4/26/21 Power Five

1. Which Mothers Should Work? – “What it means essentially is that when white women stay home and work without pay for the family, that’s a great thing,” said Jacqueline Jones, a historian at the University of Texas at Austin. “When Black women attempt to stay home and care for their children, if they don’t have the means or the husband to do so, they’re vilified.”

2. The Corporate Income Tax is a Job Creator – “Wages and benefits (including employer-side payroll taxes) are tax-deductible expenses. When the corporate tax rate is just 21%, the opportunity cost to shareholders of every dollar spent on all-in compensation is 79¢. Only 21¢ gets covered by the tax writeoff. When the corporate tax rate is 50%, 50¢ out of every dollar spent on worker compensation comes out of Uncle Sam’s pockets, rather than out of shareholders’. Hiring workers is a much better deal for firms when the corporate tax rate is high than it is when corporate tax rates are low. For the same reason raising income tax rates would be a boon for tax-exempt nonprofits, increasing corporate tax rates is a boon for labor.

3. Apple is the $2.3 Trillion Fortress that Tim Cook Built – “Tim may not be able to design a product like Steve,” says Warren Buffett, who knows Cook well and whose Berkshire Hathaway Inc. has a stake in Apple worth $111 billion, as of a September filing. “But Tim understands the world to a degree that very, very few CEOs I’ve met over the past 60 years could match.”

4. If the Moon Were One Pixel – “A tediously accurate scale model of the solar system.”

5. Graveyard of Bikes – What happens when bike ride share programs go out of style? A “green” solution to transportation goes south very quickly.

Aerial photo of one of many Chinese bicycle graveyards

4/20/21 Power Five

1. They Hacked the McDonalds Ice Cream Machines and Started a Cold War – “But after years of studying this complex machine and its many ways of failing, O’Sullivan remains most outraged at this notion: That the food-equipment giant Taylor sells the McFlurry-squirting devices to McDonald’s restaurant owners for about $18,000 each, and yet it keeps the machines’ inner workings secret from them. What’s more, Taylor maintains a network of approved distributors that charge franchisees thousands of dollars a year for pricey maintenance contracts, with technicians on call to come and tap that secret passcode into the devices sitting on their counters.”

2. 1/5 of QAnon Posts Originate Outside the U.S – A weakened and contentious U.S. is a huge benefit to some foreign countries. Of course Russia wants to hack our elections, create discord, and disrupt our energy markets. We do not have a plan or strategy in place to fight back.

3. Why the Worst NBA Player is Still Better than You – “People don’t understand how a little bit nuts you have to be to sustain an N.B.A. career,” Scalabrine said. “Especially when you’re not that talented. You have to be ready. You have to be up for the fight. You have to be like that every day. And if you’re not, you lose your livelihood.”

4. The New York Power Lunch is Back – “There is also the sheer novelty of meeting clients and colleagues after a year of isolation. “You’re so happy to be with people who don’t live with you,” said Marlene Wallach, founder of Gleem Beauty, a skin-care company headquartered in the city.”

5. Why Amazon Workers Sided With the Company Over a Union – “Many of the workers at the warehouse have complaints about Amazon, wanting shorter hours or less obtrusive monitoring of their production. Mr. Brooks and others said they wished their 10-hour shift had a break period longer than 30 minutes because in the vast warehouse, they can spend almost half their break just walking to and from the lunchroom. Turnout for the vote was low, at only about half of all eligible workers, suggesting that neither Amazon nor the union had overwhelming support.

NYT

4/2/21 Power Five

1. How Food Banks Succeeded“They distributed roughly 50 percent more food in 2020 compared with 2019, a considerable portion to first-time visitors. They served millions of people even as they dealt with supply-chain interruptions and health risks for their volunteers and employees.

