08/3/19

Speaking Truth To The People

We are in a maelstrom of political activity with the Democrat primary raging amongst a crowded field. Crowded fields force candidates to try to distinguish themselves from the other offerings. Great fun. Enormous entertainment.

Image result for images dem debates

All perfectly normal. Last time in 2016, it was the Republicans who were spreading the manure, hurling insults while winnowing the field down to its eventual candidate.

[Note: Candidate former Governor of Florida, mega-funded, entitled, family business President, political dynasty-heir-Jeb Bush famously said, “Donald, you can’t insult your way to the White House.” Who knew?]

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07/29/19

Regulation — A Word of Praise

Your Big Red Car is not one to praise regulation or regulators. No surprise there, eh?

Your BRC, in fact, is guilty of railing against regulation. Fair play.

Today, I rise to praise the outcome of a regulatory action — the approval of the T-Mobile – Sprint merger that leaves the country with three wireless providers of some significant substance. This was good regulation with a good result on the eve of 5G, creating three worthy competitors for your wireless dollar. Bravo.

Image result for images logo t-mobile

The big three will serve 95% of the market as follows:

AT&T serves 100,000,000 customers.

Verizon serves 100,000,000 customers

The new T-Mobile/Sprint serves 90,000,000 customers.

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07/29/19

Venture Capital Data

In working with startup CEOs one of the most important discussion points is raising money. To be able to effectively understand the market for venture capital, one has to do a bit of study on the subject.

Luckily, there are a number of great sources out there. One of them is PitchBook which publishes something called the PitchBook-NVCA Venture Monitor. It is worth a read.

A couple of things caught my eye. First is that the money flow continues at record levels. More money and a consistently high level of deals. Good news.

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07/28/19

Pickle Juice Is Normal

So, I’m having an adult beverage with a pal and I order a Pickle Juice Martini, a lovely concoction made with vodka and pickle juice. My pal looks at me, says, “What?”

“Yes, I adore a pickle juice and vodka drink. It doesn’t have to be a martini. It can be in a whiskey glass with cracked ice or a single large round ice cube.” I dig a single large ice cube.

He looks for the lobotomy scars and says, “Nobody drinks pickle juice.” He is a confident, accomplished person whose opinion I usually respect, but this time he has wandered off the reservation. I tell him so.

Tito's Vodka Pickle Infusion Martini

Tito’s vodka is handmade in Austin By God Texas. I like mine in a whiskey glass with a sliver of dill pickle, but that’s just me.

[Three ounces Tito’s, one ounce pickle juice, one half ounce dry vermouth, shaken with cracked ice, strained into a chilled martini glass. Same approach but in a whiskey glass over ice with a few pickle chunks or spears. Your choice. Choose wisely.]

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07/28/19

Tech, Taxes, Tariffs, Trade — And French Wine

France has imposed/threatened a “digital services tax” on the likes of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google — all American companies.

The tax is 3% of gross revenues from digital services earned in France, but only for companies with more than 25MM Euros in French revenue and 750MM Euros in worldwide gross revenue. The tax money goes to France.

When you work through the math it puts a bullseye on Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google while giving a pass to many European companies who collectively are just as big as these digital behemoths. This is not an accident.

This tax was discussed for some time period, but its enactment caught a lot of folks by surprise. One who was not caught by surprise was President Donald J Trump.

President Trump had spoken to the French President Emmanuel Macron cautioning him that such a tax would be met with an American response.

Image result for images macron

President Trump, in his inimitable fashion said, “Don’t do it because if you do it, I’m going to tax your wine.” Macron blew him off. French wine is a huge industry.

The French Finance Minister, Bruno Le Maire, sniffing at the ruffian DJ Trump, suggested that taxes and tariffs were completely unrelated. Good luck with that, Bruno.

Taxes and tariffs are core elements of trade while technology, digital services are a critical element of American commerce.

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07/27/19

Skin In The Game

I woke up this morning to a lovely Texas day. It is a good habit to get into — waking up every morning. I am on a run that I hope to continue for a long time. Wish me well.

In my first look about at things, I was struck with awe and gratitude that the particular zip code in which I woke was in the United States of America.

