Weekly Digest 8/23/18

Robert Caro Gothamist interview & Robert Caro NYRBooks interview – I read The Power Broker last year and loved it. It’s both a biography of Robert Moses and a treatise on power. Reading these interviews makes me want to read Caro’s LBJ series, which I’ve kept on putting off. Caro asking questions about digital journalism was fun to read, and I never knew that The Power Broker was originally supposed to be 50% longer; man, I would love to read that finished copy. (5,100 & 2,800 words respectively)

Ben Thompson on monetizing “stories” – Snapchat’s growth is slowing down which is extremely worrisome to investors. Why? Because of the success of Instagram stories. Instagram copied stories so well that their growth actually started accelerating. But, this success presents a crossroads for Facebook since Stories doesn’t monetize as well as the News Feed. Regardless, Facebook, via Instagram, managed to avoid getting disrupted and losing users this time around, so it’s an ultimate success. (3,000 words)

New Yorker profile of Elliott Management and its founder, Paul Singer – This article reminds me of Billions, when Axe and other billionaires are described as being a nation, which is probably an apt description considering Singer has purchased the debt of many nations and took them to court repeatedly to force those countries to pay their debt in full. The piece is centered on Elliott Management’s investment in Athenahealth, and how the former tore manipulated Jonathan Bush, the latter’s CEO, like a puppet. The use of former spies to obtain private information and the character assassination by dredging up any story from Bush’s past were particularly scary. (10,000 words)

Elizabeth Kolbert on ultra-wealthy philanthropists – America’s wealthiest people are pouring their wealth into foundations, but Kolbert argues that this isn’t an unmitigated good. Foundations being tax-deductible is a huge problem because the foundations are unilaterally controlled by their billionaire founders while costing the government billions in unearned tax revenue. I’m personally skeptical about the government using those funds efficiently, but it is still a problem that the ultra-wealthy are able to save billions in taxes by donating to a foundation that they have total control over, especially since these foundations are more and more becoming symbols of status and mechanisms of power. (3,000 words)

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