Learning by Proxy | Media Mogul

When you think of those making big waves in the media business, do you think of the Obamas?

Media is not something you see former Presidents get involved in. But these are unprecedented times. How many times do you have a President ask people to attack his own government?

The Obamas are using their smarts to create media assets and why not? They have the appeal!

New Media, New Moguls

Obama was broke (not really, but you know…) before his presidency, he became quite affluent thereafter.

Trump (claims) to have been affluent before his presidency, he will certainly go broke.

Obama improved the influence that America had internationally. Even allies did not want to speak anymore with America after the Trump presidency.

Obama is the anti-Trump

Trump was a media celebrity before he went into his Presidency. No production house wants to touch him with a barge pole now.

Obama was an unknown commodity amongst the media even when he was a senator, he may well turn out to be a media mogul after his Presidency.

When Barack Obama decided to run for the Senate, his wife Michelle asked him “and how will we pay for this?” Barack, who had written an obscure title at the time called Dreams From My Father, said, “once this is over, I will write a book and the royalty from it will cover our costs.” He wrote The Audacity of Hope.

Barack Obama’s rise to the presidency was fuelled by his ability to understand and control media. Not just news media but also print, books, TV shows, etc. He used the same to canvass hard for the adoption of Obamacare.

Now that his presidency is over, he is looking to turn this into his financial legacy.

Both Michelle and Barack Obama have thrown all of their energies behind making money through media assets that they create.

Soon after the presidency was over, Michelle Obama released her memoir called ‘Becoming’ in 2018. The book sold over 2 million copies.

In the same year;

In May 2018, the Obamas launched Higher Ground Productions by signing a multi-year deal with Netflix to produce scripted and unscripted film and television projects, with the goal of the company to lift up diverse voices in the entertainment industry. Michelle Obama stated, “I have always believed in the power of storytelling to inspire us, to make us think differently about the world around us, and to help us open our minds and hearts to others.” In February 2019, Priya Swaminathan, Tonia Davis, and Qadriyyah “Q” Shamsid-Deen joined the company, with Swaminathan and Davis serving as co-heads, and Shamsid-Deen serving as a creative executive.

Source: Wikipedia

Higher Ground Productions released its first movie (documentary) on Netflix in August 2019 called American Factory. The documentary chronicles the setting up of a Chinese glass factory in America and the cultural clashes that break out. They also released another documentary about the disabled called Crip Camp. The book was turned into a movie, also called Becoming and distributed through Netflix.

While Netflix has remained the pillar for distribution of video content, the company also partners with Spotify to distribute The Michelle Obama Podcast. This was released in July 2020.

As the heated elections were coming to a close, Barack released his first of the two books describing his presidency called Promised Land.

Michelle Obama had campaigned hard for child nutrition as the first lady at the White House. Therefore, she is releasing a cooking show next called Waffles and Mochi on Netflix in March this year.

The new slate encompasses both TV and film projects, including a film adaptation of Mohsin Hamid’s critically acclaimed novel “Exit West” and a biopic on Tenzing Norgay, who was the first person to reach the peak of Mount Everest alongside Sir Edmund Hillary. The company is also prepping a U.S. National Parks docuseries and a series adaptation of the Angeline Boulley book “Firekeeper’s Daughter.”


Higher Ground Productions is co-led by Priya Swaminathan and Tonia Davis, along with Ada Chiaghana and Alex Pitz. The company expects to make additional project announcements in the coming months. Other recently announced projects include the animated pre-school series “Ada Twist, Scientist” and the hybrid comedy series “The G Word with Adam Conover.”

Source: Variety

The couple is working hard to ensure that they put a formidable lineup of content out there and they are just getting started. Also, in the print format, their only play till now has involved writing books. I am sure that there is much more to come. Also, the news is another thing that is completely broken. Would they have a potential answer?

This is going to be an interesting space to watch.



Burma was consolidated into a country over 3 centuries, starting in the 16th century. Then the British walked into the country in the 1880s and called it theirs. After the second world war, with their economy in tatters and their loot of the colonies complete, the British did not see a point in holding on to and administering the colonies.