I am amongst 330,000,000 persons who have the distinction of calling themselves Americans. Today, I don’t care where you came from, how you got here, whether you did it legally or not — I am just overwhelmed with our collective good fortune. Yours and mine.

Which raised another question: How did I ever come to  deserve this enormous blessing?

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07/26/19

Socialism At The Speed Of Light — Venezuela

OK, I don’t think The Squad or the Democrats writ large are going to plunge the United States of America into socialism, but I do think it is worthwhile investigating how fast such things can happen.

Doing singular stupid things is not the same as imposing socialism, but it is how socialism takes root.

Let’s take the case of Venezuela. Venezuela was the richest country in South America and sat upon the largest known oil reserves on the planet (still does) in 1992.

Image result for images flag of venezuela

Here is the time line:

1992

An unknown Lieutenant Colonel of paratroopers, Hugo Chavez, attempts to overthrow the duly elected government of Venezuela. The coup attempt fails. Chavez is imprisoned, but achieves name identity.

[Pro tip: As a paratrooper myself — a guy who jumped out of perfectly good airplanes — I caution the world to keep track of what the paratroopers are up to at all times.]

The country was in the midst of street protests over a gasoline price hike.

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07/26/19

Voices — Listen To The Voices

Pal of mine says, “You need some mindfulness training, amigo.” SOB is constantly critical of me, but that’s what pals are for, no?

I admit at the instant he said that I was a little perplexed, but I recovered quickly and Googled “mindfulness” to ensure I knew of what I spoke. I did and the confirmation was empowering. It is always useful to know exactly what words mean.

I came away with the idea that mindfulness was my focusing on the present moment while in touch with my many and varied feelings, thoughts, emotions, and other physical bodily sensations. I ran it by Mr. Mindfulness and he said, “Si, amigo. That’s mindfulness.”

I even did a little on-line course to align my mindfulness meridians and to just get woke AF. Woke is on the same side of the church, but a different pew.

“Woke” is being alert to the injustices of modern society with a particular emphasis on racism. As you know, I am white, old, conservative — so I am almost by default a racist.

So, I said to my pal, “Oh, you mean listen to The Voices in my head.”

He looked a little perplexed himself, so I described what I was saying to him. He’s a damn good listener, particularly if you buy him a CFS (chicken fried steak). This CFS is from The Monument Cafe in Georgetown, Texas. It is a noble establishment serving CFS worthy of mindful persons.

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07/25/19

The Congressional Mercy Rule — The Mueller Rule

If you watched the Mueller Congressional hearings — two of them — yesterday, you were treated to a spectacle — the incoherent and rambling testimony of a former giant. Robert Swan Mueller III looked remarkably docile. Embarassingly so.

What was painfully obvious was that former FBI Director Mueller had not read his own report. Ouch.

It is particularly hard for me personally to deliver this suggestion as I dig the guy’s toughness — Airborne Ranger Leatherneck, combat veteran, Bronze star/Purple Heart recipient.

Image result for images mueller hearings

So, I propose a new Congressional Rule. I call it the Mueller Rule.

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07/25/19

CEO Shoptalk — Knowing WHY

Long time ago, I got a call from a CEO, says, “Wow, that worked like a champ. Thanks.”

I had no idea what he was talking about, so we chatted. Apparently, he had had a problem and I had told him to look at something on The Musings of the Big Red Car website, he did, he applied it, and it worked. Problem solved. Bravo!

Then, I asked him the money question, “Do you know WHY that worked?” 

Image result for success images

Painful, awkward, ask-Dad-to-marry-his-daughter-style silence ensued.

“CEO, do you know WHY that worked?”

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07/24/19

William Painter Sunglasses

William Painter Sunglasses

Your Big Red Car does not do product endorsements. That is mostly because nobody has offered the Big Red Car any meaningful baksheesh for his endorsement. Trust me. I can be bought. [I’m easy.]

I love William Painter Sunglasses. I do not own any William Painter Sunglasses because I wear bifocal sunreaders that cost $10. I am going to buy some. Any day now.

