Andrew Leonard

Thomas Friedman's Latest NYT Piece Reads Like an Airbnb Ad

This is unfortunate. Tom Friedman, a New York Times op-ed columnist who wrote a pretty good book on the Middle East 25 long years ago, and who considers basically the entire world to be his beat, chose one of the most dramatically news-packed weeks in recent historical memory to publish a press release for Airbnb.

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The New Age of Global Paranoia: Russia, Ukraine, and the Plane Crash

The catastrophic destruction of any passenger jet always hits a hot nerve of modern existential angst. The reality of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, shot down while en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur with around 300 passengers and crew, is infinitely worse. The speed with which both the Ukrainian government and Russian-backed separatists denied responsibility — and accused each other of being the guilty party — tells us something critical. The course of history turns on events like these. How blame gets apportioned can swing the fate of nations.

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The 1 Percent’s Increasingly Popular Way of Buying Whatever They Want Before We Can - Online Scalping

Maybe we’re just easily annoyed in Northern California. The froth of our rage over Monkey Parking — an app that auctions off public parking spots — had barely begun to subside and then along came ReservationHop, an outfit that makes phony reservations at “hot” restaurants and then sells them at a premium to the general public. And we got all worked up, all over again.

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Libertarians’ Sneaky New Crusade

Over the past six years in Oakland, California, a woman named Asiya Wadud has organized a community effort to share the produce of local, privately owned fruit trees. In the East Bay, fruit from that fig or Meyer lemon tree in the backyard often goes to waste at harvest time. In “Forage Oakland,” Wadud created a structure that encourages those who have to easily share their bounty with those who don’t. There’s no profit incentive, and signing on to the project turns out be a great way to meet your neighbors.

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Death of a Libertarian Fantasy: Why Dreams of a Digital Utopia Are Rapidly Fading Away

There is no mystery why libertarians love the Internet and all the freedom-enhancing applications, from open source software to Bitcoin, that thrive in its nurturing embrace. The Internet routes around censorship. It enables peer-to-peer connections that scoff at arbitrary geographical boundaries. It provides infinite access to do-it-yourself information. It fuels dreams of liberation from totalitarian oppression. Give everyone a smartphone, and dictators will fall! (Hell, you can even download the code that will let you 3-D print a gun.)

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The Tech Industry’s God Complex is Getting Out of Control

The Greeks had a word for this, I thought, as I worked my way through Marc Andreessen’s most recent epic tweet storm.

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Amazon's Scorched-Earth Campaign: Why the Internet Giant Started a War

Here’s what monopoly power means: If you’re Amazon, you can ignore the public relations hits that come with blistering front-page stories in the New York Times and stinging opinion pieces,and continue blithely about your business.

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Say Goodbye to TV’s Golden Age: Why Comcast’s Rise and Net Neutrality’s Downfall Will Change Everything

Viewers be warned! The golden age of television is coming to an end, and here’s how it’s going to happen: An unholy cabal of judges, government regulators and “cord-cutting” millennials will decapitate it. Like the similarly beheaded Ned Stark, on HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” we will miss it dearly when it’s gone.

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Airbnb’s Big Bait-and-Switch

Airbnb was in court in New York on Tuesday, battling with the state attorney general over the question of how much information about its “hosts” the company should be required to reveal to the state. The case has attracted much attention, because New York is simultaneously one of Airbnb’s biggest markets, and its most fiercely fought battleground with regulators. There’s plenty at stake — not least of which is Airbnb’s brand-new $10 billion valuation, following a $500 million round of investment that closed last week. In 2013, Airbnb pulled in $250 million in revenue from its thousands of hosts. That’s real money.

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Three Reasons Why You Should Keep Gmail far Away from Your Credit Card Information

Google wants your money. Or, more precisely, Google wants your bank account and credit card info.

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Google Glass, Techno-Rage and the Battle For San Francisco's Soul

In San Francisco, the tech culture wars continue to rage. On April 15, Google opened up purchases of its Google Glass headgear to the general public for 24 hours. The sale was marked by mockery, theft and the continuing fallout from an incident a few days earlier, when a Business Insider reporter covering an anti-eviction protest had his Glass snatched and smashed.

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Google Joins the Kochs in Pumping Funds into the Conservative George Mason University

Here’s how the free market works. Libertarian think tanks get paid by private corporations to host conferences designed to push industry-friendly regulation. It’s a beautiful thing to watch.

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Author Michael Lewis Hits Back at Critics of 'Flash Boys'

Michael Lewis sits down for lunch at the Claremont Hotel in Oakland, Calif., looking like a man who is well-satisfied with the state of his current affairs. It’s easy to understand why. Lewis has an impressive publishing history, dating back to “Liar’s Poker” in 1989 and including “Moneyball,” “The Blind Side” and “The Big Short.” But right off the bat he tells me that that in its very first week, his new book, “Flash Boys,” has already sold more than 130,000 copies. That’s more than twice the sales, he says, of his previous high mark, “The Big Short.”

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Big Brother Is In Your Spotify: How Music Became the Surveillance State’s Trojan Horse

Here’s how the surveillance state consolidates control: Living in “the cloud” — where all our pertinent data is stored on computer servers operated by the likes of Google and Amazon and Microsoft — becomes too seductive to avoid and too cheap not to afford.

