“Republican lawmakers have become reflexive in rejecting every extended hand from the administration, even if the ideas were ones that they themselves once welcomed. Under the circumstances, Mr. Obama would be best advised to stop making peace offerings. Only when the Republican Party feels public pressure to become a serious partner can the real work of governing begin.”—Who Can Take Republicans Seriously on the Budget? - NYTimes.com
Once, I was in New York, in Central Park, and I saw an old man in a black overcoat walking a black dog. This was springtime and the trees were still bare and the sky was gray and low and it began, suddenly, to snow: big fat flakes that twirled and landed on the black of the man’s overcoat and the black dog’s fur. The dog lifted his face and stared up at the sky. The man looked up, too. “Snow, Aldo,” he said to the dog, "snow." And he laughed. The dog looked at him and wagged his tail.
If I was in charge of making snow globes, this is what I would put inside: the old man in the black overcoat, the black dog, two friends with their faces turned up to the sky as if they were receiving a blessing, as if they were being blessed together by something as simple as snow in March.
“Ryan’s claims weren’t even arguably true. You simply can’t say the president hasn’t released a deficit reduction plan. The plan is right here. You simply can’t say the president broke his promise to keep your GM plant open. The decision to close the plant was made before he entered office — and, by the way, the guy at the top of your ticket opposed the auto bailout. You simply can’t argue that the Affordable Care Act was a government takeover of the health-care system. My doctor still works for Kaiser Permanente, a private company that the government does not own. You simply can’t say that Obama, who was willing to follow historical precedent and sign a clean debt ceiling increase, caused the S&P downgrade, when S&P clearly said it was due to congressional gridlock and even wrote that it was partly due to the GOP’s dogmatic position on taxes.”—A not-very-truthful speech in a not-very-truthful campaign
On the other hand, to anyone paying the slightest bit of attention to facts, Ryan’s speech was an apparent attempt to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech. On this measure, while it was Romney who ran the Olympics, Ryan earned the gold.
The good news is that the Romney-Ryan campaign has likely created dozens of new jobs among the legions of additional fact checkers that media outlets are rushing to hire to sift through the mountain of cow dung that flowed from Ryan’s mouth. Said fact checkers have already condemned certain arguments that Ryan still irresponsibly repeated.
Fact: While Ryan tried to pin the downgrade of the United States’ credit rating on spending under President Obama, the credit rating was actually downgraded because Republicans threatened not to raise the debt ceiling.
Fact: While Ryan blamed President Obama for the shut down of a GM plant in Janesville, Wisconsin, the plant was actually closed under President George W. Bush. Ryan actually asked for federal spending to save the plant, while Romney has criticized the auto industry bailout that President Obama ultimately enacted to prevent other plants from closing.
Fact: Though Ryan insisted that President Obama wants to give all the credit for private sector success to government, that isn’t what the president said. Period. Fact: Though Paul Ryan accused President Obama of taking $716 billion out of Medicare, the fact is that that amount was savings in Medicare reimbursement rates (which, incidentally, save Medicare recipients out-of-pocket costs, too) and Ryan himself embraced these savings in his budget plan.
Elections should be about competing based on your record in the past and your vision for the future, not competing to see who can get away with the most lies and distortions without voters noticing or bother to care. Both parties should hold themselves to that standard. Republicans should be ashamed that there was even one misrepresentation in Ryan’s speech but sadly, there were many.
