SELECT title FROM cont_articles WHERE id='' LIMIT 1 Santa Fe Reporter
backMenu

Police Investigate Shooting of Plaza Landlord

Peter Komis manages some of the most expensive property in town

Local NewsWednesday, October 1, 2014 by Joey Peters

Police are investigating last night's shooting of prominent Santa Fe landlord Peter Komis, who was shot twice in the driveway of his home around 10:30 pm.

Santa Fe Police Department spokeswoman Celina Espinoza confirms that three to four men got out of a white vehicle and shot Komis in his lower regions at the 600 block of Don Gaspar Avenue. Komis, 52, is currently in the hospital in stable condition, Espinoza says.

The identity of the suspects, and the reason for why they shot Komis, remain unknown. Police are still checking to see if any surveillance of the crime exists. 

SFR's calls to Komis' home and cellphone on Wednesday went unreturned. 

Komis manages a building in the Plaza the rents retail space to Overland Sheepskin Co. and Diva Diamonds and Jewels. He wouldn't reveal how much he charges rent for the space for an SFR cover story published last year, though he said it was probably some of Santa Fe's most expensive real estate. The building is owned by a family trust.

Komis also briefly ran for City Council in District 2 earlier this year before dropping out of the race. 

Espinoza says that the make and model of the white car are still unknown and that police don't have detail of what the passengers looked like. Komis, who was rushed to the hospital right after the shooting, will be interviewed again by police about the situation later this afternoon.

Currently, there are no known witnesses to the shooting other than the people involved, though police did question neighbors who heard the shots.

Espinoza says anyone who may have seen a white car with multiple passengers around the area last night should contact police dispatch, which can be reached at (505) 428-3710. 

Apply Yourself

2015 SF Bandstand application launched

Music FeaturesWednesday, October 1, 2014 by Alex De Vore

E

ven though visions of the 2014 Santa Fe Bandstand are fresh in our heads (As In We’s farewell performance, anyone?), the non-profit behind the series, Outside In Productions, has opened up the application process for next year’s run of shows. So what can you, a dedicated band and lover of the Bandstand do to be considered? Easy! Click here and get your applications in ASAP. Of course, there are certain things to keep in mind:


  • Organizers don’t accept physical CDs.
  • Website, YouTube or similar links are encouraged.
  • The deadline has been extended this year and submissions will be accepted until Wednesday, December 31 at midnight.


Other questions on the application include whether your band has played the bandstand before, if you’re willing to take a slot earlier in the day, if you prefer an opening or headlining slot and a chance to include a personal statement.

Past years have found the series seemingly leaning toward certain genres, so we encourage any young or new or different bands to take the time to apply. We also hope that any bands that lost their slot due to weather will be invited to return. Given the surveys administered by Outside In during the last summer’s performances, it certainly stands to reason that the will of the people will be taken into account, but that doesn’t mean bands shouldn’t do their damndest to get involved.

Outside In Productions Background: Established in 1995, Outside In has provided performances and education in music, dance and the arts to people who are in treatment facilities, nursing homes and more. Additionally, Outside In’s Youth Wise Promise program provides educational opportunities for high-risk and/or incarcerated youth.

Powered by Tacos

Metalachi makes triumphant SF return

PicksWednesday, October 1, 2014 by Enrique Limón

Brows gathered beads of sweat, hips swung and heads almost got knocked off their axes last April, when metal/mariachi hybrid Metalachi made their Santa Fe debut and made good on the promise of “handing out facefulls of epicness and hangovers.”

Freshly stocked up on a new supply of “love juice” and hankering for New Mexico’s ample supply of would-be groupies, the quintet composed by trumpeter El Cucuy, vocalist Vega De La Rockha, guitarist Ramón Holiday, guitarrón master Poncho Rockafeller and violinist Maximilian “Dirty” Sanchez, make their glorious Santa Fe return on Wednesday. Between placing bets on an underground Phoenix cockfight and garnishing his dinner with just the right amount of GMO cilantro, Sánchez took time to chat SFR and left no stone unturned.

You are very well known for your hip-thrusts. Who inspires that rhythm?

I don’t know if I’m the one, I think that’s more Cucuy. I mean, I do hip-thrust too, but not like him—Cucuy is the hip-thrust master.

Is it fair to say that Cucuy is then your hip-thrust Yoda?

He’s like my hip-thrust compadre. We’re like brothers in hip-thrusting.

You guys are coming into town rather quickly after the last show. Is that because you left some jainas behind?

Oh, there’s a lot of little jainas that I like in Nuevo México, they’re really down cholas.

I remember you complimenting specifically the New Mexican chichis?

Yeay, yeah. I like that there’s a lot of lowriders in New Mexico, you know, like lowrider chichis. They ride real low. I like my chichis like my cars.

What is the best part of touring?

That I get to try tacos from all over the country, ’cause I’m like a taco aficionado. If people follow my Facebook they’ll see that I have a whole folder dedicated to taco tastings.

In fact, you recently posted that tacos give you abs.

Yeah. It’s better for the abs to have corn tortillas, and it’s better to get carne asada tacos than adobada or al pastor.

