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Wednesday, April 28, 2021
Tuesday, April 27, 2021
Notations From the Grid (Special Edition): Out & About On the Grid....
Please enjoy the following Random Thoughts courtesy of the Team at the Visual Capitalist and insights on misinformation:
Monday, April 19, 2021
Notations From The Grid (Weekly Edition): Out & About With #RandomThoughts
As a new week dawns, we present the following random thoughts:
April 5, 2021
While on vacation last week, I belatedly finished Bill Gates’s How to Avoid a Climate Disaster and now can recommend the book wholeheartedly. Gates avoids the Malthusian anti-growth instincts of most climate activists, focusing instead on innovations necessary to allow both growth and climate sanity—including electricity storage, biofuels, zero-carbon cement and steel, nuclear power, carbon capture, etc.
He also calls for a greatly expanded role for government—in research and development, standards setting and incentives. That reminded me of when I first met Gates: 25 years ago at dinner, the Microsoft CEO hosted for a group of cabinet officials, Congress members, and a few journalists on one of his very first visits to Washington, D.C. My sense, and that of everyone else in the room, was that he really didn’t want to be there.
“When I was building Microsoft, I kept my distance from policy makers in Washington, D.C., and around the world, thinking they would only keep us from doing our best work,” he admits in the book. But now he believes that “when it comes to massive undertakings—whether it’s building a national highway system, vaccinating the world’s children, or decarbonizing the global economy—we need the government to play a huge role in creating the right incentives and making sure the overall system will work for everyone.” A sign of the times.
Vacation also gave me time to read the new Georgia voter law, various analyses of that law, and numerous CEO statements on its passage. The Jim Crow rhetoric of Democratic critics clearly overshoots the mark—most of the provisions fall well within standard practice in other states. That’s why business leaders were initially slow to respond.
But taken as a whole, the law clearly makes it more difficult for voters in dense urban counties to vote and puts increased control over elections in the hands of party leaders. Add to that three important pieces of context: 1) the rationale for the change is voter fraud for which there is no evidence; 2) the state was scene of an extraordinary effort to use raw political power to overturn the election; 3) Georgia has a dismal history of Black voter suppression—and you can understand why virtually every Black CEO and former CEO of note signed a letter denouncing the law. That, in turn, sparked strong statements from Georgia-based CEOs like Coca-Cola’s James Quincey—“It makes it harder for people to vote, not easier”—and Delta’s Ed Bastian—“The entire rationale for this bill was based on a lie.”
As I’ve said here before, this is not “political pandering.” Most CEOs I’ve talked with would desperately like to stay out of this no-win partisan street brawl. But in a people-centered economy, where human capital determines business success, they felt they had no choice.
The upshot: Business is moving into the vanguard of advocating human rights as well as climate action, not because of partisan preference, but because their business depends on it.
News below. And by the way, if you missed Bill Gates’s February stint as guest editor of the Fortune web site, you can check it out now here.
DO YOU HAVE A LONGEVITY MINDSET?
So what shapes your Longevity Mindset? It may seem obvious, but we regularly ignore shaping our Mindset and just accept what we have.
Let me share 6 key areas that you can impact today:
#1) What You Believe: At one end of the spectrum, you see life as short and precious -- you’ll consider yourself lucky if you make it to 75. At the other end, you’re focused on making “100 years old the new 60.” You see aging as a disease, and you actively track breakthroughs in biotech (e.g., CRISPR, cellular medicines) that have the potential to slow or even reverse aging.
#2) What You Read / Your Media Consumption: The type of media you consume (e.g., books, blogs, news, movies) directly affects your outlook on life -- for better or worse. Are you reading the obituaries to track old friends? Or reading books like David Sinclair’s “Lifespan,” blogs like this one, or news feeds like FutureLoop? Are you staying updated on the latest developments in longevity?
#3) Your Community: The people you spend time with shape who you are and what you do. At one end of the spectrum, you only hang out with older people who constantly talk and worry about death. It’s just a matter of time... But at the other end, you spend time with people who are optimistic and youthful, and who actively pursue longevity.
#4) Sleep: Sleep is fundamental, and critical. A great book that details this is “Why We Sleep” by Dr. Matt Walker. We actually, physiologically *need* 8 hours. Do you believe the motto that “There’s plenty of time to sleep when I'm dead”? Or do you prioritize sleep and use the best techniques to help you achieve 8 healthy hours of sleep?
#5) Diet: There is truth to the saying that “You are what you eat.” Do you eat whatever you want, whenever you want? Are you overweight, eating way too much sugar? Have you intentionally shaped your diet, with a no-sugar/keto or vegan diet? Or have you explored and mastered intermittent fasting to maximize your energy and longevity?
