is that the conspiracy against socialism is responsible for all the failures.
It also denounced the opposition for looking to “generate chaos in the sector.”
Yeah, leave the generation of chaos to the professionals in the Bolivarian Revolution.

Raisin d'etre

This Supreme Court ruling has potential, as Michael Doyle of McClatchy seems to realize;
“Raisins are private property, the fruit of the growers’ labor, not public things subject to the absolute control of the state,” Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr. wrote. “Any physical taking of them for public use must be accompanied by just compensation.”
We pause for effect.
The case decided Monday calls into question the future contours of the decades-old raisin program, as well as other farm programs that control market supplies. It is also part of a long-running, multi-front war challenging federal regulation of various agricultural markets.
 [our bold above]

One of Horne’s attorneys, Clovis, Calif.-based Brian Leighton, has launched many related farm fights against marketing orders and research and promotion programs. The attorney who successfully argued Horne’s case at the Supreme Court, Stanford Law School Professor Michael McConnell, is a former federal appellate judge.
McConnell is on any Republican contender for President's Supreme Court shot-list.

Raisin farmer on the sunny side of the street

The Supreme Court discovers that New Deal agriculture policy is unconstitutional;
The Supreme Court sided with a renegade raisin farmer Monday in his battle against a federal program designed to keep excess raisins off the market.

A majority of justices ruled that the Agriculture Department program, which seizes excess raisins from producers in order to prop up market prices during bumper crop years, amounted to an unconstitutional government "taking."
Which policy goes all the way back to the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938.

Even though the vote was 8-1, the Justices walked on egg shells;
But they limited their verdict to raisins, lest they simultaneously overturn other government programs that limit production of goods without actually seizing private property.
AKA, socialism.

The hits, they keep on coming

This time it's from University of Chicago's Casey Mulligan teeing off on Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-first Century;
One of the novelties of Capital relative to the literature is that it completely avoids even half-serious supply-and-demand reasoning by trashing the profession and stoking antieconomics prejudices with unsubstantiated claims such as the following: “The problem is that the price system knows neither limits nor morality” (p. 6). (Much later in the book, Piketty admits that terrible things happen when countries eschew the price system: “[P]rivate property and the market economy . . . play a useful role in coordinating the actions of millions of individuals. . . . The human disasters caused by Soviet-style centralized planning illustrate this quite clearly” [p. 532]. But, he says, the Soviet approach and other attempts to “abolish private ownership” should at least be admired for being “more logically consistent” [p. 531].)
We agree, Stalin was the ultimate logician of socialism. When you have total power in your hands, anything is possible. Then, a little closer to home;
Several factual errors come with Piketty’s claims that France since its revolution has cared more about equal rights and that Republican presidents of the United States have stood in starkest contrast to the French model. He fails to mention that the Polity IV database of political freedoms around the world consistently rates France as less democratic than the United States. There is of course, Napoleon, who gave his country of equal rights the unusual distinction of relegalizing slavery, and Polity IV rates the United States as more democratic in 176 of the 198 years after 1815 and equally democratic in the remaining 22 years.
Our bolds in the above, per usual.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

...a shortage of sand

So Russia's new territory, Crimea, recycles old ideas;
Officials in the annexed Crimea region plan on creating a state corporation that will organize large deliveries of building materials to the peninsula, a news report said, as the region battles a supply shortage caused by poor relations with Ukraine.
 Or, maybe Milton Friedman (and other wags) were right.

Shipments from the Ukrainian mainland have been restricted since the peninsula was annexed by Russia last year. Crimea is now facing a deficit of sand, crushed stone and high-strength cement, RIA Novosti reported last week.
 Naturally, Crimea's Construction and Architecture Ministry head Sergei Kononov rushes in, as fools always do, to announce;
"To solve the deficit problem and not permit an increase in the cost of building materials … we propose creating a state unitary enterprise with the goal of providing the construction industry with the necessary materials,"
That's sure to work; retard the information given by prices. It has such a great track record.

Wu has the last laugh now?

