06/5/20

The Trump Recovery

The May Jobs Report contained some staggering, incredible, unexpected data.

 1. Jobs in the USA in May surged by 2,500,000 after having declined by 20,700,000 in April.

Economists had been expecting a loss of 8,000,000 jobs. Instead, net new jobs were 2,500,000 meaning the economists were off by more than 10,000,000 jobs.

 2. Unemployment dropped from 14.7% to 13.3% whilst the economists were looking for a 19% unemployment rate.

This is the beginning of a substantial recovery and the economy is only starting to re-open. It is a Hell of a start.

I place extra emphasis on the unemployment number falling below 10% as it kills all comparisons to the Great Depression and small improvements will have huge impact. We would also be within 6% of the pre-COVID19 numbers. Keep you eye on this baby.

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06/3/20

Second Acts, Second Chances

America is the most forgiving country in the world. It is the best place on the planet to go bankrupt. Other countries doom you for life plus a year, whilst the USA lets you wipe out your debts and move on.

We Americans are a forgiving people in general. We believe in the second chance.

Right now, we are conducting a test.

The Jeffrey Skilling Test of Forgiveness — Second Chance?

Jeffrey Skilling was the CEO of Enron who went to jail for twelve years of a fourteen year sentence [originally sentenced to 24 years, it was reduced to 14, and he served 12 plus a $40MM fine] for a myriad of charges including securities fraud, insider trading, lying to auditors, and conspiracy while he lorded over Enron.

Jeffrey Skilling on his way to prison.

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05/28/20

Hong Kong — Mayday, Mayday, Mayday

Hong Kong is in its last days as an “autonomous” region and part of the “One China, Two Systems” promise. Dust off your funeral suit and dress.

China has cracked the whip and made obvious its intentions to slap the snot out of Hong Kong, to terminate its faux autonomous region nonsense, and to quell any nascent thoughts of freedom.

Let’s examine the time line.

 1. In 1997, the British lease for Hong Kong terminated. The Brits returned Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty based on the promise that Hong Kong would be an autonomous region, though part of China.

 2. As part of that transfer, the Chinese solemnly promised to govern Hong Kong by allowing its own legislature and leadership to continue part of a plan they called “One China, Two Systems.”

 3. This system was to prevail until 2047 — fifty years.

 4. Based on this arrangement, this promise, countries agreed to treat Hong Kong in a manner similar to how they had when the Brits ran the place.

 5. In current terms that means that when the US imposed tariffs on China, these same tariffs did not fall on Hong Kong.

 6. The relationship with Hong Kong was so tight, that almost 100,000 American citizens reside full time in Hong Kong.

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05/27/20

American Values Evaporating

Memorial Day got me thinking about how America passes its values from one generation to the next. I was irked by how Memorial Day has lost its meaning — honoring American war dead.

In my work with CEOs, I call that concept The Wisdom of the Campfire.

Logo RED no background copy

We have two uniquely different holidays:

Memorial Day, the third Monday in May to honor American war dead

Veterans Day, the 11th day of the 11th month to honor American veterans

It is not a hard distinction to make and yet we fail to make it constantly.

There are other American values that are also evaporating from the American psyche. In no particular order, here they are:

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05/24/20

Bugles Across America

Long ago, the US Congress decided that every veteran was entitled to two uniformed persons at his funeral. One to fold the flag provided by the government, and another to play a rendition of Taps on a CD player.

It seems a small reward for having served your country.

A bugler plays “Taps” during the burial service for three soldiers missing from Vietnam War, Army Major Dale W. Richardson, Army Staff Sgt. Bunyan D. Price Jr., and Army Sgt. Rodney L. Griffin, at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia October 20, 2015.

For one man, a Marine named Tom Day, that was not enough. He formed an organization called Bugles Across America to send a live bugler to play live Taps for the dead veteran.

This is a purely volunteer organization and when the year ends and there is a financial shortfall, Tom Day dips into his pocket and pays the difference.

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05/24/20

Memorial Day — The View From Another Direction Revisited

I wrote this blog post last year. I still like it.

Having been an Army brat, having grown up on Army posts, having a mother and father who served in World War II, having a father who was a career soldier, having been educated at Virginia Military Institute, and having served in the Army for five years — I have a view of Memorial Day from a different point of the compass.

Both of my parents are buried in a military cemetery. This is the Central Texas military cemetery next to Fort Hood with the Hill Country in the background. It is hallowed ground.

Just a few years ago, it was a pasture. Now, it is filled as shown because a lot of soldiers have made the ultimate sacrifice for us.

I went to school with men who are buried in places like this. Fifteen VMI graduates have been killed in the War on Terror.

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05/20/20

Eddie Haskell RIP

From 1957 to 1963, there was a black-and-white sitcom called Leave It To Beaver. The Beaver (acted by Jerry Mathers) was Theodore “The Beaver” Cleaver.

His parents were June (Barbara Billingsley) and Ward Cleaver (Hugh Beaumont). The Beave’s older brother was Wally (Tony Dow).

It became iconic American sitcom television, running six seasons for 234 sessions.

It ended when Wally grew up and went off to college. It was a fact-based ending as the family dynamic was about to change with Wally heading off to college, and the core of the story was the Cleaver family.

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05/11/20

Unemployment, A Few Words

Today we are facing monumental COVID19 unemployment that is initially tracked by the weekly number of new applications for unemployment payments — remember this is an insurance policy for which you have paid for years.

By that measure we are at 15% unemployment (those without jobs actively looking for a job which is known by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as U-3 Unemployment, the most common measure referred to by the media).

We are likely headed to 20-25% unemployment before the trend is reversed.

But, we are dealing with a situation that is entirely different than the traditional manner in which we assess these numbers over a long period of time.

Traditionally, we look at these numbers as a means of tracking a trend line to establish the expansion or contraction of the economy. They are trend numbers.

Before the advent of COVID19, the USA was at record high employment.

These numbers subsume — incorporate — people who technically meet the criteria, but who are really “furloughed” rather than classically unemployed.

By using the word furloughed, I am suggesting that their jobs are waiting for them whenever that business re-opens.

They are not “looking for a new job;” they are waiting for the business that formerly employed them to re-open.

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