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Thoughts about The New Normal

Here, in no particular order, are some thoughts about what will happen in the wider world.

Inflation

Any business model that relies on packing people into a confined space will either adapt to packing in fewer people, or the business will not survive. This means that any and all businesses relying on human contact for sales will, in order to survive, have to raise prices significantly. This will ripple through the economy in nearly all countries. Food supplies, eating out and other social interaction events, travel and vacations will all substantially increase in price.

Doomed Business Sectors

1. Commercial real estate

Apart from when I am on the road doing consulting with clients, I work from home, and I have done so since 2007. My wife’s employer has moved all of their employees to home working in Dallas since Covid-19 showed up. That is 500 people no longer commuting to work in Farmers Branch, most of whom will not need office space in the future. This is happening all over the business world. Many service industries that do not require human contact for the delivery of services do not need to have everybody working in the same physical space. The idea of co-locating people is a historical relic from before telecommunications. 

I expect massive drops in the value of commercial real estate over the next 2-5 years, with associated bankruptcies and the calling in of bulldozers to eliminate old buildings. Many business districts will shrink in size.

 2. Large commercial jet manufacturers

Boeing and Airbus, in their current form, are doomed. They will need to adapt current and future designs to include better air quality management (including micro-particle scrubbing) and re-configure seating to allow for physical separation. Right now, any pending orders for new jets are highly likely to be cancelled. There are no airlines with the money to buy new planes. It would not surprise me if they are already looking at Ultra-Wide-Body design changes. The move in recent decades has been away from wide-bodies (747, A380) back to narrower-body planes. Airlines (those that survive) may want wider planes so that they can impose wider separation between passengers. It would not surprise me, for example, to see a radically reconfigured A380 with only 200-250 seats total.

3. Cruise Line companies (except the eco-nichers)

Despite the trumpeting of cruise lines about late Summer bookings, their business model has just been holed below the waterline. A lot of smarter people are going to regard the idea of sharing a virus incubator with 3500 other people as…not smart. Your $10k cruise to the Galapagos Islands on a 50-cabin luxury liner will still be available, but the $599 dash down to Cancun for a week on Leviathan Of The Seas? Not likely to be available any more. 

I expect many current cruise ships to be laid up by the beginning of 2021, and scrapped by 2025. The cruise lines, like the airlines, will need to retrofit their vessels to implement the concept of social distancing. That will, at the very least, reduce the number of passengers, and will increase cruise costs substantially.

4. Sports bars

Many city restaurants and conventional bars have been transformed into sports bars, because people tend to drink more standing up, and alcohol sales are more profitable compared to food sales. Those venues are going to rapidly disappear. They can clearly be seen as proximity incubators.

5. Major sports and entertainment stadiums (especially NFL)

Any large-capacity venue of this type has a major challenge. The worst impacted will be the NFL, where the economic case for a permanent stadium for a team guaranteed less than 10 home games a year has always been tenuous. The leap-frogging of stadiums (bigger and better) has always been driven by owner vanity rather than proven practical need. Baseball ballparks do at least have a significant number of home games a season. The NFL…nope. Most of the venues have other facilities to try and make them economic. Those other facilities such as conferencing and concerts are going to be doomed (see 1 above).

Concert venues are most likely doomed. Those arena rock stars are going to have to find other sources of income in the next 1-2 years. Major venue owners have to pray that the pandemic fizzles out before they have to close, unless they can figure out how to go drive-through (see below). 

Impacted Business Sectors

  1. Restaurants 

Any venue relying for its business model on packing people in close proximity for lenghty periods of time either adapts or will not survive. A lot of smaller restaurants are going to disappear. The economics of restaurants in most countries have always been marginal. 

2. Tourism

The move to a two-tier travel world (see below) is going to reduce the size of the tourist sector in many countries. 

Boomed Business Sectors

  1. Aircraft scrapping and recycling

Many airlines are going out of business, and we can expect major reductions in routes, especially internationally. Companies that recycle old airliners are going to enjoy a boom. 

2.  Drive-in cinemas

Suddenly, the idea of driving into a location in your car and watching a movie sealed in your car or, at the very least, physically distanced from others, looks rather smart. 

3. Home delivery services

For people who can afford it, having items delivered instead of engaging in superfluous human contact will look very attractive.

