Bespoke Brunch Reads: 4/22/18

Good Morning,

Below is our Bespoke Brunch Reads linkfest, featuring some of our favorite articles (both finance and non-finance related) over the past week.

Tech Dystopia

Palantir Knows Everything About You by Peter Waldman, Lizette Chapman, and Jordan Robertson (Bloomberg)

After a JPMorgan team that partnered with data analytics company Palantir went rogue, the company curtailed use of the firm’s services. What makes this concerning is the fact that Palantir also partners with law enforcement around the country, providing police a potentially egregious weapon that can be misused. [Link]

The latest trend for tech interviews: Days of unpaid homework by Melissa McEwen (Quartz)

Tech companies are taking to assigning large batches of work as evidence that potential hires are competent. [Link]

Arrogance Peaks in Silicon Valley by M. G. Siegler (500ish Words)

A righteous and warranted polemic against the insulated bubble of ideas that Silicon Valley has become, out of touch and impatient with society as a whole. [Link]

Tech Utopia

The End of the Joint As We Know It by Alyssa Bereznak (The Ringer)

With former Speaker of the House John Boehner partnering with a marijuana comapny and Senate Minority Leader Schumer calling for national legalization this week, the war on weed appears to be winding down. Get ready for a wave of new ways to imbibe the intoxicant. [Link]

Robot Conquers One of the Hardest Human Tasks: Assembling Ikea Furniture by Niraj Chokshi (NYT)

A robot has successfully assembled a piece of furniture from Ikea, achieving what we ourselves have failed at before and offering a vision of a world without Swedish instructions. [Link; soft paywall, auto-playing video]

Stinks To High Heaven

The UK Refused To Raid A Company Suspected Of Money Laundering, Citing Its Tory Donations by Heidi Blake, Tom Warren, Richard Holmes, and Jane Bradley (Buzzfeed)

In a bombshell piece of investigative reporting, Buzzfeed details a decision not to raid a company despite evidence of wrongdoing because they are a donor to the current government’s party and a charity linked to the Royal Family. [Link]

A Train Full of Poop From New York Is Stranded in a Tiny Alabama Town by Jeff Martin and Jay Reeves (Bloomberg/AP)

New York exports human waste thanks to a federal ban on dumping into oceans, and one train carrying a load of that export is currently stranded to the dismay of a small Alabama town. [Link]

Sports

As Teams Seek More Relief, 13-Man Pitching Staffs Are the New Normal by Jared Diamond (WSJ)

The days of the complete game are long gone, as high pitch speeds and freakishly talented hitters have eroded the starter’s ability to go deep into the later innings. Now, shifts in strategy are again pushing up the number of relief pitchers necessary for a team to function. [Link; paywall]

Everyone Wants To Go Home During Extra Innings — Maybe Even The Umps by Michael Lopez and Brian Mills (538)

By the time innings stretch to double-digits, umpires start to get ready for the end of the game just like the rest of us. [Link]

How the Boston Marathon’s Runner-Up Shocked the Running World by Sara Germano (WSJ)

The first American woman in 33 years won the Boston Marathon, and her story is remarkable: mid-twenties, unknown, unsponsored, and running her second marathon ever. Her story is one of grit more than extreme athletic ability, arguably making it all the more impressive. [Link]

Metals

Treasure island: Rare metals discovery on remote Pacific atoll is worth billions of dollars by Chris Ciaccia (Fox News)

So-called “rare earths” aren’t actually that “rare” but they are certainly valuable and a discovery on a tiny Japanese atoll has been heralded as a game changer worth billions. [Link]

Russia Sanctions Throw Global Aluminum Industry Into Chaos by Thomas Biesheuvel and Jack Farchy (Bloomberg)

Sanctions on Russia’s United Co. Rusal have led to major disruptions in the global aluminum value chain; the company produces both inputs and final outputs, making the entire thing quite a mess. [Link; auto-playing video]

Helpful Hints

27 Incredibly Useful Things You Didn’t Know Chrome Could Do by JR Raphael (Fast Company)

Pretty much exactly what it says on the tin: helpful productivity tips for the ubiquitous Google web browser. [Link]

