The Weak Case Against Regulation

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Facebook faces the test of its young life. But arguments against regulation fail to understand the larger issues at play.


A scan of the past few days in FacebookLand yields nothing but bad news.

But there was a glimmer of hope in today’s news: Former Facebook board member and Zuckerberg mentor Donald Graham, once the scion of the Washington Post (that title now belongs to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos), argued in an Op Ed yesterday: “Don’t Regulate Facebook.” Why? Because “regulation is political” and politics should be kept away from platforms that support free speech.

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Can Government Be Nimble and the State Be Quick?

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NewCo Shift Forum 2018

Fixing government services isn’t rocket science. But it does require a fresh perspective and courageous public servants. Fortunately, Jennifer Pahlka is on the case.

Jennifer Pahlka from Code for America

Complaining about the government is easy. Doing something about it? Much, much harder. But that’s exactly what Jennifer Pahlka, founder of Code for America and former Deputy CTO of the White House, has managed to do. In this “High Order Bit” — a short, impactful talk laddered to Shift Forum themes, Pahlka explains her life’s work. Take the time to watch this video or read the transcript, edited for clarity below. It’s both maddening and inspiring, and will leave you rooting not only for Pahlka, but for the kind of systemic change her work reveals.

Jennifer Pahlka: I’m going to jump right into a story. It in fact also covers a little bit why the California model might be a model for the rest of the country.

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What’s The Chatham House Rule?

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And why do we use it at Shift Forum?


“When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.”

The Shift Forum operates under Chatham House Rule, a simple framework developed nearly a century ago by Anglo-American business and political leaders in the tumultuous aftermath of World War I. Chatham House, also known at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, is an independent think tank that takes as its mission to “To help build a sustainably secure, prosperous and just world, through informed debate, independent analysis, new policy ideas, and outreach to audiences.”

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California — Window to the Future

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Medium Premium Preview

If we’re lucky, the Golden State’s political present presages a future that will come to all of America in the next 15 years.

California adapted early to the challenges of the 21st century, by pioneering new and innovating ways forward in both politics and business. But before California became a progressive standard bearer, it had to endure an ugly political civil war. That’s the argument presented by Peter Leyden, founder & CEO of Reinvent. In his latest installment of “California Is the Future,” Leyden and partner Ruy Teixeira write that California’s demographics, technology adoption, and adaptation to immigration, globalization and climate change are harbingers of how the rest of the country will soon respond.

Leyden’s argument is that California’s political shift, a transition from backward looking conservatism to progressive liberalism that began about 15 years ago, is just getting started in America at large. Consequently, California’s current political stride will hit the rest of America over the next 15 years. This series is a data-driven exploration that seeks to prove that not only is President Trump the last gasp of the conservative era, but also seeks to demonstrate a new clear alternative to Trump and the Republicans — one that is thriving in California and ready for its national close up.

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Taming the Giants

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Photo by Rami Al-zayat on Unsplash

More people are getting vocal against the dominance of big tech—this is my selection of some of the most thoughtful pieces from the past week.

I’ve raised the questions on societal risks of the dominance of a handful of internet giants from the early days of starting my newsletter. It’s good that it is getting mainstream attention. My friends at The Economist have put together a must-read memo to the bosses of Amazon, Facebook and Google:

You are an industry that embraces acronyms, so let me explain the situation with a new one: “BAADD”. You are thought to be too big, anti-competitive, addictive and destructive to democracy.

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Who’s Bailed On Trump? A Trickle Becomes a Flood

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The White House’s List of Departures Keeps Growing. An Ongoing Tally…

Diego Cambiaso | Flickr

Steve Bannon’s departure feels like business as usual in an Administration plagued by scandals. But there’s nothing normal about a White House that has seen so many departures — forced or otherwise.

One can easily lose track, so we compiled the list for our readers. The people below have either resigned, been fired or moved into reduced roles. There may be more — so we’ll keep the list up to date.

