Amazon

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The Truth Behind “Self-Made” BillionairesWhy do we glorify...

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 21/09/2022 - 9:46am in

The Truth Behind “Self-Made” Billionaires

Why do we glorify “self-made” billionaires?

Well, being “self-made” is a seductive idea —it suggests that anybody can get to the top if they’re willing to work hard enough. It’s what the American Dream is all about.

If Kylie Jenner can become a “self-made” billionaire at age 21, so can you and I!

Even as wages stay stagnant and wealth inequality grows, it’s a comfort to think that we’re all simply one cosmetics company and some elbow grease away from fortune.

Unfortunately, a nice idea is all it is. Self-made billionaires are a myth. Just like unicorns.

The origins of self-made billionaires are often depicted as a “rags-to-riches” rise to the top fueled by nothing but personal grit and the courage to take risks — like dropping out of college, or starting a business in a garage.

But in reality, the origins of many billionaires aren’t so humble. They’re more “riches-to-even-more-riches” stories, rooted in upper-middle class upbringings.

How much risk did Bill Gates take on when his mother used her business connections to help Microsoft land a deal-making software for IBM?

Elon Musk came from a family that owned an emerald mine during the time of Apartheid South Africa.

Jeff Bezos’ garage-based start was funded by a quarter-million dollar investment from his parents.

If your safety net to joining the billionaire class is remaining upper class – that’s not pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.

Nor is failing to pay your fair share of taxes along the way.

Along with Musk and Bezos, Michael Bloomberg, George Soros, and Carl Icahn have all gotten away with paying ZERO federal income taxes some years. That’s a big helping hand, courtesy of legal loopholes and American taxpayers who pick up the tab, all while our tax dollars subsidize the corporations owned by these so-called “self-reliant” entrepreneurs.

Did you get a thank you card from any of them? I sure as hell didn’t.

Other common ways that billionaires build their coffers off the backs of others include paying garbage wages and subjecting workers to abusive labor conditions.

But portraying themselves as rugged individuals who overcame poverty or “did it on their own” remains an effective propaganda tool for the ultrawealthy. One that keeps workers from rising up collectively to demand fairer wages – and one that ultimately distracts from the role that billionaires play in fostering poverty in the first place.

Billionaires say their success proves they can spend money more wisely and efficiently than the government. Well they have no problem with government spending when it comes to corporate subsidies.

When arguing for even more tax breaks, they claim each “dollar the government takes from [them] is a dollar less” for their “critical” role in expanding prosperity for all Americans, through job creation and philanthropy. Well that’s rubbish.

50 years of tax cuts for the wealthy have failed to trickle down. As a result of Trump’s tax cuts, 2018 saw the 400 richest American families pay a lower tax rate than the middle class. And U.S. billionaire wealth grew by $2 trillion during the first two years of a pandemic that was economically catastrophic for just about everyone else. They want to have their cake, everyone else’s cake, and eat it, too.

Behind every ten-figure net worth is systemic inequality. Inherited wealth. Labor exploitation. Tax loopholes. And government subsidies.

To claim these fortunes are “self-made” is to perpetuate a myth that blames the wealth gap on the choices of everyday Americans.

Billionaires are not made by rugged individuals. They’re made by policy failures. And a system that rewards wealth over work.

Know the truth.

Cartoon: Fall T.V. premieres

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 17/09/2022 - 7:50am in

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Dear Amazon Prime, I’m Not a Racist, But Why Are You Destroying My Precious Middle-Earth With Black Hobbits?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 16/09/2022 - 4:17am in

Dear Amazon Prime,* As a loyal customer I’m appalled at your latest WOKE stunt and...

The Rise of the New Normal Reich: Consent Factory Essays, Vol. III, banned in Germany, Austria, and The Netherlands!

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 31/08/2022 - 10:30pm in

Tags 

Propaganda, Amazon

So, the censorship of my latest book, The Rise of the New Normal Reich: Consent Factory Essays, Vol. III (2020-2021), continues. Amazon.com has now banned the book in three countries … Germany, Austria, and The Netherlands.

The pretext the Amazon Content Review Team has cited as grounds for banning the book is the semi-visible swastika on the cover. This pretext is clearly a pretext, i.e., a lie, as Amazon sells a number of other products displaying semi-visible swastikas in these markets.

For example, William Shirer’s books, or Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds, as depicted in the images above. Some of the swastika-displaying products Amazon offers in these markets display not merely semi-visible swastikas, but totally-visible swastikas on their packaging.

For example …

So, the Amazon Content Review Team’s pretext for banning the book is clearly a lie, and not even a convincing lie. But then Amazon doesn’t have to lie convincingly.

