May 21st – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Mad Men replaced by Math Men, Trump had me at Hereby, and why rehab needs rehab.

In the early days of the internet, we rooted for web upstarts to disintermediate and disrupt the world’s biggest companies that we felt had conspired against consumers in an increasingly centralized system. Well, here comes the new boss. Same as the old boss (except the new boss is way bigger than the old boss ever was, the new boss knows everything about you, and the new boss is everywhere, all the time). Nowhere is the power of the new boss more clear than in the new advertising landscape. From The New Yorker’s Ken Auletta: How the Math Men Overthrew the Mad Men. “Once, Mad Men ruled advertising. They’ve now been eclipsed by Math Men—the engineers and data scientists whose province is machines, algorithms, pureed data, and artificial intelligence … The power of Math Men is awesome. Google and Facebook each has a market value exceeding the combined value of the six largest advertising and marketing holding companies. Together, they claim six out of every ten dollars spent on digital advertising, and nine out of ten new digital ad dollars … Facebook alone generates more ad dollars than all of America’s newspapers, and Google has twice the ad revenues of Facebook.”

+ 60 Minutes: How did Google get so big?


Sticking it To Demand

“I hereby demand…” So began the latest presidential Tweetstorm in which President Trump called for the Justice Department to examine whether his campaign was infiltrated or surveilled for political purposes. Though they are not used to receiving presidential demands, the Justice Department has called for an inquiry.

+ Buzzfeed sums up the situation pretty well: “The Tweet could set up a constitutional crisis. Or it could set up a now-familiar process of lawyers, essentially, pushing off the request to avoid such a crisis. Or it could be forgotten by the week’s end.”

+ You had me at herebyThe Atlantic: “The tweet on its own terms is alarming. It’s a statement of intent to issue a specific investigative demand of the Justice Department for entirely self-interested and overtly political reasons. And Trump published it in the absence of a shred of evidence that might support the demanded action.” Donald Trump Has All the Power.


Course Evaluation

“The sting of sanctions will only grow more painful if the regime does not change course from the unacceptable and unproductive path it has chosen for itself and the people of Iran.” In his first major address since becoming Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo threatened severe economic sanctions against Iran if a series of conditions (from halting nuclear programs to pulling out of Syria) aren’t met.


Riders on the Storm

“Uber’s rapid expansion was good for passengers, who could suddenly summon a ride from anywhere in the city. But it was disastrous for almost everyone else. With more cars on the streets, traffic in the city got even slower and more congested. Investors poured more than $21 billion into the company, which has yet to turn a profit. (Uber posted $4.5 billion in losses last year alone, subsidizing rides in an all-out effort to establish a monopoly.) And according to one estimate, the company’s drivers — after paying for gas, maintenance, and Uber’s commission of 25 percent on every fare — took home barely $10 an hour on average.” The on-demand economy has changed the landscape in many industries and enriched a lot of people. But there is another side to the story. From NY Mag: Driven to Despair. “Doug Schifter waged a one-man campaign to stop Uber from putting his fellow black-car drivers out of business. Then he decided to take his own life.”


I Noah Place Where We Can Go

“Hundreds of miles from this dense forest, the animals were scooped up in harnesses dangling from construction cranes. They were carried into white metal storage containers, with the occasional elephant trunk peeking out. Then they crisscrossed southern Africa in commercial planes and flatbed trucks.” WaPo on a massive effort to save Africa’s wildlife. At its core is a Noah’s ark like effort to move the animals from where they are to where they aren’t.


Using Users

“Amid a nationwide opioid epidemic, treatment remains out of grasp for most people struggling with addiction. Those with wealth and insurance often are able to pay thousands of dollars for private long-term programs. But the less fortunate have become easy prey for rehabs with a tantalizing promise: freedom from addiction for free.” Well, not exactly free. A special report from Reveal: All Work. No Pay. Drug users got exploited. Disabled patients got hurt. One woman benefited from it all.

+ The Verge: Predatory Behavior Runs Rampant In Facebook’s Addiction Support Groups. “Huge groups of vulnerable people looking for help are a rehab marketer’s dream.”

+ OJ Simpson could open one right now, which would obviously be called ‘The Juice Cleanse,’ and there would be nothing standing in his way.” John Oliver explains why the American rehab industry is such a disaster.


Bittersweet Symphony

“In the most dramatic account of concerto crime-fighting, the Columbus, Ohio, YMCA reportedly dissolved a sidewalk brawl between two drug dealers simply by flipping on Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.” Theodore Gioia with an interesting look at how classical music is sometimes used to clear sidewalks on unwanted elements. Bach at the Burger King.


Heal Spur

“People that come and see me are sick and are already having problems, and if you force them to pay, you make their situation worse. And that’s not healing.” NYT: What This 76-Year-Old Man Can Teach About Healing. (I don’t know how often this kind of holistic healing works, but the bedside manner seems pretty great.)


Stream Team

“The former first couple will, according to an announcement Monday from the company, potentially work on scripted and unscripted series as well as docu-series, documentary films, and features under the multi-year deal.” The Obamas now work for Netflix. (That makes everyone…)


Bottom of the News

“He’s saying, ‘Laurel,’ some people swear. No, he’s saying, ‘Yanny,’ others insist. But for Broadway and television actor Jay Aubrey Jones, he hears himself.”

+ Had enough of Laurel and Yanny? Here are some more trippy audio illusions.

+ I know you’re totally not into such things, but just in case, here are the first official Harry and Meghan Markle wedding photos. And, more Americans watched Harry and Meghan get married than watched William and Kate in 2011. (I watched it with my 9 year-old daughter. When the cellist began his second song, she complained, “Come on, what is this, Coachello?” It was a proud moment…)

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