Category Archives: Friday Five

Friday Five December 1 2017

In this edition of the Friday Five, we focus on stories about sexual harassment, lobbying and other topics of interest.

In this surging wave of sexual harassment reveals, Nevada Democrat Ruben Kihuen is accused of repeatedly propositioning and touching a former campaign aide in 2016. Pelosi wants him to resign. The number of men accused of sexual harassment is growing (here, here and here too). It appears the accusation itself is enough to bring down any man. The New York Times is wondering if there are limits to the “Believe all Women” movement that is sweeping this nation: “In a climate in which sexual mores are transforming so rapidly, many men are asking: If I were wrongly accused, who would believe me?” Power has definitely shifted to the accuser. This is a good thing for the thousands of women who have been assaulted. But it does put the regular guy in an awkward position. Best practices moving forward: No touching, no hugging, no looking, no joking, no comments about appearance at all for any reason at any time. These are good rules to have in the workplace anyways, so perhaps we’re getting to a point of sanity.

Lobbying on Capital Hill is a big business. The top 50 lobbying firms spent over $700M in their lobbying efforts, which is just part of the roughly $3B of all monies spent on lobbying in Washington. Opinions abound as to the need, efficacy and appropriateness of all this lobbying.

Our national debt is at 20,590,391,942,312.26. Hypocrisy abounds on this issue as the Democrats rail about a $1T increase in the deficit because of the impending tax reform Republicans are pushing through. We didn’t hear them cry once when Obama added $10T to our debt. It’s also disheartening to see the Republicans ignore the debt when they were so vocal about it when Obama was president. Regardless, this debt *IS* a national problem and will likely weaken us over time to the point where we can’t fight a war or respond to a crisis. I wonder how long it will take the markets and foreign governments to realize that they will never be paid back and thus, stop lending to the Federal Government.

Judge Roy Moore is an embarrassment to common sense and the Republican party. His claim that sexual harassment is the work of lesbians, gays and others is not only downright stupid, it is not accurate. The race is tied up – it will be a close election.

In case you missed it, Yosemite National Park expanded by 400 acres. The park now has over 750,000 acres.

Friday Five for March 24 2017

Being a Christian in many parts of the world is very dangerous. While the bravery of Pastors like this is rarely reported in American news, it doesn’t make his and his family’s sacrifice any less brave or sacrificial.

Ravi Zacharias has a four-part series on Faith Under Fire: Ethics in the Workplace. Christians from all walks of life would do well to listen to this series.

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Our total Federal debt for March 23, 2017 stands at $19,846,049,205,261.81. I continue to hear crickets – nothing – from either political party about the dangers we are facing because of this debt. No one seems to care.

The snowflake test has become something capturing other CEO’s attention. Take a look and decide for yourself.

Finally, if you’re looking to attend law school, be sure to consider a nationally-ranked school where the faculty have first-hand knowledge of how criminal law really works!

Friday Five December 16 2016

In today’s Friday Five, I cite some interesting sources as to what a CEO does and does not do.

First, what does a CEO really do? It can be boiled down to three things:

  1. Sets overall vision and strategy for the organization
  2. Recruits and hires the very best talent for the organization
  3. Makes sure there is enough cash in the bank at all times

I would argue that CEOs do more than this, but I do like the simplicity and focus of having three things to do.

Secondly, Forbes has published the difference between the activities of a business owner vs. a CEO. Note how CEOs work “on” the business rather than “in” it. Note also that most small businesses will not scale as far as they can without first having an ownership group that knows how to be in the CEO camp instead of the Owner camp.

Thirdly, In HBR’s article, Seven Surprises for New CEOs, we learn, among other things, that:

  1. Your really not running the company
  2. Giving orders is very costly
  3. It’s hard to know what’s really going on in your company

CEOs have a unique role in an organization whose success can’t be defined by spending time in the office. Being behind a desk should be the least of concerns for most CEOs.