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8 Ways Corporate Greed Is Perverting the Idea of the 'Sharing Economy'

Here’s a new term you’ve probably heard recently: “The sharing economy.”

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Amazon, Applebee’s and Google’s Job-Crushing Drones and Robot Armies: They’re Coming for Your Job Next

Alienation comes easy when you stumble into the glare of a modern airport off a red-eye flight. Bleary-eyed after three hours of fitful sleep, unready for the dawn, I did not know what to make of the bewildering sea of iPads that surrounded me on all sides.

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Amazon: Threat or Menace?

On one thing, both friends and enemies of Jeff Bezos can agree: He is a long-term thinker. This has been true, we learn from Brad Stone’s illuminating new book on Amazon, “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon,” since at least as far back as high school. In his valedictorian speech the young Bezos discussed “his dream of saving humanity by creating permanent human colonies in orbiting space stations while turning the planet into an enormous nature preserve.”

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Click Here to Save a Life, for Real

The “conference room” in the San Francisco office the crowd-funding healthcare start-up Watsi shares with two other fledgling companies is a Silicon Valley cliché. There’s a ping-pong table and a couple of chairs and that’s it.

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Would We Be Better Off Without the Internet?

“If I could, I would repeal the Internet,” wrote Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson on June 30. “It is the technological marvel of the age, but it is not — as most people imagine — a symbol of progress. Just the opposite. We would be better off without it.”

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Obama’s Unparalleled Spy State

Now we know for sure: The Obama administration has presided over the most thorough expansion of the domestic surveillance state of any U.S. presidency. Even as the nation was still absorbing the news, broken by Glenn Greenwald at the Guardian on Wednesday night, that the National Security Agency has been routinely collecting phone call records for millions of Americans, the Washington Post and the Guardian published articles revealing even broader government snooping powers: Since 2007, the NSA and the FBI have had the power to watch nearly every aspect of our online life as well.

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Professors Testing New Technology that Monitors When Students Read Their Textbooks

It’s never a good sign when Orwellian dystopia is cited in connection with a commercial product, even when the intent is laudatory. In the third paragraph of a New York Times story about CourseSmart, a Silicon Valley start-up that helps professors monitor whether students are reading their digital textbooks, Tracy Hurley, the dean of the school of business at Texas A&M, says, “It’s Big Brother, sort of, but with a good intent.”

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Republicans Declare War on College

Are you crazy? The Internet will definitely ruin college!

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Apple's Next Market: Your Body

Do I want an iWatch? Do you? And if I do decide to adorn my wrist with an Apple computer, should I go full hog and accessorize it with a pair of Google glasses that grant me online access with just a twitch of my eyeballs?

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Disney's Creepy New Surveillance Tool

The Mark of the Beast is coming… to Walt Disney World. According to The New York Times, Disney plans to roll out a new system — “MyMagic+” — that will enable the company to more effectively gather data on customer activities. All in pursuit of the the goal, of course, of improving the amusement park experience for Disney customers.

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The Surveillance State High School

Liberals and conservatives alike are up in arms about the story of Andrea Hernandez, a Texas high school sophomore who is refusing to wear a student ID card embedded with an RFID (radio frequency identification) chip. And, well, they should be; there is much cause for outrage. But most people seem to be missing the real story: Our pathetic national unwillingness to properly fund our public schools is the real root of this latest manifestation of surveillance state evil.

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Capitalism’s Grossest Win: The Final Triumph of Black Friday

For wily veterans of a decade of Black Friday doorbuster sales, 2012 was the year that the last semblance of a boundary between the actual day of Thanksgiving and the formal commencement of the holiday shopping season finally collapsed. It wasn’t just the decision by some of the biggest retailers to move their opening hours earlier than ever before. For many customers, the exact time when the doors were unlocked was irrelevant, because Thanksgiving had already become completely subsumed in shopping mania. What difference does it make if the doors open at 8 p.m. or midnight, if you were already in line days earlier?

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Wall Street Moguls Whine About How Tough Their Lives Are With Obama Win

Who is ready to shed a tear for Wall Street? The moguls bet big, and lost. Now, if we are to believe their whining, they are preparing to pay the piper.

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Why Iowa's Got a 1% Percent Problem

Since 2009, report Bloomberg’s Tim Jones and Elizabeth Campbell, “the top 1 percent of Americans captured 93 percent of real income growth, compared with 65 percent during the recovery from the 2001 recession, according to an analysis by Emmanuel Saez, an economist at the University of California at Berkeley.”

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Romney and Ryan's Economic Plan: Don't Do Anything That Would Help the Economy!

In the arcane world of Fed-watching, last week’s uninspiring labor report appears to have achieved the near-impossible: the likelihood of real action on the economy. In response to sluggish economic growth and persistently high unemployment, there is a widely shared expectation that Ben Bernanke is about to unleash a third round of economy-juicing asset purchases — aka “QE3.” And as is the case with any kind of government action designed to directly boost the U.S. economy, the Romney-Ryan campaign disapproves.

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