When you are an unaccountable supranational corporation founded and executive-chaired by Jeff Bezos, the second-richest person in the world, and a component of the US Intelligence Community, the “rule of law” does not apply to you. You do not have to justify your actions to any court of law or regulatory body, much less to some mid-list author whose income and reputation you are maliciously damaging.

Sure, there are constitutional protections against censorship and discrimination, and other laws that ostensibly forbid you from maliciously damaging the reputations and incomes of mid-list authors like me. For example:

Article 5 of the Grundgesetz (i.e., Germany’s constitution):

“Every person shall have the right freely to express and disseminate his opinions in speech, writing, and pictures and to inform himself without hindrance from generally accessible sources. Freedom of the press and freedom of reporting by means of broadcasts and films shall be guaranteed. There shall be no censorship.”

Article 3 of the Grundgesetz:

“No person shall be favoured or disfavoured because of sex, parentage, race, language, homeland and origin, faith or religious or political opinions.”

But these laws do not apply to you, not when you’re Amazon.com, because you know that: (a) the governments in question, i.e., the governments of Germany, Austria, and The Netherlands, condone your violations of their constitutions (which they have abrogated in any event under the pretext of a “public health emergency”) and might have even had something to do with them, i.e., your constitutional violations; and (b) lawyers will be too afraid of your wealth and power to challenge you in court.

Moreover, mainstream journalists will completely ignore your censorship of political literature that does not conform to the new official global-capitalist ideology, or they will “like” or retweet one of my tweets, and then rush back to covering whatever one of their colleagues tweeted about some other colleague’s tweet, and their colleagues’ responses to that tweet, i.e., the tweet about the original tweet, because they, i.e., the mainstream journalists, are also scared shitless of incurring your ire, and potentially getting their books banned by Amazon, and their incomes and reputations damaged, and getting fired by their literary agents, and so on.

Which means you can pretty much do whatever you want to anyone you want, which is a pretty sweet deal if you’re an immensely powerful supranational corporation that dominates book sales and distribution globally and is also an essential component of the global-capitalist Intelligence Community.

Which that is kind of the point of this piece. Yes, Amazon’s banning of my book will damage my book sales and reputation as an author, but I’ll survive. The point is, as I put it in a post I published yesterday, before Amazon advised me that they had banned the book in Austria and The Netherlands, in addition to Germany:

“What is important is that corporations like Amazon, Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. (which control our communication networks) do not have the slightest qualms about censoring information, banning books, suppressing facts, spreading disinformation, and generally behaving like Orwellian Thoughtpolice … and we are gradually becoming accustomed to it. It is becoming “normal,” boring even. I don’t know about you, but I am not OK with living in a world where Amazon and other unaccountable global corporations decide which books we are allowed to read, which films we are allowed to watch, which facts we are allowed to know about. And that is where we are headed, currently. We’re not going to arrive there suddenly, one day. We’re going to arrive there just like this … little step by little step, one little act of corporate censorship at a time.”

I don’t know how to fight this, exactly … not my book ban, the larger phenomenon. It probably has to start with mainstream journalists and lawyers taking on these global corporations. Relatively obscure little literary outlaws (like me) do not have the juice to do it.

So, if you happen to know any people like that …

Oh, and, for those of you who enjoy seeing how the ideological-sausage gets made, here, for the purpose of criticism and review, is my recent correspondence with the Amazon Content Review Team.

August 29, 2022 (4:35 PM)

Hello,

During our review process, we found that your book’s cover image contains content (i.e. Swastika, Reichsadler, Sowilō) that is in violation of our content guidelines for Germany and may infringe German law. As a result, we will not be offering the following book for sale in Germany:

The Rise of the New Normal Reich: Consent Factory Essays, Vol. III (2020-2021)
ASIN: B0B1VCK39P, 3982146429

You may reply to this message if you believe this decision has been made in error.

Our content guidelines are published on the Kindle Direct Publishing website: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A2TOZW0SV7IR1U.

Best regards,

Amazon KDP

Content Review Team
Amazon Content Review Team

August 29, 2022 (5:18 PM)

Dear Amazon KDP Content Review Team,

German law is clear on the banned/permitted use of images of swastikas. See, e.g., this Deutsche Welle article

  • Swastikas and other banned symbols can displayed in Germany if they are used for “civic education, countering anti-constitutional activities, art and science, research and education, the coverage of historic and current events, or similar purposes,” according to the Criminal Code.

There are numerous examples of books, films, artworks, etc. containing swastikas for the above-cited purposes in Germany.

The cover artwork of my book (which has been on sale throughout the world since May 2022, and was an Amazon bestseller in several countries upon its release) clearly falls under such exceptional use under German law, therefore, there is no legal ground for Amazon to ban its sale or otherwise censor it.

