10/11/19

Tootsie Roll — A Curious Story

Comes now the curious story of Tootsie Roll. I love Tootsie Rolls. My local Wells Fargo Bank used to have free Tootsie Rolls.

The Tootsie Roll was invented and manufactured for the first time in 1907 (this date is in dispute). Yesterday, and every day for the last few years, they made 64,000,000 Tootsie Rolls at the Tootsie Roll Industries plant in Chicago.

64,000,000 Tootsie Rolls per day

The Tootsie Roll was named after the daughter of the inventor, who died in a tragic suicide when his candy company failed.

The company is public and has been a damn good performer. Look at this chart. [We need a better chart, Big Red Car. This one is a little fuzzy. Shut up.]

In addition, the company has paid a dividend that has increased for the last fifty years. Hello, America!

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10/11/19

The Best Exit Strategies Entail An Actual Exit

The situation in Syria has been FUBAR (fucked up beyond all recognition) since its inception during the Obama admin when we armed parties whose primary merit was that they opposed the evil, cruel, murderous regime of Bashar al-Assad, a second generation murderer who has used poison gas against his own people.

This is the “the enemy of my enemy is my friend, even if they are a little suspect” theory of foreign relations. This is the kind of thinking you get when the leadership has slept through history class and made “D’s” in summer school when they had to take it a second time.

This clown on the right, with the ringmaster from Russia (ever notice what a little shit Putin is), is Bahar al-Assad, who is an eye doctor educated in England. Couple of first rate assholes. [Pardon my profanity.]

You may recall that President Obama courageously “red-lined” Bashar, threatened to retaliate against him if he used chemical weapons. Then President Obama, famously, punked out and did nothing, thereby emboldening Bashar.

Shit, shit, shit, shit. Pardon me. I hate stupid. I hate bullshitters. Shit. I hate poseurs as much as I hate fakirs. Sorry, I’m over it now.

President Trump came into office and did the same thing — threatened Bashar with massive retaliation if he used chemical weapons. President Trump, however, kept his promised threat and struck Syria twice — the first time knocking out an airfield and twenty percent of Syria’s air force, and the second time destroying the headquarters and infrastructure of the Syrian chemical effort.

Well played, President Trump. I like a guy who keeps his promises.

This settled things down a little in Syria. But, we are no longer in the regime change mode.

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10/10/19

The Deep State — Hidden In Plain Sight

There is some controversy swirling about in Washington, the District of Columbia, pertaining to the President — this fellow Trump, Donald J Trump, guy who unexpectedly won the election back in 2016 — and the Congress. I think — check me on this — that the Democrats in Congress want to remove the President from office.

Odd sort of thing. We’re a year from an election. Why not let the ballot box do that?

Oh, well. But, I did stumble on something so unusual that I thought I needed to bring it to your attention.

It pertains to the Deep State and the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, this guy — Michael Atkinson.

 

WTF is the Deep State, Big Red Car?

The Deep State is an imaginary — maybe no? — layer of folks who have wiggled deeply into the corpus and organs of our government, fastened themselves thereto like barnacles, and pride themselves on outlasting any elected administration.

The President may serve for eight years, but the Deep State lasts forever. In this fashion, they pay lip service to the admin all the while executing on their own peculiar vision of how things ought to be.

Some say up to removing a President who threatens to wrest their power from them. It is true in all branches of the government.

So, one is forced to ask — Who is the Deep State? Where do they reside? Are they even real?

So, I bring to you the story of the Intelligence Community Inspector General, Michael Atkinson.

By all accounts, Mike is considered a great guy by his peers. More about that later.

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10/9/19

In Praise of Skepticism REVISITED

The other day a chap accuses me of being a “skeptic” about matters pertaining to the Chinese. I stand, say, “Guilty as charged.”

The police come, march me away and I decide to write a blog post to explain why being skeptical is the adult position on many things.

Then, I recall that back in 2015, I had written a blog post: In Praise of Skepticism.

It captured exactly what I thought then and now. So, I have copied it and am reposting it unchanged, below.

Things like this make me wonder if I have gotten better or worse at this blogging thing, now going on 8 years.

