Politics-Shy Companies Find No Refuge in Football


The NewCo Daily: Today’s Top Stories


Despite scattered pleas to “keep politics out of the Super Bowl,” there was no chance of that. Viewers weren’t going to read yesterday’s big game, the big half-time show, and, most of all, the big ads for beer and other Americana in any other light (The Nation). Trump supporters delighted in the come-from-behind victory by the president’s favorite Patriots and associated it with his own electoral win. But they might have found less cheer in the rest of the messaging surrounding the game: from Hamilton’s Schuyler Sisters amending “America the Beautiful” by adding “sisterhood” to “brotherhood”; to Lady Gaga pumping out her omnisexual identity anthem “Born This Way”; to one diversity-welcoming commercial after another.

Budweiser’s big spot celebrated the life and trials of its 19th-century immigrant founder. Not too long ago (like, maybe, when it was approved and planned), such an ad would have been seen as a simple message of non-partisan patriotism. Today, it won plaudits from viewers who oppose the Trump immigration ban, but inspired calls for a Bud boycott among some Trump supporters.

This is how it is for now, folks: Whether you renamed your beer “America” last year or you cheered on immigrants this year, you are not going to succeed in “keeping politics out” of the can or the game. Hey, at least the sexism of years past was largely absent from the commercial roster. And apparently there was some exciting football played as well.

NewCo Shift Forum Alert

Beginning this afternoon and through Tuesday and Wednesday, we’re holding the first NewCo Shift Forum in San Francisco. The event is sold-out but we’ll be there with on-the-ground reports. Keep an eye out for them, and don’t be thrown if we play around a little with this newsletter’s format and schedule. (We know you watch this stuff like a hawk.)

Tech Business: Trump’s Ban Hurts Us

A who’s who list of 97 mostly-tech companies — including Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook — joined forces with Washington state’s suit against the Trump administration’s new immigration rules by signing on to a friend-of-the-court brief (The Washington Post). Also signing on were Netflix, Twitter, Salesforce, Pinterest, Reddit, Lyft, and Uber — which has scrambled to counter a #deleteuber movement sparked by riders who felt the ride-hailing giant had aligned too closely with Trump. Amazon, which has also opposed the ban, said it was advised not to sign the brief since it is a witness in the original suit.

The brief’s argument, in a nutshell, is that Trump’s order is bad for business: “It hinders the ability of American companies to attract great talent; increases costs imposed on businesses; makes it more difficult for American firms to compete in the international marketplace; and gives global enterprises a new, significant incentive to build operations — and hire new employees — outside the United States,” You can read the whole thing here.

Profiling Millennials: Debt-Ridden, Progressive, Sorted by Education

Are Millennials “the new serfs”? Or the new resistance? Maybe both. In The Daily Beast, Joel Kotkin lays out the war-between-the-generations case: Millennials are the first generation in recent American history who can’t look forward to a better life than their predecessors — and that, Kotkin argues, is because those predecessors, the Boomers, have hogged everything. High student debt and unaffordable housing mean that many urban millennials will, like medieval peasants, “spend their lives paying off their overlords.”

Aggrieved they may be, but millennials aren’t looking to President Trump to fix their woes, writes Jeffrey Sachs (Project Syndicate). Socially liberal, diversity friendly, and climate conscious, millennials are far more likely than their elders to turn to government for collective solutions to inequality and access to health care, and they don’t resent taxes as much. They are the opposite of everything Trump stands for, and they will outlast him and shape the future of the world economy.

But we shouldn’t think of millennials as a monolithic group: Today, there’s a stark divide between those with a college education and those who entered the workforce straight out of high school (Alana Semuels in The Atlantic). The college grads, who still see opportunity and advancement on their personal roadmaps, cluster in booming cities, while the degree-less, whose prospects have withered, languish in the hinterland, where automation is eating whatever “good” factory jobs haven’t already been lost to globalization. This two-track economy helps explain both the 2016 election and the divisions that it bequeathed us. Greater investment in public education might be the only long-term remedy. Unfortunately, that is not on the D.C. agenda for now.

Your Next Light Bulb Could Be a Smart Bulb

LED bulbs aren’t cheap, but they’re efficient and they last so long that we don’t need to but them terribly often. A startup called Ketra has a scheme for making them even more expensive but also more irresistible: Make then “self-conscious” by introducing a feedback loop by which they readjust themselves to stay in tune with their surroundings (Joe Bernstein in Buzzfeed).

Ketra is sort of the Tesla of lighting. Right now its high-end products — favored by restaurants, galleries, and shops that really care about getting their light exactly right — are out of reach for most of us. The company’s master plan for reaching a wider market is to sell people on the idea that their lightbulbs ought to make them feel healthier, look better in selfies, and have a sense of control over their environment. Is that worth $100 a bulb? Maybe not yet. But prices will drop, and we might come to expect more from our indoor lighting.


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