So that’s the best. What’s the worst part of touring?

Being stuck in a van all day long.

After eating all those tacos, I can only imagine…

Exactly. See, you already know. Everybody’s blowing it up in the van. It’s like a torpedo war, you know? Pedo to the death in there.

Metalachi
8 pm Wednesday, Oct. 1. $15
Skylight Santa Fe
139 W San Francisco St.,
982-0775

3 Questions

with Nova Cynthia Barker

3 QuestionsWednesday, October 1, 2014 by Enrique Limón

On Thursday, multi-platform artist Nova Cynthia Barker hopes to bring the topics of public art and art funding to the table—the fold and fluff table. A recipient of one of Axle Contemporary’s $10 nanogrants, Barker will hunker down at the Solana Laundromat from 4 to 6 pm, do a couple of loads and strike up a conversation or two, which she plans on sharing on her social media sites.                                               


What sparked this idea?

Well, I was thinking that every time I go into the laundromat, I meet all these great people, and sometimes it’s people that I’ve known for a long time and haven’t seen in years, and there’s this interaction that happensjust people to people.

What do you hope to accomplish with the project?

What I really want to accomplish is getting people to think about these serious issues, like art, because art is becoming really marginalized. The term ‘starving artist’ is literal, you know? So that idea that we all have to do laundry for me is like a common ground where everybody meets from every socioeconomic level; everybody has to have clean clothes.

Final question: How do you get your whites their whitest?

[Laughs] There’s a really great detergent, I think it’s called Exo. It’s a natural product and works great. I don’t care if a stain has set for months.

Aces of Bass

These bassists hold the rhythm and our hearts

Music FeaturesTuesday, September 30, 2014 by Alex De Vore

Singers and guitarists usually get the bulk of the attention when it comes to live music. That is, unless you count me. I sang and guitar’d for a band for nearly a decade and was often asked, “Have you ever seen Jasper’s band?” Jasper was the bassist. Now, at the time this drove me up the fucking wall, but as I’ve aged and grown to appreciate music in different ways, it slowly began to dawn on me that you can have the greatest guitar player or singer on earth, if your bassist doesn’t know the score, the outfit will suffer. Look at the recent Violent Femmes performance. If ever there were a man who proved bassists are every bit as important (if not more) than the rest of the band, it’s Brian Ritchie.

So anyway, this thought continued to grow in my head and, as it did, a list of local bassists slowly started to materialize. In a world where guitarists pop up faster than you can say, “Sweet arpeggio, bro!” it’s important to remember the rhythm section, as well as the four following standout players.


Daniel Mench-Thurlow—Venus and the Lion

Ask anyone who sees this band for the first time, this is a quartet that knows how to make an impression. Steeped in classic rock goodness, Venus and the Lion layers intricate guitar riffs and heavy-hitting drums over incredibly tight vocal work. And then there’s Mench-Thurlow. He’s a jazz guy at heart who still knows when it’s time to rock. And yet, his foray into bass-dom wasn’t so much a choice as a mandate. Says Mench-Thurlow, “I started playing because that’s what the band needed at the time…up until that point I was mostly a melody player with some background in percussion, but I realized that bass is playing the perfect convergence of melody and rhythm.” Seriously, you need to see this band.


Peter Williams—The Sticky

Now here’s a dude who gets around the music scene and does so in a pretty awesome way. And sure, these days he plays guitar with funk act The Sticky and everybody knows that he’s super cool, but anytime you see him strap on the old four-string, it usually means you’re in for a good time.

“I like playing bass because it’s the talking drum, the melodic interpretation of what the drums are doing and the rhythmic interpretation of what the guitars are doing,” Williams says. “It also sends this awesome vibratey feeling from my hips through the rest of my body.”


Case Tanner—The Bus Tapes/Sexlexia

He mainly sticks with his wife and their band The Bus Tapes these days, but longtime institution—yeah, I said it—Case Tanner might just be the best guy to call when you need a last-minute bassist in your band. Homeboy has picked up gigs hours before showtime and always seems to impress with his skill and his improvisation. Plus, married life has softened him. Tanner’s new project is called Sexlexia and features members of Fields and The Strange.

“[It’s a] mysterious thing,” Tanner says of the bass. “Everybody needs one and when you don’t have one it doesn’t sound good.” Metallica should’ve thought about that when they recorded The Black Album.


Noah Anthony Trainor—Sleeptaker

So even though this dude began as a drummer and is new at the bass, word on the street is he’s a fast learner and he fills a needed niche—a bassist who plays metal. And though more established bands like Carrion Kind or the sadly now defunct Drought had bassists with a bit more experience, there’s something pretty awesome about a young dude giving his all to an instrument, especially when it’s the bass. In other words, we need more bassists.

“I’m used to holding the whole band in place as a drummer [and] there’s a lot of responsibility in that,” Trainor tells SFR. “With bass, I hold down the pretty inaudible low end, and people kind of feel what I play more than they actually hear it…it’s a much more laid-back role, and I get to focus more on jamming out and having fun that hitting every fill perfectly or holding the tempo.”

