Friday, October 11th, 2019


Jeff the World

The rumble in the (Amazon) jungle features Jeff Bezos in one corner and basically every other person and company with even a tangential interest in ecommerce in the other. And so far, the match isn't even Jeffing close. "Today, Bezos controls nearly 40 percent of all e-commerce in the United States. More product searches are conducted on Amazon than on Google, which has allowed Bezos to build an advertising business as valuable as the entirety of IBM. One estimate has Amazon Web Services controlling almost half of the cloud-computing industry—institutions as varied as General Electric, Unilever, and even the CIA rely on its servers. Forty-two percent of paper book sales and a third of the market for streaming video are controlled by the company; Twitch, its video platform popular among gamers, attracts 15 million users a day. Add The Washington Post to this portfolio and Bezos is ... arguably the most powerful man in American culture." Franklin Foer in The Atlantic: Jeff Bezos's Master Plan. (I hope the plan includes a way for me to get rid of all these cardboard boxes...)

+ "Tim Wu, a law professor at Columbia, said, 'Amazon is a microeconomist's wet dream. If you're a consumer, it's perfect for maximizing the efficiency of finding what you want and getting it as cheap and fast as possible. But, the thing is, most of us aren't just consumers. We're also producers, or manufacturers, or employees, or we live in cities where retailers have gone out of business because they can't compete with Amazon, and so Amazon kind of pits us against ourselves.'" Charles Duhigg in The New Yorker: Is Amazon Unstoppable?


Claims and the Giant Impeach

"Marie L. Yovanovitch, who was recalled as the American ambassador to Ukraine, testified to impeachment investigators on Friday that a top State Department official told her that President Trump had pushed for her removal for months even though the department believed she had 'done nothing wrong' ... She warned that private influence and personal gain have usurped diplomats' judgment, threatening to undermine the nation's interests." The NYT on another dent in the forcefield. Meanwhile, Gordon Sondland is opting to ignore the State Department's suggestion that he avoid questions. David A. Graham in The Atlantic: The Conspiracy of Silence Is Cracking. Here's the latest on the impeachment battle.

+ Predictably, Trump is fighting the impeachment news by attacking immigrants, this time Somali Americans living in Minnesota. WaPo: ‘Stunning in ugliness & tone': Trump denounced for attacking Somali refugees in Minnesota. (In my experience, Minnesotans are positive about immigrants who have moved to their state. What they don't like is xenophobic assholes.)


Weekend Whats

What to Read: "James McKay is in an operating theater, cutting into a patient's abdomen, a routine laparotomy, when he hears about a man with bloody hands in the emergency room. The man is panting because he sprinted across Hagley Park to Christchurch Hospital, and he's bleeding because he broke out a window to escape from Al Noor. There's been a shooting at the mosque, the man tells a triage nurse, and more wounded people will come." Sean Flynn in GQ: The Harrowing Hours and Defiant Aftermath of the New Zealand Mosque Shootings.

+ What to Ronan: "In the summer of 2017, as I was speaking to Weinstein's accusers and colleagues, Ostrovskiy and Khaykin began meeting at dawn near my apartment building, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Some days, they would stay in Khaykin's car, a silver Nissan Pathfinder. Other times, the two would use separate cars. Khaykin would be ready to follow me if I left the building." Ronan Farrow was all over the Harvey Weinstein story. Now he's back to describe the efforts to keep him from getting the truth in a book that's making waves from Hollywood to NYC. Here's a three-part excerpt from The New Yorker: The Black Cube Chronicles.

+ What to Book: "His agenda held deep appeal to white supremacists and others who had felt shut out of politics in America for years, chastised for their views and obsessed with an agenda of racial purity. The appeal for Trump was much simpler and more basic. He was a marketing genius, a branding maven. And fear of the other, he discovered at his campaign rallies, sells like gangbusters." And at the center of it all, the big, tall, beautiful wall. A very interesting and well-timed look at the policy (and object) at the very center of the Trump presidency. Border Wars: Inside Trump's Assault on Immigration.


Tariff Not Now, When?