2. Why Bumblebees Love Cats – “Darwin writes: what animals could you imagine to be more distant from one another than a cat and a bumblebee? Yet the ties that bind these two animals, though at first glance nonexistent, are on the contrary so strict that were they to be modified, the consequences would be so numerous and profound as to be unimaginable. Mice, argues Darwin, are among the principal enemies of bumblebees. They eat their larvae and destroy their nests. On the other hand, as everyone knows, mice are the favorite prey of cats. One consequence of this is that, in proximity to those villages with the most cats, one finds fewer mice and more bumblebees.”

3. The Dumbest Financial Story of 2021 – “When someone trades on margin—with borrowed money—they may have to maintain a certain amount of collateral to satisfy their lenders. If the value of a stock holding goes down, the investor needs more collateral. Not having it triggers a margin call, where the lender can force a sell-off of the stock to bring the investor back into compliance with margin requirements. The Wall Street Journal reported that Archegos’ various banks—including Credit Suisse, Nomura, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley—had a meeting to discuss how to effectively wind down the family office’s positions. But the two American banks appear to have had little interest in acting slowly. Goldman and Morgan Stanley limited their losses by selling Archegos’ shares quickly, before the size of the sale brought on a larger fall in the stocks’ prices.

4. How Bored Rich People Are Spending Their Cash – “A number of retailers were reticent to speak about the trend, stating that they did not wish to be on the record talking about nearly sold out $90,000 earrings during a time of growing wealth inequality.

5. The Best Decision Bill Gates Ever Made – “I might not be quite as hard-edged about pushing others like I pushed myself. When I was young, I was a bit tough as a manager…. Maybe I’d be more sociable in college. I hope that wouldn’t, you know, prevent all the other things that happened in my life from happening. But I was pretty monomaniacal even when I was at college.”

4/1/21 Power Five

1. Leaf blower Legislation – “Two-stroke gas-powered engines are so exceptionally polluting that they have been banned in almost all applications except lawn equipment. Simplest benchmark: running a leafblower for 30 minutes creates more emissions than driving a F-150 pickup truck 3800 miles.” !!!!

2. The Truth About Newton’s Productive Plague – “Suitably distant from the nearest town, it was where, in near total solitude, he would invent calculus, create the science of motion, unravel gravity, and more. The plague created the conditions in which modern science could be created. Or so the story goes.

3. Effort – “If someone’s much better than you at something, they probably try much harder. You probably underestimate how much harder they try. I’m not saying that talent isn’t a meaningful differentiator, because it certainly is, but I think people generally underestimate how effort needs to be poured into talent in order to develop it. So much of getting good at anything is just pure labor: figuring out how to try and then offering up the hours. If you’re doing it wrong you can do it a thousand times and not produce any particularly interesting results. So you have to make sure you’re trying the right way.

4. The OODA Loop – “Developed by strategist and U.S. Air Force Colonel John Boyd, the OODA Loop is a practical concept designed to function as the foundation of rational thinking in confusing or chaotic situations. “OODA” stands for “Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act.”

5. The Back Office Blunder That Cost Citigroup $500 Million – “What the employees didn’t realize that Tuesday evening was that by failing to check two boxes in the byzantine software Citigroup uses to execute payments, they’d authorized the entire principal on the loan—about $894 million—to be paid to the creditors with the bank’s own money. Wire transfers of that size require the approval of three people, but no one handling the Revlon payment became aware of the mistake until hours after it had been distributed. “Bad news,” the Citigroup manager in Delaware wrote in a Skype chat to his superior the next morning. “Principal out the door when it was supposed to be sent to wash for Revlon structure.”

Justin Wolfers

3/30/21 Power Five

1. Utah is a Leader in Cloud Seeding. Does it Work? – “The goal of cloud seeding is to increase the number of particles in the storm and coax snow to fall in the mountains. According to the state’s estimates, roughly 7% of the snowflakes that land on Utah’s major mountain ranges any given winter freeze around tiny particles of silver iodide that are blasted into storm systems from more than 130 cloud seeding generators, mostly stationed along the western edge of the state’s mountains.

