Tuesday, September 4th, 2018


Soul Proprietor

Nike, Just Do It! Nike Just Blew It! Did Nike just make the best marketing move of the decade, or did they create a Nike Error. As America faces another remarkably busy news week, that's the debate currently consuming the internet; with some consumers celebrating the company's decision to feature Colin Kaepernick in a new ad, and others burning their Nike gear (so far, not while wearing it). The company's stock price took a temporary hit, but here's the bottom line from Bloomberg: "In less than 24 hours since Kaepernick first revealed the spot on Twitter, Nike received more than $43 million worth of media exposure, the vast majority of it neutral to positive." (And don't discount the reaction of up and coming athletes who will be picking a sponsor and will love this move by Nike.) In the broader scheme of things, Nike's decision to celebrate Kaepernick is a reminder that today, everything is political. Choose a side or get out of the game.


No Brett Neutrality

Protesters dressed as characters from the Handmaid's tales, outbursts and arrests as citizens are removed by the Capitol Police, and general pandemonium marked the opening of the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. And that was before anyone had even made an opening statement. From CNN, here are live updates from the Kavanaugh hearing.

+ NY Mag is trying to keep up a list of the most intense moments from the hearings so far.

+ And about all those documents the Democrats were demanding to see ahead of the hearings. Well, they got 42,000 pages of them. But not until a few hours before the hearings kicked off.


From Deep Throat to Deep Shit

During the Watergate era, the question was, What did the president know and when did he know it? With Bob Woodward back to cover a new scandal-ridden president, the question this time around seems to be, Does the president know anything? In his upcoming book on Trump, "again and again, Woodward recounts at length how Trump's national security team was shaken by his lack of curiosity and knowledge about world affairs and his contempt for the mainstream perspectives of military and intelligence leaders." The outtakes are shocking, but at this point, not at all surprising. WaPo: Bob Woodward's new book reveals a ‘nervous breakdown' of Trump's presidency.

+ "Dowd later advised Trump: 'Don't testify. It's either that or an orange jumpsuit.' Trump insisted he would be 'a real good witness.' 'You are not a good witness,' Dowd said. He resigned the next morning." Boston Globe: 10 things to know from Bob Woodward's new Trump book.

+ Trump doesn't know much about policy or international relations. But he knows when to worry. Listen in to his call with Woodward that took place after the manuscript was completed.

+ Meanwhile, Trump continues to blast the rule of law. This time, he is attacking Sessions for the charges brought against two GOP congressen so close to the election.

+ "He has, in effect, become the legal auxiliary to Trump's Twitter feed, peddling the same chaotic mixture of non sequiturs, exaggerations, half-truths, and falsehoods. Giuliani, like the President, is not seeking converts but comforting the converted. This has come at considerable cost to his reputation." Jeff Toobin in The New Yorker: How Rudy Giuliani Turned Into Trump's Clown. (He's not alone. In DC, the whole circus has come to town.)

+ All of this chaos is taking place in the shadow of John McCain's memorial service, which (as he designed) was a critique of Trump. The New Yorker: John McCain's Funeral Was the Biggest Resistance Meeting Yet. "McCain's grand funeral ... underscored a fact that is often lost about Washington these days. The city is much more bipartisan, in some respects, than it has ever been, more united than it may currently seem, in its hatred of Donald Trump."

+ "It's a politics that pretends to be brave, but in fact is born of fear. John called us to be bigger than that. He called us to be better than that." NYT: In McCain Memorial Service, Two Presidents Offer Tribute, and a Contrast to Trump. (Here's the key takeaway from the McCain funeral: Americans in positions of leadership behaved in a decent manner which has been universally received as a rebuke of the sitting president.)


Humanity Sleeps with the Fishes

"A strange thing has happened to men over the past few decades: We've become increasingly infertile, so much so that within a generation we may lose the ability to reproduce entirely. What's causing this mysterious drop in sperm counts—and is there any way to reverse it before it's too late?" GQ's Daniel Noah Halpern: Sperm Count Zero. (I should have something to add here, but I'm drawing blanks...)


Bombing Restarts in Syria

"Earlier, US President Donald Trump warned Syria's Bashar al-Assad against launching a 'reckless attack' on Idlib." Syria is ignoring the warning. So is Russia. And things in Syria are about to get even worse.


Amazon is King of the Jungle

"It's an historic accomplishment for Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos, who founded the company in his Seattle garage in 1994 as a small online book seller. Now Bezos is the world's wealthiest person, running a diversified global enterprise with more than $200 billion in annual sales and more than 575,000 employees." Amazon joins Apple in the one trillion dollar valuation club.

+ "Target's shoppers can order sunscreen or a Tokidoki Unicorno T-shirt on their phone, pull up to the parking lot and have the items brought to their car. Nordstrom lets customers in some stores make returns by dropping their items into a box and walking out — no human interaction required. Walmart is employing 25,000 'personal shoppers' to select and package groceries for curbside pickup." NYT: Hard Lessons (Thanks, Amazon) Breathe New Life Into Retail Stores.


Steel Mill Valley

"Last spring, I retired from full-time work at NPR. But I haven't stopped thinking about the economy, and I can see that the data show inequality is growing among retirees. What happened to Nicolaou and me can tell you a lot about what has changed in just one generation — and for millions of retirees, the changes aren't good." A former NPR reporter goes back home to attend her high school reunion. When Steel Mills Fell Silent, Fates Got Flipped.


You Cannot Be Serious

"To work as a courtsider is to have possibly the most exotic, adrenaline-pumping data-entry job imaginable. Put simply: Courtsiding is the practice of independently transmitting information from a tennis match for a purpose related to gambling." Ben Rothenberg: Losers' Lunch. Dining out with courtsiders, a rogue, impish species in the tennis ecosystem.

+ "Most humans have a dominant arm and hand. Most tennis players are taught to serve with that arm and hand, and thus, when serving, toss the ball with their non-dominant arm and hand. Consequently, and crucially, every point in tennis begins with a player depending on an arm and hand that she otherwise does nothing crucial with." Among other things, Serena Williams has the most beautiful toss in tennis. And that toss is a key to her winning as much as she does.


Fail Whale

"After passing my security clearances, I was initiated into the secret realm of the Reserve, catering to the whims of the world's wealthiest gamblers. But it wasn't all popping bottles and cutting cigars—try cleaning up 'lucky' piles of rotting fruit, or walking in on nude hotel guests instead. Think what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas? Not this time…" Brandon Presser in Bloomberg: Ten Things I Never Knew About Las Vegas Until I Ran a High-Roller Suite.


Bottom of the News

"Groesbeck is part of a community of 'teacher influencers' who amass enormous followings by sharing photos of their classrooms and what goes on inside it. Through color-coded storage bins, perfectly organized bookshelves, and bubble-lettered bulletin boards, these teachers find hordes of fans in both fellow teachers and nonteachers alike." We finally found a way for teachers to make a decent living. Unfortunately, that means moonlighting as an Instagram influencer.

+ A decent metaphor for the day in news: World Championships of Death Diving 2018. (It's like other high diving competitions, except with a lot more splash...)

+ Airport security trays carry more viruses than toilet surfaces.

+ All those people wearing Airpods aren't listening to music, podcasts, or anything else. They're just trying to avoid interacting with you.