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.

Directing Eyeballs

Facebook Reduces Human Involvement in Selection of Trending Topics by Sarah Frier (Bloomberg)

After a minor uproar over the use of human curators who were accused of bias against conservative topics, Facebook is shifting its Trending Topics bar to algorithmic control. Our question: why were humans involved in the first place? [Link]

Europe plans news levy on search engines by Duncan Robinson (FT)

The latest reform proposals from the European Commission are said to include regulations which would force search engines to pay media organizations for using snippets of their stories when displaying search results. [Link; paywall]


The Government Has Cheated Legal Immigrants for Decades by David Bier (Cato At Liberty)

In a remarkable legal analysis, Bier argues that the current US visa system is mistakenly counting families against quotas that should only apply to original applicants, reducing totally legal and highly skilled worker inflows into the American economy by as much as half. [Link]

Only in Washington: Have Your Lawyer Tell My Lawyer to Tell Me What You Think by Andrew Ackerman (WSJ)

The combination of Congressional intransigence on appointments and a Nixon-era transparency law mean CFTC commissioners can’t catch up and sound each other’s’ views out over coffee. [Link; paywall]

Why Is The IMF Pushing Fiscal Consolidation in the Eurozone in 2017? by Brad Setser (CFR Follow the Money)

Astoundingly, the implicit result of policy recommendations from the IMF to the four countries which make up 80% of the area’s GDP is for more fiscal tightening. [Link]

Hundreds of Americans wash up illegally in Canada after river party (Reuters)

The story probably misstates the legality of the wash-up (we checked the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea – no, seriously, Article 98) but the river float gone awry is nonetheless quite amusing. [Link]

Gene name errors are widespread in the scientific literature by Mark Ziemann, Yotam Eren, and Assam El-Osta (Genome Biology)

Astoundingly, about one-fifth of papers with gene lists that are provided in Excel contain errors in gene name conversions because of the program. [Link; 3 page PDF]


Why are Cal and Hawaii opening the college football season in Australia? by Christian D’Andrea (SB Nation)

14 hours to get to your season opener is a bit extreme, but the Australian market may prover fertile for a game that isn’t that dissimilar from Australian Rules Football or rugby. [Link]

To Be a Star College Athlete These Days, Options Including Chopping Wood, Fishing and Broomball by Kelsey Gee and Patrick McGroarty (WSJ)

Obscure sports are getting more interest from students who don’t want to make the massive commitments required of more traditional college athletics. [Link; paywall]

Urban Planning

Should everyone crowd into New York and San Francisco? by Tyler Cowen (Marginal Revolution)

Many modern policy “wonks” argue that there’s no good reason why density should not be drastically increased in populous, popular cities. They might be missing some things; we also highly recommend the piece this post is based off, linked in the first paragraph. [Link]

The ‘Tortured Transit’ of Bus Routes by Linda Poon (The Atlantic Citylab)

For millions of Americans without their own vehicle, the difference between getting to work on time and being fired can be as simple as a straight line. [Link]

Airbnb Probably Isn’t Driving Rents Up Much, At Least Not Yet by Ariel Stulberg (538)

In this excellent quantitative analysis of data from AirBnB, Stulberg deconstructs the composition of listings and shows that there are relatively few permanent listings (the kind that could drive up local rents) in most markets. [Link]

Exclusive interview: Palo Alto mayor Patrick Burt fires back at housing critics by Adam Brinkow (Curbed SF)

It’s not often that you hear a mayor claim that too many jobs are hurting his community. [Link]


We’re Paying CEOs All Wrong by Caleb Melby (Bloomberg)

Despite quite literally billions of dollars at stake, there’s remarkably little attention paid to the behavioral economics and game theory involved with CEO pay. [Link]

At Kimberly-Clark, ‘Dead Wood’ Workers Have Nowhere to Hide by Lauren Weber (WSJ)

Employee turnover is up and efficiency is rising at Kimberly-Clark, part of a broader post-recession push to increase margins across corporate America. [Link; paywall]

Leaky Surveillance

Private lives are exposed as WikiLeaks spills its secrets by Raphael Satter and Maggie Michael (AP)

While feelings on the actions of WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden run the gamut (words like “hero”, and “traitor” are thrown around with equal abandon), there’s been little attention paid to the collateral damage that is an unavoidable consequence of forced government transparency via leaks. [Link]