Venus and the Lion
9 pm Thursday, Oct. 2. $5
The Underground
200 W San Francisco St.

Sexlexia
9 pm Friday, Oct. 3. $5
El Paseo, 208 Galisteo St.
992-2848

On the Hook

At Amazon, “cheap”comes at a very hefty price

FeaturesTuesday, September 30, 2014 by Justin Horwath

IN his classic 1936 comedy, Modern Times, silent filmmaker Charlie Chaplin depicts the trials and tribulations of a harried factory worker trying to cope with the sprockets, cogs, conveyor belts and “efficiencies” of the new industrial culture. The poor fellow finds himself caught up (almost literally) in the grinding tyranny of the machine. The movie is hilarious, but it’s also a damning portrayal of the dehumanizing consequences of mass industrialization.

The ultimate indignity for Chaplin’s everyman character comes when he is put on an assembly line that includes a mechanized contraption that force-feeds workers as they work. Not only does this “innovation” eliminate the need for the factory owner to provide a lunch break, but it also transforms human workers into automatous components of the machine itself. Of course, worker-feeding machines were a comedic exaggeration by the filmmaker, not anything that actually existed, nothing that would even be considered in our modern times, right? Well… if you work for Amazon.com, you’d swear that Chaplin’s masterpiece depicts Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ idea of a properly run workplace.

Brave New Paradigm

Why pick on Amazon? After all, isn’t it a model of tech wizardry, having totally reinvented retail marketing for our smart-phone, globally linked age? Doesn’t it peddle a cornucopia of goods through a convenient “1-click” ordering system, rapidly delivering them right to your doorstep? And doesn’t it offer steep discounts on nearly everything it sells (which is nearly everything)? Yes, yes and yes.

However, as an old saying puts it: The higher the monkey climbs the more you see of its ugly side. Amazon certainly has climbed high in a hurry. Not yet 20 years old, it is already a household brand name and America’s 10th largest retailer. The establishment press marvels that Bezos’ obsession with electronic streamlining and systems management that allow Amazon to sell everything from books to bicycles, barbeques to Barbies, at cheap-cheap-cheap prices, undercuts all competitors—even Walmart.

"Wal-Mart, the 'Beast of Bentonville,' is now yesterday’s model of how far-reaching and destructive corporate power can be. Amazon is the new model."

But what is the source of those efficiencies and the low prices so greatly admired by Wall Street and so gratefully accepted by customers? Are they achieved strictly by being a virtual store, saving the costs of building, staffing and maintaining brick-and-mortar outlets? Or is Amazon achieving market dominance the old-fashioned way—by squeezing the life out of its workers and suppliers, by crushing its competitors with monopolistic muscle and by manipulating our national and state tax laws? Voilà! There’s the ugly side.

Amazon and Bezos scream for more scrutiny because Amazon, more than any other single entity, has had the infinite hubris to envision a brave new computer-driven order for our society. Bezos isn’t merely remaking commerce with his algorithms, metrics and vast network, he’s rebooting America itself, including our concept of a job, the definition of community and even basic values of fairness and justice. It amounts to a breathtaking aspiration to transform our culture’s democratic paradigm into a corporate imperium led by Amazon.

Wal-Mart, the “Beast of Bentonville,” is now yesterday’s model of how far-reaching and destructive corporate power can be. Amazon is the new model, not just of tomorrow’s corporate beast, but the day after tomorrow’s. Only it’s already here.

Inside Amazon

Bezos has been crowned with numerous laurels, from “Person of the Year” to world’s best living CEO. This May, however, the reigning God of TechWorld was awarded a less-coveted prize by the International Trade Union Confederation: “World’s Worst Boss.”

Even high-rankers in the corporation’s hierarchy describe him as a cold, controlling, often vengeful gnome of a man with little empathy for the people who work for him. But to witness the full Bezonian disregard for workers, one must look beyond the relative comfort of Amazon’s expansive headquarters and visit any of its 40-some “fulfillment centers” spread across the country. These are gated, guarded and secretive warehouses where most of the corporation’s 100,000 employees work. The warehouses are dehumanizing hives in which Bezos has produced his own sequel to Modern Times.

The Birth of Amazon

LEGEND has it that the founding of Amazon is a classic story of a guy pulling himself up by his own bootstraps. In 1994, a bright, young fellow named Bezos heads off to the Seattle suburb of Bellevue, with not much going for him but old-fashioned pluck and a unique idea: Selling books on this new thing called the Internet. Some called him crazy, but the bold entrepreneur got his online “bookstore” started in his garage in 1995. And lo, 19 years later, it has sales of nearly $100 billion a year and has made Bezos the 13th-richest American.

REALITY Amazon did open for business in a Seattle garage, but guess where it was conceived? Wall Street! For the eight years between graduating from Princeton and landing in Bellevue, Bezos was a very well-paid Wall Street investment banker. In 1994, while working at DE Shaw, a powerhouse hedge fund, he came across a report showing that Internet marketing was about to boom, expected to grow by 2,300 percent a year. That’s when— click! —the Amazon light bulb lit up in Jeff’s head.

