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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Weird Politics

GOP-affiliated group intervenes in Democratic primary for US Senate seat in North Carolina by Alex Rogers (CNN)

Worried about the general election, a Republican group is advertising for a Democrat in order to force her front-running competitor to lay down cash in a primary fight. [Link]

Vermin Supreme, the “Elder Statesman of Wingnuts,” Says His 2020 Presidential Campaign Is for Real by Lucy Diavolo (Teen Vogue)

A look at the weirdest run for national office under way this cycle, conducted by an aging hippie who quite literally goes by the name “Vermin Supreme”. In our view, this bit of ridiculousness being documented in Teen Vogue really ties the story together. [Link]

Faulty Iowa App Was Part of Push to Restore Democrats’ Digital Edge by Matthew Rosenberg, Nick Corasaniti, Sheera Frenkel and Nicole Perlroth (NYT)

In an effort to return the Democrats’ digital advantage from the Obama years, the party tried to develop an app that would improve the Iowa Caucus reporting. That didn’t go so well, as is now obscenely clear. [Link; soft paywall]


Teens have figured out how to mess with Instagram’s tracking algorithm by Alfred Ng (CNet)

In an effort to preserve privacy and keep their online lives their own, young people are starting to take some innovative steps to prevent algorithms from filling their feed with the kind of content they browse already. [Link]

Instagram Brings In More Than a Quarter of Facebook Sales by Sarah Frier and Nico Grant (Bloomberg)

A report this week showed Instagram generating more than $20bn in 2019 sales, 20x what Facebook paid for the app in 2012 and a quarter of the company’s overall business. [Link; soft paywall]

Lane of Luxury

Secrets and Stick Shifts: Why Chateau Marmont Valets Are “Unsung Heroes” of Hollywood by Gary Baum (The Hollywood Reporter)

The Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles has had the same four valets for the past thirty years, an incredible track-record for such a low pre-requisite role…even one that involves the sort of luxury vehicles that the Marmont valets are entrusted with. [Link]

NFL players trade in gas-guzzling SUVs for all-electric Teslas by Jessica Golden (CNBC)

Battery-powered sedans are becoming the standard conveyance for NFL stars at the Super Bowl, a big change from years past. [Link]


Should Public Transit Be Free? More Cities Say, Why Not? by Ellen Barry (NYT)

Tests in cities around the country are indicating that transit ridership surges when even small fairs are removed from city transit systems. The enthusiasm is ironic given the new MTA commitments to fare policing. [Link; soft paywall]

When a small town loses its only bank by Kevin Wack (American Banker)

While we all feel frustrated with our banks from time-to-time, their inconveniences are nothing compared to the pain of not having any access to a financial institution. [Link]

The Impact of Student Loan Debt on Small Business Formation by Brent W. Ambrose, Larry Cordell, and Shuwei Ma (Philly Fed Working Papers)

The authors find a significant decline in small business formation as a function of increases in student loan debt; ex-students who are saddled with student loans are unable to use personal debt to finance new business formation. [Link; 32 page PDF]

Apple Watch outsold the entire Swiss watch industry in 2019 by Arjun Kharpal (CNBC)

While Swiss watchmakers sold about 21 million units in 2019, Apple shipped almost 31 million of its wrist-borne personal computers. [Link]


Greenhouse gas emissions drop in Spain as power plants ditch coal by Manuel Planelles (El Pais)

Spanish CO2 emissions fell by a third in 2019 as the company rapidly halted coal mining, shuttered coal plants, and spun up new renewable projects to replace the lost capacity. [Link]

Personal Data

A Court Tried To Force Ancestry.com To Open Up Its DNA Database To Police. The Company Said No. by Peter Aldhous (BuzzFeed News)

Ancestry.com refused a warrant for access to its DNA database, which it claimed was improperly received, as it seeks to defend users’ privacy against government demands for access in order to build genetic profiles which may help narrow searches for suspects. [Link]

Cards For Employee-Ownership

Cards Against Humanity Bought Clickhole by Katie Notopoulos (BuzzFeed News)

Satirical site Clickhole was spun out of G/O Media Group (owners of The Onion, which spawned Clickhole originally) in a sub-$1mm all-cash deal that puts employees of the site in control. The game company will not exercise editorial control. [Link]

Wild In Wylie

This Southern Town Was Growing So Fast, It Passed a Ban on Growth by Valerie Bauerlein (WSJ)

A suburb of Charlotte, North Carolina tripled in population over the past twenty years, and is now trying to come to grips with the reality of rapid, unconstrained, and unplanned growth without sufficient regard for the infrastructure that supports it. [Link; paywall]

Hedge Funds

Ray Dalio Is Still Driving His $160 Billion Hedge-Fund Machine by Rachael Levy and Rob Copeland (WSJ)

10 years ago, Dalio had planned to give up control of his massive pool of capital, but at 70 years old his long string of failed leadership solutions hasn’t led to anything fruitful. [Link; paywall]

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Have a great weekend!

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