Monthly Archives: December 2003

Books: A Rage for Justice: The Passion and Politics of Phillip Burton

Book review:
A Rage for Justice: The Passion and Politics of Phillip Burton
by John Jacobs

Phil Burton dominated San Francisco politics for over two decades. First as a member of the California Assembly and then as its Congressman (the seat that Nancy Pelosi now holds). The Burton machine still controls much of SF today.

Burton defined liberal activism — though his win-at-all costs turned off many influential people.

A Rage for Justice details the life of Phil Burton and also the lives of his allies including John Burton (his brother and now California Senate Majority Leader), Willie Brown (former Speaker of the California Assembly and now outgoing Mayor of San Francisco), Congressmen Berman and Waxman, and many others.

The author goes a long way to deconstructing Burton. Though for all of Burton’s good intentions, you cannot help hating this rude and obnoxious guy after reading the book. But whether you are liberal or conservative, the good-government reforms that Burton proposed (and almost enacted) where terrifically well thought out and good for the country. Unfortunately for Burton, his personality never let him enact these reforms. Ironically, it wouldn’t be until 1995, when the Burton reforms (featured prominently in the Contract with America) were shoved through the Congress by Newt Gingrich.

Nowhere in Africa

Nowhere in Africa is the best movie I have seen in a very long time …

It is a German movie about a Jewish family that escapes Nazi persecution by fleeing to Kenya.

i don’t want to give up too much of this movie — but i highly suggest you see it.

There Is No Consolidation…Period. :: AO

AlwaysOn Network published my latest piece entitled: “There Is No Consolidation…Period.” today.

Here it is:

There Is No Consolidation…Period.
Auren Hoffman maintains that from bank services to music, consumers have more choices than ever before.

In October, I published a controversial piece on AlwaysOn proposing that the idea of media consolidation in America is a bunch of baloney.

I started thinking about it more and realized that the media industry is not some anomaly. In fact, there is actually more competition in virtually every industry today than there was thirty years ago.

U.S. consumers and businesses have more choices when buying products than they ever did before. That competition translates into lower prices, better features, and higher quality. Sometimes, it even translates into better customer service.

Let’s take the banking industry, for example. There are those who decry the massive consolidation in the financial services sector. But the facts speak otherwise. Though Bank of America and Wells Fargo have acquired many of the regional banks in San Francisco, many new players (Washington Mutual, Citibank, E-Trade, PayPal, Charles Schwab, et cetera) have entered the market, causing fierce competition. Today consumers have literally thousands of different banks to choose from, with a multitude of ways to access their accounts, specifically via branch, ATM, telephone, mail, or the Internet.

While there ARE fewer banks in the United States than there were 30 years ago, the average consumer has access to more of them, and to the vast array of services these institutions now provide at a fraction of the previous cost.

Another example is the computer industry. Although operating systems are dominated by Microsoft, consumers do have options. Linux is fast becoming the operating system of choice for many users. And, of course, competition in the personal computer market allows consumers to exert a massive influence on hardware manufacturers.

Many industries will go through brief periods of reduced choices for consumers only to be followed by massive ingenuity and demand. This fresh, new perspective on the old industry can lead to more options for consumers. Today, the best example of this is the music industry, which recently has consolidated but is seeing CD prices drop rapidly. And though the industry outwardly says that the pressures are due to Napster-like piracy, most music insiders acknowledge that the lower prices are a response to the booming after-market for used CDs that have become so prevalent on eBay and other online stores.

Some other quick examples:

* Entrepreneurs can now get money from thousands of different venture capital firms, angels, and lending institutions.

* Children, for the first time in centuries, now have cheaper alternatives for education with the advent of charter schools and for-profit institutions like Sylvan Learning Centers.

* Want to buy a home? The Multiple Listing Service and the Internet give you access to more homes than ever before. So even though there are technically fewer real estate brokerage firms, there is nevertheless far more competition.

I tried to think of at least one industry that has really consolidated. Finally, I came upon the manufacturers of long-haul passenger airplanes. Boeing and Airbus dominate the market—especially after Boeing’s acquisition of McDonnell Douglas a few years back. But here too, competition is on the upswing. JetBlue recently ordered 100 jets from Embraer, a Brazillian jet maker; Bombardier Aerospace of Canada just won a lucrative contract with All Nippon Airways; and AVIC-1 of China is selling to Shanghai Airlines and Hainan Airlines.

I expect this trend to continue for another thirty years. We should count on more competition, more consumer choices, more ingenuity, falling prices, and better customer service. Because there is no consolidation…period.

sleeping and productivty

Many people sleep 8 hours per day — that means you have 16 hours left in a day. Assuming about an hour/day is non-productive (getting ready to going to bed, waking up, etc), you have only 15 hours of productivity in your day.

If a person gets only 6 hours of sleep, she has an extra two hours of productivity per day … or 13.33% more time. Over a year, that translates to an additional 49 days! Imagine having an extra 49 days to do whatever you want … or start whatever projects you want.

Over a decade it is 490 days — or an additional 1.34 years! That’s an incredible amount of time one spends sleeping an additional amount. For some, those extra two hours of sleep are essential. For others, it is only a crutch and can be slowly worked into one’s rest patterns.

Young Success Means Early Death

Young Success Means Early Death

This study does not bode well for early over-achievers:

McCann’s research, published in the February issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, concerns what he calls the ”precocity-longevity hypothesis.” McCann analyzed the lives of 1,672 U.S. governors who served between 1789 and 1978 and found that those who were elected at relatively tender ages generally died earlier than their less precocious counterparts. Even when he controlled for the year that the governors were born, how long they served and what state they governed, the pattern held. No matter how he sliced the data, ran the regressions or accounted for various statistical biases, the story remained the same: governors elected to office at younger ages tended to have shorter lives.