Commentary: Evidence points to another Snowden at the NSA by James Bamford (Reuters)

The computer science here is over our heads (which, of course, isn’t say much) but the upshot appears to be that there are likely more future leakers of government surveillance data lurking. [Link]

Watch This Surveillance Master Dissect a Murder From the Sky by Drew Beebe (Bloomberg)

An astounding video (part of a larger story, linked to in the text) that shows the power of aerial surveillance in fighting crime. [Link; auto-playing video]


Why Vacationing With a Toddler Is No Vacation by Partricia Garcia (Vogue)

In case you were looking for motivation to avoid having kids… [Link]

How to Stay Rich in Europe: Inherit Money for 700 Years by Alessandro Speciale and Chiara Vasarri (Bloomberg)

While Americans occasionally fret about declining economic mobility, we don’t have anything quite like the multi-century empires carefully guarded by the descendants of medieval wealth. [Link]

Economic Data

More and More Economic Datapoints Have Completely Erased the Financial Crisis by Lorcan Roche Kelly (Bloomberg)

An excellent review of data points which have finally recovered to the levels they were at ahead of the economic crisis that struck in 2007 and 2008. [Link]

Black Knight Financial Services’ First Look at July 2016 (Black Knight)

Some good old fashioned number crunching of mortgage data, from delinquencies to foreclosures, prepayments to inventories. [Link]


How This Hedge Fund Robot Outsmarted Its Human Master by Kathleen Chu and Komaki Ito (Bloomberg)

A fund based on machine learning (if not actual artificial intelligence) tries to take flight in Tokyo. [Link]

Worried About The Election? by Michael Batnick (The Irrelevant Investor)

Using data, Batnick makes the argument that the election doesn’t really matter for investors who are thinking long-term. [Link]

Business Models

Solving The Flight Center Enigma Part 2 (Find The Moat)

Despite a secular shift towards online travel, there is still a company that’s able to maintain impressive profitability doing it the old fashioned way. [Link]

How Lending Club’s Biggest Fanboy Uncovered Shady Loans by Max Chafkin and Noah Buhayar (Bloomberg)

More on the increasingly messy world of platform lending and the missteps that led to the demise of the industry leader. [Link]


For the Colonel, It Was Finger‐Lickin’ Bad by Mimi Sheraton (NYT, September 9, 1976)

As news broke over the past couple of weeks that an heir to the original Colonel Sanders had made public the famed Kentucky Fried Chicken recipe, the Time has dug up an account of his visit to a New York City KFC. The Colonel was not impressed. [Link; paywall]

U.S. Takes a Bite From Cheese Mountain With Stockpile Purchase by Alan Bjerga and Lydia Mulvany (Bloomberg)

With dairy prices plunging 40% in a couple of years and huge inventories of various products stacking up, the US government has been forced to stock food bank shelves buying cheese with tax payer’s cheddar. [Link]


Brexit sparks rush for New Zealand as emigration inquiries hit record high (The Guardian)

While the votes are long since counted, the UK hasn’t left the EU yet. That hasn’t stopped a doubling of the number of UK residents registering to live and work in New Zealand. [Link]


How Economic Downturns May Be Good for Your Health by Jeffery Sparshot (WSJ Real Time Economics)

While there’s mixed evidence as to the total impact (unemployment tends to reduce life expectancy), curtailed smoking and drinking during recessions do have a positive impact on some peoples’ health. [Link]

Are Index Funds Communist? by Matt Levine (Bloomberg)

For an academically informed take on a weird bit of Wall Street research, there’s really no better destination than Matt Levine’s Bloomberg View column, and his investigation of the odd claim that passive indexing was worse for the economy than communism in a Bernstein piece this week proves that. [Link]

Misallocation, Education Expansion, and Wage Inequality by Theodore Koutmeridis (Conference on Research on Economic Theory and Econometrics)

The economics here are a bit complicated, but the upshot of this paper is that for low-experience workers, education provides a big boost for wages. However, experience premiums don’t rise much for highly educated workers. This suggests that the labor market is highly inefficient, also increasing wage inequality. [Link; 39 page PDF]


Teens Who Say No to Social Media by Christine Rosen (WSJ)

Some anecdotal evidence that contrary to popular perception, the kids just may be alright. [Link; paywall]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email