Publishing

Why All My Books Are Now Free (Aka A Lesson In Amazon Money Laundering) (Meb Faber)

An interesting post describing the litany of non-publisher booksellers on Amazon and how they may be used for money laundering. [Link]

Taxes

Americans Spent Record Amounts on Accounting Fees Last Year by Alexandre Tanzi and Vincent Del Giudice (Bloomberg)

Tax preparers of various types hauled in $44bn in revenue in Q4, working out to roughly $135 per person. [Link]

Dining

The Quarterback of the Kitchen? It’s Not Always the Chef by Tejal Rao (NYT)

While the head chef gets the TV shows, the expediter is the real hero, making sure that the complicated dance of the kitchen staff stays in sync and that dishes get to tables quickly. [Link]

Click here to check out our interactive Trend Analyzer tool for members.

Have a great Sunday!

Annunci

Bespoke Brunch Reads: 4/1/18

Good Morning,

Below is our Bespoke Brunch Reads linkfest, featuring some of our favorite articles (both finance and non-finance related) over the past week.  Click here to learn more about Bespoke’s premium stock market research.

Billionaire Cosplaying

Robert Mercer’s Secret Adventure as a New Mexico Cop by Zachary Mider (Bloomberg)

A billionaire former hedge fund manager and political kingmaker spent time as a reserve deputy in New Mexico, which grants him the ability to carry concealed firearms anywhere in the country. [Link]

Digital Security

A Cyberattack Hobbles Atlanta, and Security Experts Shudder by Alan Blinder and Nicole Perlroth (NYT)

The city of Atlanta suffered a massive ransomware attack last week, with almost every digital corridor of local government locked up by a massive virus incursion. [Link; soft paywall]

Facebook Has Had Countless Privacy Scandals. But This One Is Different. by Carlie Warzel (Buzzfeed)

While there are tempting political narratives and blame games to play with the Cambridge Analytica/Facebook privacy scandal, the broader question of how to manage privacy in an era of big data collection where users are the product suggests it might be around a while. [Link]

Remarkable People

Biography (Stephen Wiltshire)

London-based artist Stephen Wiltshire is able to draw entire cityscapes, accurately and freehand, from a single trip up in a helicopter to see the skyline. He is mute and autistic. [Link]

The Former Khmer Rouge Slave Who Blew the Whistle on Wells Fargo by Emily Flitter (NYT)

Duke Tran fled Vietnam as a teenager, ending up a slave to the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. Eventually, he made his way to the US, becoming a Wells Fargo debt collection associate and enjoying a happy middle class life. Then, he was fired for refusing to lie to customers about their foreclosures. Since, he’s become a millionaire on the back of massive whistleblower awards courtesy of massive fines levied on the bank. [Link; soft paywall]

Politics

Poll: Majority of Americans say they are not seeing change in paychecks due to tax cuts by Rebecca Savransky (The Hill)

While predictable (recent tax cuts were overwhelmingly focused on the upper end of the spectrum with only marginal changes on average for most taxpayers), it’s nonetheless a worrying sign that two months into lower withholding most Americans still haven’t noticed a change in their paycheck thanks to tax cuts. [Link; auto-playing video]

Progress

South Sudan Halts Spread of Crippling Guinea Worms by Donald G. McNeil (NYT)

A global campaign led by former President Jimmy Carter has been working to eradicate Guinea worm for more than 30 years. The disease is a parasite found in ponds; with South Sudan eliminating the disease there were only 15 cases in Chad and 15 in Ethiopia, meaning the end of the parasite is nigh.  [Link; soft paywall]

International Economics

Switzerland: Balance of payments by Nadia Gharbi (Pictet Wealth Management)

An explanation for the persistent and massive current account surplus run by Switzerland, despite a strengthening CHF. [Link; 7 page PDF]

Good Eats

Why Some of Queens’ Best Restaurants Are Leaving for Pricier Boroughs by Katie Honan (Eater NY)

As restaurants in Queens get attention, they leverage greater pricing power in other boroughs to raise prices at new locations, often leaving price-sensitive Queens customers behind. [Link]

Crypto

The Dark Web’s Favorite Currency Is Less Untraceable Than It Seems by Andy Greenberg (Wired)

While Monero was designed to make payment tracing impossible, a new paper suggests that the mixing of payments which is designed to preserve anonymity can still be analyzed to determine where payments come from and go to. [Link]

Have a great Sunday!

