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    Helter Skelter Redux?

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 22nd February 2021 (All posts by )

    The stated aim of that murderous freak Charlie Manson and his deranged family of dropouts and druggies in committing the brutal slaughter of seven people in 1969 was to incite a race war. The murderers deliberately left bloody graffiti at the murder scenes, attempting to frame the Black Panthers – yet another set of murderous and equally racist freaks active in that period. In Manson’s twisted vision, the Tate-LaBianca murders would set off a brutal race war; black against white, in which whites would be enthusiastically genocided. During this mayhem Manson and his followers would hide out in a vast underground city. They would then emerge to take command over what remained of society. Manson was a particularly noxious racist, unsavory qualities which were veiled by the last putrid remnants of the hippie commune culture, which let his cult family fly under the social radar as it existed in the afterglow of the so-called “Summer of Love” in the formerly golden state of California. (Jim Jones was another one of those super-organized racist-cult freaks of the era, whose’ commune was slightly longer-lasting and successful, until suddenly it wasn’t. Yeah, a supposedly race-prejudice-free socialist commune, with a white leadership cadre and mostly dead black bodies when it all came crashing down some years later.) Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Crony Capitalism, History, Human Behavior, Just Unbelievable, Leftism, Urban Issues, USA | 31 Comments »

    Those Whom The Gods Would Destroy

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 14th February 2021 (All posts by )

    … they first make mad, or so goes the popular version of a concept which goes back to the ancient Greeks. They who are on that irrevocable final spiral towards destruction do seem addicted to self-destructive or at least counter-productive behavior – either of the personal or institutional sort. I can’t help wondering if the powers-that-be at Lucasfilm/Disney are entering that death spiral, what with firing Gina Carano from the cast of The Mandalorian for … well, nothing much more than pointing out that the Nazi genocide of Jews started with a program of determined “otherization.” Ms Carano merely drew a parallel which has occurred to many another so-called “Deplorable”, and it certainly has not escaped attention of sharper observers than myself that a chorus of so-called tolerant progressives have been clamoring for the punishment and erasure of Republicans, conservatives, Trump supporters and flyover rural residents, ever louder and with increasing urgency of late. Why she should be singled out for cancellation for pointing out the obvious parallel, other than being in a notoriously prog-sympathetic profession? Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Civil Society, Conservatism, Culture, Current Events, Diversions, Film, Leftism, Media | 44 Comments »

    Industrial Distribution One Year Into Covid

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 10th February 2021 (All posts by )

    It was around a year ago now when we started to hear about this thing called Covid. My kneejerk at that time was “it’s just the f1cking flu”. Quite the year.

    For those not acquainted, I own an HVAC distributor, and we are a subset of industrial distribution. I have written some updates along the way of this new Covidian world. Here are a few more thoughts of where we were, where we are, and where I think we are going.

    1) I thought our AR was going to be ravaged. Boy was I wrong. AR is as healthy as it ever was. We probably have some PPP money being used improperly by some customers, but the fact of the matter really is that HVAC in general has been very, very strong. People had to stay at home and with extra money from not going on vacations decided to upgrade their HVAC systems. Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) was obviously a very good driver for us in both residential and commercial segments.

    2) I originally thought that replacement parts would be an issue. Nope. It was all about finished goods, and still is. Our main domestic provider of HVAC equipment is digging out of the hole that seemed infinite in nature, caused by all of the distributors cancelling everything during the original shutdowns, and then re-ordering everything x 2 or more when the weather got hot in Summer. It was brutal, but we worked through it. All of the favors were called in, and I scoured the USA for new trading partners to come up with some solutions. That work paid off and will pay off in the future as now I have more partners to rely on. I have never worked so hard to get product – one week I worked 100 hours. I have had one day off since last February that wasn’t a holiday. Not looking for sympathy – these are things that you do when you are the boss but I’m glad we have a bit more normalcy now.

    3) Right now, the ports on the West Coast are a mess, and there is a major container shipping issue to/from Asia. This is already causing hella problems with items such as ductless mini split systems, PTAC units, window airs, dehumidifiers, and the like. We are going to see major issues in these segments when it warms up.

    4) Inventory controls are out the window. Product comes in surges rather than the patterns we were used to that had been developed over decades. We are still getting orders in on some items from last July. It is very tough to manage. We don’t dare send anything back to the manufacturers for fear of not getting the items again, but our turns are a farce right now. There really isn’t a solution, and we hope that our normal buying/supply patterns return later this year. I have rarely used my line of credit in the past, but until this thing normalizes, I have no choice.

    5) Competition isn’t working as hard as I am. I really am happy about this as I am seeing new customers and coming up with innovative solutions or new products/vendors, and a lot of my competitors have either given up or just aren’t that interested in trying new things. It has really opened some doors. Hard work does create luck.

    6) I protected, and continue to protect, our long time, loyal customers when the availability sh1t hit the fan and shielded them fiercely when other contractors came calling as their distributors ran out of product. We immediately halted new dealer acquisition and allocated product to “our guys”. My customers were very thankful for very few product outages. This created some angst as these potential new customers were offended when I politely told them to “pound it”, but that’s too bad. We did the right thing.

    7) The future is bright. If we can get a handle on the inventory, we feel that there will be a burst of commercial work coming as companies get fully back up and running. I think that residential won’t slow down any time soon either. This polar vortex we are currently experiencing pushed a lot of units over the edge.