Additionally, Amazon.de offers for sale other products bearing images of swastikas, e.g., William Shirer’s books, a Quentin Tarantino film, etc. Thus, your decision to ban my book can only be seen as arbitrary, rather than as the result of a consistent in-house policy.

Moreover, Amazon’s banning of my book violates Germany’s constitutional protection of freedom of expression as set forth in Article 5 of the Grundgesetz:

  • Every person shall have the right freely to express and disseminate his opinions in speech, writing, and pictures and to inform himself without hindrance from generally accessible sources. Freedom of the press and freedom of reporting by means of broadcasts and films shall be guaranteed. There shall be no censorship.

I trust you have taken this decision based on your misunderstanding of German law and lack of awareness of the other books and products Amazon offers in Germany that also contain images of swastikas for the above-cited purposes, and not based on any political or ideological bias and/or intention to damage my income and reputation as an author. Thus, I assume you will immediately reverse this ban.

I look forward to your prompt reply.

Yours sincerely,
CJ Hopkins

August 30, 2022 (3:07 PM)

Hello,

Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

We need a little time to look into the problem.

We’ll reply and send you more information within 2-3 business days.

Thanks for your patience.

Content Review Team
Amazon Content Review Team

August 30, 2022 (6:24 PM)

Hello,

Thanks for your email.

We’ve reviewed your book “The Rise of the New Normal Reich: Consent Factory Essays, Vol. III (2020-2021)” (ASIN:B0B1VCK39P, 3982146429 ), and found that it is in violation of our content guidelines and we will not be offering this title for sale on Amazon.

We reserve the right to determine whether content provides a poor customer experience and remove that content from sale.

You can find our KDP content guidelines, here: https://kdp.amazon.com/help/topic/G200672390

Thanks for your understanding.

Best regards,
Amazon KDP

Content Review Team
Amazon Content Review Team

August 30, 2022 (6:39 PM)

Hi Amazon Content Review Team,

Could you please clarify:

(1) in which countries Amazon KDP has banned and/or is planning to ban the book;

(2) the nature of the “poor customer experience” you have cited, or which specific “content guidelines” the book violates?

I would note that the book has overwhelmingly positive reader reviews from readers all around the world, so I am unclear as to which customers are having a “poor experience.”

With kind regards,
CJ Hopkins

August 31, 2022 (9:38 AM)

Hello,

During our review process, we found that your book’s cover image contains content (i.e. Swastika) that is in violation of our content guidelines for Germany and may infringe German law.

As a result, we will not be offering the following book for sale in Germany, Netherlands and Austria:

“The Rise of the New Normal Reich: Consent > Factory
Essays, Vol. III (2020-2021)” (ASIN:B0B1VCK39P, 3982146429 )

Regarding the Paperback version “The Rise of the New Normal Reich: Consent > Factory Essays, Vol. III (2020-2021)” (ASIN: 3982146429) KDP Print availability may not always align with digital availability.

For European countries sales, in order for a KDP paperback title to be available in one European country, you must make the book(s) available in all European countries.

If your book(s) is not in the public domain, or you don’t have publishing rights in any one of those countries, then none of the European countries should be selected as territories.

For a list of European countries, visit Help: https://kdp.amazon.com/help/topic/G201834280

If you have additional questions, please reply to this email.

You may reply to this message if you believe this decision has been made in error.

Our content guidelines are published on the Kindle Direct Publishing website: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A2TOZW0SV7IR1U.

Best regards,

Thanks for using Amazon KDP

Content Review Team
Amazon Content Review Team

August 31, 2022 (1:31 PM)

Dear Amazon Content Review Team,

Thank you very much for clarifying in which countries you have arbitrarily decided to ban my book, clearly for political/ideological reasons, as you offer several other products containing “content (i.e. Swastika)” that you falsely claim is “in violation of [y]our content guidelines for Germany and may infringe German law” (referenced in my previous email).

I especially appreciated your failure to address my explication of German law regarding the permitted use of swastikas for certain purposes, and your robotic repetition of the phrase “may infringe German law,” as if I had not explained it (i.e., German law) to you. That was a lovely touch. It radiates Faceless Unaccountable Power, which I assume was what you were going for, so kudos!

Your refusal to explain the nature of the “poor customer experience” that you claimed customers have experienced or might experience, after I demonstrated that your “German law” pretext was nonsense, and a lie, and which specific Amazon “content guidelines” the book violates, is also much appreciated. Again, it evokes that “You-Are-Dealing-With-A-Faceless-Orwellian-Machine” feeling, so … good job!

Thank you also for the gibberish about “publishing rights” in European countries, which has absolutely nothing to do with this matter.

