07/16/19

Libra v The Senate

Today, the US Senate grilled Facebook’s Chief Libracan about all things Libra.

David Marcus is actually the head of Facebook’s crypto wallet subsidiary, Calibra. He was offered up as a human sacrifice to the US Senate Banking Committee to lay out the Libra project.

Reports are he was able to walk out on his power.

David Marcus, head of Facebook's Calibra (digital wallet service), testifies before a Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on "Examining Facebook's Proposed Digital Currency and Data Privacy Considerations" on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 16, 2019.

Marcus had the polished demeanor of a patient who had a regular, weekly colonoscopy or a barbed wire enema just to keep his game sharp. At times, I detected a bit of the third-grade-geometry-teacher-helping-one-of-the-slow-kids tone in his voice. Guy was masterful at giving non-answer answers.

In general, the hearings started out as a hate fest with various Senators laying out the case against Facebook as a lazy protector of privacy whose motto is “Move Fast, Break Things.”

The fact that Facebook had just agreed to a $5,000,000,000 fine to the Federal Trade Commission (3-2 vote with the Republicans on the FTC controlling the outcome) for privacy mischief probably contributed to the generally angry-high-school-wrestling-coach reception of guys like Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio.

“Like a toddler who has gotten his hands on a book of matches, Facebook has burned down the house over and over and called every arson a learning experience.”

Any key points, Big Red Car?

Yes, of course, dear reader. Dave Marcus scored some points on the education front:

 1. You’re really not doing business with Facebook cause they have this nifty Libra Association of 28 members of which Facebook is just going to be “one of the bros.”

OK, so the Libra Association’s charter hasn’t been finalized yet and, sure, all the association members have some dog in this fight, but come on, man.

 2. Sure, Facebook has 2,000,000,000 users, but they’re really just a bunch of great guys who want to help the world while following all the rules. Wink. Wink.

If you have 2B users, you only have to get a small percentage of them drinking the KoolAid to make it work.

 3. Libra will be headquartered in Switzerland NOT because they have incredible bank secrecy laws, but because Libra is …ahhh… a big idea and needs a global platform to hold an idea that big.

Did I mention that Libra — when they get their Libra Association charter figured out — is going to be transparent AF. Uber transparent. In Switzerland, the home of banking transparency.

 4. You will want to hold your Libra cryptocurrency in a secure and safe place like a wallet. To make that possible, Facebook has conveniently created Calibra — a wholly owned Facebook subsidiary to hold your Libra.

But, remember, Facebook is just one of the boys and has no control over the Libra Association. Keep saying that like a yoga mantra.

 5. When asked why Facebook and its 2,000,000,000 users would want to create a global currency in the first place, Marcus essentially whispered, “Because we can? And if we don’t do this, some other giant tech company with privacy issues will. So, why not Facebook?”

 6. Small/big point on the subject of interoperability — playing nice with other systems in the crypto world. Maybe not. So, the idea of this being a decentralized, hands off system? Not too much.

In the end, it gets down to this — since we can trust Facebook to respect and protect our digital privacy, what could possibly go wrong turning the global money supply and banking system over to them? What?

Regulation, Big Red Car?

The cryptocurrency world has always begged for clear regulation. Something tells me, they are going to have a full stocking well before Christmas.

The problem is that the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, the Secretary of the Treasury, and the President of the United States have publicly expressed dismay at the nature of the crypto economy. Throw in the US Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Internal Revenue Service and you have enough concerned persons to organize a couple bridge games.

The suggestion that Facebook/Libra needs to obtain a commercial bank charter and to be ready for bank-type regulation is a little frightening.

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know about anything? I’m just a Big Red Car. Adios, y’all!

 

 

 

07/16/19

Eyes on China

The US – China relationship was kicked into gear by President Trump on many levels. When he took office, the Chinese had just seized a dozen reefs and atolls in the South China Sea, fortified them, and installed advanced weaponry that could control sea lanes through which 40% of international commerce flowed. Every step of the way, the Chinese lied as to their intentions.