    8) Some items are still hopeless. MERV 13 filters are a complete joke, along with UV product. MERV 13 filter lead times still sit at 16-20 weeks. Want a backup generator for your house? 20 weeks minimum. Our Bipolar Ionizer manufacturer that we represent has done a fantastic job re-supplying so that fight is over for now.

    There is a lot of work left to do, but in general, we are finally, mercifully seeing some light at the end of the tunnel.

    Posted in Business, COVID-19 | 27 Comments »

    Big Brother Watches Dilbert

    Posted by Ginny on 23rd January 2021 (All posts by )

    Chicagoboyz are excellent managers – and have opinions. I’m curious how effective you see:
    TECH THAT AIMS TO IMPROVE MEETINGS.

    If you aren’t sufficiently paranoid about 25,000 National Guards brought in for a nonexistent “coup” sleeping on the freezing floor of a parking garage and hearing they will be there until March (I don’t know how Abbott’s order to bring his men home is going – at least the Texas contingent should leave sooner), then consider Big Brother recording your blood pressure and eye contact at your next business meeting. (Does this seem a breakthrough in efficiency or something akin the Stasi in The Lives of Others?)

    It gives useful information; it might encourage quieter members and rein in talkative ones. Could interest be faked for the camera? But a leader who doesn’t sense the mood of the room and who doesn’t encourage contributions and differing approaches tactfully would probably not use AI information well either.

    Neither as employee or employer did I find these necessary (probably incorrectly). Forced into biannual meetings, I fell asleep or went off on diversions. This technology would quickly cull me (“Doesn’t play well with others”). But I’m not sure that makes it, well, bad. Invasive, yes. Nonetheless, I suspect it fosters conformity and forces consensus: in short, is UnAmerican. But maybe that’s just me.

    Posted in Business, Civil Society, Diversions, Management, Miscellaneous, Organizational Analysis, Tech | 22 Comments »

    Comm Check

    Posted by David Foster on 20th January 2021 (All posts by )

    When the First World War broke out, a British cable ship set sail with orders to cut the German undersea cables.  Given the British control of the seas, the cables could not be repaired during the course of the war, and this led to a British dominance of communications with neutral countries–especially the United States.  While Germany was not totally cut off from the world–they had a powerful radio transmitter at Nauen–communication from the Allied Powers was more convenient and subject to British influence; war correspondents, for example, tended to file their reports from Britain.  In the opinion of many writers (here, for instance), this gave the Allied Powers a considerable advantage in propaganda.  (Also in message interception for purposes of espionage, of course)

    Availability of communications is of great importance in conflicts of all kinds. “Congress can make a general, but only communications can make him a commander,” is how the American general Omar Bradley put it.

    We have seen in recent how control of communications can influence political outcomes, with, for example, the playing down and outright banning of the Hunter Biden story perpetrated by both traditional and social media.  How many people would have voted differently had they been aware of this matter?  One survey suggests that the number would have been quite significant.

    And is it beyond the realm of the possible that certain ‘tech’ and infrastructure companies might go beyond the blocking of political communications with which they disagree and…actively or passively…block government operational communications that they don’t like?  See this post:

    The Department of Defense uses software created, delivered, and maintained by many of the same high-tech companies now engaged in shutting down online speech. If the titans of tech can pull the plug on public communications tools people have come to rely on, some observers fear, they might do the same to the Pentagon in response to a military action deemed unacceptable by San Franciscans.

    Something along those lines already happened with Project Maven, a major Pentagon initiative using Google algorithms to identify drone targets. The software was well under way when, in 2018, thousands of Google’s workers protested their company becoming a defense contractor. 

    Could companies, acting on their own opinions or in order to placate key groups of employees, really get away with refusing to supply urgently-needed capabilities to the government?  From the article:

    The Hudson Institute’s Clark says that if a tech giant withdrew access to services it had agreed to provide to the military, it would likely have to pay penalties for breach of contract. Such fines might make little difference to the bottom line of Big Tech. But the loss of cloud capabilities in the middle of a conflict could be disastrous for warfighters.

    During the Iraq War, the Swiss company Swatch refused to supply parts for the JDAM missile.  I don’t know whether litigation was filed by the DoD to recover damages. But the consequences of such refusals could well involve lives as well as money.

    (Gregory Sanders, a fellow at the Defense-Industrial Initiaves Group) says the Pentagon could always invoke the Defense Production Act “if a company pulled out of a service provision in a crisis environment in a non-orderly manner.” As the Congressional Research Service puts it, the act “allows the President to require persons (including businesses and corporations)” to “prioritize and accept government contracts for materials and services.”  But that isn’t a guaranteed strategy for success. “The quality of work you get when compelling an objecting vendor wouldn’t necessarily be the best, so DoD wouldn’t want to invoke those authorities needlessly.”  It’s well-known that ‘working to rule’ can greatly slow things down in activities of all kinds; much more so, surely, where creative thinking is a big part of the work to be done.

    H G Wells’ 1933 novel The Shape of Things to Come posits the emergence of the Air Dictatorship: global rule established by a technocratic group that begins with the imposition of a monopoly over global trade networks and especially control over the air.  Benevolent, rule, of course, as Wells saw it.

    Are we in danger of de facto rule by a Communications Dictatorship, or at least a Communications Oligarchy?

