Consumers May Again Be Free to Choose an Incandescent Bulb

(p. A1) The Trump administration plans to significantly weaken federal rules that would have forced Americans to use much more energy-efficient light bulbs, a move that could contribute to greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.

The proposed changes would eliminate requirements that effectively meant that most light bulbs sold in the United States — not only the familiar, pear-shaped ones, but several other styles as well — must be either LEDs or fluorescent to meet new efficiency standards.

The rules being weakened, which dated from 2007 and the administration of President George W. Bush and slated to start in the new year, would have all but ended the era of the incandescent bulb invented more than a century ago.

. . .

The Trump administration said the changes would benefit consumers by keeping prices low and eliminating government regulation.

For the full story, see:

John Schwartz. “New Rollback To Ease a Ban On Old Bulbs.” The New York Times (Thursday, September 5, 2019): A1 & A15.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was last updated Sept. 6 [sic], 2019, and has the title “White House to Relax Energy Efficiency Rules for Light Bulbs.”)

U.S. Forest Service Regulations Delay Monitoring Signs of Volcanic Eruptions

(p. D1) On Mount Hood, “any little thing that happens could have a big consequence,” said Dr. Moran, scientist-in-charge at the federal Cascades Volcano Observatory.

And yet the volcano is hardly monitored. If scientists miss early warning signs of an eruption, they might not know the volcano is about to blow until it’s too late.

Determined to avoid such a tragedy, Dr. Moran and his colleagues proposed installing new instruments on the flanks of Mount Hood in 2014. Those include three seismometers to measure earthquakes, three GPS instruments to chart ground deformation and one instrument to monitor gas emissions at four different locations on the mountain.

But they quickly hit a major hiccup: The monitoring sites are in wilderness areas, meaning that the use of the land is tightly restricted. It took five years before the Forest Service granted the team approval in August.

The approval is a promising step forward, but Dr. Moran and his colleagues still face limitations, including potential legal action that may block their work.

Such obstacles are a problem across the United States where most volcanoes lack adequate monitoring. Although federal legislation passed in March could help improve the monitoring of volcanoes like Mount Hood, scientists remain concerned that red tape could continue to leave them blind to future eruptions, with deadly consequences.

For the full story, see:

Shannon Hall. “Eruptions of Red Tape.” The New York Times (Tuesday, September 10, 2019): D1 & D6.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 9, 2019, and has the title “We’re Barely Listening to the U.S.’s Most Dangerous Volcanoes.”)

If Steve “Jobs Had Lived, Disney and Apple Might Have Merged”

(p. B7) Mr. Iger believes that, if Mr. Jobs had lived, Disney and Apple might have merged.

. . .

He thinks that Mr. Jobs also could have helped steer Silicon Valley in a better direction. “Steve had quite a conscience.” Mr. Iger says. “It didn’t always manifest itself in his interpersonal relationships, but he had quite a conscience. Silicon Valley needs leaders.” The two men became so close that Mr. Jobs pulled Mr. Iger aside right before the announcement of the $7 billion Disney-Pixar deal to confide that his pancreatic cancer had come back and was now in his liver. Only his wife, Laurene, knew. Mr. Iger had to think fast; he rejected Mr. Jobs’s offer to back out of the deal.

For the full interview, see:

Maureen Dowd, interviewer. “The Slow-Burning Success of a Hollywood Nice Guy.” The New York Times (Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019): D1 & D6-D7.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the interview has the same date as the print version, and has the title “The Slow-Burning Success of Disney’s Bob Iger.”)

The book discussed in the interview is:

Iger, Robert. The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company. New York: Random House, 2019.

California Passes Statewide Rent Control

(p. A20) California lawmakers approved a statewide rent cap on Wednesday [Sept. 11, 2019] covering millions of tenants, the biggest step yet in a surge of initiatives to address an affordable-housing crunch nationwide.

The bill limits annual rent increases to 5 percent after inflation and offers new barriers to eviction, providing a bit of housing security in a state with the nation’s highest housing prices and a swelling homeless population.

. . .

“Caps on rent increases, like the one proposed in California or the one recently passed in Oregon, are part of a new generation of rent-regulation policies that are trying to thread the needle by offering some form of protection against egregious rent hikes for vulnerable renters without stymieing much-needed new housing construction,” said Elizabeth Kneebone, research director at the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at the University of California.

. . .

Even as more states begin to experiment with rent control, it has long existed in places like New York City, which intervened to address a housing shortage post-World War II, and San Francisco, where it was adopted in 1979.

Today it is common in many towns across New Jersey and in several cities in California, including Berkeley and Oakland, although the form differs by jurisdiction. Regulated apartments in New York City are mostly subject to rent caps even after a change in tenants, for example, while rent control in the Bay Area has no such provision.

In New York City, where almost half of the rental stock is regulated, a board determines the maximum rent increases each year; this year it approved a 1.5 percent cap on one-year leases, considerably lower than the limits passed in Oregon and California.

For the full story, see:

Conor Dougherty and Luis Ferré-Sadurní. “California Passes Statewide Rent Control in Effort to Ease Housing Crisis.” The New York Times (Thursday, September 12, 2019): A15.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the same date Sept. 11, 2019, and has the title “California Approves Statewide Rent Control to Ease Housing Crisis.” The online version says that the page of the New York print edition was A16. The page number in my National edition was A15.)