WP Sunglasses cost $185, but in the rarefied Land of Cool wherein pricey Raybans are de rigeur, I dig William Painter Sunglasses.

Go see for yourself. Here is their website.

William Painter Sunglasses

Why, Big Red Car?

Because, “your face is your moneymaker.”

That’s it. Oh, yeah, they’re made from titanium. Have unbreakable lenses. Lots of cool color combos. One of them doubles as a beer bottle opener. They are inspired by NASA. If you wear them, it looks like you may have to get a piercing and a tattoo, but I may be wrong about that.

Very. Cool. Sunglasses.

William Painter Sunglasses. No, William is not my nephew.

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car.

 

07/24/19

Chipotle Redemption

Americans are a forgiving people. In the case of Chipotle (CMG stock symbol), they forgive them for years of food-borne-illnesses such as an E Coli outbreak or two or three or four.

Image result for images of chipotle

How do I know this? Because their stock price — after weathering a huge hit based on food-borne-illness scandals — hit an all time high yesterday.

In the midst of their troubles, the stock hit a low price of $255.46/share in February of 2018. Pre-market price indicators today, you ask? $762. You do the math. Wow!

Did you buy on the bad news, dear reader? NO, you did not because you, like everyone else, just said, “Gross!”

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07/23/19

Iran And The F-35 Stealth Fighter

Last year, there was an important report that went unnoticed by the US media for more than a year. There is some confusion on this matter.

Israel was reported to have flown its IAF (Israeli Air Force) F-35I Adir planes (flight of three) over Iran and conducted photo recon over Tehran, Karajrak, isfahan, Shiraz, and Bandar Abbas.

This plane is the American F-35 adapted to specific Israeli requirements, hence the designation F-35I. It is a stealth warplane.

The question has been — how stealthy is the F-35? How would it perform v the Russian S-300 missile system and its supposedly cutting edge radar array?

Point of order: Greece, NATO ally, had purchased the Russian S-300 after their mid-1990s spat with Turkey over the Kardak islets sovereignty. The Greeks later gave the US one of the S-300s which the Americans tore apart to develop measures that overcame the Russian capabilities. Who says having NATO friends is all bad?

Iranian air defense systems — which includes cutting edge Russian radars, including the S-300 — failed to detect the entry, the exit, or the presence of these Israeli  stealth planes that stayed on station for an extended period of time over the most sensitive Iranian facilities including underground nuke manufacturing facilities. In other words, they were circling where they might have to bomb in the future.

It was a very real test of capabilities — the planes and the defenses. Scores as follows: IAF 100 v Iran 0 v Russian radar 0.

When the Iranians learned about this, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei fired the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force commander, Brigadier General Farzad Ismaili, who had been in office since 2010.

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07/23/19

Mandatory Arbitration

I have always been a fan of arbitration as a means of dispute resolution in business contracts as opposed to using the legal system. Arbitration — yes! Lawsuits — no!

Recently, companies have been requiring new employees to agree to a basis of employment that includes a dispute resolution technique based solely on binding arbitration. [Note: This is different, though similar, than binding arbitration in business contracts. Similar.]

The employees are being asked to give up their right to sue the company, their employer, as a condition of employment.

Good idea or nefarious overreach by the employer?

These are not contract employees, but “at will” employees. A contract employee has an Employment Agreement and the at will employee has an “understanding” or a “basis of employment” while still being subject to termination for no reason or good reason or any reason.

It is perfectly normal for an Employment Agreement to have some form of dispute resolution spelled out as part of the deal. This falls under the umbrella of “you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.”

Today, it is reported that more than 60,000,000 US employees are working under a mandatory arbitration arrangement for employment disputes. So, it is not uncommon.

[Note: Unions have their own dispute resolution procedures as part of their collective bargaining agreement. It often is based on arbitration or a form similar.]

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07/22/19

Beating the Apple Tax

The Apple Store (since 2008) and the Google Play Store (a few months later) exact a thirty percent tax on all transactions. That’s 30%! This is called the Apple Tax.