By the way, Amazon’s now-iconic brand name was not Bezos’ first choice. It was initially incorporated as “Cadabra,” as in abracadabra. But that sounded too much like “cadaver.” Then came a suggestion he really, really, connected with: “Relentless.” How perfect that would’ve been! But wiser heads prevailed. So Bezos finally settled on Amazon, noting with typical modesty that the mighty Amazon River is the largest, most powerful river in the world—literally a force of nature.

Consider the job of “picker.” In each warehouse, hundreds of them are simultaneously scrambling throughout a maze of shelves, grabbing products. Pickers must speed walk on concrete an average of a dozen miles a day, for an Amazon warehouse is shockingly big—more than 16 football fields big, or eight city blocks—and pickers must constantly crisscross the expanse. There are miles of seven-foot-high shelves running along narrow aisles on each floor of three-story buildings, requiring pickers continuously to stoop down, crawl along and stretch up. They are directed by handheld computers to each target. Then they must scan the pick and put it on the right track of the seven miles of conveyor belts running through the facility.

Immediately after, they’re dispatched by computer to find the next product. The computers don’t just dictate where to go next, they also relay how many seconds Amazon’s time-motion experts have calculated it should take to get there. The scanners also record the time each worker actually takes—information that is fed directly into a central, all-knowing computer.

Everything workers do is monitored, timed, scored and reviewed by managers who have a mandate to fire those exceeding their allotted seconds. This, and many other indignities, brings $10-$12 an hour, which is less than $25,000 a year, gross, for full-time work. But few get year-round work. Rather, Amazon’s warehouse employees are “contingent” hires, meaning they are temporary, seasonal, part-time laborers entirely subject to the employer’s whim. Worker advocates refer to these jobs as “precarious”: when sales slack off, you’re let go; when sales perk up and managers demand you do a 12-hour shift with no notice (which might let you find a babysitter), you do it or you’re fired.

Of course, technically, you don’t actually work for Amazon. You’re hired by temp agencies and warehouse operators with Orwellian names like “Amalgamated Giant Shipping.” This lets Amazon deny responsibility for your treatment—and it means you have no labor rights, for you are an “independent contractor.” No health care, no vacation time, no scheduled raises, no route to a full-time or permanent job, no regular schedule, no job protection and—of course—no union. Bezos would rather get Ebola than be infected with a union in his realm, and he has gone all out with intimidation tactics and hired a notorious union-busting firm to crush any whisper of worker organization.

If you asked workers in Amazon’s swarming hives why they put up with the corporation’s demeaning treatment, most would look at you incredulously and say something like: “Rent, food, clothing—the basics.” Bezos & Co. fully understand that millions of today’s workers are stuck in a jobless depression with no way out.

As one of the worker bees in Amazon’s Lehigh Valley, Pa., center told a reporter for the local paper, “I never felt treated like a piece of crap in any other warehouse but this one. They can do that because there aren’t any jobs in the area.” By paying just one notch above McDonald’s, Amazon draws tens of thousands of people willing to get in line for exploitation.

The Predator

Amazon is by far the largest online marketer in the world, with more sales than the next nine US online retailers combined. That has given Bezos the monopoly power to stalk, weaken and even kill off retail competitors—threatening such giants as Barnes & Noble and Wal-Mart and draining the lifeblood from hundreds of small Main Street shops.

Lest you think that “predator” is too harsh a term, consider the metaphor that Bezos himself chose when explaining how to get small book publishers to cough up deep discounts as the price of getting their titles listed on the Amazon website. As related by Businessweek reporter Brad Stone, Bezos instructed his negotiators to stalk them “the way a cheetah would pursue a sickly gazelle.” Bezos’ PR machine tried to claim that this sneering comment was just a little “Jeff joke,” but they couldn’t laugh it off, for a unit dubbed the “Gazelle Project” had actually been set up inside Amazon.

"With his market clout, deep-pocket financing and ferocious price-cutting, Bezos has forced hundreds of America’s independent bookstores to close."

This top-level team focused on doing exactly what Bezos’ metaphor instructed: Pursue vulnerable small publishers and squeeze their wholesale prices to Amazon down to the point of no profit, thus allowing the online retailer to underprice every other book peddler. When Stone exposed Gazelle last year in his book, The Everything Store, the project was suddenly rebranded with a bloodless name—“Small Publishers Negotiation Program”—but its mission remains the same.

Today, Amazon sells a stunning 40 percent of all new books, up from 12 percent five years ago. It is even more dominant in the digital book market, which is fast catching up to the sales level of physical books and is widely perceived as the future of publishing. Electronic book sales were non-existent just seven years ago; today about a third of all books sold are e-books, and Amazon sells two-thirds of those. Of course, Amazon also owns Kindle, the largest-selling device for reading digital books.

With his market clout, deep-pocket financing and ferocious price-cutting, Bezos has forced hundreds of America’s independent bookstores to close and has humbled the superstore book chains that once preyed on the independents and dominated the market. Borders, the second-largest chain, succumbed to bankruptcy in 2011. Now Barnes & Noble, the largest brick-and-mortar bookstore, is stumbling. It has lost millions of dollars, closed dozens of stores, shrunk most others and suffered the embarrassment of its own board chairman frantically dumping big chunks of Barnes & Noble stock.

