Why Amazon Failed in New York


HQ2: Understanding What Happened & Why

This piece, written by Barry L. Ritholtz, the co-founder and chief investment officer of Ritholtz Wealth Management LLC, is the best piece I’ve read yet about the real reasons that Amazon ditched its planned New York HQ. The fault lies not in ours stars but in mistakes made by Jeff Bezos.

A fascinating and comprehensive read.

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Why I Quit Facebook

One thing I have is a lot of opinions (as you may have guessed). And as a columnist for 20 to 25 years, I could express those opinions on a regular basis, 3 times a week, sometimes as often as five times a week in the early days. But as I grew older, and moved away from daily journalism, I found that I was missing that little shot of adrenaline you received every time a column bearing your name appeared in print or online.

Not to mention I was a lot busier now. I didn’t have a full-time journalism job anymore and so I found work in other places. At that time, those jobs did not permit me to create and regularly update my own website. Besides, I found I had little appetite at that time for the 600- to 800-word daily opus ground out by columnists everywhere.

And that’s when I found Facebook.

Here was a way I could express my opinions in a public forum to a relatively large group of people in a very quick fashion. I had about 500 friends and acquaintances that I could reach through Facebook and I was happy expressing my opinions to them. I knew they frequently passed them onto a larger audience. I joined a Facebook group devoted to political conversation. My views got me kicked off once but my fellow group members made such a racket the moderators were forced to return me to the group. I truly was very humbled by their actions.

Even better, Facebook was allowing me to have those little jolts of satisfaction that I used to get from column writing.

Facebook was really the only form of social media I used. I had abandoned Twitter several years ago because to me Twitter is just a place where idiots go to sound stupid. If everybody could use twitter like Alex Ocasio-Cortez, I might feel differently. Alas, people don’t use it that way, as is shown by the drivel produced by our president on a daily basis. Besides, I had more to say then you could put into 140 or now 280 characters.

I loved the way Facebook allowed me to reach out and touch my friends and other family members in faraway places. I reconnected with many people I had not seen or heard from in decades. I enjoyed the news articles posted on Facebook by media organizations of all stripes.

So why did I quit?

Facebook is like a drug. And the people that operate Facebook lie to you, use you for their own purposes, and they say they’ll do things differently in the future when they don’t. Not to mention what a particular danger to democracy Facebook has turned out to be.

And Zuckerberg, well, all he really cares about is the Benjamins. He can appear in front of Congress, do a little dance, baffle them with bullshit, and move on without really changing anything. Oh sure, Facebook made a few cosmetic changes, perhaps a few less Russian trolls will be able to use Facebook. But what about what they’re doing with all your private information, the way they are using it, the way they’re selling it, often in ways they told you that they wouldn’t?

I’m not a Luddite I had my first Internet account in 1992. I put the first newspaper on the web in Canada in 1993/94. I helped build the original website of the Christian Science Monitor in 1995/96. I was the executive director of the Online News Association for several years. I won an award for my contributions to the development of online media.

I love technology. I just don’t love it when it’s used in the wrong ways.

As the trickle of negative stories about Facebook became a tsunami, I found myself increasingly uneasy about using it. Like a person who smokes too much, several times I told myself, well, I’ll stop soon. But just like any drug addict, I kept right on going.

Then one day, in the midst of a Facebook post, I stopped and thought “What the hell am I doing? I think these Facebook people are scum. Why am I supporting these sleazy, lying creeps?”

And that was it. The dam was broken. I informed my Facebook friends that I was leaving, collected email addresses from those folks I want to stay in touch with, announced a date for my departure. And when that date arrived, I left.

It’s been just over a month. I won’t lie, there are days when I see a story that tweaks my interest and I wish I could just jump online and expound about it at length. When I told one of my friends that I was leaving she said “Oh you’ll be back. I don’t know anybody who has left who hasn’t come back.”

Maybe. But there will have to be new ownership. And have much more rigorous protections around privacy. It’ll have to be run by a group of people care more about democracy than care about profit. I just don’t see that happening any time soon, if ever

In the meanwhile, I’m doing this. I know I don’t have the same number of people reading this as I did reading my daily Facebook posts but I really don’t care. I realized in the end that I was just doing it for myself anyways. And you’d be surprised how much free time you have when you are no longer doing Facebook, constantly checking it, constantly posting comments and stories.

