Opinion | It’s the End of California as We Know It – By Farhad Manjoo – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Jose Carlos Fajardo/San Jose Mercury News, via Associated Press

“I have lived nearly all my life in California, and my love for this place and its people runs deep and true. There have been many times in the past few years when I’ve called myself a California nationalist: Sure, America seemed to be going crazy, but at least I lived in the Golden State, where things were still pretty chill.

But lately my affinity for my home state has soured. Maybe it’s the smoke and the blackouts, but a very un-Californian nihilism has been creeping into my thinking. I’m starting to suspect we’re over. It’s the end of California as we know it. I don’t feel fine.

It isn’t just the fires — although, my God, the fires. Is this what life in America’s most populous, most prosperous state is going to be like from now on? Every year, hundreds of thousands evacuating, millions losing power, hundreds losing property and lives? Last year, the air near where I live in Northern California — within driving distance of some of the largest and most powerful and advanced corporations in the history of the world — was more hazardous than the air in Beijing and New Delhi. There’s a good chance that will happen again this month, and that it will keep happening every year from now on. Is this really the best America can do?”

Opinion | Barack Obama’s Biggest Mistake – By Farhad Manjoo – The New York Times

Farhad Manjoo

By 

Opinion Columnist

CreditCreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

“In 2009, Barack Obama was the most powerful newly elected American president in a generation. Democrats controlled the House and, for about five months in the second half of the year, they enjoyed a filibuster-proof, 60-vote majority in the Senate. For the first six months of his presidency, Obama had an approval rating in the 60s.

Democrats also had a once-in-a-lifetime political opportunity presented by a careening global crisis. Across the country, people were losing jobs and homes in numbers not seen since World War II. Just as in the 1930s, the Republican Party’s economic policies were widely thought to have caused the crisis, and Obama and his fellow Democrats were swept into office on a throw-the-bums-out wave.

If he’d been in the mood to press the case, Obama might have found widespread public appetite for the sort of aggressive, interventionist restructuring of the American economy that Franklin D. Roosevelt conjured with the New Deal. One of the inspiring new president’s advisers even hinted that was the plan.

“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s chief of staff, said days after the 2008 election.”

David Lindsay:  Great writing Farhad Manjoo. Where was Joe Biden, on Obama’s biggest mistake while in office?

Opinion | Netflix Is Shrinking the World – By Farhad Manjoo – The New York Times

Quote

Image
Credit   Max Guther

By Farhad Manjoo
Opinion Columnist

Feb. 22, 2019,  56 c

For months after the 2016 election, I wanted nothing more than to escape America. I don’t mean literally — in the cliché liberal way of absconding to Canada — but intellectually, socially, psychically. Donald Trump was all anybody talked about, and I needed sanctuary. I wanted to find places where the American president-elect and his American opponents and their American controversies simply did not exist.

I found such a place in a British reality baking contest. By which I mean I found it on Netflix, which has become the internet’s most invaluable and intoxicating portal to the parts of planet Earth that aren’t America.

On Sunday, Netflix will compete for its first Best Picture Oscar for “Roma,” the Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón’s exploration of his childhood in Mexico City. A win by “Roma” would be a fitting testament to Netflix’s ambitions. Virtually alone among tech and media companies, Netflix intends to ride a new kind of open-border digital cosmopolitanism to the bank.

For me, it was nice British people politely baking against one another that offered one of the first hints of Netflix’s unusual strategy. “The Great British Baking Show,” for those not in the cult, is an amateur baking contest, and it is one of the least American things you will ever see on TV. It depicts a utopia: a multicultural land of friendly blokes and mums with old-timey jobs — Imelda is a “countryside recreation officer” — blessed with enough welfare-state-enabled free time to attain expertise in British confectionary. To an American, the show suggests a time and place where our own worries have no meaning. And that, more than baking, is what “The Great British Baking Show” is really about.

The show was first produced and aired on British broadcast television (as “The Great British Bake-Off”) and imported to the United States by PBS, which then licensed it to Netflix. But Netflix, which has 139 million paying members around the world, has lately become something more than a licenser of other countries’ escapist television.

