2019: The Second Great Depression

The most beautiful things are always besides the darkest.

Today, I seriously thought about killing you.

Kanye has reached the bat-shit-crazy stage of his creative genius.. but it doesn’t stop him from coming up with gems like that one.  For me, those lines are a reminder to let your mind wander freely and not to be afraid of the darkness within us.  Instead, explore what’s there and look to understand it.  In my experience, the darkness was never what I had assumed it to be.  More often than not, it represented my fear of the unknown.  And through those experiences, I’ve gained a sense of calm while there.

I’m reflecting on this now because I’ve realized how many others are facing that darkness today.  When I was younger, I kept this side of me buried.  I was in this loop that went from challenged, to productive, to happy… and little did I know, that was only half the spectrum.  As I got older, I learned about the other side.. being unproductive and unhappy.  My initial instincts were to run back to what I knew.. but fate was not so kind.  I was encouraged to stay there and rest for a moment… to find myself within the darkness so to speak.  I’m glad I did.

I spent much of my life in a positive state of mind, and without much compassion for those who didn’t.  It was easy for me to say things like ‘you just need to work harder’, ‘don’t be so negative’, or ‘get over it’.  I hadn’t realized how backwards that all sounded to someone who was living the inverse of my situation.  But as I started to venture out into my darkness, I began to understand.

Gratitude for being unproductive and unhappy might sound like a strange thing, but for me, it’s real.  It’s given me a much deeper understanding of who we are as people and it’s made me a far more compassionate individual.  It’s also given me the ability to relate to so many of those who are struggling today.

When we reflect on the great depression that began in 1929, we think primarily about the stock market.  It’s when the market had it’s biggest crash, a ton of investors lost their money, and then everyone was poor for a while.  But something occurred to me the other day… what was the mental and emotional state of those who went through it?  I’d expect to find higher rates of suicide, anxiety, stress, and yes, depression.  But we weren’t so keen on measuring mental health back then so we might be hard pressed to find that information.  We measure those things today.

A couple years ago, I saw that the capital markets were overdue for a correction but couldn’t yet see the catalyst for what would cause it.  With Trump taking office, I was confident that it would happen sooner than later, and probably as a result of Trump’s policies and corruption.  Now with JP Morgan saying that it’ll most likely happen within the next 2 years, it seems to be an impending reality.  I expect this correction to start with the US, but eventually turn into a global correction.  I also think that this correction will be more significant than 2008, suggesting that we’ll reach levels similar to that of the great depression.  It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out as the vast majority of wealth which will be lost, will be lost by the top 1% as the bottom half of the economy are still living paycheck to paycheck.  As interesting as it is for me to try and understand how it’ll all play out, I can’t help but think more on those who are going through it… the depressed.

Currently, suicides are more common than homicides.  Perhaps this is a sign of a civilized nation, but not when amid weekly mass shootings.  And not amid historic suicide rates all over developed world.  Having been at the point where I’ve toyed with the idea, it became important for me to understand what was happening.  I think it’s a result of our failing mental health.  Stress.. anxiety.. depression… these states of mind are becoming the status quo.  I saw a tweet the other day which said something to the effect of, ‘imagine waking up after a good night’s sleep, having an awesome day, and then being able to do it again’.  It made it to the front page of Reddit.  I couldn’t help but find that relatable… I probably average 3-4 good sleeps a year.  Days where I was consecutively happy?  It was before my current venture.. before my career in wealth management.. before my dad died… that’s going on 8 years now.  I was fortunate in that I had the tools to maintain my pursuit of happiness despite it all.. but the longer it takes, the more challenging it’s become.  And how many have been at it longer than me?  How many are going through it without the tools to keep their head above water?

When I see unemployment numbers at their lowest ever but I also see people struggling to afford the most basic cost of living, I can’t help but see something deeply wrong with how we’ve organized ourselves.  So many of us are working excessive hours at low-paying jobs that we know will be automated within the coming years.  Others invested the time and money into a post-secondary education, only to find entry-level work and seemingly inescapable debt.  And those of us who have found well-paying jobs.. we have to recognize our good fortune and appreciate that it isn’t just a matter of hard work.  Everyone’s working hard.. or at least everyone is willing to work hard when they’re doing something that matters.

The problem that I see, is that we’re quickly running out of work that matters.  Many of the jobs which exist in the economy today only exist because of cheap labor.  If people were being paid a rate which would allow them to afford a standard cost of living, businesses would have to accelerate their path to automation.  A $15 minimum wage for fast-food workers?  Have fun ordering from a touchscreen.  Increased wages for warehouse workers?  More robots.  Increased wages for taxi drivers?  How about automated cars.  And for those already in those positions, they know this is coming.  Entire industries will be swallowed up by automation.. and that’s OK.  Automation is here to take over repetitive and programmable tasks… exactly the kinds of activities that we struggle to find meaningful.

Perhaps this is what the death of an old economy looks like.  We used to rely on physical labor to produce physical goods and relied on our ability to consume these goods to push the economy forward.  When we talk about a strong middle class.. that was the equilibrium for that style of economy.  Now that we’ve been able to automate most physical labor, businesses are better able to retain the earnings that would’ve gone to employees.  Without being able to find comparable jobs with other employers, things start to shift.  Business owners become more wealthy while the working class loses ground to stagnant wages and a quickly rising cost of living.  The working class will find ways to make ends meet, like multiple part-time jobs or debt, but this doesn’t improve things for anyone.  If the top 1% hordes all the disposable income, who’s going to buy their stuff?  This is a point Jeff Bezos made years ago, pointing out that he could only buy so many pairs of jeans.

So where do we go from here?  For most, there’s a lack of clarity on what the future looks like and a lack of certainty on if we’ll even make it there.  It’s become easier to assume that things will get worse before they get better.  For many, it’s a state of hopelessness.  They want to be hopeful… I think in many ways, it’s a natural state of the human mind.  But when you slowly and systematically strip away the reasons to be hopeful.. we should find little surprise at where we’ve arrived.