4. Immunization registries

Any IT corporation selling an Immunization registry product is going to…become very busy. I expect immunization records to become an essential document in the pandemic era. We will all need an immunization record, and if we do not have one, our movements will be restricted. This may apply inside and outside of the USA.

Two tier global travel

There is evidence that countries who regard themselves as having successfully managed Covid-19 contagion are already forming alliances with other countries. This is rapidly going to create a two-tier travel world. The Tier 1 countries will allow residents from other Tier 1 countries to enter with normal travel documents. Any traveler from a Tier 2 country who arrives will either be rejected and told to go elsewhere, or will be admitted only under strict quarantine rules (usually a 14 day lockdown).  The same conditions will apply in reverse. Travelers from Tier 1 to Tier 2 countries will be admitted, but when they return to their country of origin, they will probably be forced into quarantine, which means that unless they work from home, foreign travel will become logistically impossible for many.

(NOTE: This will eliminate a lot of tourism). 

Right now, the USA and the UK would be Tier 2 countries. The majority of European countries, with the exception of Sweden, are likely to be Tier 1. Most Eastern countries are comfortably Tier 1. 

Note that the Tier classifications of countries could change. Countries that relax lockdown too soon and too much may suddenly find themselves hit by a second wave of virus contagion, and if the virus mutates sufficiently to eliminate all prior human immunity, the entire contagion cycle could begin all over again. 

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Enablement of abuse by churches

I know several women who have been the victims of abuse (both mental and physical) in relationships.
My tentative conclusion from conversations with those women, and their friends, is that abuse, once entrenched in the relationship, will continue until the abused party walks a long distance away from the entire relationship, or the abuser suffers a painful epiphany (as in, jail time).
The saddest part of viewing abusive relationships from outside is that, in addition to the abuse, the abused person is often not supported by their extended family. In addition, abusers are enabled in the continuation by the value systems of those they associate with and respect.
One of the most pernicious and long-lived enabling bodies for marital abuse are churches, who are mostly governed by patriarchs whose attitude to women is that they are useful as submissive chattels and child production units.
This church leader exemplifies the problem. Not only is he an enabler, and therefore an asshole, he also seems to think that he has said and done nothing wrong. For him, Denial is definitely the place to be.
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The Posturing Rambo tendency of gun nuts

I know a number of people who own guns.
I know people who own multiple firearms.
As far as I can tell, none of those people are what I could term “gun nuts”. I have yet to see any images of them prancing around in camo gear waving their firearms in the air, pointing them at real or imaginary targets, standing looking purposeful with their main weapon posed next to The Bible, or taking part in the Texas elimination heat of the World Shooting-In-The-Air Competition.
However, there are definitely people who do those things.
There are also people who cannot stop talking confrontational, macho smack online about how they are going to defend themselves and anybody else they feel like defending against all enemies, foreign and domestic, using…their guns.
“enemies”, depending on who you read and whatever is happening in the world, appears to be one or more of a long laundry list of anti-American groups, including (but not limited to):
1. The Government (at whatever level they currently despise the most)
2. Liberals, Communists, Marxists, Atheists
3. Antifa
4. Colin Kaepernick and any other sonofabitch who dares to kneel for The Anthem
5. Scary Brown People (who are assumed, most of the time, to be either terrorists or muslims)
6. Gun grabbers
7. Gun grabbers
8. Gun grabbers
9. Did I say “GUN GRABBERS?”

The verbiage used is wearily familiar, reading like a mutant combination of John Wayne, Arnold Schwartzenegger, Charlton Heston and whatever mangled quote from the Founding Fathers they can recycle (including numerous fictitious or mashed-up quotes they find in the meme bucket).
The premise is simple: there are good reasons why they own firearms, they have a Right to own as many damn firearms as they like, they intend to own those firearms until their dying day, and anybody who they think is Coming For Their Guns can expect to be met with Lethal Force from Their Guns.
The mindset is like reading a cross between the outpourings of a desperate schoolyard bully, and Rambo on an off-day. Here is an excellent example from Twitter:

You could probably create this kind of verbiage using a machine algorithm. That is how predictable this juvenile smack is.
The question is: who are they trying to impress. Not me, that’s for sure. I came to the conclusion that they are really just desperately trying to convince themselves they are Tough Guys. Because, in most contexts this sort of braggadocio simply reads and sounds like desperate chicken-strutting from little guys.
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Delta Airlines vs. Georgia – the next phase in the game