Bespoke Brunch Reads: 3/25/18; The Bespoke Report Newsletter

Good Morning,

Our Bespoke Report newsletter from Friday contains a number of important stats and data points regarding the recent downturn in the market.  To read it, start a two-week free trial to any of our three membership levels now.

Below is our Bespoke Brunch Reads linkfest, featuring some of our favorite articles (both finance and non-finance related) over the past week.

Politics

American corporations come out against Donald Trump’s proposed tariffs (The Economist)

Thus far only three of forty seven major trade associations have publicly commented in favor of new tariff programs, with the balance opposed. [Link; soft paywall]

Friended: How the Obama Campaign Connected with Young Voters by Michael Scherer (Time)

One irony of the Cambridge Analytica situation: the Obama For America app was doing the same thing back in 2012. Of course, in that case users knew a political campaign would have access to their friend lists, instead of a personality quiz passing the data on to a campaign later. [Link]

Ex-Obama Campaign Director Drops Bombshell Claim on Facebook: ‘They Were on Our Side’ by Jason Howerton (IJR)

Back in 2012, the Obama campaign pushed the boundaries of rules set by Facebook about how outside organization can use the information users allow apps to access. [Link]

Economics

Why Are Prime-Age Men Vanishing from the Labor Force? by Didem Tuzeman (Kansas City Fed)

Evidence that the prime age employment rate for men has fallen because of polarization in the labor force, with all sorts of negative consequences as a result. [Link; 26 page PDF]

Pent-Up Demand and Continuing Price Increases: The Outlook for 2018 by Jordan Rappaport (Kansas City Fed)

Catch-up effects in household formation, mean reversion declining average household size, and cyclical factors are all significant tailwinds for housing demand, but low worker availability, limited land availability, and land use regulation are all constraining factors that mean prices are likely to continue accelerating. [Link]

Can big data revolutionise policymaking by governments? by Robin Wigglesworth (FT)

A walk through the world of big data and how it can be used to generate private sector – and maybe one day, official sector – statistics about the state of output and activity. [Link; paywall]

Read The 10-K

Hedge-fund managers that do the most research will post the best returns, study suggests by Thomas Fracnk (CNBC)

A new data set shows that hedge funds which download more annual reports from the SEC’s EDGAR filing system tend to outperform the market. [Link]

Inequality

Talent, luck and success: simulating meritocracy and inequality with stochasticity by Hongsup Shin (Medium)

A longform summary of simulations which show where inequality comes from and what can exacerbate it. Very helpful as a toy model. [Link]

Extensive Data Shows Punishing Reach of Racism for Black Boys by Emily Badger, Claire Cain Miller, Adam Pearce, and Kevin Quealy (NYT Upshot)

New research shows enormous racial bias in the relationship between endowment effects (how rich a child’s parents are) and outcomes (how rich the children end up). Controlling for the huge advantages of growing up in a high income family, black children still end up much, much less well off than white children. [Link]

European Affairs

German Mittelstand faces generational crisis by Olaf Storbeck (FT)

In the coming half-decade, more than 800,000 small and medium business owners in Germany will be faced with the question of who will take over when founder-owner-operators hang up their spurs. [Link; paywall]

Italy Is Latest Nation to Become a Gas Exporter by Chiara Albanese and Tommaso Ebhardt (Bloomberg)

European natural gas supplies have historically been heavily dependent on Russian exports, but new Mediterranean lines that reach northern Europe via Italy are changing that. [Link]

Characters

Who Goes Nazi? by Dorothy Thompson (Harper’s)

An essay from 1941 reflecting on what sort of person in that era found appeal in the Nazi regime; while authoritarianism never found even a small foothold in America, its appeal seems like it would have been inevitable. [Link]

Why He Kayaked Across The Atlantic AT 70 (For The Third Time) by Elizabeth Weil (NYT Magazine)