John Wayne, or Claire Chennault--whose granddaughter will be opening a museum dedicated to the memory of The Flying Tigers of WWII;
Since returning home after my recent trip to China in March, I have reflected on my experiences about the land and the people that my grandfather, General Chennault loved so much. It was a great honor to be invited to the opening of the Flying Tiger Heritage Park in Guilin. The Chinese people have become my extended family and it is with a grateful spirit that I join with my extended family to tell the story of my grandfather and the Flying Tigers. While many may know of the heroics of the Flying Tigers, they may not know the circumstances that led my grandfather to China, why he stayed, or the difficulties he faced.
Unlikely to be celebrated in Guilin would be Chennault's staunch anti-Communism. He was the wartime ally of Generalissimo and Madame Chiang Kai-shek, and when civil war broke out between the Kuomintang and the Communists, needed no encouragement to side with the former. He headed China's Civil Air Transport (CAT) which was the supply arm of Chiang's military.

Even after the Communist victory in 1949, Chennault continued to support the anti-communists. He even attempted to organize a second American Volunteer Group, in the 1950s, from Taiwan to overthrow Mao's Red Army dictatorship in the People's Republic of China. After his death from lung cancer in 1958, his second wife Anna (a Chinese woman) took up the cause, becoming one of the most noted advocates in America for the Taiwanese and against Communism.

Anna Chennault was even suspected of conveying secret messages from Richard Nixon to the beleaguered South Vietnamese government in 1968, urging President Thieu to resist LBJ's 'peace' overtures between his country and North Vietnam.

No mention of any of that in the People's Daily article.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Swedish meatballs

So, you want austerity?

Sweden’s financial watchdog to force households to reduce mortgage debt

Sweden’s financial regulator said it probably has enough political backing to proceed with a plan that would force households to reduce their mortgage debt, Bloomberg reports.
Soon the Prince will need his Dwarf again.

We'll have lower Russian GDP, but better Russian GDP

The St. Petersburg Times reports on Vladimir Putin's economic tête à tête;
In his keynote speech on economic policy at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Putin admitted that the Russian economy is shrinking, but radiated confidence that the country would weather the storm.

“We have stabilized the situation, absorbed the negative short-term fluctuations, and are now making our way forward confidently through this difficult patch,” Putin told an audience of Russian and foreign business executives, government officials and experts, who came to the annual forum to discuss the country’s economic future.

Russia’s economy shrank by 2.2 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2015, weakened by sanctions and counter-sanctions imposed over the crisis in Ukraine and a sharp fall in the price of oil, the country’s main export. Analysts expect a contraction of around 3 percent this year and a weak recovery to follow.
All according to plan?

Red Guards are standing by, awaiting your calls

Just like the good ol' days, inform on your neighbors;
China's top discipline inspection agency opened a new tip-off gateway on its website against low-level corrupt officials on Friday.
The informants can choose to be anonymous or give their real name, said a press release from the Communist Party of China's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI).
It's always Central something. Which logically plays out this way;
Jung Chang describes the extraordinary lives and experiences of her family members: her grandmother, a warlord’s concubine; her mother’s struggles as a young idealistic Communist; and her parents’ experience as members of the Communist elite and their ordeal during the Cultural Revolution. Chang was a Red Guard briefly at the age of fourteen, then worked as a peasant, a “barefoot doctor,” a steelworker, and an electrician. As the story of each generation unfolds, Chang captures in gripping, moving—and ultimately uplifting—detail the cycles of violent drama visited on her own family and millions of others caught in the whirlwind of history.
Fortunately, she managed to emigrate to England.

In the wee small hours

Vladimir Putin likes, as did Joseph Stalin, to work the graveyard shift;

It was two minutes before midnight when Russian President Vladimir Putin finally entered the meeting room in the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library, more than three hours late, to be interviewed by a dozen exhausted journalists.

His retinue seemed wearily accustomed to the late-night regimen, but Putin himself - after back-to-back meetings, a speech and an on-stage interview at his annual business conference here in his home town of St Petersburg - was fresh, fulsome and feisty.

"We won in a free fight and we are going to host the World Cup," he declared, slapping away suggestions that Russia cheated with scandal-plagued FIFA to snare the 2018 competition. "That's it!"
Enquiring minds want to know who asked THAT question. Though Reuters' Paul Ingrassia did manage to get this out of Vlad The Imperious;
As for whether Russia can't, or simply won't, control its border to stop heavy weapons flowing to separatists in Ukraine: "These people got weapons with which to defend themselves. They got them in various ways." 

Keeping down the Kardashians

For NPR listeners, Kim is déclassé;
An appearance by Kim Kardashian on the National Public Radio show "Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me!" has angered some listeners.
NPR received hundreds of complaints about last week's episode of the humorous quiz show. Kardashian was in a segment called "Not My Job," in which she answered questions about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. She answered two of three questions correctly.
But many listeners were outraged that she was on the Chicago-based show. Some have threatened to stop donating to the nonprofit NPR.
Was one of them Reggie Bush?