I will be sure to update you regarding the results of your efforts to damage my income and reputation as an author in due course. Until then …

All best wishes and kindest personal regards,
CJ Hopkins

###

DISCLAIMER: The preceding essay is entirely the work of our in-house satirist and self-appointed political pundit, CJ Hopkins, and does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Consent Factory, Inc., or its staff, or any of its agents, subsidiaries, or assigns. If, for whatever inexplicable reason, you appreciate Mr. Hopkins’ work and would like to support it, please go to his Substack page, or his Patreon page, or send a contribution to his PayPal account, so that maybe he’ll stop coming around our offices trying to hit our staff up for money. Alternatively, you could purchase his satirical dystopian sci-fi novel, Zone 23, or Volumes I, II, and III of his Consent Factory Essays, or any of his subversive stage plays, which won some awards in Great Britain and Australia. If you do not appreciate Mr. Hopkins’ work and would like to write him an abusive email, feel free to contact him directly.

Cartoon: David Brooks' working class safari

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 06/08/2022 - 7:50am in

Tags 

Amazon, Comics, Media

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Top Recruits Refuse to Work for Google or Amazon Over Involvement in Israeli War Crimes

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 03/08/2022 - 2:31am in

As Google and Amazon employees fight back against the tech giants’ Israeli military contract, college graduates have also joined the resistance.

Amid Israel’s assault on Gaza and occupied East Jerusalem in May 2021, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google signed a $1.22 billion contract to provide cloud technology to Israel’s public sector and its military, known as Project Nimbus.

In response, Google and Amazon workers formed a coalition opposing Project Nimbus as well as strategizing against the technology’s implementation.

While just over a year old, Google and Amazon have not addressed the Workers Against Nimbus and #NoTechForApartheid campaigns publicly, but the activist network has had success in cutting the corporations’ power —  even if only slightly.

“The students who are graduating from university and who have applied to Amazon and Google are turning down all of these interview requests,” an anonymous Amazon employee told MintPress News, describing how it makes them hopeful to see that kind of community support. “They’re specifically telling Amazon and Google, ‘We’re not going to these interviews because of Project Nimbus.’’’

Earlier this month, activists disrupted the keynote speech at an AWS summit in New York City, drawing attention to the tech behemoth’s controversial contract with the Israeli government.

“By doing business with Israeli apartheid, Amazon and Google will make it easier for the Israeli government to surveil Palestinians and force them off their land,” a website for the #NoTechForApartheid campaign says.

Outside the summit’s venue, Google employee Gabriel Schubiner addressed protesters. “As tech workers we need to ask ourselves: do we want a world where militaries around the world are training AI [artificial intelligence] for surveillance and targeting on our hardware?” Schubiner said. “Do we want to give nationalist armies of the world our technology?”



Google and AWS beat out IBM, Oracle, and Microsoft for an Israeli government tender last year to jointly build and provide cloud-based regional data centers within Israel’s borders and under Israeli law. Project Nimbus will allow Israeli ministries and other public entities to transfer servers and services into the cloud. Local data centers are expected to be completed within two years. Until then, cloud services will be provided by Google and AWS data centers in Ireland, the Netherlands, and Germany.

The contract also includes a provision stipulating Amazon and Google cannot shut down operations and deny services to certain government entities, effectively barring the tech firms from engaging in a boycott of Israel or stopping the technology from being used to enact human rights abuses.

The Workers Against Project Nimbus campaign described how they felt during the Israeli 2021 attacks and why they were compelled to join together.

“[W]e had to face the fact that those of us Palestinian tech workers with family and loved ones in Gaza or the West Bank, those of us living in diaspora, would now be enabling violence and oppression against our own communities – all while professing the importance of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion,”  The Workers Against Project Nimbus said in a July 26 Tech Workers Coalition (TWC) newsletter.

Google and Amazon did not respond to requests for comment on Project Nimbus or the worker-led campaign against it.

 

Bolstering a data-driven occupation

Little is known about Project Nimbus as Google and Amazon employees have been kept in the dark about the project’s activities and what the Israeli government may use the technology for.

The Palestinian Amazon worker spoke to MintPress News under the condition of anonymity to avoid workplace retaliation that the corporations have not disclosed any details about Project Nimbus to employees. “We are completely alienated from what our labor bills and the effect it has, all while being the ones who are putting in the work for it,” they said.

However, newly-unveiled documents first reported by The Intercept showcase the tools provided to the Israeli government and may offer a glimpse into how Project Nimbus may be used.

According to training slides and videos accessed through a public educational portal for Nimbus users, Google is offering Israel its full suite of machine learning and advanced artificial intelligence tools on its Google Cloud Platform. These services include facial detection, computer vision, automated image categorization, object tracking, and sentiment detection, a controversial form of machine learning claiming to determine a person’s feelings through their face and statements.

“Even though these training materials are fairly standard, it shows that Google is actively trying to help the Israeli government, including Israeli Defense Forces, to train their own AI systems on top of Google’s Cloud systems,” Jack Poulson, executive director of watchdog group, Tech Inquiry, told MintPress News.