In his 7th decade, Polish kayaker Aleksander Doba ended a 110 day solo crossing of the Atlantic. It’s almost indescribable how impressive that physical and mental feat is. [Link]

My Candid Conversations with Extremely Online Folks Who Suffer From Internet Broken Brain by Luke O’Neil (Esquire)

What’s it like to spend more time on Twitter than anything else you do? Very funny, but also a bit sad, and completely absurd. [Link]

China

Understanding China’s Rise Under Xi Jinping by Kevin Rudd (Sinocism)

A reproduction of former Australia Prime Minister Rudd’s views on the most powerful man in China. This essay is extremely long and wide-ranging but provides as comprehensive of a view of the man as exists anywhere. [Link]

China’s Rise: How It Took on the U.S. at the WTO by Gregory Shaffer and Henry S. Gao (SSRN)

An underrated fact about China is that when it acceded to the WTO, it invested enthusiastically in legal capacity to defend its trade policies and attack others’ in international forums. [Link]

Mapping shadow banking in China: structure and dynamics by Torsten Ehlers, Steven Kong and Feng Zhu (BIS Working Papers)

If you’re interested in keeping track of how the financial system in China operates, this paper is an extremely helpful piece of background and reference. [Link]

Uber

A Self-Driving Uber Killed a Woman. Whose Fault Is It? by Matt Ford (New Republic)

Ford does a thoughtful job deconstructing how to think about accidents – especially those involving fatalities – when an algorithm is behind the wheel. [Link]

Uber’s Self-Driving Cars Were Struggling Before Arizona Crash by Daisuke Wakabayashi (NYT)

In the months ahead of an accident which killed a pedestrian in Arizona this week, Uber was struggling to keep up in the race to deploy self-driving vehicles. [Link; soft paywall]

The Fed

The Fed Makes a Risky Bet on Overshooting Its Inflation Target by Tim Duy

In the latest SEP, the FOMC’s forecasts implicitly mean that the central bank will overshoot its inflation objective while unemployment is extremely low, effectively guaranteeing that it will have to hike hard and fast to catch up with inflation. [Link]

Guns

Citi sets restrictions on gun sales by retail clients by Ross Kerber and David Henry (Reuters)

Customers who use Citi’s services to operate retail businesses will have to conform to new policies around the sales of guns or face the end of their banking relationship. [Link]

Yahoo

The Glory That Was Yahoo by Dan Tynan (Fast Company)

Once upon a time, Yahoo was dominant. Then, almost overnight, it all unraveled into a $5bn sale to Verizon. [Link]

Cybersecurity

Average website gets attacked 44 times a day by Ian Barker (Beta News)

New research on more than 6 million websites showed that the average site could be attacked as often as 16,000 times in a given year. [Link]

College

Cinderella Story? It’s True for U.M.B.C. in Academics, Too by Erica L. Green (NYT)

The University of Maryland Baltimore County is the first men’s basketball 16 seed to win a game in the NCAA’s annual tournament, but its academic history and achievement is arguably more impressive. [Link; soft paywall]

Have a great Sunday!

Bespoke Brunch Reads: 3/18/18

Below is our Bespoke Brunch Reads linkfest, featuring some of our favorite articles (both finance and non-finance related) over the past week. Click here if you’d like to read our weekly Bespoke Report newsletter.

Investing

Spurious correlations are kryptonite of Wall St’s AI rush by Robin Wigglesworth (FT)

When you run enough data sets through regressions, you will inevitably find some correlations. The question is, are they spurious and fleeting, or helpful in identifying forward returns? [Link; paywall]

Hedge Funds That Use AI Just Had Their Worst Month Ever by Dani Burger (Bloomberg)

While hedge funds that invest based on algorithms are still very small in AUM terms, they still get a lot of attention and it’s worth remembering they’re anything but bulletproof. [Link; auto-playing video]

What’s the Biggest Trade on the New York Stock Exchange? The Last One by Corrie Driebusch, Alexander Osipovich and Gregory Zuckerman (WSJ)

With an increasing share of investing being done through various types of passive vehicles, the end-of-day NYSE auction has grown in importance. [Link; paywall]