2. Biden and the Blame Game at the Border – “There are currently some eighteen thousand unaccompanied migrant children in U.S. custody, including more than five thousand who remain in holding cells, as the government scrambles to find space to house them. Republicans who were silent when Trump was separating migrant children from their parents and eviscerating the asylum system are now denouncing “Biden’s border crisis.” The messaging appears to be effective; it’s causing all sorts of confusion. Biden is turning away forty per cent of asylum-seeking families and virtually all single adults arriving at the border, under a controversial Trump policy known as Title 42, which he has left in place. Even so, everyone from TV news anchors to the President of Mexico is blaming Biden for encouraging more migrants to travel north, because he vowed to stop Trump’s heedless cruelty. Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, tweeted that Biden has “emphasized the humane treatment of immigrants, regardless of their legal status.” He meant it as a criticism.

3. The Frick on Madison Finally Let’s You See Fragonard Up Close – “Here, Fragonard finally looks outside his lifelong palm grove of pleasure to what would eclipse and kill it. The painter had always avoided the dangerous intimacies and true vulnerabilities of love, even as he depicted romance. But his world had always been under pressure. The landscape was always closing in. Only Fragonard’s extraordinary touch, lustrous color, and frivolous version of love without shadows kept the wolf of reality at bay.”

4. How Unfair Property Taxes Keep Black Families From Gaining Wealth – “The problem is rooted in American history. One legacy of racial discrimination, including the practice of redlining (the refusal of banks to make loans in Black communities), is that Black people own a disproportionate share of lower-valued real estate. Census data show that the median home value in predominantly Black tracts is roughly half the value in majority White and Hispanic tracts. That historical disparity has been aggravated by a flawed tax system built on incomplete data and outdated methods for estimating the value of residential properties. “There isn’t anybody making explicitly racial decisions to produce these outcomes,” Berry says. “Nevertheless, they are racially disproportionate.”

5. How Corporate America Created the Chocolate Chip Cookie – “According to some versions of the story, when Wakefield ran out of the nuts she needed for her cookies one night, she decided to experiment. Swinging an ice pick, Wakefield chopped a bar of Nestlé semi-sweet chocolate into pieces and added them instead.

America’s MLB Breakdown

3/23/21 Power Five

1. Who Can and Can’t Get Vaccinated? – 67 countries are still waiting for vaccines. Meanwhile an 18-year-old in Shanghai can get jabbed, but a 70-year-old cannot.

2. Healthcare.gov Remains Messy – “The first step of the federal upgrade should be ready by April 1: Healthcare.gov, where people sign up for insurance in 36 states, will start showing prices that reflect the new policy. For more than five million Americans with lower incomes, health plans will be available for no monthly premium. For others who earn more, new discounts could be worth hundreds of dollars a month.

3. Redlined, Now Flooded“Contemporary maps for flood risk overlap in striking ways with New Deal–era maps used by the federal government to assess risk for mortgage lending. When appraisers mapped cities for the federal Homeowners’ Loan Corporation in the 1930s, they assigned grades to neighborhoods based on several factors, race high among them. Black and immigrant neighborhoods were deemed undesirable, marked by yellow or red lines designating these areas “declining” or “hazardous”—a racist practice known as redlining. These historically redlined neighborhoods suffer a far higher risk of flooding today, according to new research from Redfin, the Seattle-based real-estate brokerage.”

4. Martha Stewart is the Original Influencer – “Most people who tell you they’ve invented whole genres of things or were the “first” at anything are probably exaggerating. But with Stewart it’s generally true. She popularized beautifully photographed cookbooks and manuals for living well, of which she’s written 98, and created a lifestyle magazine centered around a single person and philosophy (Martha Stewart Living, which celebrated its 30th anniversary last year), which she then tied to an Emmy-winning TV show. She brought luxurious homewares at affordable prices to big-box stores before anyone else did, and she figured out how to sell those goods through her magazine and TV show in a synergistic (“I love that word”), self-sustaining model of content and commerce she likens to a solar system.