Bezos’ online empire not only stands alone as the paramount bookseller, but is also the dominant price setter, the arbiter of which titles get the best access (or none) to the biggest number of buyers, the most powerful reviewer of books, the publisher of its own line of books, the keeper of an in-house stable of writers—and even the sponsor of a major book prize. He achieved this the old-fashioned way: brute force. While it’s true that Amazon is innovative, efficient and focused on customer satisfaction, such factors alone did not elevate Amazon to its commanding level of market control. To reach that pinnacle, Bezos followed the path mapped by Rockefeller and other 19th-century robber barons: (1) ruthlessly exploit a vast and vulnerable low-wage workforce; (2) extract billions of dollars in government subsidies; and (3) wield every anti-competitive weapon you can find or invent to get what you want from other businesses.

Through doing all of the above, Bezos has applied his cheetah business model to nearly everything retail. Amazon’s massive book dominion is now dwarfed by its annexation of dozens of other markets—book sales now make up a mere 7 percent of Amazon’s total business. Amazon has already captured more than a third of all online sales with a website that’s a phantasmagoric mall of unimaginable size, containing what amounts to hundreds of virtual superstores.

In the process, and with the same deeply discounted prices they used to conquer the book business, Amazon has poached millions of customers from neighborhood shops and suburban malls. The chase for cheap has been great for Amazon, but it is proving intolerably expensive for your and my hometowns. Our local businesses lose customers and have to close, local workers lose jobs and local economies lose millions of consumer dollars that Amazon siphons into its faraway coffers. What makes that even more intolerable is that much of Amazon’s competitive advantage has been ill gotten, obtained by dirty deeds.

The Amazon Subsidy

Bezos would not have grabbed such market dominance if government had not been subsidizing his sales with special tax breaks. In all but a handful of states, merchants are obliged by law to collect city and state sales taxes from everyone who buys stuff from them. But Amazon, as an online merchant, has avoided adding these taxes to the price that its customers pay.

Bezos has emphatically insisted from the start that Amazon’s only facility is its headquarters in Washington state, claiming therefore that Amazon’s sales in the other 49 states are exempt from sales taxes—even though he racks up billions of dollars in sales in those states and even though Amazon has massive warehouses in about half of them. With legalistic hocus-pocus, Bezos asserts that the warehouses are independent contractors, not part of Amazon.

In Texas, where I live, the sales tax rate is 8.15 percent, so by claiming to be exempt, Amazon gets a price subsidy of more than eight cents on every dollar of its sales—that’s more than the entire profit margin of most independent shops. Santa Fe’s sales tax rate is 8.1875 percent.The tax subsidy ranges from about 4 percent to more than 10 percent across the country, handing Bezos an advantage of several billion dollars a year that has underwritten his fast and vast expansion.

Brian Duffy

Amazon’s tax ploy has been key to its ability to undercut the prices of local retailers, forcing many of them out of business. And the tax dodge has also shortchanged our communities by eliminating billions in tax revenues that cities and states desperately need for schools, infrastructure, parks and other public services.

During the past couple of years, 21 states have stopped playing the fool, finally requiring Amazon to collect sales taxes like its competitors do. In a study released earlier this year, the National Bureau of Economic Research analyzed retail data of five of these states and found that Amazon’s sales plummeted by nearly 10 percent after they started charging sales tax. It was saving the cost of sales tax—not any Bezos “magic”—that kept many customers buying from his online mall. Of course, that’s cold comfort to the retailers driven out of business during two decades of Amazon’s government-backed assault.

“But wait,” as they say on late-night TV infomercials, “there’s more!” Amazon’s amazing slice-and-dice tax machine not only avoids paying state taxes, but it also extracts tax money from states to expand its warehouse network. This supremely rich company says that states wanting the (low-wage, no-benefit, temporary and dehumanizing) jobs that come with its warehouses must show Amazon the money, i.e., offer “incentive grants” or tax breaks.

In short, flimflammery and government favoritism help Amazon overwhelm honest competition and extend its monopoly reach.

The Amazon Crush

Having overweening market power means never having to say you’re sorry —even to your owners. Beyond taxpayer subsidies, Bezos can afford to be a voracious predator because his Wall Street investors have allowed him to keep operating without returning a profit. On paper, his revenue-generating machine has lost billions of dollars, yet his major investors, enamored with Amazon’s takeover of one consumer market after another, haven’t pulled the plug. Amazon uses their capital to buy its competitors and/or to market its own version of competitors’ products, which it then sells at a loss in order to squeeze hapless competitors out of business. That’s the very definition of predatory pricing.

Anson Stevens-Bollen

Brad Stone’s book gives a chilling example of one such predation. Amazon has its own corporate espionage team called Competitive Intelligence that tracks rivals. In 2009, CIAmazon spotted a fast-rising online seller of one particular baby product: Diapers.com. A Bezos lieutenant was dispatched to inform the diaper honchos that the cheetah was going into that business, so they should just sell their firm to it. No thanks, replied the upstart.