Economics

Forming an Alliance With U.S. Allies Against Bad Chinese Trade Practices Won’t Be Enough to Bring the Trade Deficit Down by Brad W. Setser (Council on Foreign Relations)

A dense 1300 words on the drivers of the US trade deficit, which are only partly related to China. A host of other countries have much larger current account surpluses versus their economies’ size and pursue much more aggressive policy to protect those surpluses. [Link]

Tracking the international footprints of global firms by Stefan Avdjiev, Mary Everett, Philip R. Lane, and Hyun Song Shin (BIS Quarterly Review)

As companies’ ownership structures have shifted into complex global networks of financing, concepts like the current account balance haven’t kept up in keeping track of international economic activity. [Link, 20 page PDF]

Will Employment Keep Growing? Disabled Workers Offer a Clue by Ernie Tedeeschi (NYT)

The population of workers not in the labor force due to illness or disability are declining as the economy continues to churn out job creation, suggesting there’s still slack left in the labor market. [Link; soft paywall]

The Kingdom

Saudis Said to Use Coercion and Abuse to Seize Billions by Ben Hubbard, David D. Kirkpatrick, Kate Kelly, and Mark Mazetti (NYT)

An accounting of the “anti-corruption campaign” that was really more like the consolidation of assets within a crime family, conducted using ankle monitors and luxury hotel imprisonment rather than cement galoshes. [Link; soft paywall]

Lighter Fare

This Woman Wrote Her Novel At A Tire Store And Now They Are Her Biggest Fans by Farrah Penn (BuzzFeed)

A woman struggling with writers block found her most productive penning would happen at the tire store. She is now the small shop’s Writer In Residence. [Link]

This Company Will 3-D Print You in Action-Figure Form by Kevin J. Ryan, Jardley Jean-Louis and Chris Beier (Inc)

Ever wanted to immortalize yourself in toy form? This company gives you the chance to do just that. [Link]

Dark Days

She found a dating app on her boyfriend’s phone. Then she bought a samurai sword. by Kyle Swenson (WaPo)

Between the colorful headline and the details of this story, we don’t want to wreck it with a wordy description, but luckily nobody was killed despite the best efforts at first degree murder. [Link]

Hundreds of Missouri’s 15-year-old brides may have married their rapists by Eric Adler (The Kansas City Star)

Missouri’s lax laws around teenage marriage make it a safe haven for perpetrators of statutory rape and their accomplices, who marry victims in order to avoid jail time. [Link]

Long Reads

Why Wikipedia Works by Brian Feldman (NY Mag)

Immensely profitable companies, casual researchers, and everyone in between rely on Wikipedia for quick, reliable information about the world. How did it become so dominant and ubiquitous, and how does it stay that way? [Link]

Vanilla valuation by Julie Van Rosendaal (Globe & Mail)

All you need to know about vanilla. The flavor is found in places you might not expect it (chocolate, for instance), is highly labor intensive and weather-sensitive, and is grown in relatively few places. [Link; soft paywall]

Bankruptcy

Behind the Breakneck Unraveling of Toys ‘R’ Us by Eliza Ronalds-Hannon, Matthew Townsend, and Lauren Coleman-Lochner (Bloomberg)

How a beloved brand collapsed into bankruptcy. [Link; auto-playing video]

Dogs

United Flies Dog To Japan By Mistake (CBS Chicago/AP)

In addition to killing a dog by stuffing it into an overhead compartment this week, United also apparently sent a canine passenger across the Pacific in error. [Link; auto-playing video]

Paralympics

The Loneliness of the American Paralympics Reporter by Ben Shpigel (NYT)

The New York Times is one of only two outlets to send correspondents for coverage of the Winter Paralympic Games; this summary is insightful into what that process is like, and how little interest is expressed towards the impaired athletes’ pursuit of excellence. [Link; soft paywall]

Education

I’d Be an ‘A’ Student if I Could Just Read My Notes by Melissa Korn (WSJ)

Modern college students are under-practiced at writing with pen and paper, and the results show when they encounter professors who ban laptops in class. [Link; paywall]

Have a great Sunday!