I feel pretty good about walking away from Facebook. This must be what it feels like when someone kicks cigarettes or some other drug habit. A tiny sense of regret, a large dose of relief.

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On Being a Boston Sports Fan

It was the best of times… And has kind of stayed the best times, to be honest.

I am among the most despised of human beings. I am a Boston sports fan. I love the Red Sox and the Bruins and cheer for the Patriots and the Celtics.

For me, there is only one sport that really counts and that’s baseball and as a Canadian, I grew up loving the Montréal Expos. (Although I always have always despised the Toronto Blue Jays.) In my youth, I flirted with being a Yankees’ fan. This was largely due to the fact the first movie I ever saw was 1962’s Safe at Home, a story about a kid who loves the Yankees so much that he runs away to join the team.

But that flirtation vanished the moment the Expos appeared. When the Expos finally died in the mid-90s and the franchise was moved to Washington (I like but really do not care for the Nationals) I happened to be living in Boston and so my affiliation drifted to the Red Sox. In those days the Red Sox, well, stunk. Better days were ahead but in 1994 the Sox were the perennial disappointment they had always been.

I loved the Bruins because of father’s and uncle’s affiliation with the team. In the 50s, before hockey became unionized, players’ salaries were nothing to write home about. Therefore professional teams would do barnstorming tours across Canada. My dad and my uncle arranged for the Bruins to do such a tour in Nova Scotia in the late 50s. As a result, my wall was plastered with pictures of Milt Schmidt, Bronco Horvath and John Bucyk (who remain my favorite player until he retired in the late 70s). In my books, the greatest hockey player ever is Bobbie Orr, not Wayne Gretzky. I can remember lying in my bed at night with my little transistor radio when we lived in Saint John, New Brunswick, tuning the radio so I can hear a distant and scratchy broadcast of the Bruins games.

I’m not much of a football fan, but I kind of fell into liking the Patriots because I lived in Boston and they were the Boston team. Growing up I had been an Ottawa Roughriders fan and I really didn’t care much about the NFL and truth be told, I still don’t. For instance, I haven’t seen the last few appearances of the Patriots in the Super Bowl (there have been so many it’s hard to remember which ones in particular) because I was busy doing things with my family. I was glad when the Patriots won but it wasn’t super important to me. Not like the Red Sox.

Which brings me to the past 20 years. As an Expos fan and then as a Red Sox fan I was familiar with losing, sometimes in heartbreaking fashion. (Damn you Rick Monday!) But when the Pats won in 2001, 2003 and 2004 and then the Red Sox broke the curse in 2004 (although coming back from three down to the Yankees was perhaps the best moment) it’s been nothing but gravy.

I would’ve been happy with the World Series victory over the Dodgers this year. But it looks as if fate has decided that it’s necessary for a Boston team to beat a Los Angeles team in a championship game once again this sports calendar.

Several years ago, a friend who worked for ESPN told me that after the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011, ESPN the magazine had planned to feature a story abut how many championships the Boston teams had collected over the previous decade. The picture that the magazine originally wanted to use on the cover showed a fist with the middle finger erect and on that finger a championship ring of each of the four Boston teams. While I cannot think of a better picture that describes the attitude of Boston fans towards the rest of the country than that one, ESPN decided to just use a regular fist with four fingers erected with a ring on each finger.

It was the best of times…And it will probably stay that way for a while yet.

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Democrats Know How to Play Dirty Tricks Too – Musings, 12/27/18

[Illustration by Georgia Democrats, Creative Commons]

Internet billionaire Reid Hoffman apologizes for funding a group tied to disinformation in Alabama race

And they don’t like being caught doing it any more than the Russians or the Republicans did.

Apparently, a pro-Democrat research firmed used “Russian-like disinformation tactics” during the Alabama Senate race between Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones (Jones apparently had no idea this was being done). And these dirty Russian like tactics were done by none other than the firm that presented a major report on the Russian disinformation campaign to the Senate.