Fourthly, this goes to show that you can’t buy an election. $1.2B is what the Clinton campaign spent on her losing effort. No matter how much she spent, I doubt she could have beat Mr. Trump because her message didn’t resonate with those angry white male voters. <sigh>

Lastly, The number “20” seems to be a hot number these days. Our national debt is closing in on $20T and the Dow Industrials are close to hitting 20,000. Which will occur first is irrelevant. The latter is good news – the former is not and the former outweighs the latter, IMHO, in terms of importance and long-term economic health for this country.

Friday Five December 2

Here are my Friday Five for December 2, 2016.

Two Texas lawyers remind us to not eat our weed if we get caught by the police possessing 2 or less ounces. Seriously – these guys have way too much time on their hands.

Speaking of someone who has too much time on their hands, this journalist compiled Trumps campaign promises – all 282 of them. One wonders what possesses a person to compile such a list.

I usually don’t delve into romance on this site – preferring to “keep it clean” and all – but this is one wedding that I’ll soon not forget. Neither will you.

The white race isn’t fairing so well in the US. The Wall Street Journal reports that more white people are dying than are being born in 17 out of our 50 states. In 2004, that number was just four. This is bound to change the political dynamic in the US.

Finally, the economy grew at a good 3.2% pace in Q3 of this year (2016). We need about 2% growth just to keep up with population growth. So anything over 3.0% is a good sign that our economy is strengthening. Yet the monthly jobs report that was just released continues to show that our workforce is constricting. While there were 178,000 new jobs created, 200,000 left the work force, leading to a net loss of 22,000 workers. The U3 unemployed number is 4.6%, dropping from 4.9%. No doubt the Administration will tout this as a huge “win”. But the U6 number is the better number to use for measuring unemployment since that number includes those who are employed part-time but want to work full time and those have quit looking for work because they can’t find a job but would work if they could find one. The U6 number is at 9.3%.

The unemployment number is a percentage of those who are available in the population to work. When people leave the workforce, they shrink the available pool of labor from which industry hires, so we always need to consider the size of the workforce when talking about the unemployment number. This is called the Labor Force Participation Rate. This rate dropped an entire 1/10th to 62.7%. This means that of those who could work, only 62.7% are working either full or part time. I have written that this drop in the labor force participation rate is partly due to Boomers retiring. Yet, when you run the raw numbers (2nd paragraph), you’ll find that we could be employing an additional 94M people in this country, which would significantly change our economy and country.

The bottom line is that our economy continues to be struggling to move ahead. We see signs of growth and progress, but at nearly every turn, we also see signs of dysfunction and mere survival rather than thriving. It remains to be seen how Trump’s business experience and equating “greatness” with “economic success” will effect our overall economy. But I’m happy to give a pro-business guy a shot at running this country. For too long, we’ve had lawyers and experienced politicians at the helm. It’s time for new blood and change.

Friday Five November 24

At one time or another, every leader will need to apologize. Whether it is a sin of commission or omission, every leader will need to apologize. HBR has four ways not to apologize in their article The 4 Types of Ineffective Apologies. In essence, what people are looking for is genuine remorse and a sincere “I’m sorry”. Take a read and keep this in mind the next time you need to apologize.

From the Department of Labor, we find that college tuition and fees have increased 63% since January of 2006 compared with an increase of 21% for all items. During this same period, prices for textbooks increased 88% and housing at school increased 51%. In their book, Why Does College Cost So Much?, David Feldman and Robert Archibald argue that the increase over inflation is mainly due to economic growth factors – which would be somewhat plausible if, during this period of 2006 – 2016, we had experienced significant economic growth. But we haven’t. For the most part, our growth has been insipid at best. Other articles point to increased regulations from the Department of Education, causing colleges to hire an increased number of administrators. My theory boils down to a principle I hold to be true: If you want to increase the use of something, just have the government subsidize it. If you want to discourage the use of something, have the government tax it. Since the government is subsidizing higher education more and more, we’re seeing its costs go through the roof. Perhaps not a cause-effect analysis, but I’m happy with the corollary.

Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer

Finally, someone is admitting what I’ve been suspecting for some time: We don’t have the tools necessary to combat the next recession. Not that the Fed’s efforts didn’t help the last recession – they did – but they also painted themselves into a corner that I’m not sure they can get out of. This was touched on by Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer who is a member of the Board of Governors for the Federal Reserve System. In his speech on November 21st, he said this: “Such low interest rates, together with only tepid growth, suggest that the equilibrium interest rate–that is, the rate that neither boosts nor slows the economy–has fallen. Why does this matter? Importantly, low interest rates make the economy more vulnerable to adverse shocks by constraining the ability of monetary policy to combat recessions using conventional interest rate policy–because the effective lower bound on the interest rate means that monetary policy has less room to reduce the interest rate when that becomes necessary.” So there you have it. What this means, from where I sit, is that we’ll have to let the next recession hit our economy because we’re out of money and out of interest rate wiggle room.

Fidel Castro is dead today at age 90. As he looks back on his life, I wonder what he’s thinking now? Was it all worth it, Castro?

There are those who workout regularly. I’m not one of them, but I admire their persistence. Thing is, when they stop exercising, the chances are good that they will have increased physical problems. I know I need to do more to take care of myself, but this article doesn’t inspire me at all – it discourages me. Why get going on exercising if, someday, I can’t do it anymore and it causes me additional problems?

Bill English

Friday Five July 22 2016

Out of the gate is the news that the US Democrat National Committee’s email servers were compromised from January of 2015 until recently. Emails are being leaked that show the Dems rigged their primary system against Bernie Sanders – something the Sanders supports will just love to hear. The security of Electronically Stored Information (ESI) is well understood by nearly everyone, it seems, other than the Democrats. If the hackers can get into the Democrats’ servers, is there any legitimate question left as to whether or not hackers got into Mrs. Clinton’s servers that were sitting in her closet? And we want to entrust the country’s national secrets to these people?

HClintonOnce again, Hillary Clinton is associated with another scandal, but isn’t close enough to get the blame pinned on her. She skirts by with plausible deniability, but overall, the body of scandals that seem to appear wherever she goes cannot be denied. They touch her, but somehow, unlike the Peanuts cartoon character PigPen, who seemed to be constantly dirty because of the dirt and PigPendust that followed him, she isn’t soiled by the scandals. If you want a primer on the Clinton scandals, just read here, here and here.

Our national debt now stands at $19.4T. Last year, we paid $402B on interest for the national debt. This year, we’re already at $348B and it’s only July. By comparison, our first Federal budget that exceeded $400B was in 1979, a mere 37 years ago. We’re stealing the wealth of our next 5-10 generations in this country, paying for our safety net party and our lack of savings for old age. We are kidding ourselves if we think this won’t negatively impact our country’s ability to survive in the coming 100 years.

If we were to pay off the national debt using $500B/year, it would take over 40 years to complete the payment process.

Sheryl SandbergThirdly, Sheryl Sandberg’s loss of her husband teaches us all that walking in another’s shoes is essential if we are to fully understand their plight. In addition, significant, personal events do affect our work and there’s not much any employer can do about it.

Fourthly, if you’re leading a company and you need to make significant changes, take a look at this article from the Wall Street Journal. I like the idea of using a small changes as a wedge that leads to larger changes.

Lastly, corporate governance is a real issue, especially in privately held companies. While this article is focused on public companies, closely-held companies need competent Boards that can hold leadership accountable, even when the leadership is a brother, sister, mom or dad.

Friday Five for June 10 2016

When a country lacks a moral code that is above their own laws, you get rulings like this from the Canadian Supreme Court. Sex with animals is as detestable to God as ever and making it legal won’t change that. Ironically, its’ the animal rights groups that are upset with this. I’ll assume the religious groups are too, but they are not being covered as part of this story by the Press.

CEOs who behave badly leave a lasting, negative impression, an HBR study finds. What I find interesting is that bad CEO behavior persists in press reports for 5 years, on average, after the event has taken place. It’s the lasting impressions that count, I think. Yet it doesn’t affect stock prices – another sign that our country can quarantine moral behavior from economic gain.

Our national debt stands at $19.219 Trillion dollars. It was at $10.626 when President Obama took office. Well, done, Mr. President. You’ve managed to increase our national debt by over $8 trillion dollars. And you called President Bush’s deficits unpatriotic and immoral. Does the same standard apply to you? We’re not holding our breath for a positive response.