As we prepare ourselves for this next great depression, perhaps we’d do well put place our emphasis on the people and not the markets.  The market was always meant to be a reflection of humanity’s ability to be productive, not the other way around.  If we’re losing ground to hopelessness, and we won’t face it until our economy comes crashing down around us… perhaps that’s exactly what we need.  I don’t expect it to be easy… but I’m reminded of a quote, “in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike us as the most beautiful.”  Through this struggle, we’ll have the ability to right so many wrongs and realign ourselves with a bright future which is fast approaching.  I don’t know exactly how this will play out.. but I am optimistic.

Thinking Beyond The Russia Investigation

Yesterday’s entry was an overview of the Russia investigation and where I thought it was going.  I had a hard time sleeping last night.  I saw that Trump was as well.  I was half-expecting Sessions and Rosenstein to be fired via twitter before the day started but the news never arrived.

Before last night, it was difficult to know how things would proceed without knowing if the democrats would take the house.  When it happened, I felt a great sense of calm.  Trump finally had to contend with a real opposition party and the democrats were keen on protecting the Mueller investigation.  Checks and balances.

So with that piece now in place, I started trying to figure out what came next.  Well, Trump is fully aware of the investigative powers of the house and I suspect he’s not too happy about this.  As expected, one of the first things the democrats said with respect to winning the house is that they were going to subpoena Trump’s tax returns.  As soon as those returns make it to the house, there’s a good chance they’ll be leaked to the public and the inner working’s of Trump’s businesses will be available for all to see.  I don’t know exactly what we’ll see, but I don’t think it’ll be good for Trump.  At the very least, I expect to see ties to Russia.

Trump knows all this is coming, along with another wave of investigations that Republicans have been preparing for since August.  So now he needs to make some moves.  As expected, Jeff Sessions was fired today.  Rosenstein is now on the way to the White House and I’m not confident in him keeping his job either.  I’d like to think that whoever is selected to fill these roles will be able to prioritize country over party but I’ve since lost my confidence in Republicans being able to uphold that value.  Right now, it’s looking like Jeff Sessions’s former chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker will be taking over the role.  Concerning as he’s called the investigation a ‘witch hunt’ and was the previous head of the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, a research firm which dedicated most of their resources to investigating Hillary Clinton.

So what happens after all of this?  Not quite sure.  It’s going to get messy for a bit, especially since the democrats don’t actually take the house until January.  That’s a lot of time to influence public opinion and undermine an investigation.  But I think it’ll be all for naught.  The democratic house has already said that they’ll bring Mueller in for televised hearings if he’s fired.  Also, if I’m not mistaken, the house can reopen the Russia probe and hire Mueller to lead it.  This is why winning the house was so important.

In trying to see through to the other side last night, I saw a step further than I had before.  It was a bit of an ‘oh shit’ moment.  Reports are starting to surface that Trump Jr. is expecting to be indicted.  Same with Roger Stone.  Even Trump himself is likely named as an unindicted co-conspirator in Coen’s campaign finance violation relating to Stormy Daniels.  And while each of these individuals have postured like they wouldn’t flip, I don’t see it.  Those who are self-serving always flip.  Doing hard time for the sake of protecting someone else is a tremendous sacrifice and these just aren’t those people.  If Manafort and Coen flipped, Stone will flip.  If Stone will flip, the only ones left are Trump and his family.

Most people who have been watching intently look at this story as having begun with Trump’s campaign, and assume it ends when Trump is ultimately found guilty of crimes.  That was largely my perspective until last night.  I was aware of what came next, but hadn’t put too much thought into it.  In all likelihood, Mueller will get to Trump.  And Trump will be found guilty.  And then Trump will flip.

That was my big epiphany last night.  Trump is not the extent of this investigation.  If Trump is found to be guilty of conspiring with the Russian government to undermine America’s democracy, they’re going to run an absolute train on him.  He’ll be reduced to a shadow of who he is now, and in that process, will divulge key information on everyone who assisted him the process.  Think Frank Lucas from American Gangster.  I suspect that will be devastating for the Republican party and would not be surprised to see some democrats get exposed as well.  Perhaps even more consequential though, Trump will give up Putin.

I still don’t see a direct link between Putin and Trump, and doubt there ever was.  I think that Putin had a strong preference for Trump over Hillary and saw a means of assisting Trump win the election.  All Putin had to do was deploy his hackers, snag some passwords, access communication records, and release them through a 3rd party who had a reputation for legitimate leaked documents.  And had Putin played it just like that, Trump would have no one to flip on.  My instincts say otherwise though.  My instincts say that Putin wanted dominance and influence over Trump.  To get that, he made Trump look into the camera and ask for his help.  Trump knows this, and I suspect Trump will eventually share this with the FBI.

So what happens to the geopolitical climate when the world’s largest nuclear super power accuses the world’s second largest nuclear super power of attempting to undermine their democracy?  If calmer heads prevail, I suspect action will largely be taken in the form of severe sanctions against Russia.  As Russia has been caught repeatedly trying to influence other referendums like Brexit, I suspect that the US will not be the only one looking at these options.  I also expect for the leaders of some major nations to call for the resignation of Putin, putting further strain on Putin’s control of Russia.

While facing the possibility of losing power in Russia, Putin will have some important decisions to make.  Severe sanctions are likely to cripple his oligarchs, a key element of how he retains his power.  When the Russia people begin to feel the impact of these sanctions, and global leaders are demanding that he step down.. I think the Russian people will lose confidence.  In anticipation of this, Putin will manifest some kind of last stand and I’m yet sure what that will be.

If calmer heads don’t prevail, The US will determine Russia’s attempts to undermine our democracy an act of war.  With a new 700 billion dollar annual budget allocated to the military and some trigger happy cabinet members.. the US may declare war on Russia.  Part of me thinks this is highly unlikely because of Russia’s nuclear arsenal and the understanding that nuclear war should be avoided at all costs.  I think both Russia and the US understand the significance of this.  But maybe not.  Maybe it starts with troops in Ukraine for the sake of retaking Crimea.  Maybe it escalates on the clandestine front.  Maybe it inches forward bit by bit as each side looks to deal blows to the other without triggering a nuclear holocaust.  And maybe we find ourselves back in another cold war.

Or maybe to help navigate impending sanctions, Russia starts to draw some very real lines in the sand.  Maybe Russia collects some allies in North Korea, Serbia, Syria, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia.  You know.. countries that aren’t the biggest fans of the US.  And maybe.. just maybe.. we’ve found ourselves with the backdrop for WWIII.

