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.

Labor In The Valley

What is this weird Twitter army of Amazon drones cheerfully defending warehouse work? by Devin Coldewey (TechCrunch)

Amazon appears to be astroturfing a public display of worker satisfaction via either bots or the Twitter accounts of actual workers; the larger story isn’t exactly clear. [Link]

Microsoft Bug Testers Unionized. Then They Were Dismissed by Josh Eidelson and Hassan Kanu (Bloomberg)

While tech companies, especially those based on the West Coast, have a reputation for being liberal or left-wing bastions, their relationship with labor isn’t consistent with that image; this story about Microsoft is a good example. [Link; soft paywall]


Framing Turkey’s Financial Vulnerabilites: Some Rhymes with the Asian Crisis, but Not a Repeat by Brad Setser (Council on Foreign Relations)

Setser makes the case that Turkey’s banks are so exposed to foreign exchange denominated debt that the decline in lira has dramatically raised the odds of a funding crisis similar to the Asian Tigers in 1997. On the other hand, the complexity of the Turkish banking and credit system is very different, and Setser discusses in great detail. [Link]

Framing Crashed (5): The Turkish Crisis – the Missing Chapter (Adam Tooze)

Due to its very unique geographic, religious, cultural, financial, and political position as a bridge between the Middle East and Europe, Turkey is a nexus for all sorts of narratives related to near-history. [Link]

Real Estate

Traditional mortgage denial metrics may misrepresent racial and ethnic discrimination by Laurie Goodman and Bing Bai (Urban Institute)

While minorities tend to face higher mortgage applications denial rates than whites, they also typically have lower credit scores and incomes. After adjusting for these credit profiles, an interesting trend emerges: while Hispanic and white borrowers face an elevated denial rate relative to whites when adjusting for credit quality, it’s actually Asian buyers who face the highest “real” denial rates. [Link]

Climate Change Has Already Hit Home Prices, Led by Jersey Shore by Christopher Flavelle (Bloomberg)

A comprehensive study of property values on the New Jersey coast which are exposed to sea level rise shows that climate change’s impacts are already starting to have adverse impacts on home values. [Link; soft paywall, auto-playing video]

Luxury Apartment Sales Plummet in New York City by Josh Barbanel (WSJ)

Sales of apartments priced at $5mm or more fell 31% YoY in the first six months of the year, digesting extremely high prices and the impact of tax reform. [Link; paywall]

Unreal Animals

Company is offering ‘fur-ternity leave’ for new pet owners by Matthew Haag (CNBC/NYT)

A Minneapolis firm is offering its employees the ability to work from home for a week when they get a new dog or cat. [Link]

Animal crackers break out of their cages (CNBC/AP)

For more than a century, Barnum’s Animal Crackers (a Nabisco brand owned by Mondelez) were shown in cages, as animals were kept for circuses were historically. A 2016 request from PETA led to the change. [Link]

Weird History

Before the Civil War, Congress Was a Hotbed of Violence by Anna Diamond (Smithsonian)

Imagine if your Senator was beaten nearly to death with a stick at his desk during discussion of legislation? That was the environment of Congress prior to the Civil War, when outbursts like the Caning of Sumter were frequent and part of the process of making (or, in the case of the South, more frequently preventing) laws. [Link]

History of Rat Control In Alberta (Alberta Agriculture and Forestry)

As rates crept westward across the Prairies in the 1940s and 1950s, Alberta prepared by instituting an intense public awareness campaign and immediately eliminating even the smallest infestations. As a result, it’s just about the only human-populated place on earth without rats. [Link]


Elizabeth Warren Has Got It All Wrong by Matthew C. Klein (Barron’s)

Senator Warren of Massachusetts wants companies to distribute less cashflow to shareholders via buybacks. She’s misinformed about when and how companies buy back shares, and how that effects their ability to invest. [Link; paywall]

Demographics, Unemployment Rate and Inflation by Bill McBride (Calculated Risk)

Teasing out the relationship between demographics and macroeconomic variables is a significant challenge, but the general consensus is that population growth and inflation are positively correlated. [Link]

Network Defects

Apple and Google Face Growing Revolt Over App Store ‘Tax’ by Mark Bergen and Christopher Palmeri (Bloomberg Quint)

Apple and Google take a big cut from developers who make games or apps that get discovered and installed via the centralized app stores. But now, publishers are pushing back. [Link]

Facebook Fueled Anti-Refugee Attacks in Germany, New Research Suggests by Amanda Taub and Max Fisher (NYT)

A study by University of Warwick researchers suggest that a one standard deviation rise in Facebook use was correlated to a 50% increase in attacks on refugees. [Link; soft paywall]

Social Norms

Sorry, Pal, I Don’t Want to Talk: The Other Reason People Wear AirPods by Rebecca Dolan (WSJ)

Apple AirPods are being worn all day by users who want to avoid conversation or interruption. We’re wondering why it has to be AirPods as opposed to other forms of wireless headphones which generally have the same effect. [Link; paywall]


Benchmark Capital Stays Lean, Even After $14 Billion Bonanza by Rolfe Winkler (WJS)

Despite a trend that has seen billions of new capital flow into VC firms, one of the original early stage shops is not expanding its annual fund size, keeping things the same size as it has since 2004 despite a 25x performance from its 2011 vintage fund. [Link; paywall]


Won and done? Sportsbooks banning the smart money by David Purdum (ESPN)

Bookmakers in the UK are increasingly banning successful bettors, a practice that is totally legal and spreading to the US. [Link]

‘Listen To The Kids’: How Atlanta Became The Black Soccer Capital Of America (Bleacher Report)

A walk through the grass roots soccer scene in Atlanta, where immigrant families, hip hop, and an electric MLS squad have combined to create a passionate fan base for the beautiful game in Georgia. [Link]

Have a great Sunday!

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