11/12/19

Hanlon’s Razor and Other Adages

I am in New York City freezing my ass off. I come every year to see the Veterans Day Parade (which was a huge disappointment this year). I hate cold weather, but I voluntarily came to NYC, so who can I blame?

I can only blame myself which brings me to my thought for today. We often look for difficult explanations to simple things.

Case in point is something called Hanlon’s Razor. Hanlon’s Razor (like Murphy’s Law and Occam’s Razor) provides us with wisdom when we are looking to explain something we believe to be complicated and transcendental.

Hanlon’s Razor goes something like this:

Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

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11/9/19

Texas Income Tax Constitutional Amendment Passes Again

Texas has no personal income tax (one of only seven States to have this provision) and it is likely to stay that way based upon the results of Proposition Four on the recent Texas ballot.

Proposition Four, which erects an almost impossible hurdle to the enactment of a state income tax, was adopted by a  74% to 26% margin. [We have had a lot of Californians move to Texas, but 26% in favor of an income tax?] It is worth noting that a total of $3,000 was spent to support the passage of Prop 4.

What is really interesting is to see the opposition to Prop 4: The Austin American Statesman (the local mast of the Texas Communist Party), the Austin Chronicle (the mouthpiece of the Austin Socialist Party, founded in 1981, a year after I moved to ATX, by Louis Black one of the founders of SXSW), the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, the Dallas Morning News,  the Eagle, the Houston Chronicle, the Longview News-Journal,  the San Antonio Express-News, and the Waco Tribute-Herald.

The actual vote was 1,467,994 in favor of Prop 4 and 504,848 against — this in a state with 16MM registered voters shows how tenuous the electorate’s grasp is on things. 

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11/7/19

Values >> Culture >> Reputation >> History

In the life-cycle of a company — be it a high tech startup or a paint manufacturer — the initial culture of the company is grown from the seed corn of the founders’ values.

The first challenge for any founder is to codify his/her values while recognizing that she/he owns the culture when the ink is still wet on the founding documents.

The culture is a living organism in much the same way that yeast provides life to dough and water to somehow magically become bread when presented to fire.

It is important to think about culture, but it will happen whether you think about it or not.

If you fail to think about and nurture your culture, then it will become whatever organism is blowing through the air. [The air is different in Silicon Valley than it is in, say, Austin By God Texas. Know this.]

In thinking about culture, go here: The Company Culture Series — a collection of 14 blog posts on the subject of culture.

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11/6/19

The Southern Baby

There is a difference between the North and the South. One of the differences is the lullabies that Southern babies hear when they are rocked and sung to sleep.

This is on my mind because I have a Southern baby grandchild named Tempe (Faith, Hope, Charity, Temperance — shortened to Tempe and graced on many girls in my wife’s family. My wife is also named Tempe.).

Every Southern baby has had their grandmother (and momma) sing Summertime to them. It is a “spiritual” in the genre of the American Southern African American experience, but it was written for the folk opera Porgie & Bess by the Gershwins.

The story is set in the slums of Charleston, South Carolina — a city with which all Southerners have a love affair — and revolves around a street person named Porgy (black, disabled street beggar) who attempts to rescue Bess from the abuse of her violent, possessive lover (Crown) while simultaneously trying to part her from her drug dealer, Sportin’ Life.

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11/6/19

Beyond Meat and Beyond

The stock markets are tired of unicorns. They are punishing them. The only bright spot is Beyond Meat (BYND) which has also taken a beating.

Here is what a stock that came out at $25/sh and immediately traded up from an indicated market cap of $1.3B to a cap of $13B ($234.90 on 7-26-2019) looks like. That’s a 859% run up.

Since then the stock price has settled to a level of $81.18 — still a nice premium from the IPO price, but a return of more than 2/3rd of its initial run up.

The fate of stocks like Uber and Lyft — the “no profit unicorns” has been even more bloody with values below the IPO price.

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11/6/19

George Marshall – Defender of the Republic

George Catlett Marshall, Winston Churchill’s architect of victory in World War II, has been compared to George Washington as a great American, perhaps the only two in the history of our Republic.

In a new book, George Marshall – Defender of the Republic (July 2019), author David L Roll lays out the case for that utterance in 704 pages. I read this book in hour long snippets every night for the last couple of months on my Samsung View — the high resolution tablet with the twice as wide view of an ordinary tablet. I read it methodically, as if I were to be tested on the content. It was a damn good, serious, adult read.

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11/4/19

Tariffs, China — How They Work

Everybody I know keeps telling me that tariffs won’t work, while I continue to stumble on instance after instance in which they work just fine.

Let me define what “work” means.

In my definition, the USA imposes a tariff on goods made in China, thereby making US-made products more attractive, and the company who makes the Chinese manufactured goods takes some action that somehow improves the US economy. That sound fair?

In this instance, we have the Stanley Black & Decker tool manufacturing company that bought the Craftsman brand from the failing Sears company moving production back to the United States.

Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

“When we purchased Craftsman in 2017 we were determined to revitalize this iconic U.S. brand and bring back its American manufacturing heritage,” Stanley Black & Decker President and CEO Jim Loree said in a statement. “From the launch of Craftsman’s refreshed brand identity last year to our announcement of the first new manufacturing facility in many years, we’re demonstrating our continued commitment to grow the brand and bring even more production of these great products back to the United States.”

When Jim Loree says he wants to refresh the brand identity, he is also planning on a $1B impact on sales by 2021.

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11/4/19

McDonalds CEO And His Consensual Romantic Relationship

This guy, this divorced Steve Easterbrook guy, was the Chief Executive Officer of McDonalds, by all accounts a good one.

So, he admits to having a “consensual romantic relationship” with an employee who is below him in the food chain at McDonalds. [Get it. The food chain. At McDonalds.]

Everybody is below the CEO in the food chain at McDonalds — well, except for Mickey. Mickey is above the CEO. Maybe the Hamburglar?

Easterbrook was a good CEO at McDonalds and is credited with having introduced a number of initiatives (all day breakfast, delivery, tech innovations) that had the stock solidly in the win column, but he exercised poor judgment and managed to get himself fired from a job that paid him $21.8MM in 2017. Ouch.

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