At this point, its far too soon to tell how this will play out.  I’m always optimistic that calmer heads will prevail, but I also recognize that calm is not a natural state of mind when one is cornered.  This entry wasn’t about promoting the possibility of another world war or cold war, but rather recognizing that this story doesn’t end when Trump pleads guilty.  Instead, it seems to be part 1 of what is a multi-part series.

Remember Remember the 6th of November

(apologies in advance for grammar and spelling. Normally I proof my material before I post but I wanted to have this posted before the results started rolling in.  And I’ve been beckoned to help a friend get to the hospital.. so off I go.)

In my excess of free time over the last couple years, I had to find things to occupy my mind with.  Perhaps what has consumed the most hours is observing, analyzing, and trying my best to understand what’s happening in the world around me.  What seems to have fascinated me most was Trump.  Not him as an individual, but rather his impact on the world.

In 2015, I started writing a screenplay that was intended to be an action movie with a political backdrop which spoke to so much of what’s happening today.  In the script, I had predicted 8 years of Hillary Clinton, followed by a character who had the working title of Nixon 2.0.  The deeply corrupt candidate was to take advantage of all the resentment building up from those who felt like they were losing power to equality.  I saw it as an natural inevitability.. the pendulum effect.  I had to put the project on hold after Trump was elected.

Personally, I thought it was highly likely that Hillary would win that election.  It wasn’t about polls or her credentials, but more so about Trump’s complete lack of character.  I found it difficult to understand how anyone could think that someone who was so instinctually dishonest and self-serving would be capable of fulfilling the role of leader of the free world.  I underestimated the anger, resentment, and latent isms of middle America.  I also underestimated the audacity of Trump to fuel that fear, anger, and hatred as a means of mobilizing a rather meaningful voter base.   I also underestimated the tribalism that led Republicans to vote for someone who they never would’ve supported had he appeared on a democratic ticket.  I also overestimated the character and integrity of the Republican party, thinking that they would maintain their values in the face of a Trump presidency.  And perhaps most importantly, I underestimated how effective the Russians’ disinformation campaign would be.

Leading up to the election, my boss at the time was a Trump supporter.  It surprised me at first as I knew him as a person of character, and someone who deeply valued things like honesty and integrity in others.  It seemed very strange that he would be supportive of someone like Trump, so I had to ask.  The answers seemed to shift depending on the day.  I heard things like, “His kids are very well put together, he’s clearly a good parent.”  Or, “He’s an outsider with a business mind who’s going to drain the swamp.”  Or, “look at how successful he was in business, he’ll bring that same success to the country.”  I offered a different perspective at the time, but also went and did my homework.

In reading up on Trump’s family life, I saw multiple kids across multiple trophy wives, with Trump continually trading in for a new model.  I watched interviews where Trump said that taking care of the kids wasn’t his job.  I read about the sworn testimony from his first wife that he had raped her in a fit of rage and Trump’s lawyer rebutting that you can’t rape your spouse.  I also watched how their kids behaved when they weren’t ‘on’ and saw the ill-effects of excessive nepotism.  His family life was not a reason to find confidence in Trump.

The idea that Trump was an outsider with a business mind was legit.  Washington has no shortage of issues and some new blood is perhaps chief among them.  I’ve long-since wanted to see a top business mind hold that seat, but I never had confidence that Trump was a top business mind or would serve that role well.  Same with draining the swamp.  It desperately needed to be done, but I never had any confidence that Trump would be the one to do it.  If anything, for me, Trump represented the self-serving, short-sighted, self-preservation nature of the swamp itself.

With respect to his business success, I never paid much attention.  I knew he had hotels, The Apprentice, and some other licensing deals but never really saw him as a successful business mind.  It was like the difference between Mark Cuban and Kevin O’Leary on Shark Tank.  So I decided to do some research on Trump’s history of businesses and discovered: Trump Beverages, Trump: The Game, Trump Airlines, Trump Casinos, Trump Magazine, Trump Mortgage, Trump Steaks, Trump Travel Site, Trump Comms, Trump Tower Tamp, Trump University, and Trump Vodka.  They all had two things in common.  First was that Trump’s primary strategy was licensing his name as a luxury brand.  Second is was that each of these businesses failed.  Serial entrepreneurship does not come without failures, but this was different.  I also looked into the details of how much money he had inherited and found figures ranging from 200-400 million.  Had that money been invested in an SP500 ETF, he would be wealthier today than he is now.  I don’t think you get to call yourself a great business mind under these conditions.

So I brought these rebuttals to my boss and he managed to dance around them a bit but ultimately conceded that Trump probably wasn’t a very good person, but that he had good policies.  I asked how he knew that when Trump was so inherently dishonest?  It seemed like Trump’s primary approach to policy was telling people what they want to hear, when they want to hear it, regardless of whether you have any intentions of following through on it.  He seemed to think that Trump was being honest when discussing the policies he wanted to see move forward, and being a politician when said otherwise.  It wasn’t hard to see the flaw in that logic… his perspective was indicative of something else that I needed to understand better.

I think the dynamic was, and still is tribalism.  He’s never admitted this to me but I suspect his primary source of news is Fox News.  He’s also got a friend in the office who’s thinks he’s smarter than he is, passing along pro-trump perspectives.  He tried the same thing with me after I had done my homework and it was clear that he was repeating talking points more than he was speaking to something he genuinely understood.  Both of them live in small towns and have spent their lives in communities with limited diversity.  Both are staunch conservatives.  Both are also quite wealthy.  The intersection of wealthy conservatives who learn about their world through places like Fox News… that would be the tribe of Trump.  When dealing in tribalism, it’s no longer about right or wrong, honest or dishonest, real or not real.  It’s not about understanding what’s happening and making the most effective decisions.   It’s about loyalty for the sake of power.

Once Trump was elected, both of us were interested to see how it would go.  He thought it would go quite well, I thought it would go quite poorly.  That said, I was always willing to give him a chance and judge his presidency by how he performed in office, and not something that he had done prior.  My personal prediction which I shared with him, was that Trump would ultimately be good for the country, and the world.  Not because he would be so good at being president, but because he would be so bad.  My hunch was that his deeply corrupted character would lead to deeply corrupted actions and that these actions would expose the worst elements of our government, politics, culture, and etc.  And that from those ashes, we could rebuild something better.  Something that was genuinely focused on the greater good and left us all well-positioned for the future.

