Wednesday, November 6th, 2019


California Teeming

Earthquakes, wildfires, rage-inducing traffic jams, tech bros, and an increasingly out-of-reach cost of living haven't deterred people from wanting to live in the Bay Area. The problem is there are more people than places to put them all. Enter the world's biggest tech companies (who realize they helped cause the problem and that their future growth depends in part on fixing it). In the past few months, Apple, Facebook and Google have pledged $4.5 billion to help solve the Bay Area's increasingly bad housing crunch. The money is a good first step, and $4.5 billion can still get you a cozy San Francisco pied-à-terre as long as parking isn't a must-have. But as the NYT's Conor Dougherty explains, the money alone might not be enough. "The companies' announcements were accompanied by crucial yet mostly unanswered questions like where, how and when this money will be spent. And ... the biggest question is the one California has long wrestled with: how to get much-needed housing built when local governments and homeowners do everything they can to prevent it."

+ CityLab: "Some housing experts and advocates say that the largest barrier to housing is not money, but political will."

+ "While decades in the making, California's slow-moving disaster has reached a critical point for state officials, businesses and the millions who are straining to live there." Bloomberg: How California Became America's Housing Market Nightmare.

+ "Their concentrated wealth provides a window into how tech and real estate companies — and the university, Stanford — have shaped the valley into an economic powerhouse but also helped create the housing crisis now threatening Silicon Valley's money-making engine, straining its middle class and displacing people who have lived here their whole lives." As per usual, Reveal dug up the data to put things into perspective. Who owns Silicon Valley?


Loan Spark

"U.S. officials have long touted the power of finance to lift people out of poverty — and backed loans to farmers and small-business owners across the developing world. But here in the Guatemala Highlands, the epicenter of the country's migrant exodus, those loans often fund a different activity, the region's most profitable: smuggling migrants north to the United States." WaPo: The migrant debt cycle.


Mexico Opted

The roadside massacre of US citizens has directed a spotlight towards the relentless violence in Mexico. But it's part of a much larger story about the real victims of the drug wars and unabated cartel violence. The Guardian: ‘The disappeared': searching for 40,000 missing victims of Mexico's drug wars.


Going Public

Public impeachment hearings are scheduled to begin next week (if they were pay-per-view, America could erase its deficit in a few days). Meanwhile, Bill Taylor's damning testimony has been released ("That was my clear understanding, security assistance money would not come until the President [of Ukraine] committed to pursue the investigation"), and the administration's streak of no-shows continues. Here's the latest from the impeach pit from CNN and WaPo.


Kentucky Blue Mass

"Tuesday's statewide elections in Kentucky and Virginia were a big night for Democrats. And the results tell us a few things about national politics, consequential issues and President Trump." NPR: Seven things we learned from Tuesday's elections.

+ Vox: 5 winners and 3 losers from Election Day 2019.

+ WaPo: "When President Trump was elected, he promised the GOP that they would win so much they would get tired of it. But for a third successive election year since then, the Republican Party has walked away the loser."

+ In a very interesting (and promising) result, New York City adopted ranked-choice voting, a major milestone for the reform.

+ AP: Kansas City votes to remove King's name from historic street.


Plunder the Influence

"This group already trusts influencers more than celebrities and athletes and more than half have made a purchase based on a recommendation from someone in their feed. Plus, 61% say they are already posting online about brands they like without receiving any compensation, so why not get paid?" Bloomberg: Influencer Nation: 86% of Young Americans Want to Become One. (Maybe a climate-related end of the world isn't such a bad idea after all...)

+ Vox: There are now professional Trader Joe's influencers.


Mommy Clearest

It's my mom's birthday today. She's an awesome person, a loyal subscriber, and my most frequent tech-support customer. She's also a living example of a lesson we could all use more of these days: How not to spend your whole life hating (even if you'd be perfectly justified in doing so). My Mom Has a Question: "How can you experience the worst of humanity but still have faith in the goodness of people? How the hell can you go on, start a new life, raise a family, still believe in anything? I don't know the answer. But my mom has somehow managed to pull it off." (For my mom's gift, my dad and I have agreed not to bring up anything about Trump for the entire day...)


Eminent Domain Squeeze

Reason: "An 83-year-old retired engineer in Michigan underpaid his property taxes by $8.41. In response, Oakland County seized his property, auctioned it off to settle the debt, and pocketed nearly $24,500 in excess revenue from the sale. Under Michigan law, it was all legal. And hardly uncommon."


Between The Rock and a Hard Place

"Cast members of a popular television show asking people to pray for them and privately telling a leading industry reporter they were being held hostage would be strange. Them doing so while they were, to all appearances, simply stranded in Saudi Arabia due to an airplane's mechanical issues would be stranger. No one, including the performers, seeming to be quite sure what happened would be strangest of all." Vice: Why Were a Bunch of Wrestlers From 'SmackDown' Trapped in Saudi Arabia?


Bottom of the News

Reuters: Dying for a better life: South Koreans fake their funerals for life lessons: "Dozens took part in the event, from teenagers to retirees, donning shrouds, taking funeral portraits, penning their last testaments, and lying in a closed coffin for around 10 minutes." (As long as the coffin has WiFi, I'm in.)

+ "An increasing number of 'single-positive' people are rejecting the notion that true love is the only path to happiness. Just this week, the actor Emma Watson told Vogue how a 'bloody influx of subliminal messaging' had left her 'stressed and anxious' because she was heading into her 30s without a husband and baby. Now, however, she is 'very happy' to be single. 'I call it being self-partnered.'" (I'm married, and I still self-partner at least 3-4 times a week...)