Delta Airlines responded defiantly to the news that the State of Georgia removed a clause from a tax incentive bill that would have given it a break on jet fuel purchases within Georgia. (NOTE – This was not specific to Delta – other airlines would also have benefited from the tax concession; however, Delta had more to gain because its main hub is in Georgia).
Delta also leaked some interesting titbits, the most important one being that a grand total of 13 NRA members had taken advantage of the now-discontinued discount program. If that is the correct number, the program was a waste of money for Delta, even before the public backlash when the existence of the program was discovered. You don’t have to be a math genius to work out that there was no upside to continuing the program.
The decision to strip the fuel concession from the bill was a state-wide political decision. Atlanta is a Democratic city, and rural Georgia is solidly Republican. The decision would therefore have appealed to rural GOP voters as sticking it to the corrupt Dems in Atlanta. All good retail politics in an election season.
The main question is: what next?
Delta is unlikely to leave Atlanta. They just extended for another 20 years with the City to use Hartsfield-Jackson as their man hub. They could leave, but long-term contracts like this one are difficult to get out of. When I visited Nashville in 2002 en route home from ORD to DFW (in the days when I had flight benefits on American Airlines), I found out that American had abandoned Nashville as a hub after 9/11, reducing it to a destination from several other hubs (ORD, DFW and RDU). However, they still had long term leases on close to 20 gates at the airport that they could not get out of. So some of the gates were shuttered, and some of them had been leased to SouthWest Airlines. The AA flights into and out of Nashville were full, but AA was losing money (“loadings are great, but yields are terrible” was the succinct summary of one of the AA gate agent supervisors) because of the combination of high fixed costs they could not get out of, plus competition from SouthWest, who were being subsidized via the cheap sub-leased gates.
So…Delta could leave ATL, but it is unlikely to do so, unless another city comes up with a dizbustingly-enticing tax and/or subsidy package.
What I think is most likely to happen is that the tax concession will be quietly resurrected in another bill, and passed later this year after the fuss has died down. Delta has been a GOP money donor, and the GOP will not be keen to lose donations in the future.
The entire incident is an example of what happens when virtue signalling becomes the main public currency of retail politics. Delta cancelled discounts for NRA members because there was no upside any more, given the backlash after the Parkland school shooting (Virtue Signal #1). The Georgia GOP removed the fuel tax concession from the bill to show that they could punish Delta and energize their base in an election season (Virtue Signal #2). Delta’s CEO informed the public that “their values are not for sale (Virtue Signal #3). If they are smart, the GOP will now repair the damage by quietly re-instating the fuel tax concession.
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The wonders of simple solutions to complex issues

The entire Brexit campaign was marked by simplistic pronouncements from the Brexit side that leaving the EU would be relatively easy. (The Remain campaigners had a different problem, their lack of ability to explain why the status quo was preferable to Brexit).
Now that we are over 1 year removed from the Leave vote, and with the negotiations to leave the EU progressing at a snail’s pace, the reality ought to be dawning that the Brexit strategy was…way too simplistic. However, that does not appear to be the case based on the amount of dung being spread around on social media.
This article from the Financial Times explains the whole mess succinctly, pointing to the simple solution trap. Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail
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Memes and slogans – again

I saw two examples of argument by meme so far today on Facebook, one from each end of the political spectrum.
Folks, don’t do this. You have your own voice. Your voice is uniquely yours. A meme is somebody else’s voice. And quite often, memes are flat out wrong, fallacious and often childish.
Use your own voice.
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Colin Kaepernick vs. the NFL – lawyer makes a big claim

Mark Geragos, the lead lawyer for Colin Kaepernick in his collusion grievance against the NFL, made a bold claim today, during an appearance on the Adam Carolla Show:

“I think within the next 10 days somebody will sign him,” he said. “I think somebody’s gonna sign him. I think the NFL has to come to their senses, and realize every day that goes by just proves the collusion case even more.”