“The startups that really get hosed are going to be the ones that have easy money built into the structure of their company: the ones that raise a lot on easy terms, and are then led thereby to spend a lot, and to pay little attention to profitability. That kind of startup gets destroyed when markets tighten up. So don’t be that startup. If you’ve raised a lot, don’t spend it; not merely for the obvious reason that you’ll run out faster, but because it will turn you into the wrong sort of company to thrive in bad times.”—Paul Graham’s Letter to YC Companies | Hacker News
“How awesome is this treasure trove of emails, documents, files et. al placed online by the NY Fed? Some of the emails between Lehman execs are laughable — naive, silly, hubristic, childish. But my favorite piece simply has to be the Morgan Stanley research report from June 30 2008 “Overweight Rating” on Lehman Brothers — “Bruised, Not Broken, Poised for Profitability“. 60 days later, Lehman Brothers filed what was thent he largest bankruptcy in the United States. This is (literally) what the category “Really Really Bad Call” was invented for. Who was the author of this steaming piece of shit, and where is he today? Why, he is Patrick Pinschmidt, and he is a Senior Policy Advisor at U.S. Treasury Department! (You could not make up stuff this un-fucking-believable even if you tried). Total awesomeness!”—The Lehman Bankruptcy Docs (Buy LEH!) | The Big Picture
“More than 1 million Americans who have taken out mortgages in the past two years now owe more on their loans than their homes are worth, and Federal Housing Administration loans that require only a tiny down payment are partly to blame.”—
“to make his numbers work Mr. Ryan would, by 2022, have to close enough loopholes to yield an extra $700 billion in revenue every year. That’s a lot of money, even in an economy as big as ours. So which specific loopholes has Mr. Ryan, who issued a 98-page manifesto on behalf of his budget, said he would close? None. Not one. He has, however, categorically ruled out any move to close the major loophole that benefits the rich, namely the ultra-low tax rates on income from capital. (That’s the loophole that lets Mitt Romney pay only 14 percent of his income in taxes, a lower tax rate than that faced by many middle-class families.)”—Pink Slime Economics - NYTimes.com
I should write more often. I like doing it. It helps me crystalize my thoughts both about the venture and startup industry and the subject matter that permeates each work day. When I first started at RRE one of the insights I had (now pretty obvious) was that effective communication with a readership was actually a critically important bits of connective tissue that have been developed in connection with the opening up of the venture capital industry. Long before I invested for a living I was reading David Hornik’s blog and Bill Gurley’s, eventually I added Fred’s and Brad’s. When I was an entrepreneur and later while I was in business school these guys taught me the venture industry even though I’d never met most of them.
Yet as important as the conveyance of information is (not to assert that I have a ton of information that can’t be easily accessed through other sources, including the individuals listed above), I think there’s an even more important reason to keep writing and letting people know what one is thinking. Ours has become a rapid-paced and ultra-competitive business. It wasn’t always so. In some prior eras the basic modality of startup finance involved lengthy courtship periods between startups and investors and often by the time a financing is consummated there’d be a strong relationship in place. In today’s world of “looks neat, here’s a check”, a method that is widely lauded in some corners of the ecosystem, this simply isn’t happening.
Writing and sharing thoughts is more than just information – it’s a durable and long-standing expression of values that can be quickly accessed and assessed. If I meet a company and the process is moving swiftly, it’s of enormous help if both the founder(s) and I maintain a creative, substantive and active written presence on the web. Being able to see how someone thinks about events, trends, new products and ideas – all of that enables a richer and more nuanced view than what you can get in a few pitch-oriented meetings. If a founder is pitching me I know I’m getting very particular facet of that person. Similarly if a financing is competitive the founder knows he’s getting a facet of me. There are a lot of reasons for founders and investors to choose one another – I know that shared values and vision and core personality grain are all important reasons why I choose to back the founders I work with and why they chose me.
Over the past 30 days I’ve watched my wife go through a 30-day “challenge” of writing something public every day (here). Now – she’s a much better writer than I am, but it has inspired me to recommit to sharing such thoughts as I have with those who may choose to read them and hopefully share their thoughts back. There’s so much amazing stuff going on right now. The whole ecosystem (startups, the internet, NYC, down to my little family of three) is in the crucible. There is no shortage of things for us to talk about.
“Anyone who wants to know what the Occupy Wall Street protests are all about need only look at the way Bank of America does business. It comes down to this: These guys are some of the very biggest assholes on Earth. They lie, cheat and steal as reflexively as addicts, they laugh at people who are suffering and don’t have money, they pay themselves huge salaries with money stolen from old people and taxpayers – and on top of it all, they completely suck at banking. And yet the state won’t let them go out of business, no matter how much they deserve it, and it won’t slap them in jail, no matter what crimes they commit. That makes them not bankers or capitalists, but a class of person that was never supposed to exist in America: royalty.”—Bank of America: Too Crooked to Fail | Politics News | Rolling Stone
“The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was formed to ensure America’s freedom to travel. Instead, they have made air travel the most difficult means of mass transit in the United States, at the same time failing to make air travel any more secure.”—
Yesterday a couple of my colleagues and I met with a senior executive at one of the world’s biggest media companies to talk about what we’re seeing in the world and a few of our companies. As part of the general level setting she asked how we were seeing the development of the “second screen” as a media consumption device. And after pausing for a beat to make sure the answer wasn’t going to be obnoxious, I responded that of course we think it’s a hugely important media consumption device – that television has been important for decades and will continue to be important.