Friday, June 19, 2015

Paddling for bogeymen

Even better, for the birdiemen who will collect the big bucks from the corporate sponsors at the U.S. Open on Father's Day;
Enjoy Father's day and the first day of summer, on the water, while making a powerful statement to protect our environment and our future.
Join the People's Climate Action Fleet, Sunday- June 21, 2015 off the coast of the Chambers Bay Golf Course in Pierce County. Bring all your watercraft - kayaks, canoes, sailboats, and power boats.
Power boats are welcome?
The Chambers Bay Golf Course hosts the 2015 U.S. Open Golf Tournament June 15th-21st.   More than two hundred thousand people will attend the tournament and one hundred million more will watch the action on television.
This is our chance to bring a dramatic climate justice message to the attention of a national and international audience
Chambers Bay is a new world-class golf course immediately north of Steilacoom. The train tracks run between the golf course and Puget Sound.
100-car oil trains already use the tracks several times a day to transport oil to refineries in Tacoma, Anacortes, and Cherry Point. The streets around Chambers Bay will closed to the public during the tournament, but boats and kayaks on the Sound will be visible to all the cameras and spectators.
Most of which boats and kayaks will be made of petroleum. Even the wind-powered ones.

Yin and Yang is like ...

...the chocolate business, you never know when it's going to melt;
US chocolate maker Hershey cut its sales growth forecast for the year, blaming weaker growth in China.
...."Macroeconomic challenges and trends are affecting consumer shopping behaviour resulting in continued softness within the China modern trade," the company said.
Though Hershey is doing fine in the USA. Must be the monetary offset.

Deep in the Heart of Geico

Warren Buffett sees a need, sends in the gecko;
GEICO has unveiled a new auto insurance product in Texas for drivers of on-demand transportation network companies (TNC) like Uber, Lyft, Sidecar that covers both personal and ridesharing needs.
The Berkshire-Hathaway subsidiary is already increasing its market share in Maryland and Virgina by selling the product there.
GEICO Senior Vice President Robert Miller said the coverage can meet the need of TNC drivers required by states to have more than personal auto insurance and covers vehicles for personal use, ridesharing and other on-demand services.
Now all it needs is for California to move it on over and let the gecko (or Maxwell, or the Cavemen) in without the roadblocks it's just put up.

Never let an encyclical go to waste

Milk intellectual fashion for all its worth;

The White House has pushed foundations, institutional investors and philanthropies to commit more than $4 billion to clean energy projects and help fight climate change, doubling a goal set in February, officials said.

The administration issued a call to action early in the year asking them to make commitments on clean energy innovation, and "we've seen a really overwhelming response," White House senior adviser Brian Deese told reporters in a conference call late on Monday.

To help facilitate the commitments, the administration increased access to federal information and provided technical assistance, Deese said. However, the extent to which the White House's call to action actually increased commitments they may have been considering anyway was unclear.
But they want to be on the bandwagon.

What if they gave a 'bold cultural revolution'...

... and ended up buying more oil from Venezuela?
State-owned China Development Bank, which loaned $37 billion to Venezuela, is seeing the value of that investment falter, as the country struggles to cope with the economic impact of low oil prices. The loans were supposed to secure China millions of barrels of Venezuelan crude. Venezuela, however, appears to be having trouble in meeting both its repayment and oil obligations.
So, what does Pope Francis think about that?
In a sweeping environmental manifesto aimed at spurring concrete action, Pope Francis called Thursday for a bold cultural revolution to correct what he described as a "structurally perverse" economic system where the rich exploit the poor, turning Earth into an "immense pile of filth."
Francis framed climate change as an urgent moral issue to address in his eagerly anticipated encyclical, blaming global warming on an unfair, fossil fuel-based industrial model that harms the poor most.
Who's the exploiter...the exploitee...(China has had to accept devalued Bolivars in repayment of its loans)?

Is China part of the capitalist conspiracy to wreck the Maduro economy?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Because that's where the money is

If you build it, they will come out of the woodwork to exploit it;
The federal government is suing a Jacksonville ambulance service over alleged false billing and other schemes.
The Florida Times-Union reports that the company is accused of submitting false claims to federally subsidized health-care programs.
We're shocked. Shocked, to find gamboling in the safety net.