Chapter 4 on “The Benefits–New Goods” for Free Until Nov. 8, 2019

Until November 8, 2019, Oxford University Press is making available for free Chapter 4 of Openness for Creative Destruction: Sustaining Innovative Dynamism. The chapter is “The Benefits: New Goods.” You can download it as a PDF, and then save it or print it, from:

https://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/oso/9780190263669.001.0001/oso-9780190263669-chapter-4

Some Workers Seek to Unionize Brooklyn Food Co-op

(p. 29) Had you found yourself with nothing to read at any point this summer, the letters section of The Linewaiters’ Gazette, the bi-weekly newsletter of the Park Slope Food Coop, might have sated a certain narrative hunger. Serving a community of 17,000 members, The Gazette is a forum for news, grievance, debate, inquiry and perhaps above all, the expression of principle.

. . .

Given the seriousness with which the co-op takes matters of equity and justice, it surprised many members to learn that an effort on the part of some paid workers to unionize had not been going smoothly. Member owned and operated since its founding in the 1970s, the co-op permits only those who work a certain number of hours per month (behind the cash register, unloading delivery trucks, stocking oranges and so on) to shop there. It also employs about 75 people, all but 11 or so of whom receive an hourly wage.

How was it possible that these workers in an institution so famously aligned with the left were not already unionized? It was like imagining the Catholic Church without baptism. As one stunned member pointed out in his letter to The Gazette, the co-op is “literally on Union Street.”

Money is not what has motivated the movement. Many workers receive upward of $27 an hour, and health-insurance fees are not deducted from that pay. Instead, as Marc Thompson, who has been behind the effort to organize, told me, the problems have had more to do with strained dynamics between workers and supervisors and poor communication generally.

Another big issue is that the co-op is an “at will” shop, meaning that workers can be let go at any time for any reason, without managers having to offer cause. Although it rarely happens, the notion that such a scenario could play out has troubled certain employees. The last time someone was abruptly fired, it was because of theft, Mr. Holtz explained, and that was three years ago.

. . .

In a letter to The Gazette that appeared in May [2019], a group of workers representing the majority who oppose the union said they had “doubts that the traditional union model is the right fit for our very nontraditional workplace.” They were pro-union as a matter of political belief but thought that the co-op had “a rich history” of solving its own problems. Whatever was wrong could be handled within the family, in essence.

For the full story, see:

Ginia Bellafante. “BIG CITY; A Labor Rights Rift? Say It’s Not So, Park Slope Food Coop!” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, September 22, 2019): 29.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was last updated on Sept. 30 [sic], 2019, and has the title “BIG CITY; They Tried to Unionize the Park Slope Food Coop. Guess What Happened.” Above, I cite the title, section, and page number from my National print edition. Those may have been different in the New York print edition. Where there are differences in wording between the online and print versions, the passages quoted above follow the print version.)

Netflix’s Reed Hastings Was Blunt for the Sake of the Project

(p. B1) SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — Long before binge-watching, the streaming wars and “Netflix and chill,” there were two guys barreling down Highway 17 — the California roadway that connects Santa Cruz to Silicon Valley — trying to come up with the next big thing.

One was Marc Randolph, an entrepreneur and marketing specialist who had co-founded a start-up, Integrity QA. The other was Reed Hastings, then the head of the software company Pure Atria.

It was 1997. Mr. Randolph, whose start-up had been acquired by Pure Atria, did most of the pitching. Customized dog food, customized baseball bats, customized shampoo — all sold over the internet and delivered by mail.

Mr. Hastings was the one with the cash and the ability to shoot down ideas without worrying about hurt feelings.

They flirted with the notion of challenging Blockbuster Video with a mail-order videocassette business, only to decide that mailing VHS tapes would cost too much. Finally, they thought they had something: DVDs, sold and rented online and delivered to customers by mail.

Although few people had DVD players at the time, they forged ahead, with Mr. Randolph as the chief executive and Mr. Hastings (p. B5) as the chairman backing the operation.

. . .

Mr. Randolph describes an evening in 1998 when he got a big dose of Netflix’s radical honesty. It happened after a botched investor pitch and a promotion deal with Sony that went horribly wrong. Mr. Hastings asked to see Mr. Randolph alone and subjected him to a PowerPoint presentation detailing the reasons he was no longer fit to remain chief executive.

In the book, Mr. Randolph describes what he said in reaction to the surprise presentation: “‘There is no way I’m sitting here while you pitch me on why I suck.’”

Mr. Hastings closed his Dell laptop. By the end of the talk, Mr. Randolph was bumped down to president, and Mr. Hastings was the new chief executive. As part of the demotion, Mr. Hastings persuaded Mr. Randolph to give up some 650,000 stock shares, which reduced his Netflix stake to 15 percent.

“Doing it with a PowerPoint slide show perhaps wasn’t the most empathetic gesture,” Mr. Randolph said with a laugh. “But he was right.”

The episode, as described in the book, helps form a portrait of Mr. Hastings as someone whose bluntness results more from a sure sense of what a business needs than from an inner ruthlessness.

“What I really want from the book is to paint Reed as a real person,” Mr. Randolph said. “I hope it comes through that I have this tremendous respect and affection for him, as opposed to bitterness. Most people wouldn’t have had the strength to say that. But he recognized it was the right thing for the company.”

For the full review, see:

Nicole Sperling. “Pushing the Red Envelope: A Memoir of Netflix’s Birth.” The New York Times (Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019): B1 & B5.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date Sept. 18, 2019, and has the title “Long Before ‘Netflix and Chill,’ He Was the Netflix C.E.O.”)

The book under review is:

Randolph, Marc. That Will Never Work: The Birth of Netflix and the Amazing Life of an Idea. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2019.