Amazon promptly responded to the rebuff by marketing another line of diapers—with a price discount of 30 percent. It kept dropping the price even lower (plus free shipping) when the smaller firm tried to fight back. Diapers.com’s investors grew antsy, and in September 2010, the two founders of the company met with Bezos himself and surrendered. The final blow was their discovery that Bezos, in his campaign to crush them and control the market of online diaper sales, was on track to lose $100 million in just three months.

Showrooming

Such ruthlessness is standard operating procedure at Amazon, which exerts it against any gazelle it chooses to eliminate. Small retailers everywhere are experiencing an ugly practice dubbed “showrooming.” For example, John Crandall, owner of Old Town Bike Shop in Colorado Springs, has seen a surge of shoppers who come in, check out the bikes he sells, ask a lot of questions, try out some bikes—and leave without buying anything. Then, some days later, they’ll show up at the store with the parts for a new bike and ask Old Town to assemble it for them! These shoppers have used their smartphones in Crandall’s store to scan the barcode of a product they like and then gone online to buy it from Amazon at a discounted price—lower than Crandall’s wholesale price.

Amazon’s new smartphone, called Fire (apparently meant in the sense of “shoot to kill”), is specifically designed to make showrooming fast and easy. Amazon has even offered $5 rebates to shoppers who scan items at stores, then buy them from the online brute. This is corporate murder. After 38 years in business, Old Town is hanging on, but it’s endangered. Crandall employs 11 people, pays rent and local taxes, supports all sorts of community events and is fully involved in Colorado Springs—a place Bezos couldn’t care less about.

Monopoly, For Real

Producers need the marketplace, the marketplace needs products. You’d think this would be a felicitous, symbiotic relationship, but when the market grows into a virtual monopoly, the monopolist can turn on suppliers with a vengeance. Amazon has done precisely that to book publishers. While Amazon’s fight with international publishing giant Hachette has been well publicized, it’s medium-sized and small publishers who are especially vulnerable. They don’t have splashy marketing budgets, so they’re largely dependent on access to the buyers coming to Amazon’s online market.

"I don’t want a price that’s stained with gross worker exploitation...and the creation of a corporate oligarch."

“I offered them a 30 percent discount,” the head of a small academic publishing house told The New York Times this year. “They demanded 40.” After she acquiesced to that, the cheetah soon came back, demanding 45. “Where do I find that 5 percent?” she asks. “Amazon may be able to operate at a loss, but I’m not in a position to do that.” She can’t leave, but staying could crush her company: “I wake up every single day knowing Amazon might make new, impossible demands.”

It’s Time to Tell Amazon: No More

Rather than examine the far-reaching social destructiveness in Amazon’s business model, the powers that be blithely hail Bezos as an exemplary corporate leader and point to his company as a model for the New Economy. They smile cluelessly when he says that it’s not Amazon killing off local businesses and turning work into a low-wage, roboticized nightmare— rather it’s “the future” that is producing these changes.

Bezos has gotten away with this hornswoggle up to now by endlessly reciting his mantra that everything Amazon does is to benefit consumers by relentlessly lowering prices. But I don’t want a price that’s stained with gross worker exploitation, the crushing of local enterprise and the creation of a corporate oligarch. It’s up to us to reject this way of business.

Stacy Mitchell, an intrepid researcher with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ilsr.org), has been studying Amazon’s impact and rightly says that to avoid a sterile Amazonian future, we must force “a public conversation about their power.” Unlike Wal-Mart, Amazon is largely invisible to most people. As Mitchell puts it: “All you really see is the website and then the FedEx guy is there.”

More people need to know what’s going on between that jazzy website and “the FedEx guy,” for Amazon is insidious, far more dangerous and destructive to our culture’s essential values than Wal-Mart ever dreamed of being. Remember: Price is not value. Exchanging value—and our society’s values—for Amazon’s low prices is a raw deal.

Reprinted with permission from Jim Hightower’s monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown. Subscriptions are available for $15 at hightowerlowdown.org or (877) 747-3517.


Home For The Taking

Reinstatement of police commute subsidies draws criticism

Local NewsTuesday, September 30, 2014 by Joey Peters

The Santa Fe Police Department’s fleet of vehicles was in crisis three years ago, then-Chief Aric Wheeler warned the City Council.

He asked for $700,000 for new cars because 15 percent of SFPD’s cars had more than 100,000 miles on their odometers and were due for replacement. But many lamented what they called the real reason behind that expensive request: a perk that allowed officers living as far as away as Rio Rancho to drive their patrol cars home after their shifts.

At that time, the take-home policy covering cops who lived up to 60 miles outside city limits had been in place for years. Adam Gallegos, a current SFPD sergeant and past president of the Santa Fe Police Officers Association, says he was attracted to the force in 2004 largely because of the perk.

“The economy was doing well and agencies were so shorthanded,” says Gallegos, who eventually moved to Santa Fe. “The problem is once they enacted that, officers that lived here suddenly had the green light to move [to Rio Rancho].”