  • Sally Yates was acting attorney general when fired on January 30th after refusing the enforce the Travel Ban.
  • State Department Official Patrick Kennedy resigned on January 25th after being asked to do so, along with three of his deputies. They represented decades of diplomatic experience.
  • Michael Flynn was the National Security Advisor when he resigned February 13th due to revelations around his relationship with Russia and Turkey.
  • U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara was fired March 11th after refusing to resign.
  • FBI director James Comey was fired May 9th while on a trip in Los Angeles. He learned of the news from a nearby television broadcast.
  • Communications director Michael Dubke offered his resignation on May 18th after serving for three months. There have now been several communications directors, the current one — Sarah Huckabee — is pegged as “interim.”
  • Walter Shaub was the Director of the Office of Government Ethics when he resigned on July 17th after reported clashes with the administration. On his way out, he accused the administration of being a “laughingstock.”
  • Sean Spicer resigned on July 21st after missing out on new role as Communications Director left vacant by Dubke, and in objection to the appointment of Anthony Scaramucci, who lasted 10 days.
  • Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, was moved onto a reduced role after attacking the press on July 21st.
  • Press aide Michael Short quits on July 25th before he could be fired by new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci.
  • Chief of Staff Reince Prebius was fired on July 28th.
  • Anthony Scaramucci was let go after 10 days in the job on July 31st, shortly after a colorful interview surfaced.
  • Manufacturing and Business Advisory Councils disband August 15th after a bizarre press conference where Donald Trump appears to take back his condemnation of hate groups. The dismantling of the councils happens after several members leave.
  • Chief Strategist Steve Bannon is fired on August 18th. Or, as he put it, he was released to “go to war.”
  • The president’s Art Council dissolves August 18th, while sending a colorful “Resist” message to the White House.
  • The Digital Economy Council members dissolve their group August 18th.
  • Megachurch Past A.R. Bernard steps down from the evangelical council.
  • Carl Icahn steps down as a special counsel to Trump after conflict of interests on August 19th.
  • On August 20th Trump Disbands the Federal Advisory Committee on climate change.
  • On August 22nd, Former U.S. Chief Data Scientist DJ Patil resigns from the National Infrastructure Advisory Council citing a lack of seriousness.
  • Daniel Kammen quits Trump’s science envoy with a secret message on August 23rd.
  • Several members of Trump’s Cybersecurity Advisers quit the council citing “Moral” reasons on August 25th.
  • On September 5th, Javier Palomares resigned from Trump’s diversity coalition after the President announced the end of DACA protection for those who immigrated as Children.
  • September 29th saw the resignation of health secretary, Tom Price, amid allegations of uncontrolled travel expenses.
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The Amazon Antitrust Bandwagon Begins to Roll

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The NewCo Daily: Today’s Top Stories

Carl Malamud | Flickr

Antitrust fights in the tech industry have always been problematic. Software is a “non-rival” good — additional copies cost nothing to produce, and one person possessing it doesn’t exclude another — so monopolies don’t feel like such a big problem, and the industry changes so quickly that monopolies tend to be fleeting. The last big antitrust battle in tech, the 1990s-era case against Microsoft, created a lot of sound and fury but mostly succeeded in distracting, rather than dismantling, its target.

Nonetheless, Amazon’s deal to buy Whole Foods has raised a whole new wave of antitrust talk — like this in-depth discussion in The Yale Law Journal, or this essay by Oliver Staley in Quartz that compares Amazon founder Jeff Bezos to John D. Rockefeller.

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Why Tech Leaders Are Trooping Trumpward Again

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The NewCo Daily: Today’s Top Stories

Paul Sableman | Flickr

“Tech Week” for the Trump administration begins today — although if the effort to set a policy agenda is as ineffectual as the recent “Infrastructure Week,” this might be the last thing you hear about it. Tech CEOs — many of the same faces who trooped to Trump Tower last December, including Apple’s Tim Cook, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Alphabet/Google’s chairman Eric Schmidt, and a host of others (but no one, apparently, from Facebook) — are gathering at the White House under the auspices of Trump son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner’s American Technology Council (Tony Romm in Recode).

This week, Kushner is slated to bring peace to the Middle East while he also interviews a bevy of lawyers to protect him from the widening net of the Russian election-interference investigation. So he might be a little busy. But the Tech Week agenda is packed too, with issues like modernizing gov tech, cyber-security, and high-skilled immigration. Cook and others will reportedly also raise the topics of privacy and human rights (Axios). We’ll see how far that gets.

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Trump’s Plan to Privatize Air Traffic Control Has Some Bugs

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The NewCo Daily: Today’s Top Stories

Cory Watts | Flickr

It’s true that the technology used by the U.S. air traffic control system is antiquated. In fact, the system’s repeated failed efforts to modernize have become the gold standard of epic tech failures, the Hundred Years’ War of the digital age. Still, that record doesn’t give an automatic free pass to any upgrade plan, and President Trump’s new proposal to privatize the system raises some tough questions.

Trump wants to hand the entire system over to a private company, which theoretically will be able to solve the problems that have bedeviled the current regime. But, but, but: The new company will still have to meet FAA standards, so it’s not as if it would get some magical anti-red-tape powers (even if we wanted such a thing in the realm of air safety). The hope is that private industry has the knowhow to pull off a massive tech upgrade that the public sector has fumbled. The reality is that big airlines like British Airways, Delta, and Southwest keep experiencing massive software failures themselves.

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In Startup World, Fat Is the New Lean

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The NewCo Daily: Today’s Top Stories

Tripp | Flickr

For a decade, the concept of the “lean startup” ruled in tech. Under the gospel according to Eric Ries, you would spend modest sums to bring customers a “minimum viable product” — typically, one made out of software — as fast as possible, exposing your idea to market forces and feedback to avoid costly early-cycle mistakes.

Lean startups taught us plenty of lessons, but the times are changing, writes Farhad Manjoo in The New York Times, and now we’re entering the era of the “fat startup.” A fat startup is one that’s tackling a real-world challenge that demands major resources from the very beginning. Manjoo’s model example is a firm called Opendoor that makes offers to buy homes sight unseen, makes purchases with fast deal closings and then resells the homes itself. Opendoor aims to add liquidity to the real estate market and certainty and convenience for homeowners who need to sell.

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