     

    Posted in Aviation, Business, Civil Liberties, Tech, Transportation, USA | 27 Comments »

    Anchorites

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 29th December 2020 (All posts by )

    We are commanded by our so-called experts in this age of the Chinese Corona Crud, to live the enclosed life as a sort of secular anchorite, walled into our little singular cells, supplied by regular deliveries passed in through one narrow passage to the outside, and to spend our days contemplating the televised media worship of the narrative du jour through the window into the shrine of our authoritative masters. Or at least, those who call themselves our masters, although I am certain that’s not the term which they use for themselves. ‘Experts’, ‘scientists’ ‘elected* leaders’ – that’s probably how they term themselves, commanding us to stay at home, eschew social gatherings (although violent BLMAntifa protests are perfectly OK), church services, seeing a movie, getting sit-down dinner inside a restaurant, walking in a public park, hanging out on a beach … all through fear of the rampaging and almost-always-fatal Chinese Corona Crud. To add insult to the injury, those political leaders, to a man, woman and whatever, don’t seem to feel any need to observe their own dictates; traveling freely to their vacation homes, meeting up for holidays with family, going out to supper with friends to the French Laundry, getting haircuts, and omitting the wear of what I’ve begun to call the FFD (the F**king Face Diaper). Really, it’s as if they are getting their jollies out of flaunting their authority and privilege in our FFD’d faces. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Business, Civil Society, Current Events, Predictions, USA | 33 Comments »

    Auto Sellers Inventory Question

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 14th December 2020 (All posts by )

    I drive an Acura MDX and the dealership keeps sending me emails begging me to take a 2020 at a super duper deal. I am patiently waiting for the 2021 version to come out as it has many improvements, supposedly. I drive by the dealership on the way home and they have a LOT of 2020’s in their lot. Does anyone reading this know if the dealership actually owns that inventory or if it is consignment? Any way you slice it, that’s a lot of aging, expensive cars sitting around.

    Posted in Business | 8 Comments »

    Industrial Distribution – A Positive Update

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 7th December 2020 (All posts by )

    I own an HVAC distributor – HVAC distribution is a subset of industrial distribution, at least in the US. I have been trying to give our readers some “boots on the ground” updates as we have been winding our way through a hectic 2020 with the virus.

    All along the main problem for us has been finished goods. I thought when all of the shutdowns started happening that parts and pieces would be the main issue as a lot of that comes from “over there”. Not the case. Parts were never really a problem.

    LTL and parcels were and continue to be an issue. The stuff shows up, but it is always late and we are seeing very poor quality work with damaged skids, missing boxes and the like. Not horrible, but everything is slow.

    American factories, where most of the HVAC that is consumed in the USA is made, had immediate and lasting issues brought about by a few things. Covid safety procedures made people space out on assembly lines, slowing them down. People working from home and not able to go on vacation decided to invest that money into new HVAC systems (they also upgraded plumbing, roofing, electrical, etc). Add to this a relatively hot Summer and demand was quickly outstripping supply. All I did the past six months was work contacts, and try to source equipment from anyone who would sell it. I used many non-traditional partners (more on this in a minute) but it was job number one to keep our contractors moving. I have never worked so hard in my life trying to keep the barns full.

    Over the last month or so, shipments have been much more freely arriving from the factories, taking a major load off of my shoulders. I don’t know if suppliers cancelled orders (I’m guessing some, but not a lot) or if the factories just said “to hell with this” and started crowding the assembly lines back to normal (maybe) or if everyone who was going to get the crud already had it (no clue). Probably some stuff I am missing too. I guess I don’t really care, but I know that my barns are full again, with just a few exceptions, which is normal for this time of year. Hooray!

    MERV 13 filters, you can fuggedaboudit. 4-6 month lead time. I don’t expect that to change any time soon, but you never know. It was always a small portion of our volume anyways. Most people are moving to MERV 11 (lead times extending, naturally) or our stock MERV 10.

    As far as the non traditional partners go, it was interesting to do business with different people and through different channels when I was sourcing product any way possible. I have made some new friends and business partners who I think will help me in my business plans over the next few years. I found some deals I didn’t know existed and met some knowledgeable people (virtually), one of whom I may start trying to recruit. These new business avenues were a pleasant surprise in the hell I was living in last Summer.

    I am happy to report that coming to work, with the exception of me wearing a mask in my office, is just about what it was like in December of last year. We are very fortunate to be an essential business but yikes, what a ton of work 2020 has been. I need a vacation, but doubt that will be happening until we get the vaccines distributed as things are still pretty fluid with staffing and such but finally – finally – there seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel.

    Posted in Business, COVID-19 | 15 Comments »

    Port Congestion on the West Coast

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 19th November 2020 (All posts by )

    For those not aware, I work in the world of industrial distribution. Today I received an interesting note from one of my vendors.

    They are experiencing product shipment delays to their USA customers due to “congestion at the ports”. First one of these I have received.

    This particular product (it is a finished good, not a part) is made in Korea, so I have to assume this is the West Coast.

    So, let me try to understand this.

    Covid isn’t a problem “over there”? They are making so much stuff that our ports are clogged? Or is it a problem and they just don’t care?

    As I mentioned in a previous post, the mighty struggle right now is getting finished goods from factories in the USA due to covid related sick outs and factory slowdowns due to new safety procedures. If the rest of the world is working in a normal fashion and able to make enough stuff to clog our ports, why aren’t we?

    Or are we getting so many sickouts at the ports that they can’t unload the ships? And why is this happening now instead of a few months ago?

    I’ve been in business long enough to know that something smells. Bad.