This disinformation campaign was apparently funded by Internet billionaire (anytime I see Internet billionaire I always get suspicious) Reid Hoffman, co-founder of Linked In who was throwing around a lot of money to support democratic causes. He apologized for supporting this one in particular but offered no real details about the actual campaign itself.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Leave it up to the Democrats to shoot themselves in the foot while at the same time finding a way to make Vladimir Putin and his Russian thugs seem less ominous. I don’t know who okayed this particular operation but whoever it was needs to have his goddamn head examined. Idiot.

LeBron James apologises for ‘Jewish money’ Instagram post

LeBron James said that when he posted the lyrics from a song by 21 Savage he thought it was a “compliment.” LeBron James is no dummy so I fail to see how he could think that any reference to the term “Jewish money” is a compliment when it reinforces an anti-Semitic stereotype that stretches back centuries. Republican politicians and right-wing talking heads have been using it lately to smear Jews like George Soros.

Maybe he really didn’t know. But I hate the “I’m sorry if I offended anybody” nature of his apology. How about just saying “I screwed up and used a really anti-Semitic reference that did offend a lot of people.” And then using his massive bully pulpit to explain to people why it’s anti-Semitic. At this moment in history, with the Pittsburgh shooting so fresh in our memories and regular attacks on Jews in the U.S., it could’ve made a big difference if he had handled in the right way.

But he’s LeBron James. So he gets to skate. The NBA accepted his explanation that it was a mistake. ESPN carried a short piece about the comment, no doubt not wanting to upset one of America’s biggest sports stars. While this story may fade in a day or two, you have to wonder if LeBron’s posting the remarks, followed by his weak apology. will linger. Millions of young people pay attention to what he does and says. As this piece in SB nation puts it, will there be people who now think it’s okay to make allusions to “Jewish money” because LeBron did?

The Dollar Store Backlash Has Begun

An interesting piece about the boom of Dollar Stores across the United States and what it says about the real economy – not the one followed by billionaires on Wall Street, but the one everyday people live in. Basically, the article argues that if a Dollar Store appears in your neighborhood that means your neighborhood is in economic trouble.

Trump Brags To Troops About A Fictional Giant Pay Raise He Got Them

Because he’s Donald Trump and because lying is as natural to him as breathing is to most human beings, President Screw-Up couldn’t help himself when he went to visit U.S. troops in Iraq over Christmas. First, I’m glad he went to visit the troops. That’s a good thing. But rather than quietly and humbly (ha ha) thanking the men and women who put their lives on the lines for America every day, he tried to make the event all about himself by bragging that he had got them their first pay raise in a decade and it was a 10% pay increase!

Lies, damn lies and pretty poor statistics.

First, the military receives a pay increase every year. So the last time the military got a pay increase was last year, not a decade ago. And the pay increase they are receiving this year is 2.6%, not 10%. The people that I know in the American military watch their money pretty closely because we really don’t pay them very well. They are more than well aware of what is in their paychecks. They would know immediately that he was just gasbagging them. But Trump believes he can baffle the entire world with his bullshit.

By the way, that wasn’t the only screw-up that President Screw-up made. After his trip, he posted a video of his meeting with Seal Team Five, which had been deployed to Iraq. Only you’re not supposed to do that. Technically, as president of the United States, he can make any secret instantly not secret. But we all know he wasn’t thinking that.

Instead he posted a video that revealed the identities of members of a special operative squad. People who actually pay attention to things like security say that the president’s actions would normally be viewed as a violation of operational security because it endangers the lives of the members of that team. Not that Donald Trump ever even thought about that for a second.

Americans Trust Clergy Less Than Ever, Gallup Poll Finds

With good reason. Catholic priests, bishops and cardinals do bad things to little boys and little girls. Evangelical clerics turn a blind eye to the many sins of Donald Trump in order to get the power that they want. There are many good people of faith in the United States. There may be even some in the clergy. But as the article above points out “a whole lot of really bad apples” spoil the bunch.

I do note that the group immediately below the clergy were journalists. We are unpopular because we tell people things they don’t want to hear. The clergy is unpopular because too many of them are liars and hypocrites. Like Congress, which finished last in the poll.

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