Monday, April 17th, 2017


Mall Drats

My kids are on Spring Break. So nothing (including daily delivery) is assured this week....

A confession: The other day, on an unrelated errand, I found myself parked a few yards from the pet store that carries my cats' preferred brand of litter. I almost walked in and made the purchase, but then I weighed the impact of that exertion against the effort it would take for me to reorder the litter online and pass the litter-carrying workload to an anonymous member of America's fast-growing delivery workforce. Spoiler alert: I never got out of my car. While my laziness is impressive, my decision was anything but unique. Ecommerce and quick delivery services are obliterating malls and other terrestrial stores. About one in ten Americans works in retail. Consider this from the NYT: "More workers in general merchandise stores have been laid off since October, about 89,000 Americans. That is more than all of the people employed in the United States coal industry." That makes this a fair question: Is American Retail at a Historic Tipping Point?

+ The fall of the mall is about more than Amazon. From Derek Thompson: What in the World Is Causing the Retail Meltdown of 2017


Into the Great Kim Jung Unknown

"North Korea would do well not to test his resolve -- or the strength of the armed forces of the United States in this region." Over the weekend, VP Mike Pence stopped in South Korea to warn its northern neighbor not to test Trump, and to reiterate that "the era of strategic patience is over." (Only in politics could someone come out against strategy and patience.)

+ North Korea responds by saying they will test missiles weekly.

+ "The current standoff has grown only more volatile. It pits a new president's vow never to allow North Korea to put American cities at risk -- 'It won't happen!' he said on Twitter on Jan. 2 -- against a young, insecure North Korean leader who sees that capability as his only guarantee of survival." A great (if upsetting) overview from Sanger and Broad in the NYT: A ‘Cuban Missile Crisis in Slow Motion' in North Korea.


Turkish Despite

"The constitutional changes that will now be implemented will bring about the most radical overhaul of the state Turkey has witnessed in over nine decades." From The Economist: Erdogan claims victory in Turkey's referendum.

+ "A slim majority of Turkish voters have just approved constitutional changes designed to make the strongman even stronger." Vox with an explainer on the Turkish referendum.


The Man Who Would Be King

"He's already visited an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, sampled BBQ in Baton Rouge, and petted a baby longhorn ("so cute") at a rodeo in Ft. Worth." To many observers, it seems like Mark Zuckerberg is setting the table for an eventual run for the oval office. But, seriously, why would he want the demotion? Buzzfeed's Nitasha Tiku provides a very interesting look at the selling of Mark Zuckerberg: "If you think of Zuckerberg as a startup CEO, positioning himself like a fourth-term senator doesn't make sense -- but it does if you think of him as the head of a 14-year-old nation-state called Facebook."


Tray Tabling the Issue

"United's latest promise is that it has changed its policy so that last-minute staff travel arrangements won't bump paying customers anymore." United is still in damage control (to control the damage caused by its earlier attempts at damage control). They just updated crew travel policies so passengers won't be removed from flights for employees. (One assumes they still reserve the right to beat the shit out of you.)

+ The change comes just in time as the airline booted a couple traveling to their wedding ... and that was after the public relations disaster. (This is straight out of the Roy Cohn school of crisis management.)


Making the Connection

Robert Taylor died last week at the age of 85. You may not recognize the name, but Taylor is one of the reasons you're able to read this right now. "Like many inventions, the internet was the work of countless hands. But perhaps no one deserves more credit for that world-changing technological leap than Robert W. Taylor." John Markoff on one of the people who shaped modern computing.


Murder, He Uploaded

Police in several states are hunting for a man who murdered a random stranger and then uploaded the video to Facebook. Ironically, I'm linking to this story in part because I worry that so many people are sharing it everywhere else. I'm surprised this sort of thing doesn't happen more often, and journalists will have to make tough decisions about how much promotion to give lunatics for whom that promotion is clearly a motivator.


Grilling Ribs

"We didn't have any idea that we would change his mind. The goal was to make South Carolina, if there's such a thing, whole again -- to let folks know that this isn't the way life should be." The New Yorker's Lauren Collins on America's most political food: "The founder of a popular South Carolina barbecue restaurant was a white supremacist. Now that his children have taken over, is it O.K. to eat there?"


Curry Con Corsello

"I'm not going to pretend that I have some long history as an activist. But I'm definitely in the camp that when it comes to athletes, whoever has a microphone in front of their face, they ought to use it." My friend (and a most excellent writer) Andrew Corsello sat down with Steph Curry -- and yes, it's perfectly fine and entirely normal to hate Corsello for getting to do that; I certainly do... From GQ: The Revenge of Stephen Curry, the Happy Warrior.


Bottom of the News

"In three years, Melania only posted one picture of herself and Trump. He dominates the frame; her face is in shadow and cropped out. It is both a selfie and an erasure, a depiction of her placement within their world." I'm not sure if it's necessarily evidence of any larger truth, but Kate Imbach takes a damn interesting and very in-depth look at the social media photographs of Melania Trump.

+ During the White House Easter festivities, Trump signed a kid's hat (cute!). Then he threw it into the crowd (wait, what?).

+ Melissa McCarthy's Sean Spicer on SNL may have won the year in comedy.

+ He "talked radiation with a US government scientist, evolution with a Harvard researcher, and, most recently, genome-editing with MIT's Kevin Esvelt. But ask him his favorite moment from the 28 episodes so far, and it has to be when he belched during a taping." Stat on a 6-year-old's science podcast.