I remember sitting at home watching the votes role in back in 2016 and seeing Trump steal that win.  I was surprised, but not that surprised.  Perhaps what surprised me most was how much I didn’t understand about the American political system.  For example, Hillary had accumulated more than 2.8 million votes more than Trump, but Trump was able to win the electoral college by a score of 306 to 232.  The swing states which gave him that electoral college lead were won by less than 80,000 votes.  The idea that someone could win a ‘landslide victory’ in the electoral college while receiving 3 million votes less than their opponent, because they won key battle grounds by the slimmest of margins… didn’t strike me as an intelligent application of democracy.

I smelled something fishy.  I wasn’t sure what it was exactly… could be politics as usual.. or could be something else.  I read about potential hacking of voting machines and shadiness in who owned the voting machines. I learned about Trump’s disinformation campaign the Russian disinformation campaign.  I learned about Comey’s role in reopening the investigation at the last minute.  And as the variables stacked on, I realized that this was far from a normal election.  There was certainly a cultural movement behind those who voted from Trump, but everything I saw suggested that there was more to it than that.  But mentioning this to anyone who was a Trump supporter didn’t generate any meaningful conversation.  They were filled with a great sense of pride for backing the winning horse and anything that I might have to say sounded like sour grapes to them.  So I put my head down and got back to work on trying to understand what really happened.

From my perspective, Trump set the tone of his presidency with Sean Spicer’s report of crowd sizes at Trump’s inauguration.  I can’t imagine any modern day president caring enough about the crowd size at his inauguration to instruct Spicer to do what he did.  He didn’t just lie or try to slip one by the press, he doubled down on that lie while trying to shout down those who were inclined to point out the truth.  I knew then that this was going to be a bumpy ride.

While watching and waiting to see how this presidency was going to play out, I was most keen on the investigation into election interference to see if my spider-sense was accurate.    Much like an iceberg, I could only see what had made it to the surface and knew that what had really happened was mostly beneath the surface.  But as time went by, a considerable amount of information was released to the public.  It didn’t paint a clear picture either way, but it certainly suggested that something extracurricular had happened and it probably had something to do with Russia.

 

The sequence of events I’ll list next are not speculation.  Everything here is on the record:

On January 6th, 2017, the intelligence community concluded with high confidence that Russian had engaged in an influence campaign directed at the election.  Later it was confirmed that this campaign was designed to hurt Hillary and help Trump.

On January 10th, Sessions was under oath at his confirmation and said that he did not have contact with Russian officials during the campaign.  It was later determined that he did.  At a follow up hearing, I watched him say “I do not recall” more times than should ever be acceptable for any Attorney General.

Also on January 10th, the Steele dossier is released.  While the author of the dossier seemed credible, it was difficult to verify much of what was written.  In going through it.. much of it seemed plausible.  Even the pee-tape seemed plausible after seeing Trump’s apparent obsession with that one element of the dossier.  The picture that the dossier seemed to paint was that Trump had been compromised through a variety of means.  Given the bigger picture, this looked like a plausible scenario.

In late January, Flynn lied to the FBI about conversations with Russian officials relating to the sanctions the Obama administration had placed on Russia.  On February 13th, Flynn resigns from his role as National Security Advisor.  On the 14th, Trump asks Comey to drop the investigation into Flynn.

On March 1st, it’s reported that Sessions had contacts with Russian officials (Kislyak) during the campaign, effectively demonstrating that he lied under oath during his confirmation hearing.  The next day, Sessions recuses himself from any investigations relating to the 2016 presidential election.

On March 20th, Comey announces that he’s looking into any connections between the Trump campaign and Russia which may have influenced the election.

On May 9th, Trump fires James Comey, the person leading the investigation into Russia’s attempt to influence the election.  On May 11th, in an interview with Lester Holt, Trump says that the Russia investigation was part of the decision to fire Comey.

On May 17th, The Justice Department appoints Robert Swan Mueller III to lead the investigation into the possible coordination or ties between Russian efforts to influence the election and the Trump campaign.  Mueller wasn’t just a war hero, or the prosecutor who took down the Gotti family or Exxon Mobil, or a former director of the FBI with near unanimous bi-partisan support… he was a consummate professional and a class act in every respect.  If anybody was going to get to the bottom of this, it was likely to be him.

On July 8th, it’s reported that on June 9th, 2016, Trump Jr., Kushner, and Manafort met with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer.  This prompts Trump Jr. to release a statement saying that it was a short, introductory meeting with an unknown person for the sake of discussing an adoption program.  The next day, it’s reported that Trump Jr. requested the meeting after being promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton.

On July 27th,

On October 5th, George Popadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser to Trump’s campaign pleads guilty to lying to the FBI about his efforts to put Trump in touch with Moscow.

On October 30th, Trump’s former campaign chair, Paul Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates surrender to the FBI for charges relating to false statements, financial crimes, and lobbying on behalf of foreign entities without proper disclosure.

On November 30th, Flynn pleads guilty to lying to the FBI and agrees to cooperate with the investigation through a plea agreement.

On February 16th, 2018, Mueller’s special counsel charge 13 Russians and 3 Russian entities and 3 Russian entities with conspiring to defraud the United States and interfere with the 2016 presidential election.

On February 22nd, an indictment is filed against Manafort and Gates which contains 32 charges relating to tax and bank fraud.  On the 23rd, Gates pleads guilty and agrees to cooperate with the investigation.  On the 24th, another indictment is filed against Manafort alleging pro-Ukrainian lobbying efforts.

On April 9th, the office of Michael Coen is raided.  Coen was a personal attorney to Donald Trump and by all accounts, filled the role of ‘fixer’.  This case is referred to the AG for the southern district of New York.

On July 13th, 2018, the special counsel indicts 12 Russian intelligence officers for their hacks against the DNC and Clinton Campaign, and leaking of emails and documents.

On July 16th, Trump meets with Putin and they hold a joint press conference in which Trump seems to accept Putin’s denial of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.  The next day, Trump says that he misspoke.