The Chinese said the initial sand reclamation programs were to stabilize the atolls, not to build 12,000 foot long runways capable of receiving or launching every plane in the Chinese military inventory.

President Trump and President-For-Life Xi met face-to-face and our President said things to Xi, things that had been left unsaid for decades.

“Hey, President-For-Life Xi, you Chinese are cheaters in the trade game. You’re stealing our tech, you’re manipulating your currency, and you’re blocking access to your markets to great American companies, all the while enjoying unfettered access to the American market. That isn’t right.”

“So what, Orange Man?” President-For-Life Xi retorted. “What are you going to do about it?”

“I’m going to talk shit at you — something I am very good at. I’m going to give you a chance to negotiate a trade treaty to fix these problems. Then, I am going to slap tariffs on you if we can’t make a deal. You need us a lot more than we need you.”

“Why don’t we negotiate about this, Mr. President Donald J Trump?” President-For-Life Xi asked, hoping the negotiations would be long and the status quo could be maintained. Maybe President-For-Life Xi hoped President Trump would not be re-elected. Who knows?

See the source image

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07/15/19

Adapting Leadership Style

One of the gratifying things about working with CEOs who are developing their skills is to watch how they become stronger and more flexible as their problem solving becomes more sophisticated and situational. This is leadership style and voice.

Each successful leader will try out several leadership styles and a genuine voice to advance that style. We have talked about that before.

What is also important is to know that there are multiple ways to solve problems in the course of translating leadership goals into reality.

There are different methodologies based on the current — instant in time current — situation. These different methodologies require a CEO to think carefully about style and voice.

Allow me to use a flying analogy.

When you learn to fly an airplane, one of the critical skills is landing the plane. Pilots define a “good landing” as one that you can walk away from, but that is grossly oversimplistic.

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07/13/19

Congressional Fixation

All spending bills — such as the budget of the United States — must originate in the House of Representatives in accordance with the US Constitution. In many years, the Congress doesn’t do its job in a timely manner.

This year doesn’t look much different. We are in July with a fiscal year to start in October and the budget hasn’t made its way out of the House yet.

This month the House has the Defense Appropriation up for consideration. There are twelve such appropriations that make up the budget.

During the course of debating the Defense Appropriation, Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-Md) proposed an amendment that would forbid the military from spending any money on any military exhibitions at which the President of the United States presides.

The amendment passed by a vote of 221-207 thereby attaching to the underlying bill for further consideration. [There are 235 Dems, 198 Reps, 1 Ind in the House.]

Image result for images fourth of july flyover

Above you see a picture of the Blue Angels flyover at the celebration of Independence Day on the 4th of July.

This celebration was presided over by President Trump. Just for the record, the President is the Commander-in-Chief of the military under the US Constitution.

If the amendment were to make it through the Senate — not bloody likely — it would forbid the Blue Angels from performing for the 4th of July crowd because, arguably, the celebration was presided over by the President.

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07/13/19

Marijuana And The Munchies

Spotted an interesting article that attempted to correlate the sales of munchies and states in which marijuana is legal.

There are currently eleven states and the District of Columbia wherein recreational marijuana is legal. Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia have approved medical marijuana.

Point of note — marijuana is still illegal from the perspective of the Federal government that continues to classify marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act.

This despite continued efforts for the last 47 years to have it reclassified. Schedule I drugs are those that have “no currently accepted medical use.” That is a subject for another day, y’all.

For those of y’all who have never seen a marijuana cigarette, this is what we are talking about. These ones appear to have filters. Who knew?

Image result for images marijuana cigarette

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07/12/19

The Trump Bump — Cryotocurrency

President Trump had some choice words to share in regard to cryptocurrency and the Libra (Facebook) cryptocurrency in particular.

They were not flattering.

The President is “…not a fan…” and suggests that cryptocurrency will “…facilitate unlawful behavior, including drug trade and other illegal activity.”