Great egotists think alike

If this from the current Sec'y of State can be called thinking;
The Pope’s powerful encyclical calls for a common response to the critical threat climate change poses to our common home. His plea for all religions to work together reflects the urgency of the challenge. The faith community – in the United States and abroad – has a long history of environmental stewardship and aiding the poor, and Pope Francis has thoughtfully applied those same values to the very real threat our planet is facing today.
Too bad we can't all marry heiresses, eh John? But, there is another tradition among the faith community that we might want to give some thought to. It's called fighting faiths, and has exhibited a bit of problematic behavior over the millennia, like The Thirty Years War.

Guestimates vary among the historians, but the lower bound is that a quarter of the population of Europe was killed in just that one war between Catholics and Protestant. How does air conditioning stack up against that record?

This troublesome priest

The Argentinian pope seems to be unaware of the Commandment that calls for not bearing false witness;
Pope Francis called Thursday for a bold cultural revolution to correct what he described as a "structurally perverse" economic system where the rich exploit the poor, turning Earth into an "immense pile of filth."
'Exploit[ation]' is a Marxian idea, not a Christian one, but it is the richer, capitalistic countries that keep their environments clean, not the poorest ones. As one might expect a South American to be aware. And how did that cultural revolution work out in Mao's China when it was tried?

Also, clicking on the link above to the 'structurally perverse' economic system, gets one to this gem of left-wing idolatry (another Commandment violated);
Pope Francis added his voice Wednesday to the feminist anthem of equal pay for equal work, saying it's "pure scandal" that women earn less than men for doing the same job.
Francis also lambasted the attitude of those who blame the crisis in families on women getting out of the house to work. He said such attitudes are a form of "machismo" that shows how men "want to dominate women."
So, the Pope favors children left to their own devices in the streets of Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro?

Someone needs to examine his conscience before sanctimoniously lecturing 'the world'.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Et tu, Megan?

What the dickens is wrong (are her times out of joint?) with English major, as well as Chicago MBA, Megan McArdle. Who asks, Do We Need Shakespeare?, and concludes;
...for most people, I doubt it much matters whether you teach Shakespeare or something else. Either way, they are going to forget it as soon as they walk out of the classroom door for the last time.
To be cruel to be kind, we laughed ourselves into stitches, because if they do forget their Shakespeare, there'll be plenty of reminders in the English language when they hear; What's in a name? ...a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Speaking of which, sweets for the sweet, and also are the uses of adversity.

Oh, that conscience makes cowards of us all, that discretion is the better part of valor, that cowards die a thousand times while the brave do only once! Oft in the dogs of war, true.

In our mind's eye, we might see that clothes make the man. For goodness sake, we may believe; neither a borrower nor lender be, and to thine own self be true.

Forgive us for having laid it on with a trowel. For we lack neither rhyme nor reason, though we have seen better days (say, in our salad days when we were green in judgment). Maybe it would have better been delivered in one fell swoop.

Too much of a good thing? Wethinks you protest too much.

Sortie finale

Rising rents make for some existential reckoning in Paris;
Founded by a group of resistance fighters in 1949 and often open until midnight, La Hune, originally located between the famed Café de Flore and the equally frequented Les Deux Magots in Paris's sixth arrondissement, became a landmark meeting place for France’s intelligentsia. The clientele included some of the country’s greatest writers, politicians and artists. Coco Chanel, Françoise Sagan and François Mitterand were frequent visitors.
Tous sont morts, et;
In recent years, however, the shop became the victim of ever-increasing rents as the fashionable Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighbourhood became more and more expensive. In 2012 it was forced to move from its emblematic address on 170 Boulevard Saint-Germain to the nearby 18 Rue de l’Abbaye to make way for a Louis Vuitton store.
The most unkindest cut of all. Though this might be worse;
The spot vacated by La Hune in 18 Rue de l’Abbaye will now house a shop specialised in photo reproduction.

Thin Lizzie?