Now…that is a pretty bold and specific claim. Several possible motives for the claim spring to mind:

1. Geragos is trolling or bullshitting
2. Geragos believes that discovery will uncover evidence of collusion against Kaepernick
3. Geragos believes that discovery will likely uncover other evidence of collaboration or collusion between teams and owners that may put the NFL in a difficult legal position

(1) still seems likely. Absent a clear communication between two teams along the lines of “remember don’t sign Kaepernick”, it is still likely that insufficient direct evidence of collusion exists. Whether Geragos thinks that the circumstantial evidence of collusive intent (via the intemperate public and leaked comments of the POTUS and several NFL team owners) is strong enough is open to debate. However, absent a “smoking gun”, the case may well become a trial in the court of public opinion. (there may well, of course, be other private comments from owners that will turn up in discovery that could be damaging. We just don’t know that those might be).
(2) and (3) would add up to multiple problems for the NFL. If (2) is proved, they would would be forced to pay Kaepernick a large pile of money for effectively running him out of the NFL – that sum could easily be more than $50m. They would end up with an enormous PR black eye.
However, (3) represents the more serious risk for the NFL owners. The NFL currently enjoys a limited exemption from anti-trust legislation via the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961. This was passed specifically to allow the NFL teams to collaborate on negotiating broadcasting deals. That is the full scope of the exemption. The NFL teams are not allowed to collaborate on any other commercial matters, or they risk being found guilty of violations of anti-trust law.
This means that evidence of collusion on any matter other than broadcasting rights carries two risks for the NFL. Firstly, it may make it easy for the arbitrator to rule against the NFL in Colin Kaepernick’s grievance hearing. However, secondly, and potentially much more dangerously, it may open the NFL to being charged with broader violations of anti-trust law. The TV broadcasting rights exemption has already come under fire on multiple occasions in the past, with threats being made to repeal the 1961 Act. A clear-cut finding of collusion on any subject could result in the entire act being nuked, leaving the NFL unable to operate as a group in negotiating distribution rights for broadasts of games.
Now…this is where it could get interesting…if the Sports Broadcasting Act was repealed, then theoretically any NFL team could do its own deal for broadcasting rights. They could sign a deal with a network or they could set up their own broadcasting operation with live streaming of games and other exclusive or non-exclusive content. For teams in big media markets (like Dallas, Washington, Seattle, New York etc.) this could actually be more lucrative than the current mechanism where all broadcasting revenues are pooled then distributed equally to all 32 teams. In other words, some of the new-wave aggressive owners like Jerry Jones and Daniel Snyder might not care about the loss of the anti-trust exemption, since they may have done the math and concluded that they can make more money selling their broadcast rights direct to the public.
However, any evidence of any sort of collusion will be embarrassing to the NFL, and will increase the chances of a ruling against them on the Kaepernick issue. More seriously, it opens the entire NFL up to complaints of anti-trust violations, which could be very expensive, not for fines, but for other remedies that a court might order. Courts have a LOT of power when punishing violations of anti-trust law. Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail
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Things I think – Monday 23rd October 2017

1. I am tired.
2. All of my encounters with airport staff yesterday were either frustrating, or an example of people granted temporary power abusing it. It seems that the less power that people have in their employment, the more they abuse the power that they temporarily possess over the public.
3. I have everything that I need in my life at this point in time.
4. The most precious commodity is the time I have left on the planet. At the age of 62 and whatever number of days, I have determined that I need to be more self-centered in the remainder of my life. I have invested a lot of effort since my early childhood on interacting with many people, and too many of the results of those interactions have been unsatisfying. Many of them devolved into relationships where I came to realize, usually after a significant period of time, that I was doing most of the work for not very much tangible reward. This will not continue.
5. I am slowly and positively embracing all of the personal quirks that people told me needed to be eliminated, such as my low boredom threshold, and my reluctance to follow group thinking and actions. Coping with your natural behavior pathology is a lot less frustrating than trying to fight it.
6. Social media is becoming a place where I will spend less time. It has become a toxic environment. I will decline to participate in interactions if I can immediately determine that the person or persons on the other side of the interaction is not interested in a good-faith exchange of views.
7. My book writing represents my chance to create something that will endure after my death. This will be my art, my children. I will devote most of my non-work energy to it in the next 3 years.
8. I will move into a new phase of my life on or before my 67th birthday, no matter what happens with book writing.
9. Music is more important than ever in my life.
10. Stuff is an encumbrance. I intend to try and dispose of it over the next 2 years.
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Innovation inhibitors in corporations – modern reality