In 2016, the company expanded to 190 countries, and last year, for the first time, a majority of its subscribers and most of its revenue came from outside the United States. To serve this audience, Netflix now commissions and licenses hundreds of shows meant to echo life in every one of its markets and, in some cases, to blend languages and sensibilities across its markets (see Marie Kondo’s half-in-Japanese tidying-up blockbuster).

via Opinion | Netflix Is Shrinking the World – The New York Times

Opinion | Abolish Billionaires – By Farhad Manjoo – The New York Times

By Farhad Manjoo
Opinion Columnist

Feb. 6, 2019, 558
People protesting against the World Economic Forum in Davos in January.
Credit
Fabrice Coffrini/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“Last fall, Tom Scocca, editor of the essential blog Hmm Daily, wrote a tiny, searing post that has been rattling around my head ever since.

“Some ideas about how to make the world better require careful, nuanced thinking about how best to balance competing interests,” he began. “Others don’t: Billionaires are bad. We should presumptively get rid of billionaires. All of them.”

Mr. Scocca — a longtime writer at Gawker until that site was muffled by a billionaire — offered a straightforward argument for kneecapping the wealthiest among us. A billion dollars is wildly more than anyone needs, even accounting for life’s most excessive lavishes. It’s far more than anyone might reasonably claim to deserve, however much he believes he has contributed to society.

At some level of extreme wealth, money inevitably corrupts. On the left and the right, it buys political power, it silences dissent, it serves primarily to perpetuate ever-greater wealth, often unrelated to any reciprocal social good. For Mr. Scocca, that level is self-evidently somewhere around one billion dollars; beyond that, you’re irredeemable.”

Opinion | Why the Latest Layoffs Are Devastating to Democracy – By Farhad Manjoo – The New York Times

Fifteen percent of BuzzFeed’s employees, including dozens of journalists, are losing their jobs.
Credit Drew Angerer/Getty Images

By Farhad Manjoo
Opinion Columnist

Jan. 30, 2019, 375

Image
Fifteen percent of BuzzFeed’s employees, including dozens of journalists, are losing their jobs.CreditCreditDrew Angerer/Getty Images
Working in digital media is like trying to build a fort out of marshmallows on a foundation made of marbles in a country ruled by capricious and tyrannical warring robots. I’ve toiled in this business for nearly 20 years, and even in the best of times it has been a squeamish and skittering ride, the sort of career you’d counsel your kids to avoid in favor of something less volatile and more enduring — bitcoin mining, perhaps.

It might be tempting, then, to dismiss the recent spate of media-biz layoffs as unfortunate but otherwise not concerning. Two hundred workers, including dozens of journalists, were given the slip last week at BuzzFeed. About 800 people are losing their jobs in the media division of Verizon, the telephone company that owns Yahoo, HuffPost, TechCrunch and many other “content brands.” And Gannett, the once-mighty newspaper empire that owns USA Today and hundreds of smaller outlets — from The Bergen County Record to The Zanesville Times Recorder — is letting go of 400.

But it would be a mistake to regard these cuts as the ordinary chop of a long-roiling digital media sea. Instead, they are a devastation.”

David Lindsay: This is so complicated. I agree with many commenters who do not accept Manjoo’s thesis as to how important Buzz Feed is. I am very concerned about local independent news organizations though, and Facebook and Google might be major reasons for their demise. Amazon is guilty of using its monopolistic power to force companies like Diapers.com to sell to them, when they didn’t want to. Amazon should be broken up. Facebook has been guilty of letting some of their advertizers hijack our democracy. Facebook should be forced to let go of Instagram and WhatsApp. Google is guilty of putting their interests at the top of their searchs. Perhaps that problem can be fixed with Federal and international regulations.

David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion,” and blogs at TheTaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNews.wordpress.com. His duo performs a folk music and readings concert and sing-a-long about Climate Change and the Sixth Extinction.

Opinion | You Should Meditate Every Day – By Farhad Manjoo – NYT- David Lindsay on Aikido

Quote

By Farhad Manjoo
Opinion Columnist, usually Covers Tech, NYT
“Because I live in Northern California, where this sort of thing is required by local ordinance, I spent New Year’s Day at a meditation center, surrounded by hundreds of wealthy, well-meaning, Patagonia-clad white people seeking to restore order and balance to their tech-besotted lives.