"As part of the deal, China would agree to some agricultural concessions and the U.S. would provide some tariff relief." Bloomberg: US, China Said to Reach Partial Deal, Could Set Up Trade Truce. (Whatever deal eventually gets made needs to be measured against the Trans-Pacific Partnership that Trump tore up.)


Tired of All The Erdoganing

"Casualties are increasing as Turkey presses on with its cross-border offensive on Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria. At least 11 civilians have died and dozens of fighters from the Kurdish-led SDF and pro-Turkish factions have been killed." BBC on Turkey's Syria offensive.

+ "Trump abandons allies without blinking ... The entire balance of power in the Middle East is built on a very delicate web of supports, pressures, understandings and agreements — and Trump is unraveling that web." WaPo: Israelis see Trump's Syria pullout as a ‘betrayal' that could help unravel the region. (Imagine how the Kurds feel.)



"The chickens have become almost a cult item. 91 million were sold last year, double the number from a decade earlier. They have their own Facebook page with nearly 13,000 followers. So Costco is willing to go to extreme lengths to keep its chickens at $4.99. For the past few years, it's been recruiting farmers for this moment: The official opening of a sprawling, $450 million poultry complex of its very own in Nebraska." CNN: It's only $4.99. But Costco's rotisserie chicken comes at a huge price.


Shop Tok

"In 2019, we take our entertainment in microdoses. A complete story may be unspooled in a fleeting video snippet, a tweet, a GIF. The social media app TikTok has built an entire world on that premise, amassing a vast global collection of 15-second clips that are changing the way we sing, dance, pose, joke, dress, collaborate and cook." The olds at the NYT spent 48 hours in the strange and beautiful world of Tik Tok. (Thankfully, they didn't find my daughter's video with me screaming, "I'm going to delete that damn app" in the background...)

+ In Tokyo, a man was arrested on suspicion of stalking a female pop idol by studying reflections of her pupils in photos she shared on social media and using Google Street View to find where she lived.


Leonardo Was Da Bomb

"It wasn't just length or style that set da Vinci's bridge apart. It also had safety features unheard of at the time. One of the biggest challenges facing any bridge design is that it has to exist in nature no matter the conditions, including wind." Popular Mechanics: 500 Years Later, MIT Proves That Da Vinci's Bridge Design Works. "Da Vinci's design incorporates architectural techniques that would have not been seen for another 300 years." This da Vinci character seems to know his stuff. And his stuff is basically everything. Next we'll find out that half the internet runs on da Vinci code...


Markered For Life

"Considering how mild and lame a Sharpie-induced high tends to be, the negatives are potentially shockingly serious." Mel Magazine: What Does Huffing a Sharpie Really Do to Your Brain? (I'm asking for a friend...)


Feel Good Friday

"When did being a compassionate human being become something exceptional?
"It didn't cost me anything to respond. People get hung up on trying to say the right thing in these types of situations but sometimes people just need to be able to vent or say what they need and move on." Somebody answered my dead brother's number.

+ "The pizzas and notes came from Hakki Akdeniz, a 39-year-old immigrant who has built a small chain of pizza shops in the city and, with it, something of an unofficial, but solid, support network for the homeless in Manhattan. His visits to the memorials this week, each time lugging a stack of pizzas that reached his chin, follow a remarkable journey even in a city built on rags-to-riches tales." NYT: Why a Pizza Mogul Left Pies at Memorials to 4 Homeless Men.

+ Superhero bus driver helps save a life for the third time in her career.

+ Post office employee finds two missing children in two weeks.

+ Holocaust survivor left in tears after Arab plumbers refuse to charge her for their work: 'Her life story touched my heart.'

+ Students from families making less than $50K a year will get free tuition at UConn starting next year.

+ Despite 14 stitches and a black eye, Jimmy Carter is back building homes.

+ Dick's Sporting Goods destroyed over $5 million in military-style, semiautomatic rifles.

+ Changing your diet can help tamp down depression, boost mood.

+ HBO to add mental health disclaimers in front of select shows.

+ Steven Reed makes history as Montgomery's first black mayor.

+ And there was a bad link on this story in yesterday's edition: The Last True Sticker Factory in America.