I see “innovation campaigns” and change management initiatives all of the time in corporations. Most of them never achieve any positive results. In the worst case, failed change management initiatives increase cynicism and depress morale further.
Innovation and change, like morale, are things that all leaders in all corporations will agree they always need more of. However, innovation and change are very slippery items. Like the wind, you know they are there, but they can head in all directions, and are difficult to steer, and even more difficult to capture and grow.
Having watched the trends in IT solution delivery and service provisioning in corporations in the USA and Europe for over 30 years, I have come to some conclusions about why so many corporations are currently struggling with innovation and change initiatives.
Leaving aside the approaches to fostering innovation, which are often bizarre and superficial, there are several underlying current pervasive dynamics that have the power to totally derail all attempts at fostering innovation and implementing organizational and/or cultural change.

1. Psychological Safety
One of the best ways in which a corporation can ensure that innovation is suppressed is to make it clear that the reward for taking risks or attempting new approaches is to be penalized by Exile or by being made redundant. The organization shows little or no tolerance for failure.
This article explains the concept of psychological safety extremely well.
It is up to leaders to create a climate where taking risks is not immediately shut down, and failures of innovation are not immediately punished. Whenever I hear leaders commenting to the effect that “our culture is risk-averse”, I immediately begin to worry that they are stewards of a climate where nobody with any sense of self-preservation is likely to propose any sort of innovation or change.

2. The offshore delivery work fiction
Most IT delivery organizations have been relentlessly reducing staffing levels for decades, often sending work offshore, where it is often performed poorly, at which point the remaining onshore team members have to “paper over the cracks” in order to elevate quality levels to an acceptable level for the client or end-users. (By the way, this “acceptable” level is often way below the previous quality level that was provided to the client). The result is a corporate fiction that the work is being performed offshore. In reality it is being bodged offshore, and fixed up onshore by a small number of over-worked resources. Those resources are usually too busy to even think about visiting the restroom, never mind engaging in innovation.

3. Reduction in SME coverage and predominance of tacit knowledge
Over the last 15 years I have seen groups progressively slimmed down to the point where only one person is a SME for key areas of the solution. If that person is (say) killed in a road accident this upcoming weekend, the organization will be in a dangerous place starting on Monday.
However, a one-person SME, in the current climate, will not willingly train another person to be a SME, since that introduces a risk (as the SME sees it) that the organization can WFR them in favor of the newly-trained SME.
If the request is to train an offshore person to become a SME, well, if you are the corporate leadership expecting willing participation from the onshore resources, you are below naive.
Ditto documentation of processes. When a person perceives that their employer is looking for an excuse to WFR them, they are going to make damn sure that their business and technical knowledge remains implicit and tacit, not explicit and documented. The default in that sort of climate is that Knowledge is Indispensability. It is probably not true, but that is how employees will see it, and, like just about any employee, they will behave in a “circle the wagons” way to protect their position.

A culture of innovation, like credibility, requires constant renewal and attention to detail. Just as credibility can be severely or degraded by one perceived failure to deliver on promises or committments, innovation interest and engagement can be severely impacted and driven down to zero by one incident where innovators were seen to be punished for failures. Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail
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So what will the NFL teams do now?

So, after a currently unanimous decision by all 32 NFL teams to not employ Colin Kaepernick because he sat or kneeled for the National Anthem, despite the fact that numerous other players also sat or kneeled that season, what do we have here?
Three more prominent players all declining to stand for the National Anthem.
I don’t think I will be holding my breath until the teams of the players suspend or sit them for this action. That is probably not allowed under the CBA, especially since SCOTUS has ruled that nobody can be forced to stand for the National Anthem.
However, their employing teams could terminate their contracts to put them into the same place as Colin Kaepernick.
They won’t do that. Marshawn Lynch is the Oakland Raiders’ local talisman, the local boy made good, returning to this hometown, where the Raiders are playing out two seasons before relocating to Las Vegas. The other players are articulate team leaders. Their teams are going to do somewhere between diddly and squat.
Which leaves us with the scenario where the originator of the protests is kicking his heels waiting for a job offer, despite having taken one team to the Superbowl.
The NFL teams, collectively, do not seem to know the First Law Of Holes. Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail
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