    Posted in Business, COVID-19 | 23 Comments »

    And Now For Something Different

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 18th November 2020 (All posts by )

    Another horrific gaffe in retail marketing –  one which falls into the category of “grotesquely bad retail marketing decisions which will become a cautionary lesson in future marketing textbooks.” This spectacular gaffe involves a retailer of fashion-trendy and very colorful women’s athletic clothing, Fabletics – a company which started online in 2013 offering a subscription plan – somewhat controversial since the subscription charges were not always transparent, and branched out into brick and mortar locations. One of the founders is Kate Hudson, daughter of Goldie Hawn, so there probably has been some advantages to a celebrity connection; easy to get that one-on-one with Oprah Winfrey, I presume. The company appears to this point to have been pretty savvy in a competitive field, marketing-wise, so all props to them. I’m not a customer of theirs in any case; the gym and the jogging track are not places where I go to show off my fashion sense. I’m old-school in that I prefer to work out in grey sweatpants and a baggy tee shirt. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Advertising, Business, Customer Service, Marketing, Military Affairs, Style | 29 Comments »

    Industrial Distribution 9 Months Into Covid

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 16th November 2020 (All posts by )

    Around every three months or so I am trying to put up a post on how it is going in the always exciting world of industrial distribution. I own a HVAC distributor, which is a subset of industrial distribution.

    Not too much has really changed as far as my job goes over the past three months, with a few notable exceptions.

    The really big bugaboo is finished goods. Things like furnaces, condensing units, evaporator coils, etc. are still difficult to get and are being rationed. All of the favors are being called in, and it is all hardball, all the time. Very stressful. I have incurred freight costs like never before sourcing equipment from regions of the country that perhaps over ordered, or don’t need particular products. But it is job number one to keep my contractors busy and making money. Their success is our success. I have never worked so hard and so many hours – I am really, really tired. Basically all I do all day is go over my inventory reports and try to fill holes. Then in the evening or on weekends I do my “regular work”.

    Parts and pieces are, remarkably, a much different story. There has never been any sort of real disruption in parts. I expected things in this area to go south rather quickly, as many components and parts are made “over there”, but it really never happened. Sure, there is an issue here and there, but nothing to really talk about.

    I expected AR to be a complete and total mess but that never really happened either – yet. I don’t know if companies are using PPP money to pay their bills, or maybe we just have a more resilient industry than most but AR is really in damned good shape.

    Covid in our company – we got our first positive a month or so ago and have had a few since and several spouses who were positive. All cases were asymptomatic or had mild symptoms. At first it was a huge deal, now we all know the procedure and just do it. We are doing everything we can at our facilities to stop the spread such as installing bipolar ionizers, staggering shifts and reducing hours, disinfecting common areas, along with mask wearing and distancing (and a number of other things). We are pretty proud that all of our cases were able to be tracked to events outside of our workplace thus far. But we aren’t counting any chickens.

    HVAC is about as essential as an industry can get in the Winter months and we are hoping to keep as fully staffed as possible and keep things moving. This year has been exhausting with all of the changing rules between different states, different counties, and all the rest. I haven’t had a day off since February and don’t expect one any time soon, as we need a decision maker on hand at all times until sh1t calms down, just a bit. We will squeak out a single digit increase in volume through it all, and we are very thankful to the man upstairs that we are so fortunate to be in an essential industry, unlike so many others.

    Don’t forget about all of the maintenance people and mechanics – they are heroes too, not just medical people in all of this.

    Posted in Business, COVID-19 | 11 Comments »

    The Multi-Front Attack on Free Speech (rerun)

    Posted by David Foster on 10th November 2020 (All posts by )

    (I don’t usually rerun posts that are less than a year old, but in this case…)

    Free speech…free expression generally…is under attack in America and throughout the Western world to a degree not seen in a long time. I think there are some specific phenomena and (partially-overlapping) categories of people which are largely driving this attack–I’ve written about this subject previously, here, but the situation has gotten even more serious since that post, and some of the important factors were underemphasized.  Here are the current fronts, as I see it, in the war (not too strong a word, I’m afraid) on free speech.

    The Thugs. As I pointed out in my post The United States of Weimar?, illegal actions against political opponents, ranging from theft of newspapers to direct assault and battery, have in recent decades become increasingly common on university campuses, and now are well on track to being normalized as aspects of American politics. Incidents of political thuggery are reported almost daily: just the other day, pro-Trump women at an upscale DC hotel were verbally attacked and apparently physically assaulted by members of a wedding party that was heavy on Democrat attendees; including, reportedly, some top officials from the DNC. A pro-free-speech film was reportedly interrupted by two men wearing masks. Interruption of movies they didn’t like was a tactic used by the Nazis prior to their obtaining official censorship powers. The film “All Quiet on the Western Front” was plagued by Nazi disruptions when released in Germany in 1930. And attempts to shut down dissident speakers on college campuses, such as this, have become so common as to now be almost the default expectation.

    The Assassins. These individuals go beyond the level of violence practiced by the Thugs, and make credible death threats they attempt to carry out against those whose actions or believe they view as unacceptable. The majority of threats and attacks falling in this category have certainly been the doing of radical Muslims; however, some of the more extreme ‘environmentalist’ and ‘animal rights’ groups have also demonstrated Assassin tendencies. At present, however, it is those Assassins who are radical Muslims who have been most successful in inhibiting free expression. Four years in hiding for an American cartoonist. But see also Ecofascism: The Climate Debate Turns Violent, how long until this justification and practice of violence reaches the level of justifying and carrying out actual murders?

