Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Is Jeff Bezos a good guy or a bad guy? Also: cockroaches, meerkats, a deadly snake, and an app for persecuting women.

Is this your ex-lover? Don't answer until you read the post below.
I’ll get to Jeff Bezos in a bit. Just bear with me while I explain that I’m old enough to remember when television only came in black and white. I’m talking 1948-ish. The screens were so small that some television sets were sold with a giant magnifying glass that stood on a pedestal in front of the screen — the better to see the grainy, static-y images.

Since all television shows were new, there were no reruns. The closest thing to old television series were old westerns, full of good guys, bad guys, and people jumping on and off horses.There wasn’t much room for subtlety on those grainy little black and white screens, so the cowboy movies made the job of telling good guys from bad guys easy-peasy. The good guys, who were all good, from their pure intentions to their boot-shod toes, wore white hats. The bad guys were all bad, from their evil scowls to their nefarious intentions, and wore black hats. 

In real life, especially in this day of color screens that can be big enough to cover a wall (or small enough to slide into your shirt pocket) things are a bit less subtle. And not only television programming. Case in point?

Jeff Bezos. Should Jeff Bezos be wearing a white hat or a black hat? Considering that the guy appears to have two heads, I’d say both.

On the one hand, one Jeff Bezos good guy head has had the courage (admittedly backed by more money than you or I are likely to even imagine having in a lifetime) to stand up to what appears to be a blackmail threat from David Pecker, the head honcho of American Media and, by some strange coincidence, a pal of Donald Trump. This led, unsurprisingly but delightfully, to tabloid wordplay headlines that will last long past the scandal.

So Jeff is a good guy, yes? Yes, indeed. But also no, no way. Which brings me to Jeff’s other head. Because Bezos is also also a very, very bad guy.

First of all, he got into this pickle with American Media by carrying on an extramarital affair. This happens often, to many people, but it’s never good guy stuff.

More importantly, Bezos is a sonofabitch. In his search for a second Amazon headquarters, if you want to call it that, he baited and switched cities like a polished con man. It costs tons of money and time for a city to put together a proposal for Amazon, and in some cases, according to this report, Amazon had no real intention  of ever locating in the cities that Bezos baited. The sole objective was to scare the hell out of other cities, so they’d pile on more incentives for Amazon to choose them.

It used to be, the reason anyone would want to live anywhere near an industrial behemoth like Amazon was that the beast would throw tons of tax money into the city coffers. These days, it’s the opposite. Instead of paying taxes, monster corporations insist that taxpayers pay them to locate nearby. 

Yeah yeah, I know Amazon will employ some people — at least until Bezos finds robots that will be able to do most of the jobs for no salary at all. But inevitably, the benefit to those people could be more efficiently distributed if the government just sent a check to all the Joe and Josie Dufuses in the neighborhood.

Not to mention that Bezos hates unions and New York is still a union town. Trust the Jeffster to start pumping for local laws that cripple unions, if he locates his second headquarters here. 

On the other hand, Bezos bought the crusading Washington Post, thus assuring its survival, at least until he gets bored with it. Pat the Bezos head that wears the white hat. 

But on the other hand, the Jeffster’s management style at that newspaper has been all black hat. Just ask the journalist in charge of the union bargaining unit at the Post. Last year he said: “We are toward the end of settling this contract, and it’s not going to be a great contract. We know that. We’ve basically spent a year fighting off bad things.”

Personally, I’d like to bang both of the Jeffster’s heads together, good and hard.

P.S. The day after I posted this, Amazon announced it was pulling out of New York. Or at any rate, that it's not coming here. That's a good thing, not done for a good reason. As best I can figure it, Bezos wanted to punish New York skeptics who had doubts about giving him a huge tax break to change a Queens neighborhood, drive up rentals and force out the mostly working class folks who are hanging on there by the skin of their teeth now, enrich real estate speculators, and try to impose a silicon ethos on New York. Well, consider us punished, Jeff. Oh boo hoo!  And to the next municipality that thinks it's doing itself a favor by paying Bezos to locate his sweatshop there — lotsa luck. You're getting the head with the black hat.

Cockroaches and meercats. Speaking of bad things, do you have an ex who you dream about running into —  with a speeding Mack truck? Have I got an event for you! Down in El Paso Texas….No no! Calm down! This is not about Trump's wall!

Down in El Paso, the local zoo recently announced a Valentine’s Day event which enabled irked ex spouses and significant others to name a cockroach after their exes. But that’s only the beginning.
One of these adorable little critters may have just eaten
your former main squeeze
You could then watch the disgusting creature named for your ex get fed to a meerkat. (Who knew that such cute little animals ate such disgusting things?) Anyway, there’s the proof, if you ever desire it, that revenge is a dish best served up lukewarm and crunchy.

Then there’s the deadly snake — and no, you smartass, I’m not talking about Stephen Miller. A zoo in Sydney, Australia, held a contest to see who could name its new acquisition, “one of the world’s most venomous” snakes. Contestants were required to donate a buck (I assume an Australian buck, the equivalent of 71 cents, American) along with a brief essay explaining why your ex deserves the honor. Heck, it’s almost worth going to Sydney just for a better chance of naming the snake. Maybe you could go during feeding time and hope it’ll choke on a rat.

And now for some high tech persecution of women. It’s a Saudi invention. Moreover, in more ways than one, it's a 12th Century leap into the technological present. Turns out the in Riyadh they created a cell phone app that enables men to track their wives (yes, plural), daughters, sisters, and any other women they more or less own, so that the guys can tell if any of the women are traveling anywhere without patriarchal permission.

Speaking of big business and big bucks, the app has been installed on Google Play more than a million times, according to a report in the Washington Post. (Thank you White Hat Jeffster.) Apple also supports the app because, umm, hey, you wouldn’t want those girls sneaking out of the harem and getting lost while driving around in the desert without permission. If they dare try it, you'll just have to give them a good beating when they get home. Now the app makes it easier.

Amnesty International has complained that human rights abuses of women are “facilitated by the App, and mitigate the harm that the App has on women,” the Washington Post story continued.

Well at least it’s a bit more up-to-date than the bone saw that one Saudi agent was wielding in Istanbul a while back.

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