On July 27th, Trump denies a CNN report that he knew in advance of the Russian meeting between the Kremlin-linked lawyer and Trump Jr., Manafort, and Kushner.  Michael Coen, now cooperating with the Mueller probe is reported to be willing to testify otherwise.

On August 1st, Trump write a tweet calling on his Attorney General to end the Mueller probe.

On August 5th, Trump writes a tweet that the Trump Tower meeting in 2016 was to get information on an opponent.

On August 21st, Paul Manafort is convicted on 8 charges relating to tax and bank fraud.

On September 14th, it was reported that Manafort is now cooperating with Mueller’s investigation.

And since then, it’s seems like Mueller has adhered the the long-standing protocol for not making any major decisions or issuing any indictments leading up to a November election.  By all accounts, that ends tonight.  What happens next will have a profound impact on Americans and the direction of their country.

There’s been wide spread speculation of how Trump will proceed after the mid-term elections.  Some think that Jeff Sessions will be removed from the Attorney General role, allowing for someone with Trump’s best interests in mind to take the position.  Theoretically, this person may be able to end the Mueller investigation, or at least keep the report from reaching the public.  It’s also been speculated that Rod Rosenstein, the man currently overseeing the Mueller probe will be removed.  It’s assumed that he reason why Trump wouldn’t have made these moves prior to the election is because it would be perceived as politically unpopular.

When I look at this sequence of events, and the hundreds if not thousands of other details I’ve observed relating to bigger picture, I can calmly say that something here isn’t right.  There’s a significant amount of information that I’m not privy to which would prevent me from making any conclusions at this point, but that doesn’t prevent me from making an assessment based on what I know.

From what I’ve seen, Trump will likely be found guilty of conspiracy to defraud the United States relating to Russia’s influencing the 2016 presidential Campaign.  He’s also likely to be found guilty of obstruction of justice for a myriad of efforts relating to undermining the investigation into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 campaign.  I would also say it’s highly likely that he’s found guilty of peripheral crimes like campaign finance violations, tax fraud, bank fraud, and the like.

Here are some of the softer details which I’ve considered:

On June 9th, 2016, Trump’s son, son-in-law, and campaign manager met with a Kremlin-linked lawyer who had promised compromising information on Hillary Clinton.  On July 27th, Trump gave a news conference where he looked directly into the camera and said, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”  He brushed it off as a joke or political rhetoric but I think there’s more to it than that.  I used to play a lot of poker and I learned to read people’s body language.  For most of that conference, his body language was standard Trump.  But during that request, things were very different.  Both hands are firmly gripping the podium instead of his classic hand gestures.  He’s addressing the camera instead of the audience of reporters in front of him.  During the request, he maintains eye contact with the camera for all but one moment.  And in that moment where he looks away, he’s projecting the body language of someone who is deeply conflicted about what he’s saying.  I think he knew it was a genuine request which he was going to try and pass off as political bluster.  I also think that there’s a very good chance that this request is a result of the now infamous Trump Tower meeting just a couple weeks prior.

I’m speculating at this point but if I were Putin and interested in supporting Trump over Hillary, I’d be inclined to provide Trump with as much ammunition as possible.  I would also want to do that in a manner which was effectively untraceable.  That means that I, nor any of my close associates would ever have direct contact with Trump.  Preferably, it would those not directly linked to me speaking with his inner circle.  And it would be imperative to avoid any physical or traceable hand-off.  But despite all this distance, I would still want some personal accountability.  Even if it was only a gesture, something from Trump which explicitly said, ‘I want your help’.  If nothing else, this would leave Trump deeply compromised and easily influenced.  What makes this exercise far less speculative is a detail contained in the indictment of 12 Russian intelligence operatives working to undermine the 2016 election.  Immediately after Trump made that request, Russia began to target Hillary’s emails.

If true, Putin wouldn’t need the alleged pee-tape as he would literally have evidence that Russia deliberately interfered in the election at Trump’s request.  And this would explain a lot.  While Trump has derided just about every political person he’s encountered.. except one.  Trump has shown nothing but respect to Putin and if nothing else, it’s out of character.  It was also very interesting to see their body language while at the Helsinki conference this summer.  For me, I saw someone who looked compromised.  I also found it amusing that when Putin was asked if he had any compromising information against Trump, he issued a classic non-denial denial.

The deeper you dive into the connection between Trump and Russia, the more likely this all seems.  After Trump’s Atlanta Casino’s went bankrupt and nobody else would lend to him, Trump looked like he had finally run out of luck.  But as admitted by his sons, they were miraculously able to get all the funding they needed out of Russia.  As Moscow banks have been repeatedly found guilty of large scale money laundering, I suspect there’s a connection here.  And I suspect this to be a primary reason for why Trump would not issue his tax returns.

The last soft detail that I’d like to lean on here is an old Shakespeare quote, “the lady doth protest too much, methinks.”  This quotes illuminates a rather consistent tell from a guilty conscience.  If Trump was innocent of ‘collusion’, he would be much less likely to tweet “NO COLLUSION!” on a daily basis.  He would also be much likely to embrace the narcissists prayer of there was no collusion.  And if there was, it wasn’t that bad.  And if it was, it’s not that big of a deal.  And if it is, it’s not my fault.  And if it was, I didn’t mean it.  And if I did, you deserved it.

But this all still lies beneath the surface of what’s publicly known.  I don’t think I’ve ever looked forward to something as much as I’ve looked forward to seeing Mueller’s report.  For me, Trump represents a great imbalance in the world.  The circumstances that allowed for someone as corrupted as Trump to find himself in the highest seat of power within our known universe shouldn’t exist.  And if they persist, the world will burn.

I drew an interesting analogy the other day.  Trump is to Mueller as Connor McGregor is to Khabib Nurmagomedov.  Both Connor and Trump rose to unprecedented levels of power through non-traditional means, and at the expense of the institutions which got them there.  Both strut around supremely confident in themselves while ignoring glaring errors in their approach to their craft.  Both fully subscribed to their own hype.  Last month, I didn’t just think Khabib would win, I wanted him to win for the sake of restoring balance.  The UFC has become more about prize fighting than about martial arts and I saw that as a detriment to the sport.  When Khabib did what he did (before the Eagle kick), I felt much better about the world.  Not only do I hope the same thing for Mueller’s investigation, I am as confident in Mueller as I was in Khabib.

