Why Globalization Still Matters In The Age of Trump

Why Globalization Still Matters In The Age of Trump

We keep hearing it from the President’s Twitter account: “Make America great again! America first!” 

The phrases are well-worn at this point, having been pounded into our heads since the summer of 2015, when Donald Trump first announced his candidacy in a speech replete with protectionist dogwhistles. At their core? A zero-sum vision of the world where every winner assumes the existence of loser, where companies ought to be punished for acting internationally instead of parochially, where our horizons ought to grow narrower and narrower with time.

It’s a situation we all need to cope with; the world has changed in ways very few people would have imagined just a year ago. Decade after decade of internationalization, following from the end of the Second World War, feels as though it’s ground to a halt, and the world feels very different than it did only a year ago. The first nativist shock to hit the West – the unexpected success of Brexit in 2016 – was rapidly followed by the accession of Donald Trump, of all people, to the most powerful office in the world, where protectionism and a go-it-alone mentality have become the norm (insofar as norms still exist in 2017). In such an environment, the souring of public sentiment against globalization cuts both left and right, though for wildly different reasons, and a retreat from the global marketplace is understandable, perhaps even easy.

But that’s exactly the wrong approach; globalization may be slowing, but it hasn’t quite ground to a halt. Popular attitudes would have you believe that all companies were operating on massive international scales, moving jobs and money across borders with utter ease; popular attitudes would also have you believe that our latter-day retreat from the world stage means that globalization is over. In fact, neither is true; not even the Great Depression shuttered international trade. A bump in the road is not the same as slamming on the breaks, and while we’ve learned – the hard way – that the trajectory of world history does not tend inexorably toward flat, accessible global markets, we are still moving in that direction, all things considered.

Food With Integrity: How Chipotle Can Escape a Mess of Its Own Making

Food With Integrity: How Chipotle Can Escape a Mess of Its Own Making

Chipotle has a problem as big as its famous overstuffed, lovingly-wrapped burritos.

In the wake of two years of negative headlines – dating back to the E. coli scare of 2015 that forced the company to stop selling pork products for months, and continuing on from incident to incident right through to a norovirus outbreak just last week – Chipotle is facing a massive brand crisis never before seen in the young company’s history, capping more than a decade of rapid expansion, high profitability, and profound customer loyalty with a dramatic fall back to Earth. It is almost Shakespearean that a company that built its entire public image around having fresh, healthy food – “Food with Integrity” was the slogan – would be brought low by a seemingly unstoppable barrage of health scares; no man born of woman could slay Macbeth, and Chipotle serves food made from only the best ingredients. But eventually, Birnam Wood will come to Dunsinane. It always does. Pride goeth etc. etc.

The story of Chipotle, up until the first E. coli outbreak, was one of triumph upon triumph. The chain burst out of Denver, Colorado and built a national empire within a few short years, to the point that Chipotles are as thick on the ground in Manhattan as Starbucks. With a delicious product, a unique aesthetic, and a strong social message that made its target crowd feel good about eating there over more traditional fast food, Chipotle pioneered the fast casual paradigm we’ve come to know and love. Suddenly, Chipotle was awash with cash, publicity, and goodwill, and used that to embark on massive growth, expanding from five-hundred restaurants in 2005 to over two-thousand – with almost five-hundred having opened in the last two years.

Democratizing Fitness: How Social Media is Transforming Exercise

Democratizing Fitness: How Social Media is Transforming Exercise

I’m not getting any younger. None of us are.

Up until a certain point, it’s actually pretty easy to ignore that fact. But once you’ve passed that point, well, suddenly you have to be a lot more aware of your body and how it’s doing. The classic Louis CK bit – “So, how long do I have to do these stretches till my arm is fixed?” “Oh, it’ll never be fixed. That’s just a thing that you do forever now” – comes immediately to mind; while still relatively healthy, I suffered a decade of lower back pain and then topped it off with shoulder surgery. I needed to change my habits to ensure I stayed relatively healthy and pain-free.

So, in the last year or so (actually 531 days if you check my instagram, but that’s really neither here nor there), I’ve begun to get very into fitness again thanks in no small part,  to the influence of my friend and personal trainer in New York City Leandro Carvalho. From the beginning of our relationship, he impressed on me the importance of not only keeping fit and eating healthy, but enjoying myself in the process as well, and encouraged me to take small steps in that direction.

Saving Uber from Itself

Saving Uber from Itself

There are two stories to Uber. Both matter.

The first story is this: Uber was founded in March 2009 by Travis Kalanick with a single, powerful idea: it shouldn’t be hard to hail a cab. Anyone living in a major metro area knows how important Uber and other ridesharing apps have become, rapidly turning street hails into a thing of the past. Powered by ubiquitous smartphone location tracking technology and fueled by nobody wanting to stand out in the rain waiting for that one taxithat’s not already taken, Uber erupted volcanically into the popular consciousness and quickly became a vital part of the informal infrastructure of cities around the world.

The second: Uber is a ruthless company that underpays its drivers, engages in troubling anticompetitive practices, is relentlessly opportunistic and profiteering to the point of jacking up fares in emergencies and breaking strikes in opposition to the President’s immigration ban, and fosters a toxic culture rife with worker exploitation and sexual harassment.

The second story is increasingly proving to be the dominant one.

Criticism of Uber and founder Kalanick is nothing new. From the outset, it drew criticism within the San Francisco area, where it first operated, for being essentially a service to keep rich people from interacting with the poor. Class issues have always been at the heart of Uber’s public persona; Kalanick is the sort who believes you get what you deserve and you deserve what you get, going so far as to berate one of his own drivers who complained that the pay structure had left him in severe debt. “You know what?” he said. “Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own shit. They blame everything in their life on somebody else.”

Fake News: Megyn Kelly, Alex Jones, and the Real-Life Impact of a Message

Fake News: Megyn Kelly, Alex Jones, and the Real-Life Impact of a Message

On December 4, 2016, a man named Edgar Welch walked into Comet Ping Pong, a pizza restaurant in Washington, DC, with a loaded AR-15 knockoff assault rifle and fired three shots. A man full of religious terror, Welch was attempting to investigate – although God only knows how he was planning to pull this off absent going in guns blazing like the Punisher – the existence of a purported child sex-trafficking ring that Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party were apparently masterminding, Da Vinci Code-style, through code words and symbols hidden in plain sight. 

A conspiracy theory that began on a white supremacist Twitter account and gained traction via well-known internet cesspool 4chan as most such dross seems to, the “pizzagate” conspiracy was an invented scandal given life and publicity by Alex Jones. He quickly picked up the story for InfoWars because, like other Glenn Beck-style folks before him, what ultimately matters for him is hurting his opponent and getting those revenue-generating clicks.

Jones’ insistence on lending credence to this story could easily have cost someone their life.

“Lending credence” is precisely what I want to discuss. This past week, the highly-anticipated and widely-criticized Megyn Kelly interview with the InfoWars founder and presidential confidante finally ran on NBC. Jones achieved outsize influence during the 2016 campaign as the “intellectual” leader of the MAGA crowd whose crowing could be counted on to be echoed by then-candidate and now-president Trump. He’s become, against all odds, a master at communicating exactly the wrong thing to exactly the right people, building an empire on lies, half-cocked conspiracy dreck, and paranoid ranting, for which there appears to be an audience of many millions.