Wednesday, June 21st, 2017


Uber’s High Kalanick

The one sure winner in the Uber saga is the nonfiction genre. This story truly has it all. Uber is everything we love -- and everthing we hate -- about the Internet age. It is, if you will, the Uber of business stories. Uber is the unicorn of unicorns. The fastest growing tech company of all time. The company that most dramatically took the Internet to the streets and redefined the on-demand economy, taking on industries and city governments as it grew. While Uber represents the bold vision, innovation, and disruption the tech industry prides itself on, it has also represented the worst of Silicon Valley's characteristics: Sexual harassment, rule-bending, worshipping the altar of growth above all else, and a broken corporate culture that makes Lord of the Flies look like a tale of altruistic teamwork. Our story's latest chapter took place on Tuesday night when, under pressure from the company's top investors, Uber's co-founder, CEO, and highly controversial leader Travis Kalanick resigned. From the NYT's Mike Isaac (who has been all over this story): Uber Founder Travis Kalanick Resigns as CEO.

+ Just hours before the resignation came, Kara Swisher made the case why Kalanick had to go. Can Uber's Travis Kalanick be redeemed? Arianna thinks so. (Me, not so much.)

+ In addition to representing so much, good and bad, about the tech industry, Kalanick's fall also points to two major cultural trends. First, there's the role of the whistleblower. From The Ringer's Alyssa Bereznak: You Can Thank Whistleblowers for Uber CEO Travis Kalanick's Resignation. "It was just a little more than four months ago that Susan Fowler published a reflection of her year working as an engineer at Uber." And second, there's the role of social media. From Farhad Manjoo in the NYT: How Battling Brands Online Has Gained Urgency, and Impact.

+ And if you missed it when it was first posted, here's Susan Fowler's blog post: Reflecting On One Very, Very Strange Year At Uber. (Spoiler alert: It got stranger.)


D Day

Even if it weren't the Summer Solstice, today would feel like the longest day of the year for Georgia Democrats. "It is a truism in politics that special elections usually don't mean very much. But Tuesday's runoff election in the Georgia Six, as it came to be known, could be one of the exceptions to the rule." From The New Yorker: Jon Ossoff's Georgia Sixth Loss Is a Reality Check for Democrats.

+ "Whatever distaste they may inwardly feel for President Trump's antics, when it comes time to vote, the Republicans of Cobb, DeKalb, and Fulton Counties did not express it at the ballot box." David Frum: It's Trump's Party Now.


Thirty Minutes

As the death of Otto Warmbier moves the North Korea threat back into the headlines, Mark Bowden takes a deep look into how to deal with the North Korean threat; a piece nicely summarized by its subhead: There are no good options. But some are worse than others. "Thirty minutes. That's about how long it would take a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launched from North Korea to reach Los Angeles. With the powers in Pyongyang working doggedly toward making this possible -- building an ICBM and shrinking a nuke to fit on it -- analysts now predict that Kim Jong Un will have the capability before Donald Trump completes one four-year term."


The Son Also Rises

"His biggest and most risky move may yet prove to be his bid to curb the power of the conservative religious establishment. Washington likes this move, but others closer to home do not." From BBC: Saudi king's son Mohammed bin Salman is new crown prince. And from WaPo: Saudi king names son as new crown prince, upending the royal succession line.


Soldier Boy

When we think of soldiers fighting for terror groups like Boko Haram, we often forget that many of them are kids, kidnapped and conscripted. From Sarah A. Topol in the NYT Magazine: The Boys From Baga. "As the group steadily escalates a child's participation in violence, they are resocializing them. Training breaks a child's will, and the first kill is a kind of baptism. Ritual becomes important. Charms and magic reduce guilt. Killing becomes normalized. The more gratuitous the violence -- gang rape, ceremonial sacrifice, mutilating and murdering neighbors or family members -- the harder it becomes to contemplate returning home."


Trip Switch

"On separate occasions, invisible saboteurs have turned off the electricity to hundreds of thousands of people. Each blackout lasted a matter of hours, only as long as it took for scrambling engineers to manually switch the power on again. But as proofs of concept, the attacks set a new precedent: In Russia's shadow, the decades-old nightmare of hackers stopping the gears of modern society has become a reality." Wired's Andy Greenberg: How to Switch a Country Off. (Every now and then, I wish I could to put ours on snooze for a few minutes.)


Life Flashing Before Your Eyes

Ahead of the release of the wildly secretive Senate GOP health bill, Slate's Jordan Weissman explains how Mitch McConnell weaponized our short attention span."Senate Republicans are reportedly close to voting on a bill that would repeal Obamacare and potentially strip insurance from millions of Americans. Under normal circumstances, this sort of momentous legislation would have been dominating the news cycle for weeks. Instead, it's been virtually absent from broadcast news and become a C-level subplot on cable."

+ I have a slightly different view of what's going on when it comes to the health care bill, and a lot of other political spats. Here's a brief tweetstorm.

+ The Onion nails it again: Panicking Mitch McConnell Shoves Entire Senate Healthcare Bill Into Mouth As Democrat Walks Past.


Hate and Tackle

A headline like this shouldn't still make news. But it does. From Outsports: Former Patriots and Chiefs tackle Ryan O'Callaghan comes out as gay. "Ryan O'Callaghan's plan was always to play football and then, when his career was over, kill himself..."


This is No Dad Joke

According to researchers, "Older men tend to have 'geekier' sons who are more aloof, have higher IQs and a more intense focus on their interests than those born to younger fathers." (I can't vouch for the study's veracity. But for what it's worth, my dad was 350 years old when I was born.)

+ Scientific American: Why are so many babies born around 8:00am?


Bottom of the News

My midlife crisis is going to see bands. And I've gotten pretty good at it, especially when the venues are small, like the Fillmore in SF, where you're often forced to stand for the entire show. So grab some sensible shoes and read my guide to how to concert.

+ 15 facts about the Summer Solstice.

+ "We'll still be very much a part of Casamigos. Starting with a shot tonight. Maybe two." From CNBC: George Clooney just sold his tequila business for up to $1 billion. (It's about time that guy got a break...)