Suddenly, Steve Bannon is Very Popular — With the Lawyers

Steve Bannon is not likely to remember the year 2018 with great fondness. He has alienated key supporters and is out even at his platform, Breitbart

And there is more. One does not need to be a genius to figure out that Bannon (1) was present or near key events during the Trump campaign that might comprise obstruction of justice, (2) he has a big mouth, and (3) he can be forced to open it.

So Bannon has been subpoenaed by Mueller to testify before a grand jury.  That means he has to appear alone — no legal advisors — and sit there as long as it takes, testifying under oath, and not knowing what the prosecutor knows from other witnesses.  It is one of the more stressful ways to spend a day, or two or three.

Mueller thinks Bannon will offer useful information one way or another in that setting. Well, we will find out soon enough. And what will the physically and mentally healthy, stable genius do in the White House? Hmmm … pardon Bannon? That might be a political reach given how Trump has so publicly roasted Bannon for the things he said in Mr. Wolff’s very popular book. And pardoning Bannon would remove his ability to take the 5th. It would appear that Trump’s options are limited.

There is one more potential scenario Bannon may have put himself or may now put himself in legal jeopardy. If so, he may come to see that his only potential friend at this stage is Bob Mueller. He might do a deal — if he has evidence that Mueller finds useful enough to do such a deal. If so, we are not likely to find out what that evidence is until after Mueller uses it.

Onward!

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It is Time to Use 2 Factor Authentication

This story from Al Wenger might set off alarm bells for you.

Al was able to fend off the attack. But the scary thing for me was how easy it was for the hacker to access his passwords.

Fred Wilson suggests aggressively moving to 2 factor authentication. His recommendation is the Ubikey. How big is the risk? The risk is greatest to the extent that hackers can access financial accounts (including crypto). But that is not the only risk.

Here is a video that provides more information.

Thinking about the Crypto Correction

I have been having exchanges tonight over the correction in crypto markets. Make no mistake, it is a big correction. And it has got a lot of attention from crypto optimists. Market makers are trying to calm everyone down by saying

  • the correction was expected for months, and
  • the correction is caused by uncertainty in the regulation of crypto  that will pass

There is some merit to both points. And I think there is one other thing going on. Last year,  lots of people heard about blockchain and crypto for the first time. It had an exotic quality, and presented great new possibilities. This waking up led to  some initial euphoria about the market. It was very sudden. The complexity of the technology underlying crypto was an added benefit. But stories about folks raising millions in ICO rounds in minutes were very sexy.

But this euphoria can only be sustained when the initial idea gets backed up by an amazing new success story. We have not seen that just yet, and so people are starting to listen more to “risk” metrics than “potential” metrics.

There are lots of historical parallels. For example, we tend to forget that people had pretty much given up on the automobile as a practical invention until Henry Ford came around and demonstrated that Ford could build affordable and reliable cars. After he did that, the market went wild. Not just to buy Fords, but to copy what Ford was doing. That gave the backers of GM the opportunity to pour big money into a new business model that “one upp’ed” Ford.  GM became the most successful company in the world when cars took center stage in daily life.

The same can be said about web search. Yahoo’s initial search platform was cool, but after a while it looked like a commodity. Google’s search engine was better, but Google did not really take off — and fundamentally change web business — until Google demonstrated that you could monetize web use with ad revenue. That demonstration opened the door to huge new investment in web services. Google became hugely rich, and we now have lots of web business models based on maximizing traffic to generate ad revenue.

And then there is the IPhone. Before Jobs brought this out, mobile phones were starting to look like commodities. It was fun to be available all the time, but all mobile phones essentially did the same thing. Nokia won huge market share by recognizing this, and producing upgraded efficiency in designs at lower cost. And then Jobs demonstrated that a mobile device could do a lot more than just support phone conversations. Once that was demonstrated huge new investments in mobile tech were made and we have lots of mobile devices connecting us to lots of services. Not just from the Iphone, but from competing mobile devices and new mobile devices.

It will be interesting to see if we get a demonstration like this for blockchain and crypto. Not just stuff about the future, but a concrete demonstration of new value added that can be copied.  If we get that, I think crypto valuations may take off. Until then, the markets will continue to be highly volatile.

Let’s see if that happens!

Can We Agree on Something?

In  the old days, that question was not so important. If we could not agree, one could find a way to impose one’s will. So it was that kings, barons, etc. emerged on the scene. But as time went on, a strange thing happened. It became obvious that exchanged knowledge could generate innovation. Innovation led to increased value added. That made folks rich. And who doesn’t want to get rich?

Suddenly it became more important to figure out how to get to agreement. Flash forward today. We are still pondering whether negotiation skill sets can be transferred, except through experience.

And so it goes, that I toddle off to our first day of international negotiation training to find out if I can transfer what I have learned over the years.