And that leads us to tonight.. Remember Remember the 6th of November.  Tonight is perhaps one of the most consequential mid-term elections in our Country’s history.  Should the democrats take the House of Representatives, they’ll have the ability to subpoena Trump’s tax returns and begin a slew of investigations into his activities which weren’t possible under a Republican house.  If the democrats take the senate, the entire legislative branch of the government will be looking to hold Trump accountable for his actions.  Up until now, I would have a hard time describing the republicans as anything other than complicit in Trump’s behavior.  Under those conditions, I have a hard time seeing how Trump may last the term.

If the democrats are unable to take the house and or senate, Trump remains in control of three branches of government.  Under those conditions, I’m not sure what Trump will do… but I doubt it’ll be good for democracy or the common person.

If I were to estimate how this plays out…

Democrats win the house and republicans retain a 51/49 split in the senate.  Trump will fire Sessions and Rosenstein and replace them with those who are genuinely loyal to Trump.  Mueller releases multiple indictments in the following days or weeks, including Roger Stone, and Trump Jr.  Having hit the inner circle, Trump pulls every lever he has, looking to block the report, ultimately painting himself into a corner.  Once the report makes its way to the house, it will inevitably be leaked to the public.  The public will then have to decide whether or accept or reject the reality they see.  Most will accept it, some will still reject it as a deep state conspiracy.  The house will move to impeach, but with a Republican controlled congress, I’m still not confident in impeachment.  I think this makes its way to the supreme court.  Despite the supreme court being slightly more partisan than intended, I think they’ll appreciate what’s at stake and act in the interests of justice.  I think Trump spends most of 2019 and 2020 defending a laundry list of charges ranging from conspiracy, to money laundering, to tax evasion, to violating the emoluments clause.  During that time, consumer confidence will reverse course and we’ll enter a recession worse than 2008.  It’ll trigger a global recession that will hit countries like the US and China hardest.  Every institution from global finance to democracy will be questioned.  As it should.

And from those ashes, we will rise.

 

 

I’m Back.

I’ve been writing in this journal for about 18 months now and throughout that time I’ve taken a few small breaks here and there.  I wish I could say it was for a lack of time but that’s not the case.  It’s actually the opposite.  For the last several months, I’ve had an excess of time.  And I’ve learned that I struggle under those conditions.

For about as long as I’ve been writing here, I’ve been employed by a start-up that was extremely well positioned to do very big things in an industry that is likely to take off like a rocket.  I was genuinely excited.

I came from the finance sector, having worked in wealth management at one the most recognized banks in the world.  It was a rather conservative work environment where challenging the status quo would put you on the outs.  At my core, I’m constantly looking for ways to do things better.. and it just wasn’t a fit.  So I thought I’d test the waters on the other side of the spectrum.  Went from a massive company to a start-up.  Went from a 3 piece suit dress-code to a keep your suit at home dress-code.  Went from an overly conservative work environment to an overly liberal work environment.

I came in with the expectation that a far-left work environment would be all about support, individuality, openness, and being kind to one another.  I was mistaken.  I experienced more prejudice at that job than I had in any other work environment and it was deeply frustrating.  Despite being a straight white male, I grew up as a minority and experienced plenty of racism first hand.  Sometimes it was directed at me, sometimes it was a friend, sometimes it was a friend making the comments, sometimes it was me making the comments.  But we were kids.  Most of the time, we’d poke fun at anything available, just for the sake of teasing.  But it seemed like we had grown out of it by the time we were adults. Spending most of my time in environments which at least attempted a meritocracy.. it had been a long time since people wrote me off because of what I looked like.

I was told that because I was white, I was raised to be a racist.  I was asked multiple times why I drive an SUV (despite my last car being a hybrid).  It was suggested that the things I had learned in the ‘corporate’ world were inherently wrong and didn’t apply to their business.  I was encouraged to embrace crystal healing while told to keep my religion of science to myself.  Language like ‘pushing’ an initiative out to the staff, ‘hustling’ to get something done, or ‘fighting’ for favorable regulations would trigger the people around me, ending in a drawn out conversation about how my language is racially insensitive and inherently oppressive.  It drove me bonkers.

I did my best to understand what was happening and why it was happening.  It was clearly connected to the culture war between our current extreme political ideologies.  I was being seen as the enemy despite agreeing on most major issues.  Instead, it was like they were actively looking for flags or triggers which would allow them to cast me as the other.  Ok… Fine. I’ll kill ’em with kindness.  I was always careful to listen, always careful to apologize for how others felt as a result of what I said, and always careful to explain that while they may have taken offense, none was intended.  With the staff, it worked like a charm.  One even approached me after work one day and apologized for any subconscious prejudice they may have shown towards me.  As someone who was gender-fluid and had experienced a great deal of bullying in his life (from people who probably looked a lot like me), I understood where his pain came from.  I thanked him for stepping up and telling me something that clearly wasn’t easy, and then let him know that he had never been anything but kind to me.  Maybe awkward cold shoulder here and there, but really, barely noticeable.  We’ve gotten along quite well since then.  I wish I could say the same for the founders.

The founders are in their 50s, married, and very representative of a far-left ideology.  Had I not run into it myself, I may still be second-guessing if it existed in the way the right characterizes it.  And this is from someone who would probably fall left of center if I had to be characterized.  But because their ideology didn’t resonate with me, I was eventually told, “maybe you’re just not our people.”  That was the end of July.

There’s more to the story than that, but I think the picture has been painted.  Instead of abandoning the opportunity in front of us, I told them I’d take some time to do some soul searching and appreciated their patience.  I wasn’t willing to abandon my common sense or integrity either, but I wanted to be open-minded in how I looked to move past this.  I spent a few days away with some female friends, looking for some female insights.  I did a few days at a horse ranch where went on my first mushroom trip.  I spoke to mentors and advisers.  And everything led me back to the notion that I was probably be quite reasonable, and was caught between a rock and a hard place.  Compromise who I was for the sake of harmony in that work environment, or keep up the kill ’em with kindness approach, hoping they’d eventually come around.

