Welcome to Bespoke Brunch Reads — a linkfest of the favorite things we read over the past week. The links are mostly market related, but there are some other interesting subjects covered as well. We hope you enjoy the food for thought as a supplement to the research we provide you during the week.

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Ambition Restrained

Self-Driving Cars Will Always Be Limited. Even the Industry Leader Admits it. by Paris Marx (Medium)

During the mid-2010s, the breathless hype about the advent of self-driving cars was everywhere. We’ve taken a much more skeptical view of the prospects for the deployment of the new technology, for instance in our Industry Insight report (link). Now, self-driving car industry leaders are moderating the outlook. [Link]

Polaroid. Walkman. Palm Pilot. iPhone? by John D. Stoll (WSJ)

Cautionary talk about the outlook for the world’s most profitable electronics business, which will never see the risk of being replaced go away; the same also extends to other Silicon Valley businesses. [Link; paywall]

SoftBank to slash planned WeWork investment by Eric Platt and Arash Massoudi (FT)

The $100bn Vision Fund is getting cold feet about how much capital it should commit to office rental startup WeWork, cutting its planned $16bn investment to less than 15% of that number. [Link; paywall]

Emergency Powers

GOP in the dark as Trump weighs emergency declaration by Eliana Johnson, Burgess Everett, and Heather Caygle (Politico)

Members of Congress aren’t involved in the President’s plans to use emergency powers in order to construct a wall on the Southern border, under an extremely broad interpretation of the executive’s emergency powers. [Link]

It’s Not a National Emergency. It’s Also Not the Dawn of Dictatorship. by Matt Ford (The New Republic)

Calm and informed analysis of the long history surrounding the expansion of executive power, a trend in American political life that has been ascendant for nearly 100 years and is being thrown into starker relief by the recent proposal to use emergency powers in order to build a border wall. [Link]


The 30 Percent App Fees Are Too Damn High by Shira Ovide (Bloomberg)

The US Supreme Court recently heard arguments in a case alleging Apple is exercising a monopoly in its app store, a venue which takes a steep cut of all purchases inside apps. [Link; soft paywall]

How PhRMA finally lost: the inside story of the group’s biggest lobbying failure in years by Nicholas Florko (Stat News)

The story of a legislative surprise and the lobbying fight to stop it, a result that took the industry and its massive army of influence-peddlers completely by surprise. [Link]


What Amazon’s Rise to No. 1 Says About the Stock Market by Jason Zweig (WSJ)

A data-oriented review of Amazon’s rise to the top of the US market, and why what seems like a large degree of concentration in market value among a few stocks is quite the opposite. [Link]

National Mutual Life Assurance Society Company Meetings 1922-1937 (Google Drive)

A treasure-trove for investors: the comments economist and investor John Maynard Keynes’ on the economy and markets as the National Mutual Life chairman over the course of the Roaring 20s and Great Depression. [Link; 58 page PDF]

Tech Traps

The Subliminal Trick Netflix Uses to Get You to Watch Its Movies & Shows by Anthony Schneck (Thrillst)

Netflix’s algorithm isn’t just used to figure out what kind of movies you want to watch; it’s also being used to choose which thumbnail you’ll be most likely to click on when you’re browsing through the content library. [Link]

Older People Shared Fake News on Facebook More Than Others in 2016 Race, Study Says by Niraj Chokshi (NYT)

Whether by misunderstanding or malice, “news” stories that were total fiction found their biggest boosters in the ranks of senior citizens during the 2016 election. [Link; soft paywall]

Sports Analytics

You Called A Run On First Down. You’re Already Screwed. by Josh Hermsmeyer (FiveThirtyEight)

A statistical argument that the Seattle Seahawks’ obsession with establishing the run cost them wins in a year where those were in relatively short supply. [Link]


Earth’s magnetic pole is on the move, fast. And we don’t know why by Jamie Seidel (news.com.au)

While the magnetic pole does tend to move but the recent pace of its shifts around the Arctic Circle have caught scientists by surprise. [Link]

How a Uruguayan town revolutionized the way we eat by Shafik Meghji (BBC)

One of the most ubiquitous ingredients in the history of home cooking was born on the banks of the Uruguay River, eventually becoming a global phenomenon from humble origins. [Link]


Where 518 Inmates Sleep in Space for 170, and Gangs Hold It Together by Aurora Almendral (NYT)

Jails in the Philippines’ have gotten so over-crowded that gangs behind bars are doing more to keep the piece than guards. [Link; soft paywall]

Mass Transit

Meme Weeding: Unions and Construction Costs by Alon Levy (Pedestrian Observations)

A deep dive on why transit in the United States costs so much to build, especially compared with other developed countries in similar environments. [Link]

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Have a happy New Year!

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