5. Why Can’t Britain Handle the Truth About Winston Churchill? – “It is worth recalling that the uncritical Churchill-worship that is so dominant today was not shared by many British people in 1945, when they voted him out of office before the war was even completely over. Many working-class communities in Britain, from Dundee to south Wales, felt strong animosity towards Churchill for his willingness to mobilise military force during industrial disputes. As recently as 2010, Llanmaes community council opposed the renaming of a military base to Churchill Lines.”

3/22/21 Power Five

1. What if Housing Prices Aren’t As High As They Appear? – “Prices paid are up more than 240% since 1989 and 56% since 2013 alone…In certain places for sure but it’s not as bad as it looks once you make some adjustments. You have to put these prices into context.

2. Don’t be Surprised When Vaccinated People Get Infected – “When breakthrough cases do arise, it’s not always clear why. The trio of vaccines now circulating in the United States were all designed around the original coronavirus variant, and seem to be a bit less effective against some newer versions of the virus. These troublesome variants have yet to render any of our current vaccines obsolete. But “the more variants there are, the more concern you have for breakthrough cases,” Saad Omer, a vaccine expert at Yale, told me. The circumstances of exposure to any version of the coronavirus will also make a difference. If vaccinated people are spending time with groups of unvaccinated people in places where the virus is running rampant, that still raises their chance of getting sick. Large doses of the virus can overwhelm the sturdiest of immune defenses, if given the chance.

3. Who is Beeple? – “When asked to explain NFTs, Duncan used this analogy: Imagine you owned a pair of expensive Air Jordans. If Nike went out of business, those sneakers wouldn’t suddenly disappear from your closet. Why should digital goods—like a Fortnite skin or an original Beeple—be any different?”

4. Amazon Plans it’s New York Takeover “It has snatched up at least nine new warehouses in the city, including a 1 million-plus square foot behemoth rising in Queens that will be its largest in New York, and today has at least 12 warehouses in the five boroughs. And it has added to its roster more than two dozen warehouses in suburbs surrounding the city. No other large competitor has a single warehouse in the city and Amazon has largely left most of its chief rivals, like Walmart and Target, behind.

5. Piazza, Clemens, and a Broken Bat – “Piazza’s repeatedly owning Clemens at the plate; Clemens’s responding like a big, fat psycho baby with a fastball to Piazza’s skull, knocking him out with a concussion; then Game 2 of the World Series, the showdown in front of the whole world, the shattered bat, the jagged shard that Clemens may or may not have slung in anger at Piazza, the benches emptying, the near brawl—none of it ever got resolved with a peace accord.They never hashed it out years later, they never put it behind them and they never will. Mike Piazza and Roger Clemens and the broken bat during the Subway Series will connect them forever.

WSJ

3/16/21 Power Five

1. Inside Pfizer’s Fast, Fraught, and Lucrative Vaccine Distribution – “It didn’t come from some algorithm. The vaccine allocation was the product of a company struggling to apportion doses while demand far exceeded supply, using an opaque process that appears to have involved a mix of order size, position in the queue, production forecasts, calls from world leaders, the potential to advance the science, and of course the desire to make a profit. “Everybody wanted [deliveries] in the first quarter, and we tried to allow discussions and negotiations to spread things so everybody would get in an equitable base,” Bourla says. The countries that hadn’t placed orders wanted a place in line, and those that had placed early orders wanted to buy more.”

2. The Ambitious Aim of Saving Mother’s Lives – “The United States has the highest rate of maternal deaths in the industrialized world. A third of those deaths happen after delivery, when a significant share of American women experience a gap in coverage. Under current law, all states provide Medicaid coverage to low-income women who are pregnant. More than 40 percentof babies born each year in the United States are to mothers enrolled in the public health program. But coverage runs out 60 days after delivery, causing many women to become uninsured shortly after giving birth.”