    The Enclosure of the Speech Commons. Whereas the Internet and especially the blogosphere offered the prospect of political expression and discussion unfiltered by the traditional media, the primary social-media providers have taken various levels of controlling attitudes toward free speech; Twitter, in my opinion, is especially bad. Partly this is ideological; partly, it probably reflects their ideas about protecting their brands. Yes, there are plenty of ways to communicate online outside of the social media platforms, but their growth has been so rapid that a large proportion of the potential audience is not easily reached outside their domains. Note also that conversations that one would have been private friends talking at home, or over the telephone are now semi-public and sometimes made fully public. Plus, they become part of an individual’s Permanent Record, to use the phrase with which school officials once threatened students.

    The Online Mobs. The concerns of the social media providers about providing online “safe spaces” does not seem to have in the least inhibited the formation of online mobs which can quickly make life unpleasant for their targeted individuals, and even destroy the careers of those individuals. Decades ago, Marshall McLuhan referred to the technology-enabled Global Village; unfortunately, it turns out that this virtual village, especially as mediated through the social media platforms, has some of the most toxic characteristics of the real, traditional village. See my post Freedom, the Village, and the Internet.

    And the mobs do not limit themselves to attacks on the target individual: they frequently attack other individuals who fail to participate in the shunning of that target person. As an example:

    A few weeks ago, shortly after I left my magazine gig, I had breakfast with a well-known Toronto man of letters. He told me his week had been rough, in part because it had been discovered that he was still connected on social media with a colleague who’d fallen into disfavour with Stupid Twitter-Land. “You know that we all can see that you are still friends with him,” read one of the emails my friend had received. “So. What are you going to do about that?”

    “So I folded,” he told me with a sad, defeated air. “I know I’m supposed to stick to my principles. That’s what we tell ourselves. Free association and all that. It’s part of the romance of our profession. But I can’t afford to actually do that. These people control who gets jobs. I’m broke. So now I just go numb and say whatever they need me to say.”

    Increasingly, it’s not just a matter of limiting what a person can say, it’s also a matter of edicting what they must say.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Big Government, Business, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Education, Environment, Feminism, Media, Society, Tech, Terrorism, USA | 22 Comments »

    Apropos of nothing, really: The Browder Boys

    Posted by Ginny on 31st October 2020 (All posts by )

    Jay Nordlinger’s National Review article has stuck in my mind – an interesting family history of curious (in both senses) people and how complicated man and his loves and choices are. I know nothing about math and little about American communists, who seemed (and seem) to me quite foreign.

    But the Browders were broad in their abilities: perhaps the effect on of Russia and America, communism and western values, might draw observations, especially if readers are more familiar than I with their lives. Bill Browder “goes around the world campaigning for “Magnitsky acts” — laws in honor of the murdered lawyer” who had represented him, battling Putin who was behind Magnitsky’s persecution and death. His grandfather is probably not a familiar name today, but he represented the Communist Party in America for decades and was famous for what we may (I’m sure my parents who were more his contemporaries would) see as absurd, the concise argument: “Communism is 20th-century Americanism.” The generation between – three sons – were remarkable American mathematicians.

    The complexity of human nature? What we learn from our parents and what we believe and how we rebel? How remarkable talents are handed down and how some families are able to cultivate those talents? How math can deliver real answers and politics become fuzzy as consequences, empirical evidence, is ignored? Oh, well, at least this may entertain as we await Tuesday’s verdict on our culture – perhaps a temporary one but important nonetheless.

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Business, Capitalism, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, History, Human Behavior, Miscellaneous, National Security, Political Philosophy, Science | 11 Comments »

    MERV 13 Filters and Unrealistic Expectations

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 22nd October 2020 (All posts by )

    So here we are around nine months into this covid deal, and things are getting more unrealistic by the day.

    We are hearing, but don’t have proof, that municipalities and other governmental orgs are requiring MERV 13 filters for buildings. Which brings us to a couple of problems.

    I run an HVAC distributor and we are getting lots of calls for MERV 13 filters. We represent four filter companies. Two aren’t taking orders for MERV 13 product and of the other two, our best lead time is 4-6 months. For those who want to wait, we are encouraging them to buy a years supply and just store them.

    We are even having trouble getting our standard pleated MERV 10 product due to factory production slowdowns because of covid. So we are getting some of the shooting of the messenger by our customers, but we can handle that OK.

    Why the long lead times? Besides the crushing demand, the same companies that make media for masks, make media for MERV 13 filters. You can guess where priority is right now. Also, nobody has told me if the filters, presumably loaded with covid, will be someday declared a hazardous waste by OSHA, making their changeout completely ridiculous. Not to mention that MERV 13 filters create enormous amounts of static pressure, which will be terrible for a lot of systems, especially older ones. There are already rumblings of certain equipment manufacturers engineering departments getting ready to go to war with the authorities mandating these filters, and declaring “no warranty” on equipment failure due to lack of return air and MERV 13 filters putting their equipment out of engineering spec. This is super fun.

    We have been recommending for a long time that people use standard pleats in combination with a bipolar ionizer or UV product, both of which in the past few months have received covid killing certification. We are hoping this MERV 13 train isn’t fully out of the station just yet and that everyone will start to get a bit more realistic. But since it is 2020 we aren’t expecting much.

