01/11/20

Kickstarter Union — Woke Or A Joke?

It was 79F yesterday in the ATX and 46F this morning. We’ll see 60F by the afternoon. Winter is brutal in Austin By God Texas, y’all. Brutal.

So, I have been reading up on efforts to create unions at tech firms — talking to you Kickstarter, Uber, Google. While I used “Kickstarter” as the click bait title, there has been a lot of such activity in the tech world.

I am a huge fan of Kickstarter and the entire crowdfunding industry. It was an industry that was invented from the whole cloth and I love it, but as a company, their ham handed response to an effort to unionize their 160 person workforce has been a study in how not to do things.

Buzzfeed is another example of a company who saw the writing on the wall, read it, translated it, and acted upon it.

This union formation effort happens and is happening for a number of reasons:

 1. First, we are at full employment. When you arrive at full employment, the power at the negotiating table swings to the employee side. READ THIS AGAIN

This is the most basic, fundamental change in the market. If you ignore this simple fact, then you are hopelessly lost. Anybody who is resisting the creation of unions has to face up to this reality.

 2. Unionized employees get higher pay, better benefits, and better understanding of the employee-employer relationship.

When companies like We Work — and a slew of other SoftBank funded goliaths — layoff thousands of employees in a single day, workers are going to look for a port in that storm. When they arrive, they will be wet and pissed off. That pissed offness will generate energy.

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01/10/20

Royal Brand Management

I note with interest the to-ing and fro-ing of the senior management of the House of Windsor in the United Kingdom.

One of the princelings (together with his recent progeny producer, Meghan Markle, and American; and progeny, Prince Archie) has decided to step back from the life royal and reposition his brand in North America — rumored to be either or both Canada and Los Angeles. He is also said to be dealing with a pesky male pattern baldness that runs in the family.

Eeegads, he’s even talking about taking a job, but he does want his Mommy to provide him a nice place to stay in London. Only fair, no? She has a lot of excess inventory. Still, living at Mom’s when you’re feathering in on 40?

His mother is a formidable woman of some note — Rule Brittania — who has worked her entire life to develop and enhance a unique brand. Really even before the entire “band” lexicon worked its way into the vernacular.

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01/5/20

The Trump Doctrine

Every President in modern times has created a National Security Strategy which encapsulates the foreign policy views of an administration and alerts the world to understand the attitude of an administration to them and their relationship with the United States.

This codification is often created by the press of real world issues at the time. It is often communicated during a State of the Union speech and it provides a guiding light for the White House, State Department, the Department of Defense, and the Congress.

The Monroe Doctrine

The Monroe Doctrine is the granddaddy of all “doctrines” which was spoken for the first time in President James Monroe’s seventh State of the Union Address to Congress in December 1823.

It held the following guidance:

 1. The New World and the Old World were to be considered as two very different spheres of influence.

 2. Any European nation that attempted to quash the independence movements of its Latin American or South American colonies (talking to you, Portugal and Spain) would be viewed as having taken an “. . . unfriendly disposition toward the United States.”

 3. It further stated that European nations that adhered to the Monroe Doctrine could rest assured that the United States would not interfere in their internal affairs in Europe.

 4. The Monroe Doctrine was not called the Monroe Doctrine until 1850, but it was embraced as the policy of the United States for more than a century and influenced the administrations of Ulysses S Grant, Teddy Roosevelt, John F Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan.

Not every administration from Monroe to the present had challenges in Latin or South America related to European colonial expansion, so the Monroe Doctrine was more important or less important to different administrations based on their current foreign affairs challenges. Today, it is not particularly relevant as there is no real European colonial kerfuffle in Latin America or South America though it is often invoked when talking about Russian or Chinese influence in places like Nicaragua or Venezuela.

I give you this background as I want to set the table to discuss what is an emerging Trump Doctrine applying to the Middle East and terrorism.

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01/4/20

Truth In a Hard Package

I have been reading year end prediction performance blog posts and new 2020 predictions.

There are some people who made 2019 predictions who should never be allowed to make another prediction. Ever.

The Soothsayers Recompense by De Chirico

I will post my own report card and my own 2020 predictions in a blog post next week. I did very well on the accuracy of my predictions.

But, what I learned is that everybody uses a lens that is colored by their own bias, by their own desire to see something turn out the way they want it to turn out.

What this motivates me to do is to share some difficult, universal truths. Here they are:

 1. You (meaning me also)  are not the smartest person in the world. To be really smart, requires study, research, and thought. Even then, you will never be the smartest person in the world.

 2. Even when you have “good” information, you often misinterpret it, miss something critical, and get it wrong. All by yourself.

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12/16/19

Understanding US Trade

The last two weeks have been monumental in the arena of trade, but the country was too enmired in the shallow grave of impeachment to really focus on it.

Three things happened:

 1. The USMCA (United States Mexico Canada Agreement) was passed by the United States House of Representatives.

This deal replaces NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and does great things for agriculture with Canada and US product content in goods (cars) whose final assembly is done in Mexico as well as prevailing wages.

 2. The US and China had a first date on trade — nobody is renting reception halls for the marriage, but it was a first step on the crawl, walk, run continuum.

 3. The US neutered the World Trade Organization by refusing to nominate members thereby destroying the quorum and preventing the WTO from taking any action against the US, a brilliant move. This is one that is completely overlooked.

The guy who did this is the man on the right, Robert Lighthizer.

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12/11/19

Carter Page Got Screwed By The FBI

I like to follow the political events in Washington DC. As a macochist, I’ve also read the Department of Justice Inspector General’s 1,000,000 page report on the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978) investigation.

I watched the testimony of the Department of Justice’s Inspector General Horowitz. Glutton. For. Punishment.

In case you have been out of the country, a gentleman named Carter Page was the subject of four FISA warrants. A FISA warrant is the product of a secret process wherein the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation apply for the right to investigate an individual when that individual is either a foreign agent or under the influence of a foreign power. You cannot investigate an American citizen unless and only if that person is a foreign agent or under the control of a foreign power.

In this instance, the actual FISA warrant applications said that Carter Page was a Russian agent.

Carter Page is a distinguished Naval Academy graduate — graduated at the top 10% of his class, Trident Scholar — who served honorably as a Navy officer. Page has a Masters in National Security Studies from Georgetown, an MBA from New York University, and a Doctorate from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

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