Image result for logo apple store

Folks who sell through the Apple and Google Play stores believe that is an obscenely high fee. Color your Big Red Car amongst those who hold that opinion. [Note: In this blog post, I will consider the interests and behavior of Apple/Google as one and the same for simplicity.]

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07/20/19

The Money Divide

Love may make the world go around, but it is money that pays for the trip. The world is divided between those who consume money (my tribe) and those who provide the money.

Amongst competing tribal loyalties are the classic American entrepreneur (consumer) and the venture capitalist (provider).

Image result for images of men shaking hands on a deal

Entrepreneurs propose an idea that requires a good slapping with a checkbook — a checkbook that, alas, they do not possess — to bring it to reality. The venture capitalist shows up with a checkbook and offers to assist.

This assistance may take many forms, but the most important thing to understand is that the two parties — the consumer of capital and the provider of capital — have, at times, different interests.

[I am being charitable as I believe the interests are not just different, they are many times divergent. When I consult with CEOs, when I coach CEOs, I always ensure they understand this simple fact. There is a money divide.]

In life, in business, one doesn’t get what one deserves, one gets what they negotiate. This is not a hard truth; it is a simple truth that many choose to avoid because it requires a bit of rigor or discipline to employ.

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07/18/19

Manhole v Personhole v Maintenance Hole

I have been on a journey of discovery. For a year I have struggled — admittedly unsuccessfully — with how to confront an increasingly more troubling, harsher, complex world.

This week, the Berkeley, California, City Council showed me the light when they renamed MANHOLES as MAINTENANCE HOLES, thereby driving off the offensive stank and horrific gender-biased nomenclature of such things. Hurrah!

Image result for images of manholes

It is with a light heart I now face life, secure in the knowledge that I and millions of others will no longer have to confront the indignity of improperly identified, gender-shamed public facilities.

MANHOLES are dead.

Long live MAINTENANCE HOLES.

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07/18/19

Confess — When In Trouble

When you learn to fly an airplane, you spend a huge amount of your training time learning what to do when things go wrong.

When you fly cross country, you are constantly looking at your GPS to locate the nearest airport and studying the land to see where you might put down safely if the plane’s engine were to quit.

You study the weather ahead of you. In the winter, you are constantly checking the air temperature, particularly if there is any moisture that could turn into ice on your wings. If you ascend or descend through a cloud and the temperature is below freezing, you will pick up ice. You can only haul a little bit of ice before the plane’s wings start to misbehave.

Part of your training is to memorize — Aviate, Navigate, Communicate, Confess.

Here is what that stuff means:

 1. Aviate — continue to fly the plane. Nothing good is going to happen if you stop flying the plane. You can put it on autopilot while you check the manual.

 2. Navigate — as you deal with the problem, fly toward the solution. If you have turned into a very heavy glider, glide toward the nearest airport where they will have emergency services.,

 3. Communicate — tell air traffic control what is going on. Stay in touch with them. They will tell you the direction of the nearest airport. They may have a recommendation on a good spot to land. They will clear the skies — make a hole in the air — for you. This is not their first rodeo.

I once made a terrible, stupid decision to fly down the East Coast on a summer afternoon when the cumulus clouds and thunderstorms were about ,thinking I could dodge the storms on the way to Charleston.

I found myself stuck amongst some storm cells in the Patuxent River area over the Chesapeake Bay. A cool ATC saint threaded me through the cells, thereby saving my stupid ass. He made it so damn easy, all I had to do was follow his instructions.

 4. Confess — when talking to air traffic control, tell them what you have done even if you have done something wrong. They can’t help you unless they know where you are, how you got there, your level of expertise as a pilot, and what you want them to help you with.

Declare an EMERGENCY because they have to stop what they are doing and give you priority treatment if you do that one thing.

This also applies to CEOs running companies, be they startups, small or medium sized businesses.

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07/17/19

Delivery — A Super Power

I was looking at something related to Domino’s Pizza and a thought jumped into my brain. Over the last ten years, Domino’s (NYSE – DPZ) has been a great performer — as as stock. Look at what they have done. Most impressive. Pizza.

stock chart

They were the pioneers in pizza delivery. Today, they have 16,000 units and expect to add 2,350 additional units by 2028.

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