Homes come bigger and cheaper in Rio Rancho, giving new recruits—many of whom are young and just starting out with families—an incentive to live there instead of the pricey City Different. But once the recession hit, followed by a city budget crisis in 2011, critics started openly dismissing the take-home policy as an expensive subsidy for non-Santa Fe residents. Wheeler’s request in 2011, which came at a time when the department needed to cut $2 million in expenses, sparked a fierce debate on the issue. By the next year, the city and the police union agreed to drop the take-home vehicle perk down to 15 miles for new recruits while allowing existing officers to drive as far as 60 miles.

The numbers since then have been encouraging to proponents of recruiting officers to live within city limits.

In 2012, the year the new 15-mile radius went into effect, roughly 30 percent of the city’s police force lived within Santa Fe city limits, another 30 percent lived within 15 miles of the city, while almost 40 percent lived farther away. Today, 53 percent of officers live within city limits while 47 percent live outside of Santa Fe. Roughly 10 percent of the cops living outside of city limits still live within Santa Fe County and a police spokeswoman says they live close to the city. However, more than half of those who live outside that area live as far away as Rio Rancho or Albuquerque.

Still, the current numbers represent a shift to more police officers living in the community.

But some are worried this trend might reverse because last month, the councilors narrowly approved a new collective bargaining agreement with officers that reverts the take-home policy to 45 miles outside of city boundaries.

Councilors approved the contract on a 5-4 vote, with Mayor Javier Gonzales casting a “yes” vote for what he explained as a need to fill 21 police officer vacancies.

Earlier this month, City Council also approved $854,000 in new spending to allow SFPD to purchase 20 police SUVs. Only Councilor Signe Lindell, who also voted against the new union contract, cast a dissenting vote for the new vehicles. She says she’s worried about the city paying for the gas for officers to commute, as well as the carbon emissions that come along with it.

“I know we need police cars, though I think we need to be prudent about it,” Lindell says. “I don’t think purchasing SUVs and having them commute to Rio Rancho is good policy.”

Mike Loftin, the executive director of Homewise, which offers affordable housing options in Santa Fe, equates the 45-mile take-home policy to effectively giving officers a free car to live outside of the city.

“We’re not stepping back and saying, ‘What do we really want?’” Loftin says. “We’re reacting to pieces of the issue without thinking of the whole picture.”

Marilyn Bane, president of the Santa Fe Neighborhood Network, adds that the recent events fly in the face of the city’s stated effort to attract cops to live locally.

“It looks like the benefits that are being generated here are concentrated on…the officers who leave Santa Fe when their shift is over,” she says. But Matthew Martinez, an SFPD sergeant and current POA president, says that’s a misconception. He says the union recently fought to expand the take-home policy as a recruitment option that’s competitive with other law enforcement agencies across the state.

“Every agency in this state has some form or another of a take-home policy, whether it’s 30 miles, 45 miles or at the [police] chief’s discretion,” Martinez says.

New officer recruits start at around $19 an hour, which Martinez contends is still not enough to realistically afford to buy a home in Santa Fe. Expanding the take-home policy to 45 miles allows SFPD to draw new recruits from a wider range of candidates, which he adds is better for the city’s safety.

The new contract also bars police officers living outside of the city from using their work vehicles for personal activities. Officers are granted 40 gallons of gas each week, and Martinez says the department does random audits to make sure the rules are being followed.

“The officers that live outside the city are going to take their cars home, park them and use their personal vehicles,” Martinez says. “The officers that live within the city, they are allowed to go to the gym, go to the grocery store, stuff like that, because that’s what the councilors and that’s what the constituents want to see—a presence around town.”

Either way, Bane says she’s planning to organize a community event to discuss the issue to come up with different solutions. She’s hoping she’ll get one going in November.

Bag Trade

Rather than reuse, Santa Fe shoppers rely on the brown sack

Local NewsTuesday, September 30, 2014 by Nick Martinez

Smith’s shopper Victor Valdez walks to his car holding his son and pushing a loaded cart as traffic zips past on Cerrillos Road. Seven months ago, Santa Fe City Council passed legislation prohibiting the plastic bags that used to fill his cart, so on this Friday afternoon, his cart is stuffed with paper bags.

Valdez is like most other Santa Fe residents, mad that his bag of choice isn’t available anymore. Bringing reusable bags with him to the store isn’t on his mind.

“I think it is dumb. The plastic bags were easier to use,” he says, noting that the litter issue—one of the reason officials adopted the law—isn’t any better. “I see the paper bags around more than the grocery store bags.” Santa Fe is one of about 190 counties and cities in the nation to impose a plastic bag ban with the idea that it would have a positive environmental impact. Plastic bag litter has gone significantly down, say people including volunteers who pick up trash along the Santa Fe River. But does that mean we are better off?

Sherry says she’s been bringing her own bags since before the ban. What’s wrong with everyone else?
Nick Martinez

The rules were supposed to encourage shoppers to carry their own bags, baskets and boxes rather than depending on disposable containers. So far, however, what it’s leading to is a return to the old brown paper bag, one of the only kind of bags stores are allowed to distribute under the law and a product that some studies say is worse for the environment.