Poulson expressed concerns over training documents detailing an Edge model of Google’s Tensor Processing Unit, an AI application designed to accelerate machine learning workloads.

“Edge is often a codeword for when it’s deployed outside of a traditional location, usually in the field,” Poulson said. “That in many cases include drones, surveillance cameras, cell phones, and places where you would directly be performing measurements or surveillance.”

Poulson is also wary of speech-to-text and language translation capabilities mentioned in the training materials.

“Hypothetically speaking, suppose the Israeli government built a system that had access to the conversations with Palestinians or a lot of footage on Palestinians, then any sort of large collection of audio could be transcribed directly from speech-to-text,” Poulson said. “The text could be translated into another language if needed, and surveillance camera footage could be used to track people of interest.”

Microsoft Israel Feature photo

A Palestinian man uses a biometric gate at the Qalandia checkpoint in Jerusalem on July 11, 2019. Sebastian Scheiner | AP

The anonymous Amazon employee reiterated how the training materials appear harmless, but with Israel’s criminal track record, these resources can easily be turned into something nefarious.

“There’s a darker side to these things,” they said. “In the American reality, these tools are putting an end to privacy, but in occupied Palestine, it’s enabling the war crimes.”

In the TWC newsletter, workers described how the technology may be used to entrench Israel’s occupation of Palestine:

The cloud technology we build, market, and research would now be used to host an apartheid identification system – one that determines individuals’ freedom of movement and rights based on their identity and where they are born. Such tech would be used to store massive amounts of information collected about Palestinians – from capturing CCTV footage and taking photos at checkpoints and even biometric data – that could be used to surveil and criminalize civilians. 

The newsletter warned that:

Apartheid Israeli government ministries such as the Israeli Land Authority, which systematically segregates and confines Palestinians while allowing for illegal settlement expansion for Jewish Israelis, would use this tech.

Data-driven technology is the backbone of Israel’s military occupation of Palestine. Numerous reports have revealed how Israel is using digital surveillance tools to spy, monitor, and cement control over Palestinians. This technology is deployed on social media, at checkpoints, and through neighborhood CCTV footage. It comes in the form of data collection and analysis, call monitoring, and facial recognition. This mass system of surveillance gives Palestinians the perpetual feeling of being watched, erasing their privacy and autonomy.

 

Not just Project Nimbus

While Project Nimbus is in the spotlight due to the worker-led campaign against it, other U.S. tech corporations are also supporting Israel’s occupation.

Israel’s Ministry of Defense adopted Palo-Alto-based Anjuna’s Confidential Cloud software that trains AI models so tech firm employees will not be able to access any of that data. Tech giant Cisco has been involved in growing Israel’s visual surveillance apparatus in Jerusalem. Motorola Solutions Israel, a subsidiary of the U.S.-based Motorola Solutions, has been providing the Israeli Defense Ministry with surveillance system technology for Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and the Apartheid Wall, the barrier separating the West Bank and 1948-occupied Palestine or modern-day Israel.

While there have been employee resignations over Project Nimbus, the anonymous worker told MintPress News that they remain with Amazon as a way to implement change from the inside, especially since most corporations are guilty of similar atrocities to Amazon and Google.

“It’s more important to try to change things instead of just running,” the employee said. “It’s similar to what the Palestinians are doing; they’re not running. They’re staying and fighting and resisting.”

Feature photo | Netanyahu speaks at the inauguration of Google’s Campus TLV, a tech hub for Israeli start-ups at Google’s Tel Aviv office. Dan Balilty | AP

Jessica Buxbaum is a Jerusalem-based journalist for MintPress News covering Palestine, Israel, and Syria. Her work has been featured in Middle East Eye, The New Arab and Gulf News.

The post Top Recruits Refuse to Work for Google or Amazon Over Involvement in Israeli War Crimes appeared first on MintPress News.

Amazon’s Secret Utility Discount

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 26/07/2022 - 7:23am in

Amazon also may have applied for a discount on the new facility’s power, but the relevant governing body—the New York Power Authority (NYPA)—refuses to either confirm or deny if Amazon submitted an application.This is the latest example of a troubling trend: noncompliance with public records law, in order to hide details of corporate subsidy deals....

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Driving NASCAR Off the American Cultural Cliff

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 01/07/2022 - 1:40am in
by Brian Czech

In the heart of New York’s spectacular Finger Lakes region last Sunday, 40 drivers lined up to race—for six hours—round and round a circuitous route of doglegs four miles southwest of Seneca Lake. I don’t know who won, and I couldn’t care less, but I do know who lost. That would be people and planet.