Burma was granted independence in 1948 and it was named as such to represent the Barmar ethnic people. A democratic government was in place till 1962. After being under the military council for 12 years, the country got a constitution in 1974. While the military conducted elections in 1990, which Ang San Suu Kyi and NLD won; they decided not to accept the result.

In 2015, the country conducted fresh elections to move towards democracy. NLD won. According to the power transfer agreement, 25% of the legislators were supposed to be military appointments. This is also part of the reason Suu Kyi did not act against any of the military atrocities against the Rohingya. She knew she was hanging on to power by a thread.

In the elections held in 2020, the military legislators fell to 8%. This was unacceptable, and the military started calling the elections rigged. The military played Trump.

It was the military that wrote the constitution of the country in 2008. It must hurt when you make the rules and still lose at the game.

Then the pushback.

The speech and the army’s assertion prompted the United States embassy and diplomatic missions of 15 other countries and the European Union in Yangon to issue a joint statement “oppos[ing] any attempt to alter the outcome of the elections or impede Myanmar’s democratic transition”.

Myanmar’s democratic transition had been a work in progress. The results of the 2020 election, held during the pandemic, were being seen by the NLD as a mandate for its plan of constitutional reform, through which it aimed to do away with the military’s role in politics and governance. But this was never going to be easy, given the tight constitutional restrictions for amendments.

Source: Indian Express

People took to the streets, and hundreds were arrested.

And then the pushback to the pushback

China and Russia, on February 12, pulled out from a United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution regarding the situation in Myanmar due to the military coup.

The resolution was approved by consensus during a special session in Geneva. It called for the release of detained persons including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint. It also stressed on the need to refrain from stressed the need to refrain from violence and fully respect human rights, fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law.

Source: Reuters

For China, a lot of the rare earth metals that they need comes from Burma. The last thing that they would want is hostility. We are in the second week of protests and they do not seem to abate. Remains to be seen how the situation turns. The military on its part does not seem inclined to give up power.



I had attended a course called the Power of Stories to fuel Innovation conducted by Jennifer Aaker at Stanford University. One thing that she covers in the course is the subject of making a story viral. In her course, she used the example of an Indian in the US who needed a bone marrow transplant since he was suffering from Cancer. Given that the odds of a bone marrow match were 1:200,000 it was essential to get many people to come out and test for a match.

His wife started running drives looking for people willing to test and provide their bone marrow. To get the reach that was needed, she and her friends created a ‘toolkit’ which allows anyone to set up a sample collection centre, spread the word about it and get the samples. The toolkit would have email templates, poster templates, step-by-step guide to setting up a sampling drive, etc. The idea - if someone wants to help, make it as easy as possible for them to do so.

When the Chennai floods happened, there were kits like this distributed to help with food donation and support.

While I have not seen too many startups adopt this approach, I have seen a lot of activists take this up and one such activist was Disha Ravi.

Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code lays down the punishment for sedition. The Indian Penal Code was enacted in 1860, under the British Raj. Section 124A forms part of Chapter VI of the Code which deals with offences against the state. Chapter VI comprises sections from 121 to 130, wherein section 121A and 124A were introduced in 1870. The then British government in India feared that Muslim preachers on the Indian subcontinent would wage a war against the government. Particularly after the successful suppression of Wahabi/Waliullah Movement by the British, the need was felt for such law. Throughout the Raj, this section was used to suppress activists in favour of national independence, including Lokmanya Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi, both of whom were found guilty and imprisoned.

Source: Wikipedia

A law that was used by the British to suppress Gandhi is being used to arrest a college student. Disha Ravi was apparently the girl who sent across the farmer’s protest toolkit which Greta Thunberg tweeted out.

Ravi, the founder of the Bengaluru chapter of Thunberg’s climate justice movement Fridays for Future, has been charged with sedition—the crime of inciting hatred against the government.

Delhi police say Ravi is a “key conspirator” in the “formulation [and] dissemination” of the “toolkit” document containing methods for supporting the farmers’ protest.

Police allege she also started a WhatsApp group and collaborated to make the document. “She was the one who shared the [document] with Greta Thunberg,” they said.