Wish me luck!

Sixers Show True Grit in Win over Raptors

The Raptors are a good team. A very good team. They generally don’t lose their cool. And recently, they have pretty much owned the Sixers. One could not be blamed for thinking they would own the Sixers again yesterday. After all

  • the Sixers just got owned by the Celtics in London
  • the Raptors just came back from a ginormous deficit to nearly top the Warriors in their last game

So what happened yesterday? As usual, the Sixers exploded in the first half and were up by 20 at moments. They were beautiful to watch. But one knew that it was not going to last. And when Ben Simmons picking up his 3rd foul well before half time, I got that sinking feeling.

The good news is that with the mighty play of tiny TJ, the Sixers did not fold in the 3rd. They looked pretty good. But this is Sixerland, after all, and you knew that the Raptors would make a run. They did in the 4th and the game became very close in the final minutes.

What happened then? The Sixers did not lose their cool. Instead, they made a couple of key plays to go up by 6 with a minute or so. And they held on to that lead. Did I just write that? I  did. Wow!

Better yet . The Raptors tried “Whack a Ben” in the last minute, hoping Ben would miss his foul shots. HeeHeee! Ben made both. And with 6 seconds to go, Ben Simmons got into a verbal tiff with the great Kyle Lowry. Both were ejected.

‘My favorite moment – with around 11 seconds to play and the Sixers up by 5, the Sixers stole the ball. Simmons feeds Roco for a layup. Roco could not put it in. Simmons gets the rebound and misses a dunk. Embiid gets the rebound and misses from close range.  Errr … guys you didn’t need to shoot the ball. Just pull it out and run out the clock. But the Sixers were pumped and it showed! I loved it!

In other words, Simmons et al were not going to take any sh*t from anyone. That sort of attitude is going to be needed when they pair up against the Celtics again —  on Thursday.

A Snooze Party at the White House!

Another day in Trumpistan. The president calls a bipartisan meeting to discuss immigration policy and, of course, nothing comes of the meeting. That is the boring part of the news. We have come to expect that meetings in the White House do not produce policy  break throughs. That is our new normal.

It gets marginally less boring when the president claims that the meeting was brilliant and that his performance was especially important and highly regarded.  Huh? Not because any result was achieved, but because of something else.

Hmmm … and what else would that be? Perhaps it was his trenchant commentary on policy. And of course, here we should note that it was alleged that during the meeting, the president lost it. He allegedly asked why the US would want immigrants from “shithole” countries.

Not surprisingly, the allegations led to questions. One question was, did everyone hear the same thing? A number of Republicans said they could not remember.  Precisely what you would expect to hear from a hungover teenager when you ask “What time did you get home last nigh”?

The sentence “Hard to believe” comes to mind. Fox News Anchor Chris Wallace said this

“I can understand you either saying (these words) were said or they were not said,” Wallace said. “It is pretty shocking language, and to say I do not recall seems implausible. If the President of the United States used the word “blank-hole” talking about countries in the Oval Office, or didn’t say it, I would know.”

For me, this is perhaps a bigger scandal than the language scandal. If you believe the “I don’t remember” crowd, at a top policy meeting, a large number of the participants were completely zonked out. Did they have their headphones on? Were they daydreaming of snorkeling off CanCun? Perhaps wondering what was for dinner?  Or were they just sawing logs? Whatever, it was clear that they were not listening to Donald Trump.

Errr … on the other hand, if I were there, I might be tempted to tune out of that dude’s blah blah too.

Lordy! This is your tax dollars at work!

Just When You Thought Trump Could Not Make Things Worse, He Makes Things Worse

A bit of background. A federal court just forced the Trump administration to renew taking DACA applications.

In case you are wondering, DACA stands for the “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals”.  And DACA applies to kids who were brought to the US and who have lived nowhere else. It says that if those kids meet rather strict standards, they can apply for citizenship, and in the interim live normal lives.

So what about that court order?

The order (the result of a lawsuit filed by the University of California) directs the Trump administration to make it possible for people who have or have had DACA to apply for renewals again — something that many of them were prevented from doing when the administration announced an end to the program on September 5, 2017, while others missed a narrow window for one final renewal last fall.

Right. Without further ado, here is the President’s comment on this

“DACA is probably dead because the Democrats don’t really want it, they just want to talk and take desperately needed money away from our Military,”

Hmmm … the stable genius has spoken. In fact, if anyone “doesn’t want” DACA that person is Donald Trump. After all, it was Trump who tried to end the programme. And why not continue DACA? Because the kids in question are not from countries like Norway. Screw the kids! Let’s buy more helicopters!

Sounds like a campaign slogan to me!

And BTW, do you really believe that Donald Trump has any clue about the military budget? Do you really think he has identified a desperate need that is not met because his administration has to take DACA applications?  That is a good one!