In Praise of Skepticism REVISITED

Big Red Car here. It rained yesterday in the tropical rain forest formerly known at Austin, Texas.

We are starting to like the daily rains. Everything is green. It is like the Amazon valley.

I am skeptical as to whether it will continue, which brings me to my thought for today — skepticism. Continue reading

10/9/19

Bridging the Gap — Using Analytics

What do you — CEO of a company — do when you have gaps of information that cannot be bridged by analytics or anecdotal information?

Other day I am chatting with a CEO about the performance of his marketing and the quality of feedback they were getting from anecdotal information (call reports) and the traffic analytics on their website.

This particular CEO had encountered an AHA moment when they reconfigured their website to go from offering their software in the continuum of Freemium, Bronze, Silver, Gold to the opposite.

By this I mean he had gone from the least expensive/least capable package to the most expensive/most capable price to the opposite order.

OK, one more time. He went from:

Freemium – Bronze – Silver – Gold (least expensive, least capable to most expensive, most capable)

to

Gold – Silver – Bronze – Freemium. (most expensive, most capable to least expensive, least capable).

The results were staggering. He was suddenly hitting substantially higher rates of interest and sales. There is a story for another day as to how that came to be. [Do not do the same thing. There is a reason why this worked in this particular SaaS situation.]

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10/8/19

When Prices Drop To Zero — Robinhood

What happens to a business when your service is commoditized such that the price — the market price — is ZERO?

This is the problem facing the discount brokerage business today.

To refresh your memory:

 1. A long, long time ago, being a stockbroker was a great gig.

You wore a snazzy suit to work, came in just before the markets opened at 9:00 AM EST, read the Journal (maybe the NY Times back when it was a real newspaper), you called some clients, peddled some advice, entered trades for your customers, had lunch at your desk, and you collected commissions on those trades.

You, arguably, got paid for people following your advice. Let me translate that for you: You told people what to do and then those people paid you for following your advice.

Seems like a self-generating cycle? Move to the head of the class, please.

 2. Markets were open for restricted hours, ensuring that stockbrokers always got home on time for dinner and the chance to play nine before the sun went down.

No Saturdays, Sundays clear.

 3. Along comes this young geeky chap, Charlie Schwab, who understood the “back of house” trading of stocks — sort of like a guy who knows exactly what goes into sausage.

Look at those freakin’ dinosaur computers. Now you carry more than 100X that computing capability in your back pocket.

 

 

 4. Opines Charlie, “Why is the stock trading commission a percentage of the trade when it is the same work for electrons to run down a wire for 1,000 shares of a $10 stock as it is for a $1000 stock?”

Such is the nature of true genius, asking logical, obvious questions and ferreting out the answers.

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10/8/19

Chaos >>> Order

If you are a founder, entrepreneur, startup CEO then you are familiar with the notion of transforming chaos into order. [OK, let me say — “I hope you are.” However, we both know it is not as well ingrained as we might hope.]

If you are an “aspirin” startup — meaning the raison d’etre of your love child is to reduce the pain of mankind, the chaos is the pain and the order is the pain free — or lessened pain — environment that results thereafter.

If you are a “vitamin” startup — meaning the raison d’etre of your little bastard is to improve the quality of life, the chaos is the inferior quality of the before and the order is the higher quality plane of the after.

There is a decided “before” v “after” transformation.

Bit extreme, but it makes my point. Guy lost a lot of weight? What a magical transformation. I imagine he feels a lot better. Took those bad eating habits and created some order, no?

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10/7/19

Cracks in the Libra Foundation

Some time ago, we spoke about Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency.

We spoke of it here:

Facebook and Libra

Recently, we learned that PayPal has abandoned ship as one of the 28 founding Libra Association members. Sort of caught folks by surprise.

They didn’t give a reason, but mumbled along the lines of this:

Uhhh, ummm, we have decided “to forgo further participation in the Libra Association at this time and to continue to focus on advancing our existing mission and business priorities as we strive to democratize access to financial services for underserved populations.”

The Financial Times said that PayPal was concerned about the regulatory lightning Libra seems to be attracting.

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