#6) Exercise: Along with your mindset, sufficient sleep, and a healthy diet, exercise is fundamental to longevity. The latest research on longevity makes it clear that increasing muscle mass is critical. At one end of the spectrum, you don’t exercise at all. But at the other end, you consider exercise a must. You exercise at least three times each week, for example interval training and weightlifting. Perhaps you even take peptides to manipulate your growth hormones to increase muscle mass.
Do you desire a Longevity Mindset? Where can you improve? What would it take to improve?
Ultimately, science is going to continue to extend human life. Our job is not to die from something stupid in the interim...
Monday, April 12, 2021
Notations From the Grid (Weekly Edition): While Out & About This Week
Please enjoy the following courtesy Bill Gates and the team at Fortune:
April 2, 2021
From a certain point of view, Uber is a brilliant idea to offer transportation services in a new way enabled by the proliferation of smartphone technology. In another view, Uber is more of a brilliant idea to arbitrage loopholes in existing employment law, taxi regulation, and other societal mores that had built up over decades.
Uber cofounder and former CEO Travis Kalanick’s take-no-prisoners attitude helped the company grow quickly and become the market leader. But it also led to his eventual downfall in 2017, as complaints and investigations of Uber’s conduct under his tenure mounted.
All that ancient history in startup land came rushing back to me this week as I read Emilie Friedlander’s detailed and devastating investigation for Vice of Kalanick’s new new thing, CloudKitchens, and its parent company, City Storage Systems. It’s really a masterclass in investigative journalism.
Kalanick’s new business offers take-out food in an original way, cooking everything at large, centralized facilities with delivery handled via GrubHub, Uber Eats and the like. To attract customers, these so-called ghost kitchens create virtual online restaurants listed in GrubHub and similar apps, listings that look just like real restaurants.
Friedlander first got suspicious when weirdly named restaurants like F*cking Good Pizza, Pimp My Pasta, and OMG BBQ LOL turned up in local DoorDash listings:
“Suddenly, I was seized by a need to get to the bottom of a matter that felt like a glitch in the fabric of my humdrum pandemic existence: Where did these clickbait restaurant brands come from, even if they didn’t seem to technically exist? And why did delivery marketplaces across the U.S., and countries around the world, suddenly seem to be flooded with them?”
Turned out they were all non-existent in the real world, just different faces of the same local outpost of Kalanick’s CloudKitchens. The startup has even gone a step further and helped real restaurants diversify into the ghost kitchen market by creating multiple online identities for them in the delivery service apps.
In theory, there’s nothing really wrong with a ghost kitchen or single restaurant creating several online storefronts, just like an avid video gamer might create different personas best suited for different games. If an Italian restaurant that serves pizza, pasta, and seafood can triple its delivery orders by adding specialized yet fictional online restaurants each focused on one category, it could be a win-win. The restaurant gets more business and customers get a clearer search experience.
But when Kalanick is involved, you have to be on the lookout for further “arbitrage” of rules, laws, and social mores. Already Friedlander’s detailed reporting turned up tales of unhappy customers whose food didn’t resemble the pictures or quality they saw online (I asked CloudKitchens for comment yesterday and they declined).
Those customers could leave negative reviews, but what’s to stop a ghost kitchen from opening and closing new virtual restaurants all the time to avoid bad ratings? And with the trouble we already have with fake reviews on Amazon and elsewhere, what’s to stop a ghost kitchen from enhancing its reputation with some ratings-gaming service? And the ease with which a ghost kitchen can flood the market with numerous virtual offerings in a category could overwhelm all the physical restaurants in the same category and put them out of business. How long until we see academic studies that the net economic effect of ghost kitchens is negative?
As ghost kitchens expand their haunts across the country, stay tuned for more strangeness, more controversy and, perhaps, more frights.
Sunday, April 11, 2021
Notations From the Grid (W-End Edition): Out & About in America
I spent much of today thinking about the Republican Party. Its roots lie in the immediate aftermath of the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in spring 1854, when it became clear that elite southern slaveholders had taken control of the federal government and were using their power to spread their system of human enslavement across the continent.
At first, members of the new party knew only what they stood against: an economic system that concentrated wealth upward and made it impossible for ordinary men to prosper. But in 1859, their new spokesman, Illinois lawyer Abraham Lincoln, articulated a new vision of government. Rather than using government power solely to protect the property of wealthy slaveholders, Lincoln argued, the government should work to make it possible for all men to get equal access to resources, including education, so they could rise to economic security.
As a younger man, Lincoln had watched his town of New Salem die because the settlers in the town did not have the resources to dredge the Sangamon River to increase their river trade. Had the government simply been willing to invest in the economic development that was too much for the willing workers of New Salem, it could have brought prosperity to the men who, for lack of investment, failed and abandoned their town. The government, Lincoln thought, must develop the country’s infrastructure.