Source: Time

Support has been coming from various quarters. But most importantly from the Alma Mater, which also is one of the older colleges in Bangalore.

The alumni of Mount Carmel College in Bengaluru have issued a statement in support of 22-year-old climate activist Disha Ravi, condemning her arrest in connection with the toolkit case involving the ongoing farmers’ protest.

As many as 330 former students have, so far, put their signatures on the statement that was released on Tuesday evening by the alumni of Mount Carmel College. “We unconditionally express support to her, her family in this time of distress and are proud of the work she has undertaken in the field of climate change activism,” it said.

Source: MSN

Reminds me of a dialogue from the movie Social Network

Cameron Winklevoss: You’re not thinking about what it’s gonna look like.

Divya Narendra: What’s it gonna look like?

Cameron Winklevoss: Like my brother and I are in skeleton costumes chasing the Karate Kid around a gym.

Source: Rotten Tomatoes

Obviously, nobody in the government thought what it would look like! Having said that if what Gandhi did was sedition, then the question arises is what is Disha doing really wrong? Also, this is not the first. There have been a string of arrests made under the sedition law which includes students from various institutions and this will not be the last.

Takes me back to one line in the American declaration of independence.

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Source: National Archives

If you see what is being done and believe that it is absolutely wrong, then it is your duty to act against it.

Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana made the observations Monday while granting bail to the accused, Devilal Burdak and Swaroop Ram, who were charged under sections of sedition, statements conducing to public mischief, forgery, and using forged documents.

In his order, ASJ Rana noted: “The law of sedition is a powerful tool in the hands of the state to maintain peace and order in the society. However, it cannot be invoked to quieten the disquiet under the pretence of muzzling the miscreants.”

Source: Indian Express


Climate Change Vs Republicans

Climate is winning so far as I can see.

Source: New York Times

Just for your reference.

Source: ABC

The cold weather seems to be headed for the red states and is delivering some of the worst winter storms in recent history.

The past few weeks have been tough in the Midwest. I mentioned this in the last post as well. The Southern states in the US are freezing over.

Millions of people across Texas faced their third day without light or heat — and many without water — as the state remained in the frigid grip of winter storms. Pipes froze and burst across the state, icicles hung from kitchen faucets in Houston, ambulances in San Antonio were unable to meet the surging demand and the county government in coastal Galveston called for refrigerated trucks to hold the bodies they expect to find in freezing, powerless houses.


The power outages were national, with tens of thousands without electricity in Kentucky, West Virginia and Louisiana, according to PowerOutage.us, a website that tracks electricity outages. More than 160,000 people in Oregon remained without power on Wednesday morning.

Source: New York Times

Things have been so bad. Stuck in the cold without electricity, people are taking to sitting in their cars with the engines turned on and dying of Carbon Monoxide poisoning.

At least 31 people in eight states have died in the winter storm that has swept across the United States this week, the authorities said, with car crashes and carbon monoxide poisoning responsible for many of the deaths.

In Houston, a woman and a girl died from carbon monoxide poisoning after a car was left running in a garage to generate heat, the police said. A homeless man was also found dead at an overpass. And a man who was found dead on a median in midtown Houston on Monday was suspected to have died from the extreme cold, the Harris County sheriff said.

Source: New York Times

Not only that, a tornado swept through North Carolina uprooting infrastructure and homes. After an autumn of fire, America is experiencing a winter of ice. Amazingly, there are still people living in the country who deny climate change.

There seems to be no respite coming soon. The weather is expected to stay this way for the next few days.

Source: Ventusky

Here is what is happening. There is a stream of warm water from the equator that gets heated in the Atlantic Ocean and makes its way towards England. This is called the Gulf Stream. As the ocean warms, the Gulf Stream pushes further into the Arctic. To compensate for this, the cold air move south overland, onto Russia and North America. You can see this clearly in the image above.

Happens every year. This year has been particularly worse.

For the moment it is - Climate 1 : Republicans 0



When the road is iced up and you decided to go for a spin.


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What we think, we become ~ Buddha