    Posted in Business, COVID-19 | 16 Comments »

    Signs and Portents

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 8th October 2020 (All posts by )

    In noting a pair of interesting and sort-of-related developments this last week, I am wondering if they are an indication of just how deeply angry ordinary Americans of a deplorably conservative bent are with the panjandrums who provide our entertainment, of the pro-sports and movie varieties. The first is the fact that ratings for the NBA finals are cratering, and other pro sports aren’t very far behind. The Commie Crud probably is discouraging physical attendance at games, for sure, and ostentatious displays of partisanship for Black Lives Matter on the part of players have definitely ruined any pleasure in watching games for viewers who just want to forget about politics and protest for a while. It’s also a very bad look for well-compensated and privileged Black players – a good few of whom are not precisely paragons of gentlemanly and law-abiding behavior themselves – to go on national television openly expressing solidarity with an assortment of Black thugs, addicts and criminals who have had fatal encounters with various police forces in the last couple of years.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Civil Society, Conservatism, Culture, Current Events, Film, Leftism, Media, USA | 38 Comments »

    Larry the Liquidator is on the Line

    Posted by David Foster on 17th September 2020 (All posts by )

    The current behavior of the Democratic Party and its allies in media and academia reminds me of the 1991 movie Other People’s Money.  The main character, known as Larry the Liquidator, specializes in acquiring companies for the purpose of selling off their assets.  When the film opens, his new target is a struggling company called New England Wire & Cable Company.  Larry calls on the CEO (Jorgy) and says that by his calculations, the company would be better off from a shareholder standpoint (and hence from the CEO’s standpoint) being broken up and sold off in pieces.  Jorgy,emotionally connected to his family-founded company and  conscious of his position as the town’s leading employer, is appalled at the very idea and refuses to give in.

    Nevertheless, Larry prevails in the resulting proxy fight, and the company falls into his hands.  But there is a deus ex machina…Kate, the beautiful lawyer who has been hired to defend the company, identifies a major new market for the company’s products: the stainless steel wire cloth required for automotive airbags.  (And, of course, Larry (Danny DeVito) has fallen head-over-heels in love with Kate (Penelope Ann Miller)

    The Dems and their allies appear to care about the long-term existence of the US and the welfare of its people as little as Larry the Liquidator cares about the continued existence of New England Wire and Cable and its employees and customers.  They will happily sell it off to miscellaneous parties…various ethnic and gender groups and pressure groups…promising those groups an appreciation in their ‘stock’, in the form of government goodies or at least self-esteem and the pleasures of righteous anger. And regardless of whether those promises are actually fulfilled, the Dems and their allies will, like Larry, collect their substantial fee.

    And, in fairness to Larry, there are indeed cases whether spinoffs, breakup, or outright liquidation is the best thing for a company, sometimes the only thing.  (That would likely have eventually turned out to have been the case with New England Wire & Cable absent Kate’s highly-improbably ‘invention’…it seems clear that Jorgy was not managing the company well in the existing circumstances…if he had been, he would have uncovered the wire-cloth opportunity himself..and was unlikely to change his ways.)  But breaking up a company is a very different thing from fragmenting a company and a society.  And, while Larry has had no prior involvement with NEWC, the Dems and their allies have mostly lived here all their lives and benefitted greatly from doing so.

     

     

    Posted in Business, Economics & Finance, Film, Leftism, USA | 41 Comments »

    Plastic Pipe and You

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 10th September 2020 (All posts by )

    Preface – I own an HVAC distributor – HVAC distribution is a subset of industrial distribution.

    I received today an interesting letter from our supplier of PVC fittings. PVC is used in everything from plumbing to venting furnaces and a lot of applications in between. Every single contractor in the USA uses a PVC type product in their daily grind. The letter talked about several price increases from PVC resin suppliers – I have seen this before, and it isn’t too terribly unusual (any excuse to raise the price, right?). But also, there was this:

    Hurricane Laura dealt a devastating blow to the Gulf Coast of Louisiana where a substantial amount of PVC resin and related plastic raw materials is produced. Hurricane Laura damaged many chemical plants, including those in the PVC supply chain, and left many without any electricity. Two of the four PVC resin manufacturers have declared force majeure. Hurricane Laura also severely damaged portions of the railway system used to transport PVC resin from the Gulf Coast to various locations across the country. Depending on the severity of the damage to these manufacturing plants, regional infrastructures and railway system, the time required for us to receive PVC resin could be negatively impacted.

    Which is all to say that many building projects will see further delays, and the price just went up. Add to this the difficulty we are seeing with finished goods such as furnaces due to covid related production issues, and raw material price increases (silver) and it all makes for a miserable time to be an industrial distributor – although a time that has provided opportunity and rewards hustle and thinking outside of the box. I have never worked harder at keeping the barns full, but my contractors are very thankful and understand the challenges.

    Energizer batteries is even having covid related production issues. I have never been out of batteries before, but I guess we have never seen a year like 2020.

    Posted in Business, COVID-19 | 6 Comments »

    Book Review: Overload, by Arthur Hailey

    Posted by David Foster on 24th August 2020 (All posts by )

    Overload by Arthur Hailey

    —-

    Heat! Heat in stifling blanket layers. Heat that enveloped all of California from the arid Mexican border in the south to majestic Klamath Forest, elbowing northward into Oregon. Heat, oppressive and enervating…Throughout cities and suburbs, in factories, offices, stores and homes, six million electric air-conditioners hummed.  On thousands of farms in the fertile Central Valley–the richest agricultural complex in the world–armies of electric pumps gulped water from deep wells, directing it to thirsty cattle and parched crops…California had known other heat waves and survived their consequences.  But in none had the demands for electrical power been so great.

    “That’s it, then,” the chief electric dispatcher said unnecessarily.  “There goes the last of our spinning reserve.”

    I was reminded of this book by the current electrical crisis in California.  It is quite likely the only novel ever written in which an electrical power utility and its executives and employees are the good guys of the story.

