Six Ideas That Made Us Think

1. Colonel Sanders, Entrepreneur

Long before Chick-fil-A, there was Kentucky Fried Chicken. As Adam Chandler recounts in his new book, Drive-Thru Dreams, the fried chicken chain’s soaring success was due to the energy and guile of its founder, Harland David Sanders. Eater features a memorable excerpt that uncovers the roots of KFC’s personality-driven marketing:

What separates Sanders from the countless other Kentucky Colonels is the fact that he went method into the role of the colonelcy with a fidelity that makes Daniel Day-Lewis look like kind of a punk. Sanders became the Colonel, first in a black suit and then in his trademark white suit, which matched his hair and a goatee that some historians suggest he dyed white. Wherever he went, he would engage in some “coloneling,” making strategic small talk and enhancing the Sanders mystique one table, community picnic, Rotary Club meeting, and social outing at a time.

2. Spain: Magnet for Spanish-Speaking Talent

Economics professor Bryan Caplan returns to the U.S. after five weeks in Spain, and all his observations about the country are worth reading. But perhaps the most salient is what he sees as the country’s biggest opportunity – immigration:

Spain has more to gain from immigration than virtually any other country on Earth. There are almost 500 million native Spanish speakers on Earth – and only 47 million people in Spain…Nearly all of these Spanish speakers live in countries that are markedly poorer and more dangerous than Spain, so vast numbers would love to migrate. And due to the low linguistic and cultural barriers, the migrants are ready to hit the ground running. You can already see migration-fueled growth all over Spain, but that’s only a small fraction of Spain’s potential.

3. Crystal Ball Psychology

Morgan Housel makes a persuasive case that individual psychology is more important than rigorous analytics when it comes to making accurate predictions. He lists 12 common errors that occur in people’s heads when predictions are made, including the fear of losing credibility when your prediction is too early:

I remember watching CNBC in March 2009, when the S&P 500 bottomed out 60% below its previous high. Host David Faber noted that every trader he talked to knew a big market rally was coming. “So, how are you invested?” Faber asked them. “In cash,” the traders told him. Faber said it was because they couldn’t afford to have another down month. They were confident a turn was coming – and they were right – but being even a month early was too much risk. They couldn’t stand going to their bosses or their investors and explaining why they lost money again.

4. Black Market Gets High on Marijuana Legalization

Has the decriminialization of marijuana across several states stubbed out the black market for cannabis? Just the opposite,reports Politico:

In many cases [legalization] has fueled, rather than eliminated, the black market. In Los Angeles, unlicensed businesses greatly outnumber legal ones; in Oregon, a glut of low-priced legal cannabis has pushed illegal growers to export their goods across borders into other states where it’s still illegal, leaving law enforcement overwhelmed. Three years after Massachusetts voters approved full legalization of marijuana, most of the cannabis economy consists of unlicensed “private clubs,” home growing operations and illicit sales.

5. 50th Anniversary of the Fake Moon Landing

Rich Cohen has written the definitive history of crackpot theories about how Apollo 11’s moon landing was faked. As he discovered, all the ideas trace back to the delusions of a single man, William Kaysin:

He believed the astronauts had been removed from the ship moments before takeoff, flown to Nevada, where, a few days later, they broadcast the moon walk from the desert. People claimed to have seen Armstrong walking through a hotel lobby, a show girl on each arm. Aldrin was playing the slots. They were then flown to Hawaii and put back inside the capsule after the splash down but before the cameras arrived. This scenario was turned into Capricorn One, probably the best acting work of O.J. Simpson’s career.

6. Where’s the Beef?

To no one's surprise, the European Parliament has served up new bureaucratic rules on how food can be labeled. The Economistcannot resist the soft target:

Earlier this year, the European Parliament’s agriculture committee voted to prohibit the terms “burger”, “sausage”, “escalope” and “steak” to describe products that do not contain any meat. It was inspired by the European Court of Justice’s decision in 2017 to ban the use of “milk”, “butter” and “cream” for non-dairy products. Exceptions were made for “ice cream” and “almond milk”, but “soya milk” went down the drain, lest consumers assume it had been extracted from the soya udder of a soya cow. The court has yet to rule on the milk of human kindness.

Websites Worth Reading

WikiMap: World map, with countries labeled after the most common word on their Wikipedia page

The Atlas: Search for anything, get loads of graphs

The Riddler: Head-scratching logic riddles from FiveThirtyEight

Feeds We Follow

@HacksOnTap: Bipartisan podcast from a pair of old pros

@AirMailWeekly: Graydon Carter’s new Hollywood/Wall Street gossip weekly

@TenderlyMag: New radical vegan publication