Brian France

Brian France: Billionaire grandson of “Big Bill” France and master of NASCAR branding. (CC BY-SA 2.0, Zach Catanzareti)

Watkins Glen International Raceway, dubbed “the spiritual home of road racing in the USA,” is among six major car-racing tracks scattered about the state parks, national forests, and wildlife refuges of the Finger Lakes region. These six tracks are among 64 in the great state of New York, where they plunder the peace from the Pennsylvania state line all the way over to Long Island, up into the Adirondack Mountains and back down to the shores of Lake Ontario.

It’s unclear why Watkins Glen gets the “spiritual home” title. Could it be for the dozen spirits (eleven drivers and one spectator) who gave theirs up at “The Glen”? Or, maybe it has to do with the historical origins of the raceway, so parallel with the origins of NASCAR. Possibly it’s because of the diversity of racing styles that have convened there, including NASCAR, the Grand Prix, and GT World Challenge America.

Yet my guess is it’s the majesty of the Finger Lakes region that spiritualizes all who enter its hallowed valleys. The sweeping vistas, clear blue lakes, and cool, crisp air are inspiring and energizing to travelers, whether afoot, aboard a bike, or driving a Prius. By the time they arrive anywhere near Watkins Glen, their spirits are lifted and their psychological engines are revved.

And NASCAR capitalizes like a vulture on a Seneca Lake updraft.

Who Is NASCAR?

NASCAR is the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, LLC. Don’t mistake it for a motorized version of the NFL, NBA, or NHL. It’s not a trade association designed to serve its constituent teams, complete with a commissioner holding teams and players accountable to fans and each other. Rather, NASCAR is a privately held corporation; held in particular by the France family ever since its founding by Bill France, Sr. in 1948.

While it’s not a trade association, NASCAR is somewhat of a syndicate, sponsoring races under twelve “series” across North America and another series in Europe. Most Americans can’t avoid some exposure to the “Cup Series” with its history of Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt tearing up tires at Daytona, Talladega, and The Glen. The other two primary American series are the “Xfinity Series” for up-and comers—much like minor league baseball—and the “Camping World Truck Series” for pickup truck lovers.

Bib that says "I have a checkered future."

NASCAR fans are made, not born, but with NASCAR’s help, the making starts shortly after birth.

The latter two series remind us that NASCAR is also a brand, unto its own and as a mother brand for all kinds of offspring. The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series used to be the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, and for one brief year Gander got in on NASCAR glory.

Even the coveted NASCAR Cup Series has had its spin-off branding, with Winston (cigarettes), Sprint, and Monster Energy all putting their names on the cup over the recent decades of shifting consumer preferences.

Branding and sponsorship vis-à-vis NASCAR is a bewildering phenomenon. A logical start in sorting it out would be with the list of racing team sponsors. Most NASCAR teams have “partners” as well, including “primary partners” that evidently provide more money than regular old partners. NASCAR per se—the France family—has its “premier partners,” “official partners,” and “broadcast partners.”

Then there’s the straight-up NASCAR retail line, spread across a gazillion vendors including Walmart, Dick’s Sporting Goods, JCPenney, and presumably every truck stop along the Interstate Highway System. You can get the goods directly from NASCAR’s own online NASCARSHOP, too. There, for example, you can get your NASCAR T-shirts (over a thousand choices), NASCAR earrings, NASCAR nightlights, NASCAR baby bibs, NASCAR leashes (presumably for pets), and all manner of NASCAR memorabilia and collectibles. But you’ll never collect it all, try as you might, because each year and each new team brings new combinations and permutations of drivers and cars (with a current collection of 730 diecasts in sizes up to 1/24th).

None of this stuff is cheap, but don’t worry; just use code “Lap25”—no kidding—to get 25% off!

NASCAR Money

It’s not easy to assess the financials of a privately held corporation, especially in the USA, but in 2015 Forbes managed to estimate the France family at #53 in “America’s Richest Families” with a net worth of $5.7 billion. Brian France alone (the grandson of “Big Bill”) evidently clocks in today around $1 billion, and the annual gross revenue of NASCAR is about $3 billion.

How do the Frances and NASCAR make all that money? A big chunk of it comes from the $8.2 billion, ten-year television contract NASCAR signed in 2014 for the period 2015-2024. NASCAR gets ten percent of it from the get-go. The rest is split primarily between racing venues and teams.

Now imagine if a Dan Snyder or a Jerry Jones (two of the more reviled NFL team owners, for non-Americans) owned legendary Lambeau Field, AT&T Stadium, FedEx Field, and the Superdome, plus ten more of the biggest NFL venues. That would be comparable to NASCAR and the France family with their fourteen racetracks. Along with Watkins Glen, the “spiritual home,” NASCAR properties include the iconic Daytona International Speedway, Richmond Raceway, and Talladega Superspeedway.

Photo of race cars racing around Michigan International Speedway.