Recent observations at three major area grocery stores, Whole Foods, Smith’s and Albertsons, indicate that the vast majority of shoppers here are carrying purchases in paper bags.

For example, the shoppers leaving Whole Foods Market off Cerrillos Road on a recent Friday afternoon showed that the retailer that touts itself as “America’s healthiest grocery store” had the highest number of customers who brought reusable bags during our observation, about 45 percent or 35 of 78 shoppers during a one-hour period. However, with Whole Foods halting its use of plastic bags in 2008, it is head-scratching that most customers are apparently still choosing to use paper bags after six years.

The Albertsons on Zafarano Drive by far had the least number of customers bring reusable bags with about 12 percent, or 8 of 68 shoppers observed on a Sunday between 11 am and noon.

“They always use the excuse that they left [reusable bags] in the car,” says Joyce Romero, service operations manager. “I don’t see [the ban] being for the better. They’re just using paper.”

The comparative few who do bring reusable bags say they have been doing so since before the ban took place. One such shopper is Sherry, a Santa Fe lifer who didn’t want to give her last name.

“[There’s] too much waste,” she says. “If you can recycle and reuse, that’s what you should be doing.”

In Romero’s opinion, whether or not the ban has an effect comes down to demographics and class. More affluent clientele who shop at Whole Foods, she notes, are more likely to prioritize reusable bags than customers at lower-priced groceries.

Paper bags also prove more costly for retailers, she says, estimating her store is spending about 75 percent more on bags than before the new rules. Julian Morris, vice president of research for libertarian think tank Reason.org, recently gave a lecture in Albuquerque, emphasizing that the bans have a high propensity to backfire.

“Plastic bag bans are environmentally counterproductive and economically harmful,” he tells an audience invited by the Rio Grande Foundation, a libertarian group that promotes individual freedom and limited government. Part of what can go wrong, he says, is exactly where Santa Fe’s train went off the tracks. The original legislation approved by City Council called for stores to charge shoppers a 10-cent fee for each paper bag, a deterrent, backers said, to using disposable bags at all.

Then, on Feb. 26, the day the new bag rules were set to take effect, the city nixed that provision of the law after the city attorney determined it was an “impermissible tax.”

Morris maintains that the small fee, multiplied by the hundreds of thousands of consumers, turns out to be “a significant diversion of resources in consumer finances.”

Yet, he says, “without mandatory fees, consumers are less likely to bring reusable bags and far more likely just to take a paper bag.” The higher cost for consumers also comes with an increase in the use of energy and materials, he argues. The amount of water, lumber and other resources used for individual paper bags leaves a far bigger environmental and economic impact than plastic bags, he says.

He points to statistics in Reason.org report “How Green Is That Grocery Bag Ban?” which estimates that of the 165 million tons of waste in the US in a given year, only 660,000 tons are from plastic bags, a drop in the bucket. Plastic bags, at most, represented only 2 percent of visible litter in multiple surveys.

With Santa Fe’s sometimes hippy-dippy image, it’s easy for policymakers to ignore facts about how the rule is playing out. Former City Councilor Rebecca Wurzburger, who was the original sponsor of the ban, at the urging of local elementary school children, maintains that the legislation was a step in the right direction, not an endgame.

“I do believe, as a private citizen, that more and more people are getting on board with recycling,” said Wurzburger. “It was an important piece in Santa Fe in raising consciences.” Not everyone agrees.

“People hate it,” says a storefront manager at Smith’s. “And it’s costing us tons of money for the paper bags.”

Of the 40 Smith’s shoppers observed over the course of an hour, only 11, or 27 percent, brought reusable bags.

City officials were tasked to review the effectiveness of the law six months after it went into effect. While that report has not yet been issued, it seems that what in some circles is considered a “feel-good” law hasn’t made many feel much better.

7 Days

10.01.14

7 DaysTuesday, September 30, 2014 by SFR
1

Councilor Peter Ives visits China for creative tourism meeting

Not that again. How come the Southside councilors never go to China?

2

Santa Fe Southern trains halt service again

It’s only October and they’ve already ruined Christmas.

3

Española police station ghost video goes viral

Yet it’s never too early for Halloween.

4

New photo claimed to depict Billy the Kid

19th century’s paparazzi caught him in a bikini.

5

Disney to launch animated Star Wars

Get ready for Darth Mickey.

6

SF City Council can’t agree on pot rules

Let’s all gather around the hookah and work this out.

7

Balloon Fiesta preparations are underway

Focusing on New Mexico’s original reputation for getting high.

Street View

10.01.14

Street ViewTuesday, September 30, 2014 by SFR
Calling all food lovers: SFR’s Restaurant Guide is due out on Oct. 22. Pictured here is the fantastic porch at Izanami and its equally fantastic pork belly with watermelon. Get in on the action by tagging your photos with #SFRfoodies.
Police Investigate Shooting of Plaza Landlord

© 2014 Santa Fe Reporter. All Rights Reserved.
Powered by WEHAA.COM
Regular Site