The release of the new iPad yesterday is a good opportunity to pause and pull back and reconsider how media is making its way into the living room (and into other rooms of the house). If you polled the average household in 1952, 1962, 1972, 1982 or 1992 what you’d have found is essentially the same thing – people got their media on a box with a CRT in it. The delivery mechanism shifted over time from OTA to cable or a dish, the picture got colorful, but for the most part over a 40 year period things didn’t change much. In 2002 you’d have found a few people with DVR’s and a small handful with HDTVs tuning what they could find over the air in 1080i or 720p. There were researchers and engineers building plasma displays but they weren’t commercialized. In 2002 people were still basically just “watching TV”.
Consider the evolution of television viewing over this past decade. The notion of buying a CRT box, bringing it home, plugging into a set top box and then coming home from work and just flipping around and watching programming that’s being shown at the time is almost unthinkably quaint, and not just to we in the tech community but to mainstream users.
DVR is ubiquitous
Most TVs are flat and display HD (many display 1080P)
VOD is widely deployed
But really, those are the incremental changes, not the big ones. People now watch services like Hulu on their non-television devices and consider that “watching TV”. We download content to our phones and watch when we’re on the move.
And when we sit in front of the big screen 10-15 feet away, we do with another device on our laps. And that’s the thought that went through my head as I was asked about the “second screen”. My media diet today still includes movies and the occasional television show (the new season of Game of Thrones starts in a few weeks…) but it also includes web content, social media destinations and games. And if I’m home and not at my desk, chances are it’s the iPad that delivers the majority of this to me, even if The Daily Show is playing (via DRV of course) on our bigger screen in the living room.
We’re less than two years into this experiment – the first generation iPad was released in April 2010. Much of the content delivery and infrastructure that will enable the transition to first screen-ness isn’t built yet, but this is happening incredibly quickly. The future vision of the big screen isn’t the multi-paneled screen showing nine programs at a time depicted in Back to the Future II, it’s each family member watching the programming they like on a screen they control. And that’s the first screen. The big, linear shared experience is the second screen.
You know how, like, pretty much everyone, like makes fun of teenage girls for like, always talking like this?
Have you noticed that people in tech do almost the exact same thing, but with a different linguistic crutch? Consider the following made-up exchange:
A: So you know, right, there’s no way that Google can catch us. They just don’t get product, right?
B: Yep! Think about Google Wave, right?
Over the past year or so I’ve noticed an extraordinary amount of “inflected right” popping up in the discussions among entrepreneurs, VC’s and other people in and around tech. People pepper their dialog with the word right, typically at the beginning or end of phrases. I’ve been in meetings where, like “um” with a person who struggles with articulation, it’s astonishingly common once you start listening for it. Pay attention during your next two or three conversations with people in tech who you don’t really know – I’ll bet at least one of them uses this crutch a few times and probably much more than that.
What’s the purpose of this? It’s essentially an “um” for tech. Valley girls (do they still have those?) started saying “like” instead of “um” – I have no idea why, really. But I think in tech the inflected right is a way to use the pauses inside of sentences as a way to sound self-confident (arrogant if you prefer), as if one is semi-implicitly coopting the listener into one’s point of view.
“Those guys are killing it, right?” – I assert that a company is doing well, and I assume that you agree with me and self-confirm with my inflected right. Now it is kind of difficult for you to disagree without it being awkward.
It’s clearly a relatively trivial quibble, but I think it actually foreshadows some of what’s happening in our ecosystem. Words matter and speech matters, and the inflected right is subtle evidence of groupthink and conclusory thinking. Also, it’s annoying.
Lastly, I know that I sometimes do it. So if you catch me using the inflected right, bust my chops for it. Because it’s annoying when I do it too.
It wouldn’t have occurred to me to write about how to make introductions, but I’m surprised at how many people get it wrong. The most common error is making a connection between two people when at least one of them doesn’t actually want to be connected.