His full quote was:

“I am not a fan of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, which are not money, and whose value is highly volatile and based on thin air. Unregulated crypto-assets can facilitate unlawful behavior, including drug trade and other illegal activity.”

He had a lot more to say, but that is the money line.

The comments were magnified by those of US Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell who said that he felt that cryptocurrency “…raises serious concerns.” [Hey, if you were casting a movie on the Fed Reserve — sexy action thriller kind of movie with Charlize Theron as a central banker — is this guy not the perfect Fed Reserve Chairman?]

Powell’s comments, though less widely reported, contained substantial beef as he noted that the existing regulatory scheme does not “fit digital currencies” which he indicated would have to be addressed before Libra could go forward. He specifically called out Libra thusly,

“Libra raises many serious concerns regarding privacy, money laundering, consumer protection, and financial stability.”

The President pointedly noted that if Facebook wanted to go forward with Libra they should get a bank charter. Your Big Red Car said the same thing some time ago.

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07/12/19

CEO Shoptalk — The List of Horribles

Nice day in the ATX. Nice day to talk about the List or Horribles.

The List of Horribles is something which a CEO of a startup or small business WILL encounter along the way to the finish line (pay window). These things — not all, but some — will happen.

“Come on, Big Red Car, really?” you say in that skeptical voice of yours, the one your mom used to call your “whiny” voice.

“Yes, dear reader, dear CEO, many of them will happen.”

Here is you (female CEO?) dealing with the List of Horribles. The guy with the helmet head is a Venture Capitalist finalizing the negotiations of a down round.

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07/11/19

When Journalists Do Their Job

No, this is not a screed about journalists being the “enemy of the people,” which I do not subscribe to anyway. This is a story about how journalists can illuminate a forgotten or overlooked story and thereby bring something of great importance to the public, and, in this instance, to the judicial system.

I speak, of course, of l’affaire Epstein. Jeffrey Epstein is a billionaire sexual predator who was able to use high powered lawyers and his own prominence in the social/financial world to obtain a sweetheart plea bargain that stomped on the rights of his many victims.

He had friends in high places. Friends who he took along on his travels — this chap 26 times — and who may have been available to put their thumbs on the scales of justice when he needed it. [Get it? The thumb?]

Image result for images jeffrey epstein bill clinton

Here’s Epstein in the company of famed Harvard prof Alan Dershowitz — one of his lawyers! This picture is from before Epstein pled guilty to his various nefarious deeds involving young women.

Image result for images jeffrey epstein dershowitz

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07/10/19

The Whine Line Protocol

The Whine Line Procotol, Big Red Car? Do tell.

So, your Big Red Car was engaged in a bit of  discussion and blog reading in which the subject of how to deal with problem hires or heretics — do not dig that word in this context — was bandied about.

A couple of things came to light, but the most important is this — dealing with employees both good and not so good is a normal part of CEOing.

Your generation did not invent sex or business; dealing with less than perfect employees is not a problem unique to your outfit. It is just a normal part of CEOing, and you got that gig.

Employees are dynamic. Your star marketing person may become your challenge and vice versa. Here are you and the employees on good days.

It is all just part of running a team, a company, CEOing. It is normal and you don’t need to be firing people for a little whining. The challenge is to keep the whining within a tolerable level.

That requires you to develop your own personal Whine Line Protocol.

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07/9/19

Senators Running For President

On the mournful day after Representative Eric Swalwell pulled the plug on his 2020 campaign, your Big Red Car is taken with the behavior of Senators running for President.

Here is the candidate on The View in better days. He is a pleasant, fresh faced chap from California and I am overtaken with sorrow at his decision.

PHOTO: Rep. Eric Swalwell visits the set of The View, June 4, 2019.

They — the Senators — change. The second they announce for President the behavior of Senate candidates change.

It is hard to be a successful candidate for President, if you have served in the Senate, because you have a track record upon which to run away from to be held accountable.

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