The other unfortunate dynamic, or perhaps most unfortunate dynamic.. is that I was up against the founder’s dilemma.  Essentially, entrepreneurs looking to build a big business eventually need to choose between efficiency and control.  If your business is growing fast, there’s a good chance it’ll outgrow the skill sets of the founders within the first few years.  That’s when the founders need to bring in new talent, delegate the responsibilities that others are better equipped to accomplish, and then settle into a role within the company that best fits them.  Or if you prefer to retain control, you’ll avoid all of that to make sure nobody messes with your ‘baby’.  I’ve run into the latter.  Extremely frustrating for someone who was brought in for the eventual CEO role.  They had conveniently forgotten that though.

Frustrating for sure, but not nearly as frustrating as what followed.  They requested to stop weekly meetings.  They stopped involving me in key decisions.  In a lot of ways, they just stopped communicating.  Yet I was still drawing a modest salary from them and trying to stay as busy as I could behind the scenes.  Realistically though, I managed about 10 hours of work a week… probably could’ve been 3 if I had the need to streamline things.  I was overcome with boredom… and not the fun kind.. but rather a lack of opportunity to apply myself.  And man did that mess  with me.

I could see so much that needed to be done and I was more than capable of taking on those responsibilities.  But rather than making use of one of their best assets, they seemed to avoid me at all cost.  The only reason I didn’t start looking for other opportunities is because I knew that we’d be establishing a board of directors shortly and that the board was likely to hire me as CEO.  With that dynamic, I was optimistic we could all be successful and enjoy working with one another.  I suppose it was an exercise in patience, but far from an easy one.

With respect to cannabis, there’s a quote that resonates deeply with me, “I’m not an addict, I’m a user.  I alleviate boredom and occasionally heighten my thought processes.” That would be Cumberbatch’s Sherlock, one of my favorite fictional characters.  When I’m functioning at full speed, I seem to have little interest in cannabis.  It gets in the way of me getting things done at the level I want to do them at.  But when I have nothing to do… it’s like I want to reduce my potential so it’s more in line with my output.  Working 10 hours a week, that’s when I start smoking a lot of weed.  It dulls the frustration of not having anything to do.. but it’s a slippery slope.  At first it’s just an evening thing.  But when you wake up with nothing on your schedule and shit-all to do… wake-and-bake seems like a pretty good option.  By October, I was smoking about 4-5 joints a day.

And I suppose I shouldn’t be too hard on myself, it’s not like I was doing nothing.  I was still doing BJJ, still doing yoga, still playing soccer, still consuming a ton of information, still studying the cultural and political climate, and still thinking deeply about the world and where it’s headed.  But for me, it’s like frosting without the cake.  These are all things I’d want to do in addition to a career.  As a result of the perpetual fog caused by heavy cannabis use, I was disinterested in reading my books.. disinterested in writing.. disinterested in a lot of things that I think are quite important to me.

The truth is that I don’t know what the future holds for me at the moment.  Last month, the biggest company in our entire industry approached us looking to buy us out.  As expected, the founders didn’t mention me in the acquisition talks.  Since I owned equity in the company, it was looking like I’d get paid-out somewhere between 6-7 figures and be on my way.  While I’d prefer the CEO role in the business under the bigger company, I was happy to take the consolation prize.  But then the acquisition fell apart… frustrating when I was never involved in the discussions.  And now the investors are questioning the ability of the founders to run the company in a responsible manner.  They’ve met among themselves over the last week and have decided that they’d like me to sit on the company’s board, have financial oversight, and engage with our investment banker to sell the company to someone else.  That conversation should take place sometime this week.  It’ll be very interesting to see how the founders react to that.

In the meantime, I don’t know what my role will look like with them.  Nor do I know where I’m headed next.  I connected with a friend who was also in the industry and we got about 90% of the way to working together.. but a municipal election went the wrong way and now we need a few more pieces to fall into place.  If they do, I’m off to the races.  If they don’t… it’s not a thing.  I’ve already started on a consulting website for my space.  Since it’s new, I’ll be among the first.  Might work.  But maybe I go check in with the recruiter I met in September who said he’d love to place me.  But in all seriousness, I’ve been obsessing about something else.

A few years ago, I started writing a screen play.  It started with the rise of Nixon 2.0 and was supposed to take place after 8 years of Hillary.  The idea was that culture and politics tends to experience a pendulum effect.  After 16 years of Obama and Hillary, we’d have something in the opposite direction.  I abandoned the script after Trump was elected.  I didn’t anticipate Russia or the electoral college.   Since then, I’ve still been searching for an outlet for my ideas.  This blog helps, but these are just daily thoughts that I’m looking to refine and articulate.  I wanted something bigger.. a project I could sink my teeth into.  I wanted to write a book.

This book has been on my mind for over a year now.  I’m not ready to write it just yet, but I’m getting close.  And I’m starting to obsess over it.  I know this from having seen it in myself and others… a healthy obsession is usually a sign of something you should absolutely put your time towards. Lebron is obsessive about basketball, Crosby is obsessive about hockey, Buffett is obsessive about investments.  This book is calling to me.

To get there, I need to accomplish a few things.  I need to stop consuming that much cannabis.  We’re now 5 days into sober November.  My body needs to recover from the stress load it was under.  I got a few supplements from the naturopath, cleaned up my diet, and am stepping up my physical routine.  I need to get my mind back to the level of clarity where I can do my best work.  I’m back on my brain training game, reading, and writing.  Daily.  But perhaps most of all, I think I need clarity on what my near future looks like because I don’t want to dive into this only to leave it on the shelf as my career takes me in another direction.  For that, I suppose I’ll need a little more patience.

Universe… if you’re listening.. I got a hell of a book in my head that I’d like to put into the world.  I think it’s going to do a lot of good.  If you could make sure there’s a path available for me to get there, that would be greatly appreciated 🙂

The Future of Watching Sports

I often complain about how the UFC is run.  Such a beautiful sport, being hamstrung by such short-sighted business practices.  Pay-per-view?  Really?  In 2018?  Silliness.

What I’ll suggest here is with the UFC in mind but elements of it could easily apply to other sports.  First and foremost, ditch the pay-per-view format.  It’s seriously limiting the accessibility of your sport.  You know why soccer is so popular?  Because it’s played around the world by people who need nothing more than people who want to play and a round thing to kick.  The more accessible you make it to the people, the more people will find it fall in love with it.  And no, that doesn’t mean Spike TV, Fox Sports, or ESPN.  In 2018, it means streaming online.