VC’s tend to receive a lot of introductions and we are often asked to make introductions on behalf of portfolio CEO’s, people looking for jobs or just folks trying to expand their networks. We spend much of our time seeing new companies and meeting people, so our willingness and ability to make these connections is an important part of the value we are able to deliver. And on the flip side, being someone to whom inbound introductions flow is part of our competitive positioning relative to others in our business.
When I’m asked to make an introduction to someone I usually ask one threshold question – am I sure this introduction is welcome and will it deliver value to the person I’m being asked to hit up. In the majority of cases I actually don’t know in advance.
This is why the key best practice in making introductions is to ask the person on the other end whether the introduction is welcome and of interest or not.
If your friend is starting a company and asks for an intro to RRE, the best practice is to ping me or one of my colleagues and ask if it’s ok to make the introduction. This isn’t because we’re so important – it’s because if you’re someone we respect and you introduce us to a company and cc the founder, we’re going to take the meeting largely to avoid being rude to you and to your friend even if we aren’t that interested. If the company is outside of our interest areas, tangentially competitive with an existing investment or obviously not a fit for other reasons, you’ll have wasted not just our time but your friend the entrepreneur’s time as well.
VC’s should follow this rule too. I know that one of the frustrations that sometimes accompanies having VC board members is the random (and often frequent) introductions that come in over the transom. The VC is trying to be helpful by connecting a company to a high level person in a big company, a strong-looking candidate seeking a new gig or a high-placed investment banker. But VC’s should heed this warning – if you aren’t sure your portfolio CEO wants to talk to someone, ask them first, otherwise you’re wasting their time. In an era of text messages, twitter DM’s or good old-fashioned IM, pinging them to check first is a much lighter touch than an email intro that obligates them to reply.
There are exceptions to this rule of course. If I know a company is actively recruiting people for a role, it’s not necessary to take this intermediate step. And there are people who I trust enough that if something clears their filter I’ll take the introduction no questions asked. But that understanding is pretty explicit.
Bottom line – for both founders and investors our most precious resource is our time. If you want to do someone a favor by connecting them with someone who has asked for an introduction, do both parties the courtesy of taking the time to ensure that it’s a welcome introduction.
The Economists’ statement opposing the Bush tax cuts was a statement signed by roughly 450 economists, including ten of the twenty-four American Nobel Prize laureates alive at the time, in February 2003 who urged the U.S. President George W. Bush not to enact the 2003 tax cuts; seeking and sought to gather public support for the position. The statement was printed as a full-page ad in The New York Times and released to the public through the Economic Policy Institute. According to the statement, the 450 plus economists who signed the statement believe that the 2003 Bush tax cuts will increase inequality and the budget deficit, decreasing the ability of the U.S. government to fund essential services, while failing to produce economic growth.
In rebuttal, 250 plus economists who supported the tax plan wrote that the new plan would “create more employment, economic growth, and opportunities for all Americans.”
“Gingrich, as he showed in a gasping effort in Thursday night’s debate in Florida, is a demagogue distilled, like a French sauce, to the purest essence of the word’s meaning. He has no shame. He thinks the rules do not apply to him. And he turns questions about his odious personal behavior into mock outrage over the audacity of the questioner. After inventing, and then perfecting, the modern politics of personal destruction, Gingrich has decided now to bank on the dark fears of the worst element of the Republican base to seize the nomination — using skills refined over four decades.”—Deconstructing a Demagogue - NYTimes.com
“I’m dead serious," the president continued, saying that any reasonable person would have walked away the moment the Senate minority leader announced his main priority—above creating jobs and improving American health care—was to make Obama a one-term president. "I’m asking if anybody out there can come up with even one reason why I’d want to endure this unmitigated shit show for another minute, let alone through 2016. What’s in it for me, exactly? Can anyone answer that? Anyone at all?”—Obama Openly Asks Nation Why On Earth He Would Want To Serve For Another Term | The Onion - America’s Finest News Source
“Gingrich sees the world as a battleground — more than any other man alive, he is responsible for creating the non-stop partisan warfare that has made American government so dysfunctional. Even before his election as Republican Whip in 1989, Gingrich had begun to demand a no-compromise war for political power; it is his sole belief system. It is distinctly at odds with the Founders’ conception of peoples’ representatives gathering in a Congress to reason together to shape the nation’s laws. It is why they argued against creating strong political parties like the ones they had left behind in Europe. But to Gingrich, parties — confrontational parties — are essential tools to be used to gain, and hold, power. It is power, not wise governance, that exerts the magnetic pull.”—Imagining a Gingrich Presidency - Mickey Edwards - Politics - The Atlantic
The recent acquisition of Gowalla by Facebook is just the latest incidence of the potential tension between investors and founders when a company is acquired primarily for the team rather than for the technology, product or business that they’ve built. People around the web will take the opportunity to observe that in situations where a company is acquired in this way, the founders typically get a package of equity to motivate them to join (and remain at) the acquiring company, while investors usually get anywherefrom zero to a small return on invested capital. Look around and you’ll find people willing to condemn the founders for unethically “selling out” their investors and you’ll find people who say the exact opposite, that such a company didn’t have saleable assets anyway, and so investors are owed nothing because the business failed.
