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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The New View of Government Debt by J.W. Mason (jwmason.org)

A review of changing attitudes towards government debt, with specific arguments about why widening government deficits haven’t led to higher interest rates during recent years. [Link; 20 page PDF]

The Inflation Gap by Annie Lowery (The Atlantic)

In addition to accessing fewer resources, consumers who are at the lowest end of the income scale also face higher prices over time than higher-income consumers. [Link; soft paywall]


An Energy Breakthrough Could Store Solar Power for Decades by Adam Popescu (Bloomberg)

A novel molecule designed in Sweden offers a potential way to store energy from the sun for very long periods, and then conveniently release it, which may be more attractive than traditional renewable setups that include photovoltaic solar energy and industrial scale batteries. [Link; soft paywall]

Tesla will unveil its Cybertruck pickup on Nov. 21 in LA, Elon Musk says by Todd Haselton (CNBC)

Harried by upstarts like Rivian and eager to deliver further growth, Tesla is set to introduce its new pickup truck at an event in Los Angeles on November 21st. [Link]

Nuclear fusion is ‘a question of when, not if’ by Matt McGrath (BBC)

Fusion power is famous for always being just twenty years away, and the UK government is keeping up the proud tradition of those sorts of headlines courtesy of a new modest investment in fusion power. [Link]

South Australia’s stunning renewable energy transition, and what comes next by Giles Parkinson (Renew Economy)

A review of the massive shift in electrical sources in South Australia, which feature a massive uptake of renewables, new battery projects, and higher efficiency. The scope and scale of the shift is a very good sign for the ability to substitute low carbon technologies in other utilities around the world. [Link]

Social Media

China’s TikTok Blazes New Ground. That Could Doom It. by Li Yuan (NYT)

Americans – especially teens – have recently flocked to algorithmically-driven video app TikTok, but its Chinese ownership is opening up the service to investigation by the federal government. [Link; soft paywall]

Twitter hates me. The Des Moines Register fired me. Here’s what really happened. by Aaron Calvin (Columbia Journalism Review)

The complicated interplay of digital footprints, virality, and journalistic best practices traced out in this story are worthy of calm consideration and a longer think than knee-jerk outrage, knee-jerk backlash or the outrage, or even knee-jerk outrage about the backlash to the outrage. [Link]

Hot Takes

The World Has Gone Mad and the System Is Broken by Ray Dalio (LinkedIn)

A largely normative assessment about how darn confusing the world is these days, what with negative interest rates and big deficits and all the other strange things. [Link]

It’s Time to Take Down the Mona Lisa by Jason Farago (NYT)

Arguably the world’s most beloved painting, the Mona Lisa often underwhelms visitors to the Louvre, which apparently is a good enough reason to shut it away in a closet somewhere. [Link; soft paywall]


401(k) contribution limit increases to $19,500 for 2020; catch-up limit rises to $6,500 (IRS)

Contributions workers can make to retirement plans at work are rising in 2020, per a new release by the IRS. [Link]

‘Infinite leverage’ — some Robinhood users have been trading with unlimited borrowed money by Kate Rooney (CNBC)

Traders who use the Robinhood app were accidentally given access to enormous leverage in the form of options contracts and margin loans. [Link]

Investors reassess the hope-and-hype business model, causing stocks like GrubHub to plunge by Michael Santoli (CNBC)

High growth companies that have surged over the last year or so are being tossed aside as GrubHub, Wayfair, Etsy, and Pinterest plunge 20% or more in response to earnings. [Link]

Record Short VIX Positioning Reflects a Ton of Fear Elsewhere by Luke Kawa (Bloomberg)

While huge speculator shorts in VIX futures contracts may seem like a sign of offsides positioning, weak hands actually hold the other side: long VIX retail funds. [Link; soft paywall]


The Making of the World’s Greatest Investor by Gregory Zuckerman (WSJ)

What happens when a mathematician tries his hand at trading currencies? Before fees, 66% returns per year for three decades, and unparalleled result. [Link; paywall]

Simons Questioned by Investors by Susan Pulliam and Jenny Strasburg (WSJ)

Given the plaudits of the prior article, a divergence between the performance of internal versus external funds during the financial crisis is probably worth considering. [Link; paywall]

Nasty Surprises

California hits Philly-area Amazon seller with $1.6 million sales-tax bill by Harold Brubaker (Philadelphia Inquirer)

A Pennsylvania third-party Amazon seller has been presented with a seven figure tax bill by the state of California, presenting a major wrench in both third party sellers’ business model and constitutional issues. [Link]

A ton of people received text messages overnight that were originally sent on Valentine’s Day by Jacob Kastrenakes (The Verge)

Last Valentine’s Day, a huge wave of text messages went undelivered. 9 months later, they’re showing up en masse around the country. [Link]


Stuck in a loop: remembering the 20th anniversary of Burn All GIFs by Margarita Noriega (Glitch)

An ode to the value of the gif, a flexible and ubiquitous format for expressing references, emotions, and more, centered around the story of how we almost missed on .gif files thanks to a website called Burn All GIFs. [Link]

How Sesame Street changed television and my life by Kathleen Davis (Fast Company)

The central thesis of Sesame Street – that education and entertainment didn’t have to be separate beasts – has led to multiple generations of Sesame Street kids. [Link]

Working Ways

Microsoft experimented with a 4-day workweek, and productivity jumped by 40% by Lisa Eadicicco (Business Insider)

By cutting the workweek by 20%, a Japanese office of Microsoft reported a 40% gain in productivity and therefore a big uptick in output. [Link]


Democrats Cool on Wall Street Donors, and the Feeling Is Mutual by Joshua Green and Bill Allison (Bloomberg)

Huge online fundraising operations are allowing at least two Democratic candidates to swear off the big checks that have lured Democrats to Wall Street in recent cycles; it shouldn’t be any surprise that talk of wealth taxes is rearing its head at the same time. [Link; soft paywall]

Military Matters

Suicide Has Been Deadlier Than Combat for the Military by Carol Giacomo (NYT)

Each of the past six years have seen more suicides by military personnel than the total number of deaths in multi-decade presences in Afghanistan and Iraq, with more than 45,000 veterans and active-duty service members taking their lives. [Link; soft paywall]

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Have a great weekend!

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