Cars and consumers on the fast track at Michigan International Speedway, a property of NASCAR, LLC. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, Stephanie Wallace)

Since 2019 when the France family bought out the ISC (International Speedway Corporation), they’ve had only one rival in the hosting and scheduling of NASCAR races: Speedway Motorsports with its twelve tracks. Given 39 tracks where NASCAR races are held in the USA (38) and Canada (1), only thirteen are owned by others, including a handful of public entities (Los Angeles County with its Memorial Coliseum, for example).

While NASCAR and the France family used to be at odds with Speedway Motorsports, that seems to have changed since NASCAR took over the ISC. That same year, Speedway went private, emulating the France family. Now they’ve “entered a period of détente,” and we can only imagine the potential for collusion. With a little cooperation, the two entities—especially the France family—can fairly monopolize prime-time stock car racing and scheduling in the USA (which of course you can monitor at NASCAR’s own ESPN-like website).

Either way, NASCAR rakes in close to a billion more annually from its “venue share” of the TV contract combined with ticket sales ($660 million and $194 million in 2018, respectively). Some of the ticket sales go back to the drivers (40 of them in the Cup Series, including 36 chartered) and their teams (17 of them in the Cup Series). But then, teams and charters (the latter analogous to NFL franchises) pay hefty fees back into NASCAR.

Don’t forget those sponsorships and partnerships, too. Sprint, for example, is thought to have paid NASCAR between $50 and $75 million annually for some years before 2016.

All we can say for sure is, if you’d like a challenging accounting job, sign on with NASCAR.

NASCAR and Economic Bloating

What could contribute to GDP at a faster pace, in a fossil-fueled economy, than some of the planet’s fastest, most gas-guzzling machines tearing around in circles? Especially when a NASCAR race typically attracts around 100,000 attendees, many of them driving their own souped-up coups to the raceway in undying tribute to their favorite “sport.”  So, when NASCAR comes to town, the chamber of commerce listens.

A NASCAR race can bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in local revenue, most of it taxable and therefore good for the public goose as well as the private gander. Richmond International Raceway, for example, “generates $557 million for the state, including $36 million in local and state tax revenues.”

Don’t get me started on “generates.” At CASSE, we know how money is generated. Money is expended, “fast and furious,” at NASCAR races, but the money is generated at the ecological base of the economy, where it invariably entails an ecological footprint in addition to the one at the raceway. That said, it doesn’t take a genius to calculate that hundreds of millions of dollars are brought to the region of a NASCAR event.

Bimp of the Daytona International Speedway

Location, Location, Location. Daytona International Speedway, NASCAR’s corporate home, is next to Daytona Beach International Airport, and now next to a hundred-acre Amazon campus. (CC BY 2.0, Chad Sparkes)

Politicians want to be in on the action, too. Here’s how Illinois state senator Rachelle Crowe (a Democrat from Glen Carbon) puts it: “By bringing the NASCAR cup series to the [St. Louis] Metro East this summer, our state is solidifying its commitment to supporting regional development and driving economic growth throughout the area.”

Conversely, when NASCAR pulls out (as it readily can, given its control of venues and schedules), the locale feels the pinch. That’s precisely what happened at Watkins Glen in 2020, when the staunchly conservative France family moved the big event down to Daytona, blaming it on the differential in COVID regulations between New York and Florida.

NASCAR knows it brings the dough, and plays it up as needed. As Lesa France Kennedy, NASCAR’s executive vice chairperson, puts it, “We are proud to be a part of positive economic development in each market in which NASCAR races.” In a country where economic growth is a hot pursuit at every political level, pitching a race is easy, but NASCAR plays good growth citizen in other ways as well.

NASCAR recently cut a land deal with Amazon, which is developing 100 acres adjacent to Daytona International Speedway. The deal prompted France Kennedy to add, “As Amazon has continued to expand its operations within Florida, we’re excited to play a role in bringing new jobs and a first-class partner to Volusia County. We look forward to this project serving as a catalyst for future growth and development in the community.”

In other words, even where a lot of the townspeople might view NASCAR as an unwelcome intruder, it’s likely to horn its way in by “virtue” of its economic growth credentials. As with so many other questionable pursuits, NASCAR would be far easier to stop if growth itself were recognized as the problem it has become.

The Gas, the Materials, and the Waste

NASCAR has its own version of green energy: Sunoco’s 98-Octane Green E15. It’s literally green; think of it as Mr. Yuk green. By the end of 2016, after only five years of running on Sunoco Green, NASCAR was celebrating “10 million competition miles” fueled by this so-called “biofuel” containing 15 percent “American-made ethanol.”