Once in power, the Republicans did precisely that. After imposing the first national taxes, including an income tax, lawmakers set out to enable men to be able to pay those taxes by using the government to give ordinary men access to resources. In 1862, they passed the Homestead Act, giving western land to anyone willing to settle it; the Land-Grant College Act, providing funds to establish state universities; the act establishing the Department of Agriculture, to provide scientific information and good seeds to farmers; and the Pacific Railway Act, providing for the construction of a railroad across the continent to get men to the fields and the mines of the West.
In 1902, Republicans fascinated with infrastructure projects joined forces with southern Democrats desperate for flood control to pass the Newlands Reclamation Act. Under the act, the federal government built more than 600 dams in 20 western states to bring water to farmland. “The sound and steady development of the West depends upon the building up of homes therein,” President Theodore Roosevelt wrote. Water from the western dams now irrigates more than 10 million acres, which produce about 60% of the nation’s vegetables and 25% of its fruits (and nuts).
Democratic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt combined this focus on infrastructure development with the need for work relief programs during the Depression to create the 1933 Civilian Conservation Corps, which planted trees, built fire towers, built trails, stocked fish, and so on. In 1935, Congress created the Works Progress Administration. During its existence, it employed about 3 million workers at a time; built or repaired more than 100,000 public buildings, including schools and post offices; and constructed more than 500 airports, more than 500,000 miles of roads, and more than 100,000 bridges. It also employed actors, photographers, painters, and writers to conduct interviews, paint murals of our history, and tell our national story.
As the country grew and became more interconnected, pressure built for a developed road system, but while FDR liked the idea of the jobs it would produce, building the road fell to Republican President Dwight Eisenhower. Three years after he became president, Eisenhower backed the 1956 Federal-Aid Highway Act, saying, “Our unity as a nation is sustained by free communication of thought and by easy transportation of people and goods.” The law initially provided $25 billion for the construction of 41,000 miles of road; at the time, it was the largest public works project in U.S. history.
In America today, there is good news. The Biden administration has rolled out vaccines at a faster pace than anyone foresaw. Today, President Biden announced that health care workers have administered 150 million doses of the vaccine and, at an average of 3 million shots a day, they are on track to administer 200 million by his 100th day in office. He is moving the date for states to make all adults eligible for a vaccine from May 1 to April 19.
The vaccines have dovetailed with the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan from last month and the spring weather to speed up the economic recovery. Economists had expected a job gain of about 660,000 in March, but nonfarm payrolls actually rose by about 916,000. And now Biden has rolled out a dramatic new infrastructure proposal, the $2 trillion American Jobs Plan.
So why was I thinking about the Republicans today?
In this moment, Republican lawmakers seem weirdly out of step with their party’s history as well as with the country. They are responding to the American Jobs Plan by defining infrastructure as roads and bridges alone, cutting from the definition even the broadband that they included when Trump was president. (Trump, remember, followed his huge 2017 tax cuts with the promise of a big infrastructure bill. As he said, “Infrastructure is the easiest of all…. People want it, Republicans and Democrats.”) Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) warns that Biden’s plan is a “Trojan horse” that will require “massive tax increases.”
Biden has indeed proposed funding the Democrats’ infrastructure plan by raising taxes on corporations from their current rate of 21% to 28% (but before Trump’s 2017 tax cuts, that rate was 35%). It ends federal tax breaks for oil and gas companies, and it increases the global minimum tax—a tax designed to keep corporations from shifting their profits to low tax countries-- from 13% to 21%.
This is in keeping with our history. Americans since Lincoln have proudly used tax dollars to develop the country. During Eisenhower’s era, the corporate tax rate was 52% (and the top income tax bracket was 91%). The Newlands Act was designed to raise money through public land sales, but in 1928, when Congress authorized what would become Hoover Dam, the Bureau of Reclamation began to operate out of the government’s general funds.
But it was Lincoln’s Republicans who first provided the justification for investing in the nation. In the midst of the deadly Civil War, as the United States was hemorrhaging both blood and money, Republican lawmakers defended first their invention of national taxes. The government had a right to “demand” 99% of a man’s property for an urgent need, said House Ways and Means Committee Chair Justin Smith Morrill (R-VT). When the nation required it, he said, “the property of the people… belongs to the [g]overnment.”
The Republicans also defended developing the country. In a debate over the new Department of Agriculture, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee William Pitt Fessenden (R-ME), famous both for his crabbiness and for his single-minded focus on the war, defended the use of “seed money.” With such an investment, he said, the country would be “richly paid over and over again in absolute increase of wealth. There is no doubt of that.”
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