In the past, I might have mocked such proceedings, but lately I’ve grown fond of performative sincerity in the service of digital balance. It’s the people who haven’t resigned themselves to meditation retreats who now make me most nervous, actually.

Which brings me to my point: It’s 2019. Why haven’t you started meditating, already? Why hasn’t everyone?”

David Lindsay:

I have not tried meditation in decades, but I have returned recently to practicing Aikido at the New Haven Aikikai – Fire Horse Dojo, but this time without the breakfalls. Aikido is a modern version of ancient Japanese and Chinese Ju Jitsu, and it includes serious meditation as preparation for strenuous tumbling exercises, needed when you are thrown off your feet by your partner. It also teaches one how to disarm a violent opponent who is stronger than you.

For decades, I have argued that our police forces would be vastly better equipped to serve, if they were all required or incentivized to study this East Asian art of disabling a stronger opponent, by using thier own strength to bring them to the mat without actually damaging them.

Of all the martial arts I have studied for decades, it is the one which most closely resembles ball room dance.

 

via Opinion | You Should Meditate Every Day – The New York Times

How to Combat China’s Rise in Tech: Federal Spending- Not Tariffs – by Farhad Manjoo – NYT

Quote

One program, Made in China 2025, outlines a road map for China to become a world leader in advanced manufacturing (things like robotics, aircraft and machine tools). Another plan calls for China to achieve dominance in artificial intelligence. Based on similar initiatives, the Chinese have already seen big wins. Americans invented the modern solar power industry, but thanks to Chinese government intervention, China’s solar industry leads the world. So does its high-speed rail system.

The Trump administration objects to China’s tech visions. It has cited Chinese government support for tech as a primary reason for imposing tariffs on Chinese goods. But its objections only put the disconnect in stark relief. If the United States is worried that the Chinese will win the future because they’re actually spending money to win the future, why aren’t we doing the same?

“It is a waste that we are not using the rise of China as a galvanizing cry to invest more in science and technology in America,” said Yasheng Huang, an economist who studies Chinese politics and business at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management. He has argued that rather than imposing tariffs to respond to programs like Made in China 2025, Americans should respond as we did in 1957, when we sharply increased government spending on science after the Soviet Union launched the world’s first man-made satellite, Sputnik 1.

via How to Combat China’s Rise in Tech: Federal Spending, Not Tariffs – The New York Times

David Lindsay:

Excellent piece by Farad Manjoo. He writes:”The Trump administration objects to China’s tech visions. It has cited Chinese government support for tech as a primary reason for imposing tariffs on Chinese goods. . . . If the United States is worried that the Chinese will win the future because they’re actually spending money to win the future, why aren’t we doing the same?

“It is a waste that we are not using the rise of China as a galvanizing cry to invest more in science and technology in America,” said Yasheng Huang, an economist who studies Chinese politics and business at the MIT’s School of Management. He has argued that rather than imposing tariffs to respond to programs like Made in China 2025, Americans should respond as we did in 1957, when we sharply increased government spending on science after the Soviet Union launched the world’s first man-made satellite, Sputnik 1.”

Yes, and, along with more investment, such efforts like the TPP, the Trans Pacific Partnership, are essential to our taking leadership in helping set the rules of trade, and discouraging intellectual property theft, and environmental degradation. Staying in the Paris Climate Agreement, and instigating a massive carbon tax would also help. Invest in the future, not the past. Clearly, we need better leadership.

David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth-century Vietnam,” and blogs at TheTaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNewsWorldwide.wordpress.com

How Net Neutrality Actually Ended Long Before This Week – by Farhad Manjoo – NYT

“I remember the first time I ever heard about net neutrality. It was around 2004 or 2005, and when the full idea was explained to me — hey, let’s prevent phone and cable companies from influencing the content we see online — I was surprised there was even a fight about the idea.
It seemed obvious that the internet’s great promise was that it operated outside the purview of existing communications monopolies. Because phone and cable companies couldn’t easily dictate what happened online, the internet was exploding in dozens of genuinely new ideas. Among those back then were blogs, Skype, file-sharing, YouTube, Friendster, Netflix — ideas that scrambled our sense of what was possible in media and communication, and, in the process, posed existential threats to the established giants.”