Having been on the selling end of several of these types of acquisitions in the past few years, I can say with confidence that it’s extremely realistic to walk from these deals with both founders and investors feeling good about what happened and maintaining strong relationships. But I think some of the nuances are non-obvious, and I think it’s worth it for founders to think through the likely sequence of events that may arise before there is urgency and emotion and a deal is imminent.
Personally I think that in the specific fact pattern where a business has very little traction, cash is running out and you have exactly one acquirer willing to take on the team but unwilling to pay investors for a business in which they have no interest (which seems to be the pattern at play with Facebook/Gowalla) the ethical conundrum actually isn’t – the SV Angel perspective that there is no business and therefor no harm to investors is fairly self-apparent. But there are a whole bunch of ways to tweak the factpattern to make the ethical question far more complex and more interesting. Two that are worth considering:
· What if the company still had ten months of runway when an acquirer comes knocking on the door looking to acquire the team? What obligation, if any, does the company have to continue to try to create a positive outcome for shareholders.
· What if there was a different buyer who was willing to buy the business or its assets for a 2-3x multiple of invested capital paid back to shareholders but didn’t come with as sweet or ascompelling a deal for the management team? What obligation, if any, does the company have to consider and execute this transaction rather than one that sets the founders up in a way they like?
· Different but related (and by far the most common) – what happens when an acquisition offer is presented that is really interesting for the founders but a disappointment to investors who were hoping for a big outcome?
Each of these, taken in turn, is worth a longer discussion but they are all connected by a common question – when you take investor money, particularly venture money (whose business model is to fund plenty of companies that fail but to have a few tremendous outcomes that make up for them), do you also take on a measure of obligation to consider the best interests of yourshareholders and how important is that obligation relative to others (to yourself, to your cofounders, to your employees…).
Legally, of course, there is an obligation as set out by Delaware law. That obligation comes with the founders’ seats on the Board to consider the rights and outcomes to all shareholders. But setting that aside, in a particular and challenging set of facts, how should founders think about investors and their rights?
The answer, of course, is that it depends on the circumstances. But there are a few elements of a framework that make sense to employ if you face this decision.
1. You probably told your investors that you were trying to build something world-changing when you took their money. Sure, they know this only happens in a few cases, but don’t ignore the commitment you made to try to build a big business.
2. The world of startups is small and involves repeat interactions. You can (and should) make the decision that is best for all stakeholders, not just shareholders, but understand that there are reputational consequences to dismissing the needs (or perceived needs) of your investors.
3. You can’t possibly communicate too much with the people who have bet on you. I can cite plenty of situations where people were unhappy with an outcome not because the outcome was wrong or irrational, but simply because it was presented to them by fiat and they weren’t part of the decision process.
All of which rolls up to a simple set of guidelines, if not conclusions. The decision to accept failure (or too-modest success) is always going to be challenging. If you are a high profile startup and have raised money on the back of a big dream (as Gowalla did), recognize that you have stakeholders around your company and consider not just the outcome they will achieve in a particular transaction, but the full arc of your relationship with them, from the point of investment through the discussion you may have three years from now about your next company. Professional investors (VC’s and angels both) are adults, understand the range of outcomes and (if you chose them well) will work with you to find a good situation for the founding team. As with all things in our ecosystem, mutual respect, over communication and a view toward enduring relationships will serve you extremely well.
