Monday, April 24th, 2017


How Much?

I am a frugal, picky shopper who lives in a neighborhood where your products aren't purchased very often, and my web browsing history suggests I'm unlikely to purchase anything that doesn't have a really obvious discount. At least that's what I want the algorithms to think. It turns out that a lot of the prices you see on the Internet have been customized to specifically match your personal demographic. "It may come as a surprise that ... you might be participating in a carefully designed social-science experiment. But this is what online comparison shopping hath wrought. Simply put: Our ability to know the price of anything, anytime, anywhere, has given us, the consumers, so much power that retailers -- in a desperate effort to regain the upper hand, or at least avoid extinction -- are now staring back through the screen. They are comparison shopping us." In The Atlantic, Jerry Useem explains How Online Shopping Makes Suckers of Us All. (And, yes, even the suckers are variably priced...)


Hope and Happiness

"So I think a question like, 'What are your hopes?' takes them off guard ... A lot of our refugee population lives in this limbo for such a long time that I think they no longer even have the luxury of being able to hope." After doing a story on refugees, NPR's Ashley Westerman wonders: Can You Still Have Hope When Life Seems Hopeless?

+ "Whereas happiness had once been seen as a rare and special achievement in a world of suffering and pain, now there was a growing consensus that many stood a good chance of outwitting suffering, once and for all." From Quartz: For most of history, people didn't assume they deserved to be happy. What changed?


Marine Layers

"It will set up a battle in May between two politicians with not only completely different visions for France but -- more significantly -- utterly different views of one of the biggest issues facing many voters in the West today: globalization." From NPR: French Voters Shun Political Parties, Sending Emmanuel Macron, Marine Le Pen To Presidential Runoff.

+ "It is a new French revolution that leaves the center-right Republicans and the Socialist left on the sidelines." From BBC: French election: Five things we have learned.

+ Bloomberg: Eight Maps That Explain France's Macron-Le Pen Election.

+ "The situation is now so tense that they're making an exception to the rules." European leaders usually keep out of each other's elections. But, as we've seen over the last couple of years, usually is out the window. From WaPo: After French vote, European leaders come out against Le Pen. But what if she wins?


Robbing Tweeter to Pay Wall

If Abbott and Costello were performing in modern-day DC, the bit would probably start something like this. Costello: Who's paying for the wall? Abbott: Yes. Costello: I mean, the entity's name that's playing for the wall. Abbott: Who. And on and on it would go, much like the current debate over who will pay for Trump's wall (a discussion that has managed to shift the focus away from the broader question: Why do we need a wall in the first place?). And as WaPo reports, the funding game of chicken has higher stakes than ever: "President Trump and White House officials pressed congressional Republicans on Sunday to use the looming threat of a government shutdown to win funding for a wall along the border between the United States and Mexico."

+ Slate: Trump Insists Mexico Will 'Eventually … At a Later Date … in Some Form' Pay for Wall.


The Hundred Daze

This week, we'll take a look at President Trump's first 100 days in office (which is the approximate equivalent of a million-trillion-bazillion media days). The Guardian has been keeping track of each of the days (and each of the 929 Tweets): Tracking the 45th President, One Day at a Time.

+ "I think the 100 days is, you know, it's an artificial barrier. It's not very meaningful. I think I've established amazing relationships that will be used the four or eight years, whatever period of time I'm here. I think for that I would be getting very high marks because I've established great relationships with countries, as President el-Sissi has shown and others have shown. Well, if you look at the president of China, people said they've never seen anything like what's going on right now. I really liked him a lot. I think he liked me. We have a great chemistry together." The president reflects on his first hundred days (and a lot more) in an interview with AP. Here's the transcript. Even by the standards to which we've now grown accustomed, it's a trip.

+ One thing we've learned during the first hundred days is the importance the president places on cable news coverage. "I'm not firing Sean Spicer ... That guy gets great ratings. Everyone tunes in."

+ The New Yorker's David Remnick, not a fan of the first hundred days: "The hundred-day marker is never an entirely reliable indicator of a four-year term, but it's worth remembering that Franklin Roosevelt and Barack Obama were among those who came to office at a moment of national crisis and had the discipline, the preparation, and the rigor to set an entirely new course. Impulsive, egocentric, and mendacious, Trump has, in the same span, set fire to the integrity of his office."

+ While some see a presidency on fire, others are far less concerned. Consider this: Only 2 Percent of Americans Who Voted for Trump Regret It.


On the Surge of a Nervous Breakdown

"Travis's biggest strength is that he will run through a wall to accomplish his goals. Travis's biggest weakness is that he will run through a wall to accomplish his goals. That's the best way to describe him." The NYT's Mike Isaac (who has been all over the various Uber stories) with a very interesting piece: Uber's C.E.O. Plays With Fire. (The weird thing about Uber is that they don't seem satisfied being the fastest growing startup ever. It's still somehow worth it to unnecessarily bend one more rule or break with one more workplace norm.)

+ Maybe Uber is worried because the transportation industry is shifting so rapidly. Sure, they disrupted taxis. But now self-driving cars are trying to disrupt them. And by the time you ride in one of those, your neighbor will zoom past ... overhead. The NYT's John Markoff: No Longer a Dream: Silicon Valley Takes On the Flying Car.


Parental Guidance Discouraged

"82% felt meal times should be device-free. 22% said the use of mobiles stopped their families enjoying each other's company. And 36% had asked [them] to put down their phones." Is this yet another survey of parents complaining that their kids won't get off their devices? Nope. The opposite. Parents' mobile use harms family life, say secondary pupils. (I have no idea what these kids are talking about, although my son's little league game was briefly delayed over the weekend when I got absorbed by something on my iPhone. I was coaching third at the time...)

+ The Guardian: The new status symbol: it's not what you spend -- it's how hard you work.


Protest Sine

Several cities saw huge turnouts for the March for Science over the weekend. Slate has a collection of some of the best signs spotted in the wild.


But They Only Paid Me Ten

"Given the wild afterlife of This Is Spinal Tap, it seems impossible that anyone with a piece of the movie hasn't made money. And yet this is Hollywood, where studios have claimed that some of the highest-grossing films -- hits such as Return of the Jedi, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy -- somehow haven't turned a profit. As David Zucker, one of the creators of Airplane!, once said of his own sleeper hit, 'It made so much money that the studio couldn't hide it fast enough.'" Bloomberg: This Lawsuit Goes to 11.


Bottom of the News

As some of you may know, each (recent) day during the Trump era, I take a real headline and put it into The Onion's template and share it on Twitter. And every time, it just works. So I decided to make a page where they'd all be collected. Donald Trump News + The Onion = The dOnion.

+ Maybe it's not just political headlines that are weird these days: Dentist Accused Of Medicaid Fraud, Pulling Teeth While On Hoverboard.

+ This guy bowled a 300. In 90 seconds.