Romney says Trump will change America with trickle down racism. Romney needs to go home and fire some vendors. The man who ran one of the worst Presidential campaigns at a time when a yellow kangaroo could have beat President Obama is now inserting himself into this campaign for reasons that remain unclear to us. Face it: Trump *is* the Republican nominee. Either get on board or openly support another candidate. But you’ve had your turn – time to go home.  #Romneyfatigue #romneylost

By the way, Trump is not racist, but he is unscripted.  Those who know him well say he’s not racist or bigoted.

Is Google purposefully burying bad stories about Clinton? We don’t think so. But many will believe it who think most of the media is biased against conservative, traditional values. We just think it’s a difference in their algorithms.

Friday Five for June 3 2016

We’ll start with the most predictable outcome of a guidance letter in the last century. Recently, President Obama issued a directive (background here) telling public schools to allow transgendered student to use the restroom of their chosen gender identity rather than their biological sex. Now, the leader of the Georgia chapter of the Americans Civil Liberties Union has announced her resignation after her daughters shared a bathroom with three transgendered women. It was a good idea when it didn’t affect her family – but now that her daughters have been exposed to the very real dangers, she can no longer support the ACLU. This is a classic NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) effect. This guidance is Obama’s effort at showing kindness to kids with gender identity issues. So Obama and his administration sacrifice the privacy of the masses for a twisted view of kindness to a few. This was entirely predictable. And I’ll predict further that it is just a matter of time before a man posing as a transgendered woman sexually assaults a women in a bathroom. It will happen – but will the press report it?

It appears the next recession is on its’ way. We’re due for another recession, whether you like it or not. Hiring has slowed significantly and those who could work but are choosing not to has spiked. While the unemployment rate has dropped to 4.7%, that is due entirely to the workforce participation rate dropping to a whopping low of 62.6%. This means that out of a pool of 253,174,000 adults who are 16 years or older and who are not in an institution or in the military, a record 94,708,000 adults are not working. During the two terms of the President, that number has risen by 14,179,000. Hence fewer Americans are working to support the rest of the nation. In other words, for every 10 people in the USA who are 16 or older, only 6.2 of them are working. It’s hard to imagine that the other 3.8 of them are not receiving significant Federal and State aid. The President claims that by “almost every economic measure, America is better off” than when he took the Presidency. How about asking those 94M who would like a job and can’t find one if they agree, Mr. President? With this President, I often get the impression that the world I live in and the one he lives in are on different planets.

For US Banks, the weak May jobs report will negatively impact their ability to create profits. “Hopes the Federal Reserve could soon resume raising rates, which would improve bank profits, have been driving share-price gains for banks in recent weeks” wrote the Wall Street Journal. With the lousy May jobs report, it appears the Feds will likely stay on hold, at least in June. Lower discount rates mean lower lending rates, which continues to suppress bank profits.

If you want to play professionally in the National Basketball Association, then you should grow up in a family where you’re directly related to an elite athlete. A new Wall Street Journal study has found that 48.8% of the players in the NBA are related to an elite athlete, whereas that number is 17.5% for the NFL and 14.5% for the MLB. Their study concludes that height is the main reason the statistics are skewed in favor of the NBA.

The Medicare system is projected to be running deficits in just a few years. The highly popular program will be needing additional cash inflows in the future and no one knows where those inflows will come from. Our prediction is that the politicians will not scale the program to revenues but instead will borrow the cash to meet program benefit demands. And with our national debt at $19.2 trillion dollars, one wonders how long our economy can sustain this debt without serious injury to everyone. It’s time for the American people to realize that we’ve spent and borrowed our way into a place where we can’t meet the needs of a military or financial crisis. Our generation has spent the wealth of the next 3 or 4 generations on our own wishes and desires. If future generations rise up and let us die in the streets because they can’t afford to pay for our medical care, it will be a just response.