“National home prices have declined 33% from the peak in 1Q06 through 3Q11, returning to mid-2002 levels. In our view, this has left prices fairly valued relative to per capita income growth and rent prices. However, we expect prices to undershoot relative to fair valuation, declining another 7% from 3Q11 through 1Q13.”—
“And last week, Romney released a commercial with footage in which Obama stated, “If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.” As it happens, Obama was describing how the McCain campaign assessed McCain’s situation during the 2008 general election, and the clip was from back then. The Romney TV spot dispensed with all that pesky context. When this flagrant misdirection was pointed out, the Romney campaign’s reaction was unapologetic pride. “We’re not going to take our foot off the gas pedal,” crowed a senior aide, Eric Fehrnstrom.”—Presidential Politics as Craven Crudités - NYTimes.com
But the estate tax was meant to do more than bolster budgets and aid charities. From its inception, it was meant to ward off the emergence of a hereditary aristocracy in the United States. Established in 1916, the tax was a populist response to the excesses of the Gilded Age. President Theodore Roosevelt justified it by arguing that society has a claim upon the fortunes of its wealthy. Roosevelt pointed out that “most great civilized countries have an income tax and an inheritance tax. In my judgment both should be part of our system of federal taxation.” Such taxation, he noted, should “be aimed merely at the inheritance or transmission in their entirety of those fortunes swollen beyond all healthy limits.”
The difference now and then is that when the death tax was instituted there was no federal income tax (and mostly no state income taxes). Today there are a variety of confiscatory taxes in place to deal with issues like this.
And yet wealth continues to accumulate only at the top, a group that has captured essentially all of the economic growth in the US economy over the past several decades. Those who pay estate tax rarely see the majority of their wealth ever subject to the “confiscatory” income tax - if it’s taxed at all it’s taxed at the far lower cap gains/dividend rates. One can agree or disagree with the rationale spelled out above around ensuring that wealth in the US is (by and large) something that has to be created rather than inherited, but I think it’s indisputable that the estate tax is a critical mechanism for implementing that vision should we as a society choose it.
I commented about four years ago that you will know the real estate crash is over when EVERYONE agrees that owning a house is just dumb, that the market will never recover, and that home ownership is dead. This was one of the ways one could have known that the 2009/10 “recovery” was a head fake. People were “buying the dip”. If the story above gets more and more common and conventional wisdom moves against owning a house, that’s when I will be a buyer and when I’ll believe that some kind of bottom is genuinely in.
“Have you noticed that the real-estate crash is almost always written about as a bad thing? House prices have been falling for the past five or six years, and everyone acts like it’s a calamity. People wouldn’t freak out so much if the prices of cars or appliances fell dramatically.”—Tell your housing success story | Bankrate.com
Note too that there’s an arithmetic subtlety here - “fall from peak” numbers always look small by their nature. If prices go from 100 to 200 then they rose by 100%. If they fall from 200 to 100 then they fell by 50%. Same magnitude change but reflected by a number half as large.
A one-third drop in NATIONAL real estate prices (remember when everyone said “real estate is local” as if it was somehow a talisman against the possibility of a national bubble?) would have been considered all but impossible to pretty much everyone in 2006. Well, except to those of us who saw the bubble early.
One-third drop means that if prices went from $150k to $300k between 1998 and 2006, they are back down to $200k, wiping out two-thirds of all gains. Oh and by the way - we’re not done yet.
That was the effective tax rate paid by the 400 Americans with the highest adjusted gross income in 2007, the most recent year with IRS data available. The figure is down from almost 30 percent in 2005. All in all, this April 15 could be the best tax day for the wealthy since the early 1930s - with top rates on ordinary income, capital gains, dividends, estates and gifts at or near historic lows.
The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent terrorist threats and have therefore raised their security level from “Miffed” to “Peeved.” Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to “Irritated” or even “A Bit Cross.” The English have not been “A Bit Cross” since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies nearly ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from “Tiresome” to “A Bloody Nuisance.”
The last time the British issued a “Bloody Nuisance” warning level was in 1588, when threatened by the Spanish Armada.
The Scots have raised their threat level from “Pissed Off” to “Let’s get the Bastards.” They don’t have any other levels. This is the reason they have been used on the front line of the British army for the last 300 years.