    The protagonist, Nim Goldman, is VP of Planning for Golden State Power & Light, which in the book is the predominant electrical supplier in California.  The company is wrestling with the problems of accommodating growing electrical demand while facing more and more restrictions from regulators.  To which difficulties are added the impact of an unprecedented heat wave and the threat of terrorist attacks.

    GSP&L’s opponents fall into three overlapping circles.  First, there is a mainstream and rather staid environmental organization called the Sequoia club.  Then, there is an activist organization called Power and Light for People. run by an Australian named Davy Birdsong, which wants to replace for-profit utilities with some sort of government entity or collective.  Finally, there is a small but deadly terrorist group which seeks maximum social disruption and sees an attack of GSP&L as the best way to achieve that goal.

    The book, published in 1979, is kind of a period piece…the fuels in use are coal and oil, no mention of solar or wind; while there is concern about pollution–especially from coal–no one is talking about climate change; and while there are complaints about high electricity bills and corporate greed, no one is suggesting that Americans be weaned from most of their electricity use and forced to shut down their air conditioners. The story is well-told, although it is kind of a pot-boiler..for one thing, Nim has so much sex, and some of it under such unusual circumstances, that the actual effect is (unintentionally, I’m sure) comic. The technologies of power generation and distribution are portrayed reasonably accurately within the limitations of a popular novel. The fundamental issue of matching supply and demand continuously, in real time, comes across clearly.  One character, Karen Sloan, is a quadriplegic whose very life depends upon electricity–the battery both for her assisted-breathing device and for her powered wheelchair must be periodically recharged, or else…a neat way of illustrating what a serious matter the continuity of electrical service actually is.

    Overload would make a great movie, but probably could not be made in the current environment without some switching-around of good guys and villains.

     

     

    Posted in Book Notes, Business, Energy & Power Generation, Environment | 14 Comments »

    Industrial Distribution Six Months Into Covid

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 22nd August 2020 (All posts by )

    Back when the pandemic shutdowns started (let’s say late March, early April) I had to seriously think about what I was going to do with and for my small business. For those not familiar, I own an HVAC distributor, and that industry is a subset of industrial distribution. The media circus had driven everyone to the point of exhaustion with all of the dire reports and things were bleak. The local governments in my areas took draconian measures and this wasn’t helping. So, as I usually do when facing a big problem, into a quiet room I went to just sit and think for a bit. Below the fold are some results.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, COVID-19 | 14 Comments »

    Covid-19, Remote Work, and Offshoring

    Posted by David Foster on 13th August 2020 (All posts by )

    The general attitude toward working from home has certainly changed over the last several years.  In 2013, the then-CEO of Yahoo!, Marissa Mayer, banned work-from-home at her company.  And in 2017, IBM established a similar ban. Both of these actions were based on perceived needs to improve productivity and collaboration at those companies

    But in 2020, a lot of companies that moved to work-from home in the Covid-19 environment…because they had no choice if they wanted to continue operating at all…have apparently found it to be working to their satisfaction, and many though not all employees like it, too.  And there is starting to be significant impact on where people choose to live…see these comments from the governor of New Hampshire, Chris Sununu.  The term ‘zoomtowns’ has been applied to locations where people choose to live and work remotely, based on a locality’s attractive characteristics and good Internet connectivity.

    I do think that a comprehensive work-from-home environment can result in losing something in terms of unplanned interactions…I’ve personally observed several significant product and business initiatives that resulted from such interactions, and there are also interesting historical cases. But such things are difficult to measure, and financial benefits and convenience of work-from-home are likely to prevail, perhaps excessively so in some cases.  In any event, the Yahoo! and IBM approach of broad-scale top-down corporate edicts is unlikely to be a good one.

    Another kind of remote work involves the use of people at remote locations…though not necessarily at home…to perform machine-control tasks that would previously have had to be done on-site.  The robots being used by Federal Express at its Memphis facility sometimes encounter problems that they can’t solve…they can be ‘advised’ by humans located in San Antonio. There are projects underway to make municipal water treatment plants remotely operable, either for emergency backup (as in a pandemic) or for normal operations, and there are also initiatives focused on remote operation of other kinds of infrastructure, utility, and industrial facilities.

    If something can be done by people who are remotely located within the United States, then in most cases it will also be doable by people who are remotely located in other parts of the world.  In my 2019 post telemigration, I wrote about the increasing feasibility of offshoring services work, not only manufacturing.  A lot of this has been going on for software development as well as for customer service.

    It may turn out that, in many cases, remote work in the US turns out to be just a waystation on the road to remote work somewhere else.

    Posted in Business, COVID-19, Customer Service, Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, Management, Tech | 42 Comments »

    Conformity and Intimidation

    Posted by David Foster on 28th July 2020 (All posts by )

    (I mentioned these links before, in comments to this post, but I believe they are important enough to merit inclusion in a top-level post)

    According to a poll conducted by YouGov on behalf of the Cato Institute, almost 2/3 of Americans are afraid of sharing their political views. And with some reason, it seems: among strong ‘liberals’, 50% would support firing a business executive who had privately donated to the Trump campaign. Among strong conservatives, 36% would support firing an executive who donated to Biden. Even among those who identify as just ‘liberal’ rather than ‘very liberal’, 43% would be in favor of firing a Trump donator…22% of conservatives would be in favor of firing a Biden donor.

    See also this very interesting piece by the entrepreneur and venture capitalist Paul Graham: The Four Pillars of Conformism. Read the whole thing.