Friday Five December 5 2014

Current Stories

The price of gasoline is now down to an average of $2.72/gallon. This is good news. This leaves more money in our pockets for other spending or savings. As a political issue, we have never found a strong connection between what the President does and the price of petroleum. While we’re delighted that the price of gas has come down considerably, we don’t attach the lower price to a success of any policy in the Obama administration. Read more here.

In the early 1950’s, the average American consumed roughly 45 pounds of sugar each year. This equated to under 2 ounces per day. (here too). Health issues due to poor diet has now eclipsed tobacco as the #1 health issue in the United States. Today, each of us eats roughly 90 pounds of sugar each year. Soft drinks, processed foods and desserts are the main culprits. Type II diabetes is a direct result of this over-consumption of sugar. In fact, pregnant mothers are now delivering obese babies as they pass along the sugar and fat to their children during pregnancy.

One of the overriding promises of the Obama administration was his ability and expectation that he could heal race relations in this nation where others had failed in the past. What we’ve seen, over the last six years, is that race relations are no better and in some quarters, worse. Only 8% of Americans feel that race relations are better in this country today than when he took office. “But while 54% of whites think the U.S. justice system is fair to blacks, 84% of black voters consider the justice system unfair to them.  Eighty-two percent (82%) of black voters think most black Americans receive unfair treatment from the police. White voters by a 56% to 30% margin don’t believe that’s true. In the Ferguson case, 59% of blacks think white police officer Darren Wilson should be charged with murder for the shooting death of black teenager Michael Brown.Just 15% of whites agree. Similar racial divides are found on a number of key issues, with blacks more favorable to a big government approach than whites are. Black voters also continue to overwhelmingly approve of the job Obama is doing as president, while most whites disapprove” (Rasmussen Report) even though blacks are doing worse under President Obama (also here, here and here). It is loyalty based on race, not on outcomes.

40% of the CEOs of our country’s largest companies expect hiring and sales to pick up in 2015. Yet, on the same day, the same magazine (Money Magazine) reported that they trimmed their 2015 sales forecasts and yet expect to boost hirings and capital expenditures. Corporate leaders expect a 2.4% growth in GDP next year. One wonders how all this can be true at the same time. At first blush, what went through our minds was that corporate CEOs have surplus cash on their balance sheets which they funnel into capital expenditures. Apparently, they’re thinking is that they can finally make more profit putting that money to use than they can leaving it in some type of savings or investment instruments.

For an Evangelical Christian, the State of Theology report is disconcerting. What once was accepted as core, common beliefs in Christianity are now questioned. For example, many believe there is no literal heaven or hell. If this is true, then why did Christ die on the cross? Certainly not to make us better people.

National Debt

While the national debt peaked at just over $18T near the end of November, some of the debt was temporarily retired. We’re certain the debt will continue to rise. Congress will increase the debt ceiling and the can will be kicked down the road past the election next year. Nothing will get resolved. Entitlements will continue to extract the wealth of our children and grand-children. And apparently, getting something for free now is more important to us than denying ourselves for the good of our children. The selfishness of our generation is astounding.

Date Debt Held by the Public Intragovernmental Holdings Total Public Debt Outstanding
11/20/2014 12,888,587,001,199.85 5,077,803,051,705.69 17,966,390,052,905.54
11/21/2014 12,889,776,540,331.31 5,076,654,326,113.95 17,966,430,866,445.26
11/24/2014 12,889,755,500,344.12 5,079,585,702,518.56 17,969,341,202,862.68
11/25/2014 12,890,968,195,297.62 5,082,300,179,570.08 17,973,268,374,867.70
11/26/2014 12,890,693,488,815.29 5,073,060,129,141.97 17,963,753,617,957.26
11/28/2014 12,922,681,725,432.94 5,082,867,603,128.51 18,005,549,328,561.45
12/01/2014 12,931,900,593,260.86 5,056,239,108,715.41 17,988,139,701,976.27
12/02/2014 12,932,180,810,260.93 5,062,558,367,892.50 17,994,739,178,153.43
12/03/2014 12,931,967,850,617.08 5,044,928,523,462.92 17,976,896,374,080.00
12/04/2014 12,945,811,624,100.99 5,047,914,557,299.09 17,993,726,181,400.08