The French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from “Run” to “Hide.” The only two higher levels in France are “Collaborate” and “Surrender.” The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France ‘s white flag factory, effectively paralyzing the country’s military capability.
Italy has increased the alert level from “Shout Loudly and Excitedly” to “Elaborate Military Posturing.” Two more levels remain: “Ineffective Combat Operations” and “Change Sides.”
The Germans have increased their alert state from “Disdainful Arrogance” to “Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs.” They also have two higher levels: “Invade a Neighbor” and “Lose.”
Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual; the only threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels .
The Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to deploy. These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish navy can get a really good look at the old Spanish navy.
Australia , meanwhile, has raised its security level from “No worries” to “She’ll be alright, Mate.” Two more escalation levels remain: “Crikey! I think we’ll need to cancel the barbie this weekend!” and “The barbie is canceled.” So far no situation has ever warranted use of the final escalation level.
“So there you have it. Illegal immigrants: 393,000. Lying moms: one. Bankers: zero. The math makes sense only because the politics are so obvious. You want to win elections, you bang on the jailable class. You build prisons and fill them with people for selling dime bags and stealing CD players. But for stealing a billion dollars? For fraud that puts a million people into foreclosure? Pass. It’s not a crime. Prison is too harsh. Get them to say they’re sorry, and move on. Oh, wait — let’s not even make them say they’re sorry. That’s too mean; let’s just give them a piece of paper with a government stamp on it, officially clearing them of the need to apologize, and make them pay a fine instead. But don’t make them pay it out of their own pockets, and don’t ask them to give back the money they stole. In fact, let them profit from their collective crimes, to the tune of a record $135 billion in pay and benefits last year. What’s next? Taxpayer-funded massages for every Wall Street executive guilty of fraud? The mental stumbling block, for most Americans, is that financial crimes don’t feel real; you don’t see the culprits waving guns in liquor stores or dragging coeds into bushes. But these frauds are worse than common robberies. They’re crimes of intellectual choice, made by people who are already rich and who have every conceivable social advantage, acting on a simple, cynical calculation: Let’s steal whatever we can, then dare the victims to find the juice to reclaim their money through a captive bureaucracy. They’re attacking the very definition of property — which, after all, depends in part on a legal system that defends everyone’s claims of ownership equally. When that definition becomes tenuous or conditional — when the state simply gives up on the notion of justice — this whole American Dream thing recedes even further from reality.”—Why Isn’t Wall Street in Jail? | Rolling Stone Politics
“The share of Americans who own their home dropped again last year, but that decline is not being driven by foreclosures pushing people out of the real-estate market. Instead, more people appear to be rejecting the idea of a home as an investment.”—
When you read this story for the hundredth time, when it seems like the entire country is walking away from the concept of home ownership, when it feels like you’d really just be crazy to fly in the face of what everyone knows - that real estate is a bad investment… THAT will be the time to start investing in it.
“The bleakest year in the foreclosure crisis has only just begun. Lenders are poised to take back more homes this year than any other since the U.S. housing meltdown began in 2006. About 5 million borrowers are at least two months behind on their mortgages and industry experts say more people will miss payments because of job losses and also loans that exceed the value of the homes they are living in.”—Over 1 million Americans seen losing homes in 2011 - Yahoo! Finance
If you live in or around the startup world (and if you read this blog I suspect that you do), you have almost certainly been exposed to what I’ll call the “all-in ethos” that is considered appropriate and even mandatory to be successful as an entrepreneur. What I mean by this ethos is the stories told and retold about a given founder’s willingness to max out credit cards, call in every favor, and basically lay themselves entirely on the line because their belief in their product, company or idea is just so overwhelmingly strong that they cannot even consider giving up. People in our world tell and retell these stories because they reinforce such a critical belief – that no matter how dark things look for a startup, there can always be light at the end of the tunnel, that even if a founder is the only person on the planet that believes something to be true, that is the true essence of “entrepreneurial spirit”, and that it can prevail.
As investors, we love this attitude. Entrepreneurs who don’t quit are the engine that make possible the very difficult work of creating successful businesses out of ideas and passion. Starting from a blank page and competing successfully with established businesses or building a product that people don’t even know they need – these are daunting endeavors, and without an extraordinary sense of self and belief in the future of the company, entrepreneurs couldn’t do what they do.