    Posted in Business, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Human Behavior, USA | 39 Comments »

    What Future for Grocery Shopping?

    Posted by David Foster on 19th July 2020 (All posts by )

    The Covid-19 situation has caused a lot of people to try online shopping for things they had previously bought in physical stores.  Groceries, in particular, were something that most people preferred to buy in person, usually buying online only for specialty products that were hard or inconvenient to find locally.  But with the lockdowns, a lot of people have started using the various online shopping platforms.  These seem to fall into three primary categories:

    –Systems such as Giant Peapod (recently rebranded as just Giant Food), which are operated by a grocery chain or an individual store.  Some systems will deliver directly from a warehouse, bypassing their brick-and-mortar store locations.  And sometimes an option is offered to preorder electronically, with in-store or curbside pickup at the store.

    –Systems such as Instacart, which are more or less vendor-agnostic: these systems will allow you to place orders for any of several stores in your area, after which one of their shoppers will collect your order from the vendor’s regular store.

    –Systems (Boxed is an example) which are have no store presence; they are only for online ordering and home delivery, but do the delivery from their own facilities…many kinds of products, obviously, are susceptible to this model only if shipped express with dry ice or similar packaging (expensive) or if the vendor has local facilities in the same area as the customer.

    The relative success of these approaches will have great implications not only for the futures of the various merchants and system providers, but also for the commercial real-estate market.  Systems that use the existing stores for fulfillment, such as Instacart, are beneficial to the survival and thriving of strip malls and other commercial space where grocery stores are typically located; systems focused on warehouse delivery are beneficial to the industrial property market but not so for retail properties.

    Your thoughts and experiences?

    Posted in Business, COVID-19, Marketing, Tech | 20 Comments »

    Dressing, Reading, and Listening for Success

    Posted by David Foster on 14th July 2020 (All posts by )

    I see that Brooks Brothers has entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy, a result of changing tastes in business apparel aggravated by the Covid-19 lockdowns.  I’m reminded of something in Father, Son, & Co by long-time IBM CEO Tom Watson Jr.  (The best business autobiography I’ve ever read)

    One of the many people mentioned by Watson in the book is a slightly older executive named Al Williams..much admired by Watson for the way he had worked his way up from a rough background in a coal-mining town to a high executive position at IBM.  When Watson asked him how he had done it–how he got so smooth, he seemed like a graduate of Yale–Williams said that his self-improvement program had three fundamental elements:

    –buy suits at Brooks Brothers
    –read the classics
    –listen to classical music

    (He also played tennis for an hour a day)

    I wonder what an equivalent program might look like in the year 2020?  The Brooks Brothers element seems pretty much negated by that company’s financial results, although there are surely differences from industry to industry.  But what would be the present-day equivalents of reading the classics and listening to classical music?

    Watching videos of TED talks, perhaps?

    Posted in Business, Culture, Current Events | 11 Comments »

    Attention Mexican & Latin-American Food Lovers

    Posted by David Foster on 11th July 2020 (All posts by )

    Bob Unanue, the CEO of Goya Foods, had some positive things to say about President Trump…who he called a ‘builder’, and compared with his grandfather, the founder of the company. The usual suspects reacted predictably, not critiquing his comments but rather calling for a boycott of Goya Foods.  (I see that the Washington Post has an article suggesting alternatives to Goya products)

    This would be a good time to stock up on Goya products. You can find them at your local supermarket, and a selection is also available on Amazon. The company website is here…recipes as well as products.

    I posted about this at Ricochet, and someone there mentioned the Facebook page for America’s Test Kitchen, where Goya is apparently rated highly in several products tests.  Some guy there demanded ATK take down all recipes and product tests that suggested Goya products. There were over 200 responses on the thread, don’t know what the mix was.

    For those who don’t like Mexican food…there is a lot of Latin cuisine worth trying which is quite different from typical Tex-Mex.  And Yucatan-style cuisine is rather unique and IMO very good.

    The movement toward a fully politicized society continues.

    Posted in Business, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Latin America, Politics, USA | 14 Comments »

    Creating a Mass Audience

    Posted by David Foster on 2nd July 2020 (All posts by )

    Today marks the 99th anniversary of the first radio broadcast heard by a very large number of people:  the Dempsey vs Carpentier boxing match.  (Although a Carpentier was French, he had quite a following in the United States, owing to his distinguished record as a pilot in the First World War.)

    Boxing promoter Tex Ricard had the idea that radio broadcasting might be a good way to increase the popularity of prizefighting…there had previously been some broadcasts of fights in local areas with limited audiences, but what was envisaged for this broadcast was a much larger audience over a much wider area.  David Sarnoff of RCA, a strong advocate for the development of a broadcasting industry, was evidently a driving force behind this approach.  A dedicated phone line from ringside to a transmitter in Hoboken was established, and radio amateurs throughout the Middle Atlantic states were encouraged to set up their receivers in bars, auditoriums, etc, for the benefit of those people (most of the population) who did not have their own radio receivers.  The radio audience was estimated at 300,000 people.

    The broadcast was not national in scope, owing to the limitations of the AM radio band, but it was a significant milestone in the the delocalization of information.  Very soon, network broadcasting, enabled by long-distance dedicated phone links, would make possible programs with truly national audiences.  The delocalization trend has continued, with television, intercontinental links via satellite and undersea cable, and the Internet, and has been a powerful driver of social, economic, and political changes.

     

    Posted in Advertising, Business, Civil Society, Marketing, Media, Sports, Tech, USA | 6 Comments »