DONUT 25: Donald’s middle and the new middle class



Today’s post is brought to you by DONUTS (and written by Alec Liu). Not sure what DONUTS is? Well… stay tuned, you’re in for a treat.

First, apologies for no DONUT on Friday. We had to work on last minute impromptu video shoot. Which, on the one hand, was a terrible opportunity cost because no DONUT on Friday (and without warning, at that).

But the upside is that we are getting closer and closer to new DONUTS video content, which we are very, very excited about.

Anyway, I’m listening to Chance The Rapper this morning. Adele pwned last night, while Beyonce showed off her belly.

But Adele is already an institution. It was Chance that won best new artist and best rap album for Coloring Book.

The moderation of Donald Trump

This is something we’ve discussed a few times, that there has generally been an understanding, especially among “the elite”—whoever “the elite” are supposed to be, anyway—that Trump’s bark is worse than his bite. (That his Tweet is worse than his… twat?)

This theory appeared to be more or less validated by the markets, the so-called Trump bump.

Then a couple weeks ago came, at least for some, as a rude awakening. Trump, it seemed, was for real.

And so here was Trump placing himself in a series of aggressive poses. But then reality set in. The courts pushed back on his “extreme vetting of people from certain countries.” He probably got properly briefed on situations like Iran and Netanyahu. Oh ya, and China stopped taking his calls.

That China episode, BTW, probably offers the best narrative encapsulation of this first chapter of the Donald Trump presidency.

Step 1: Talk tough on the campaign trail. Very tough. Fully commit.

Step 2: Once elected, immediately follow through on tough talk and full commitment. Disregard convention and tradition and caution. Take call with Taiwan, effectively taking most aggressive potential pose.

Step 3: Realize that President Xi isn’t a fool and has called your bluff, hasn’t taken your call since November. Realize that China is… important. Realize that the alternative is… extremely messy and not advisable.

Step 4: Save face, about-face. Based on new information and lessons learned, trackback from bull-in-china-shop approach. Regard convention and tradition and caution. Act as such. Re-implement the status quo with China after publicly kowtowing to President Xi, the real victor and now stronger strongman following this series of microaggressions.

Is this the pattern we should sort of expect across the board? Look, we have to make America great again! OK, we’re doing it now, I signed some stuff. Oh, this is kind of hard.

And thus begins the Great Moderation of Donald Trump.

I think the main positive we can take away from all of this is that our President, while impulsive, as we’ve known, is also flexible and adaptable, as we’ve always sort of wanted to believe.

Anyway, Mike Pence hired a libertarian as his chief economist.

Also, Trump’s Labor pick is the marketing genius behind Carl’s Jr.

And some profiles of Gary Cohn from the NYT and the WSJ.

The digital assembly line

I think one of the other lessons during the Great Moderation of Donald Trump that we expect our fearless leader to learn is that making America great again by bringing back manufacturing jobs is going to be tough because like, what manufacturing jobs. Because automation.

When I worked in SF for a startup, one joke we would make is that startup workers are sort of the factory workers of the 21st century. They just hold a veil over your eyes from that fact by, IDK, having bean bags and free soda. And you know, you aren’t sitting side by side with your fellow blue collar workers out on the factory floor. You work… in an “open office” plan. Seriously, the real reason for the open office plan is so that they can cram more of you into one place (it’s cheaper). And also watch you.

But it’s an open office plan, not a factory (that happens to make apps instead of trinkets)—which is way more chill, you see? But then every morning you come to the office to sit there and grind it out, tip tapping on your machine tool all day, sandwiched between two other tip tappers. Rows and rows of tip tapping. The pay was OK because it was SF, but it was also kind of not great because it was SF. Because rent.

Anyway, here’s a WIRED piece on how coding is the new blue collar job:

Politicians routinely bemoan the loss of good blue-collar jobs. Work like that is correctly seen as a pillar of civil middle-class society. And it may yet be again. What if the next big blue-collar job category is already here—and it’s programming? What if we regarded code not as a high-stakes, sexy affair, but the equivalent of skilled work at a Chrysler plant?

Among other things, it would change training for programming jobs—and who gets encouraged to pursue them. As my friend Anil Dash, a technology thinker and entrepreneur, notes, teachers and businesses would spend less time urging kids to do expensive four-year computer-­science degrees and instead introduce more code at the vocational level in high school. You could learn how to do it at a community college; midcareer folks would attend intense months-long programs like Dev Bootcamp. There’d be less focus on the wunderkinds and more on the proletariat.

This sounds reasonable to me. BTW, I was skeptical about the whole coding bootcamp thing. Then my friend quit his consulting job to do one and immediately got a job at a kewl startup in NYC after the ten week program. So, there’s that. (Disclaimer: Your mileage may vary.)

Also, last week we talked about how computer engineers are replacing traders at Goldman Sachs.


Remember the story of that guy in London they busted for spoofing? Here’s a crazy story about how he lost his $50 million fortune.

Here’s another piece talking up AI with regards to the future of hedge funds (and also Bitcoin).

The end of Moore’s Law?

More Snap haters.

Thank you competition—Verizon brings back unlimited plans.

WIRED feature on the NYTimes’ future.

Planet Money with Charlie Shrem.

Weibo > Twitter.

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Delightfully indulgent.

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