And all of that is prologue to the question of – what happens when an entrepreneur believes and believes and goes all in the way s/he is supposed to … and the company still fails? I recently had the opportunity to consider what it is like for an entrepreneur who left it all out on the field, regrouped, and then came back to give it another try.
And while it might seem self-evident, it was an opportunity to reconsider the reality that VCs aren’t bankers, and that the people who come to us for financing are going to have scars and bruises from some of what came before. And while there are lots of VCs who talk about how they prefer for an entrepreneur to come to them with a failure under his belt, it’s another thing to really look an entrepreneur in the face, acknowledge what he has gone through, and back him anyway. Because you just know that he’s going to go after this new thing even harder. And that’s what this is all about.
“Reagan’s behavior might not pass muster with those voters today who insist their Congressmen treat every proposed tax increase as poisonous to the republic. “By today’s standards, the Gipper would easily qualify for status as a back-stabbing, treacherous RINO [Republican in Name Only],” wrote Tax Analysts contributing editor Martin Sullivan, in an article for Tax Notes in May. Thanks in part to the increases in defense spending during his administration, Reagan also didn’t really reduce the size of government. Annual spending averaged 22.4% of GDP on his watch, which is above today’s 40-year average of 20.7%, and above the 20.8% average under Carter. Indeed, in one very symbolic respect he enlarged it. While in the early years of his presidency Reagan tried to shrink the IRS, by the end, the number of IRS employees hit an all-time high, according to Steuerle in his book Contemporary U.S. Tax Policy.”—What people forget about Reagan
“The average consumer WANTS to be misinformed about housing. He wants to buy, and he wants to be told it’s the smartest decision he could ever make, no matter how much he pays or how deep into debt he gets. So the mainstream press will continue to tell him to buy, not only because it pleases the government agencies, banks, and sellers who want to get him into debt, but because it “makes sense” to the average consumer himself, who just can’t be bothered to do the math and who has already decided that it’s always smart to buy, no matter what the price.”—patrick.net » Interview with Patrick
“The antigovernment campaign has always been phrased in terms of opposition to waste and fraud — to checks sent to welfare queens driving Cadillacs, to vast armies of bureaucrats uselessly pushing paper around. But those were myths, of course; there was never remotely as much waste and fraud as the right claimed. And now that the campaign has reached fruition, we’re seeing what was actually in the firing line: services that everyone except the very rich need, services that government must provide or nobody will, like lighted streets, drivable roads and decent schooling for the public as a whole. So the end result of the long campaign against government is that we’ve taken a disastrously wrong turn. America is now on the unlit, unpaved road to nowhere.”—Paul Krugman - America Goes Dark - NYTimes.com
“The federal homebuyer tax credit shifted demand in the U.S. housing market without having a lasting impact on prices, according to Douglas Duncan, chief economist of Fannie Mae, the largest mortgage financier.
“Temporary tax credits change behavior temporarily,” Duncan said today at a National Association of Real Estate Editors conference in Austin, Texas. “It’s simply shifted demand forward.”—
“Remember where you were, when you could still laugh about teabaggers and racists and Arizonans, because funny time is almost over. If the unemployment keeps up — one in five adult white males has no job and will never have a job again — and people keep walking away from their stucco heaps they can’t afford and the states and cities and counties and towns keep passing their aggressive racist laws to rile up the trash even more, shit’s going to very soon become very bad, and whether it’s the National Guard having wars in the Sunbelt Exurbs against armies of crazy old white people who are finally using their hundreds of millions of guns, or whole Latino neighborhoods burned to the ground the way the Klan used to burn down black neighborhoods a century ago, we are in for a long dark night and no light-colored paint is going to fix that.”—
“Everybody thinks rising home prices are good, but rising property prices may make many of us unnecessarily poorer by making it harder for future buyers and renters to pay the bills. I wonder if the poor are hurt most by a policy which artificially supports housing prices? If true, then the Fed and the Treasury are taking dramatic action against the most vulnerable. The affordable housing people arguing in favor of foreclosure prevention are arguing against their own goals.”—Housing Prices Are Falling Again. We Have a Moral Obligation to Embrace The Trend. « NewObservations.Net