Note that celebrated phrase “competition miles,” in cars that get 2-5 miles per gallon during competition.  That means somewhere between 2 million and 5 million gallons of Sunoco Green was combusted during the five-year period, just during the races. A lot more than that would have been burned up practicing. While most NASCAR races take about two hours (the Watkins Glen marathon being a notable exception), “NASCAR drivers must practice for hours at a time to develop sound habits at a racetrack.” Thus, NASCAR has a ridiculous carbon footprint: approximately 4 million pounds per year.

Another thing NASCAR burns is rubber. About 75,000 tires were used up by NASCAR in 2015, resulting in $35 million of expenditure on tires in 2016.

If we went down the list of supplies and materials used up for all this unnecessary “car circling,” we’d find steel, aluminum, plastic, paint, solvents, glass, fiberglass, lead, copper, titanium, magnesium, wood, sand, oil, and cement.

Meanwhile, NASCAR has tried to paint itself “green” with tree planting and recycling initiatives. Has there ever been a greasier splash of lipstick on a sloppier looking pig? The salient fact remains that the “sport” consists of circling around and around, ad nauseum, in gas guzzlers, for no apparent reason whatsoever than the “entertainment” of a crowd that could probably benefit from a little healthy exercise. Certainly their ears would benefit.

The Symbolism

Approximately 23 years ago, while writing Shoveling Fuel for a Runaway Train, I recall finding (and duly reporting) that NASCAR was “the fastest growing spectator sport in North America.” I was shocked, not because it seemed untrue—it rang true indeed—but because of the absolute collapse of the American conservation ethic. I recall wondering, “What could the world possibly be thinking of us?”

On September 11, 2001 (a year after Shoveling Fuel was published), al-Qaeda terrorists attacked the symbols of American capitalism and the U.S. Government. Almost immediately, President George W. Bush hideously exhorted Americans to “go shopping” and travelling. “Get down to Disney World in Florida,” he said from O’Hare Field. “Take your families and enjoy life, the way we want it to be enjoyed.”

Empty NASCAR stadium with one car racing the track.

Goodbye NASCAR.

NASCAR fans took Bush to heart, and NASCAR, as always, was ready to capitalize. In the first major spectator event after 9/11, on September 23, 140,000 screaming fans—with 140,000 NASCAR-provided American flags—packed the Dover International Speedway in Delaware. Lee Greenwood sang “God Bless the USA.” The fans chanted as one, “Wooo! U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!”

It’s understandable to have mixed feelings about the Dover event. Americans needed an emotional outlet, and it happened to be a time of year when NASCAR would likeliest provide it. Yet the symbolism was horrific at a time when the rest of the world was trying to sympathize with the USA. Everyone knew American tensions in the Middle East were all about the oil, and here were filthy rich NASCAR teams launching their legendarily gas guzzling noise makers into circles yet again.

The USA blew its opportunity to secure long-lasting international goodwill. Her citizens went shopping, to Disney World, and to NASCAR races. They practiced “consumer patriotism.” The tide of goodwill turned quickly, and in a matter of months one of the prevalent topics over the airwaves and in the think tanks became “Why do they hate us?” While President Bush kept that question focused on Islamic extremists, many of us understood it wasn’t just the extremists, but rather a whole world of nations with a growing resentment of “the way we want it.”

Fast-forwarding to now, consider how frustrating it must be for the world’s other nations to watch our obnoxious NASCAR spew carbon and particulates into the global atmosphere, again and again and again, for almost 75 years, as if we were kicking sand in their faces, while they meet in handwringing futility on reducing carbon emissions. It’s not so much about the pollution and global warming directly attributable to racing—industrial and military sectors cause far more of that—but the symbolism is as stark as a Confederate flag.  What could possibly be more symbolic of Americans’ casual disregard of the world citizenry, the global environment, and posterity, than NASCAR?

Fortunately, NASCAR is no longer “the fastest growing spectator sport in North America.” It’s on the decline with all kinds of political and financial problems, thanks to a toxic mixture of Trump, Confederate stain, France family greed, COVID, and environmental concerns. Now is no time to take our foot off the gas. The Frances made their billions, drivers made their millions, and fans had their fun. Let’s welcome the fans back to sanity; we need them on the team and in the pits, if not in the driver’s seat. Together, we’ve got to drive NASCAR off the cultural cliff and let it lie in the rusty pile of American mistakes.

Nothing could be more patriotic.

Brian Czech, Executive Director of CASSEBrian Czech is CASSE’s executive director.

The post Driving NASCAR Off the American Cultural Cliff appeared first on Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.

Meeting the Moment in Philadelphia

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 29/06/2022 - 10:10pm in

Grassroots union drives and America’s largest labor federation collide in Philly.

Meet A Corrupt Company Town

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 04/06/2022 - 2:07am in

Communities can take on the Amazons and Disneys of the world and win. We all just need to share the resources and tactics that make those wins possible....

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