3. Essential Oils May Be Wreaking Havoc on Your Skin – “While inhaling certain essential oils has been shown to affect the central nervous system and stimulate the brain to release neurotransmitters like serotonin that help with mood regulation, they’ve also been shown to disrupt the normal functioning of hormones. When it comes to the skin, some experts say that in small concentrations they offer antibacterial benefits, but many believe that beyond giving a product a nice scent, they do more harm than good. “Using them on your skin almost insures that some of it will get into your bloodstream,” Dr. Petrillo said, listing a skin-crawling list of common side effects, including redness, chemical burns, headaches, swelling and blisters. And although many brands maintain that the antibacterial properties of essential oils aid in fighting acne, they can actually worsen breakouts.”

4. Bitcoin’s Climate Problem – “In the near term, nearly two-thirds of all Bitcoin mining is taking place in China, and “mining activities can also be found in regions with coal-heavy power generation, such as in the province of Inner Mongolia,” according to a study in the scientific journal Joule, which also raises the idea of imposing a carbon tax. “Regulating this largely gambling-driven source of carbon emissions appears to be a simple means to contribute to decarbonizing the economy.”

5. 7 Questions. 75 Artists. 1 Very Bad Year. – “Did you make anything that mattered? Who and what comforted you? Which momentswill you remember? Which ideas would you like to forget? What would a do-overlook like? And what’s still on your to-do list as “normal” comes into focus?

What would this look like under the old administration?

3/15/21 Power Five

1. Where Have All The Houses Gone?“The supply side is really tricky,” said Benjamin Keys, an economist at the Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania. “Who wants to sell a house in the middle of a pandemic? That’s what I keep coming back to. Is this a time you want to open your house up to people walking through it? No, of course not.” A majority of homeowners in America are baby boomers — a group at heightened risk from the coronavirus. If many of them have been reluctant to move out and downsize over the past year, that makes it hard for other families behind them to move in and upgrade. There are lots of steps along the “property ladder,” as Professor Keys put it, that are hard to imagine people taking mid-pandemic: Who would move into an assisted living facility or nursing home right now (freeing up a longtime family home)? Who would commit to a “forever home” (freeing up their starter house) when it’s unclear what remote work will look like in six months?”

2. The Average American Woman Weighs as Much as the Average American Man – Not so rosy for men either. “The average American is 33 pounds heavier than the average Frenchman, 40 pounds heavier than the average Japanese citizen, and a whopping 70 pounds heavier than the average citizen of Bangladesh. To add up to one ton of total mass, it takes 20 Bangladeshis but only 12.2 Americans.

3. Where Does the Royal Family Get it’s Money From? – “As head of state, the monarch technically owns the crown estate, a collection of land and assets that includes Ascot racecourse, a big chunk of central London and half of the foreshore (the coastal land between the high and low tide marks) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. But the crown estate is run independently, and its profits—£345m last year—go to the government.”

4. On the Experience of Being Poorish, for People Who Are Not – “It also implies there’s no place left to cut – you don’t have a car payment, and your insurance is minimal if it hasn’t lapsed already. You don’t have cable. You are eating a lot of rice. There’s simply nothing “extra” left to cut, and now you are choosing between things like power and internet (which you need to work and find work, these days) and water (which you need to survive). Often you’ve already even prioritized those things, because as I’ve said they don’t turn off your water for a while; you’ve been juggling things like power and water, now with late fees, for a while. And one day your wife calls you and tells you the water is off, and there’s nothing you can do; maybe some family member can help you out, or maybe you live without utilities for a week or so until you get paid and start the next pay cycle that much more behind.”

5. 17 Reasons to Let the Economic Optimism Begin “Shake and shake the ketchup bottle. First none will come and then a lot’ll.”

WSJ