The Guardian reviews Labour's great white hopes for 2020. Of Dandy Andy Burnham;
His weakness lies in whether he has switched his politics from being a Blairite special adviser to developing a more leftwing pitch as shadow health secretary. He was Treasury chief secretary, briefly overseeing the 2007 spending review before the great crash, and had to pick up the mess after the mid-Staffordshire health scandal. But he has also been a consistent advocate of integrating health and social care.
Then there's Yesterday Yvette Cooper;
For all her experience in Labour politics – she was an economics researcher to John Smith in 1992 – she is still not as widely known, and yesterday in an opening speech she spoke of being the granddaughter of a miner, the daughter of a trade unionist, and marching with her dad on the People’s March for Jobs in the early 80s.
Jeremiad Jeremy Corbyn;
A stalwart at any leftwing demonstration and platform speaker at any left rally, Corbyn has made protest his life. There is no international campaign – from the Iraq war, to nuclear weapons, to Palestine, to Guatemala – to which he has not signed up. Domestically, he has been a regular attender at anti-austerity rallies, and has won friends in the Green party for his environmentalism.
Finally, Maggie-lite Liz Kendall;
... the shadow health minister, has quickly won the brand of the change candidate, and consequently the endorsement of many centre-right newspaper columnists, as well as favourable coverage in the Sun. .... Her chief danger is her inexperience and thin knowledge of subjects outside her intellectual comfort zone. With a first from Cambridge, she needs to learn fast, and also prevent being defined by her opponents as a kamikazi Blairite ....
That would be the Tony Blair who rescued the Labour Party from irrelevance in the 1990s. To the Guardian that's a problem. She's dangerous because she might appeal to the UK's electorate.

D Day

This one employs who-knows-how-many international bureaucrats who must secretly hope the war is never won;
On the World Day to Combat Desertification, DW [Deutsche Welle] asks what the commonly used term actually means, why it is such a problem in so many parts of the world, and what can be done to reverse it.
Spoil sports.
The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) defines it as “land degradation in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid regions resulting from various factors, including climatic variations and human activities.”
They would say that, wouldn't they. Our bold above, naturally.
Humans have been meddling with their environment for thousands of years and there are some indications that man-made desertification may not be an entirely new phenomenon. Some historical research suggests that mismanagement of natural resources may have significantly impacted a variety of ancient cultures - such as Rome, Greece and Carthage - by drying out lands on which they once flourished.
Amazing they managed that before Henry Ford came along.

Better to buy one candle making machine...

Than to curse the heart of darkness that is Zimbabwe under Mugabe;
“There are many things people want to achieve in life, but when one depends on a salary alone, it takes one longer than planned. That is why I got my savings and invested in a candle-making machine,” [Primrose] Rusere said in a recent interview.
The need in Zimbabwe is a source of light that does not depend on electricity, so Primrose filled it, after recognizing that necessity is the mother of entrepreneurship;
The candle-making machine is operated by hand and uses candle wax as a raw material. “I did this because of the erratic supply of electricity, so this is an advantage for us,” she said. “The process starts with preheating the candle wax to melt it. The machine has a steering, which has to be turned so that the vents on the machine are opened so as to enable full size candles to come out.
And it has a way to introduce cool water into it, and drain same after the wax hardens back to solid form . At first she sold the candles door to door, but now the customers come to her, such is the need of Zimbabweans for them in a country with frequent power outages.

Also, the candles repel mosquitoes. She now employs five people and is training more.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

We're called Mobile for a reason

Alabamy unbound, when it comes to ridesharing. When Uber comes knocking at Dixie's door, the mayors are there to open it;
Mayors in several major Alabama cities are working to clear roadblocks to bring ride-hailing company Uber and others like it to their areas.

“If it can work in Nashville, if it can work in Charlotte, then it can work in Montgomery and Mobile and all of these other major cities,” Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange said.

The mayors of Montgomery and Huntsville said they want ordinance changes to allow the mobile app-based ride-hailing service to launch operations. The push comes as Uber cars began running in the port city of Mobile last week.
Y'all are welcome.

Going my way?

Via the information superhighway, Amazon wants to make it worth your while to be a courier;
“On My Way” emerged as Amazon considered an on-demand taxi service called Rides, which would be similar to Uber or Lyft Inc., according to people familiar with the matter. Amazon has since put the Rides project on hold, the people said.
But learned something, as entrepreneurs are wont to do;
Crowdsourced delivery could offer Amazon an escape valve for the shipping woes it suffered around the 2013 holiday season, when it had to compensate customers after some packages failed to arrive by Christmas. Last year, Amazon’s shipping costs jumped by $2.07 billion to $8.7 billion, or 9.8% of sales, compared with 8.9% the year prior.
Taking a cue from UPS, which; 
has a service in New York and Chicago using dry cleaners, convenience stores and other small retailers as pickup points so that customers don’t have to be home to sign for them. UPS pays the retailers a per-package fee for the service.

Amazon itself has a network within 7-11 stores where customers can pick up packages in lockers. Amazon pays for the space and the convenience stores get additiional foot traffic.