Make it free on UFC.com.  That’s it.  No pay wall, no membership fee, no mailing lists… just free.  Between prospecting, analysis, press conferences, the Contender series, fight nights, and PPVs, you have a ton of content.  Stop trying to shoehorn that content into the platforms that everyone is quickly moving away from.  Stop paying a cut of your profits to these major providers, thinking that they’ll produce fans for you.  Just put it online and watch the magic.

The first benefit of streaming it directly from UFC.com is that you no longer have to worry about people pirating your content.  Why would you go to a sketchy site with a questionable connection to watch the fight when you could watch it in full HD from the source, UFC.com?

The second benefit would be not having to pay a cut of revenue to whoever would normally be hosting your content.  No more PPV cuts.  No more Fox Sports cuts.  All of that revenue would be redirected to the UFC.  Sure you’d have to pay to build and maintain the tech infrastructure that would allow you to handle that level of inbound traffic… but I’m fairly confident that’s a fraction of what they’re already paying out.

A third major benefit would be accessibility.  Not everyone has cable.  Not everyone can afford PPV fights.  Not everyone wants to sign up for a subscription to Fight Pass.  But just about every one has access to the internet.  Make it easy for the world to watch big fights.  Make it easy for bars around the world to play fight reels from the library.  Make it easy for people to huddle around a smart phone in the middle of nowhere to catch a big fight.  Etc.  Etc.

A fourth benefit would be full control over the production and experience.  You could start to integrate cool features like choose your own camera angle.  Imagine having the fight up on the big screen, while having Joe Rogan and DC screaming at each other on your tablet, while having live fight stats on your phone.  Or having all 3 judges’ perspectives available.  Or being able to rewind or access replays when you want them.  All of that starts to open up when you control the production from capture to delivery.

I would go so far as to say make their entire library of content available for free.  You could make pre-fight playlists which would get people far more excited for a fight than the dis-genuine hype reels they make these days.  And you could release them a week before for those who want to get themselves hyped up.  By having all this content for free, it would drive *so* much traffic to their site.  Imagine what that would do for the brand as well as the fighters.

If you made the content that much more accessible, you would have that many more people who would love to know more.  That would be a tremendous platform for the fighters to get their story out there and promote the things they care about.  It would also be a great source of revenue.  Fighters could share the supplements they’re using or the gear they’re training in, and that could easily drive sponsorship dollars or a revenue share with the website if UFC.com carried those products.  Cause… why not?

But you still need a primary revenue stream and I think the low hanging fruit is ad revenue.  For use of the fight library, you run something similar to YouTube ads.  For the bigger events, you run something similar to the Super Bowl.  At all times, you ensure that the advertisements are of high quality, relevant, and limited in number.  If you can use some targeting, make the ads directly relevant to the person watching.  You could do that all around the world.  I think they’d break the mold with this.

The UFC could reshape the way we follow and watch sports with something like this… but I’m not so optimistic this is the kinda stuff they care about.  Oh well..

 

Power Vs. Efficiency

I’ve been trying to understand power.  What is it?  Why do people want it?  What does it help you accomplish?  Is it something I should pursue?

A younger me sought power for the sake of doing good.  Average me could do some good, powerful me could do lots of good.  Seemed like power was only a bad thing when in the hands of bad people.  I suspect that’s the understanding most people are under.  I’m not so sure.

Consider this…  If we accept this idea that only good people should be powerful, then we’ll actively look to empower those who we think are good while tearing down those who we think are bad.  Sounds like most of history right?  But who gets to decide who is good and who is bad?  It’s not always so obvious.  And what happens when the powerless become powerful?  Do we achieve balance? Or do we create another dominance hierarchy?

The first quote that ever stuck with me was, “Power corrupts.  Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  So by empowering someone, what are we really doing?  If we look throughout history, the powerful have never been without corruption.  It didn’t matter at which point in history, or which culture, or which political ideology you followed, power corrupted all.  Yet when we see corruption among the powerful and call foul, our first instinct is to take the power from them.

That’s probably the beauty of democracy, the power of the people is distributed among the people.  At least that’s how it’s supposed to go.

So is everything just about power?  Being the oppressor or being the oppressed?  I doubt it.  There has to be another level to this.

What about me?  What would I do if I had power?  As someone who prioritizes integrity and the good of others, how would I be corrupted.  What if my intentions were to do the best I could for everyone I was responsible for.  What if my inner circle included everyone?  Why doesn’t that sound like power?

I have an idea.

What if power was the anti-thesis of efficiency?  Here’s a simple example:  You have someone within a company who gets to hire any person of their choosing for a position.  When that person hires their friend instead of the best candidate, it’s a demonstration of power.  When that person hires the best candidate, it’s a demonstration of efficiency.  It doesn’t matter how powerful a person is, as long as they’re making the best decision for everyone involved, it’s an exercise in efficiency.  It only becomes an exercise in power when those involved disagree with the decision being made.  Why would you need to impose your will when your decisions are best for everyone and are being welcomed by others?

This idea of only the good should be powerful… there’s another level to it.  The reason why we have such a hard time agreeing on who should be powerful is because we have such a hard time agreeing on who (or what) is good.  If we could come up with a decision which we universally recognized as good… it would be because it was what was most beneficial to those involved.  If that decision was to the immense benefit of everyone involved, I have a hard time perceiving that as power.  Taking everyone’s needs into consideration and deciding what was best for everyone involved seems like a remarkable if not impossible exercise in efficiency.

Perhaps we’ve established two ends of a spectrum.

Business Ideas: An Amazon Mailbox

So I ordered a bunch of stuff from Amazon this year and each time it arrived, same thing happened.  My phone rings in the early afternoon and it shows that someone is buzzing at my front door.  Since I’m not home and it doesn’t make much sense to buzz a stranger into my building, I don’t.  Then I get home and magically, there’s a package waiting for me at my front door, inside the building.  I’m not upset… almost a little impressed at their ability to get in.

My building is fairly low-key and everyone keeps to themselves.  I don’t think there’s a significant risk of people stealing my package as it sits in front of my door for a few hours but not everyone is so lucky.  There are countless videos of people stealing package from door steps, including delivery employees.  I’m not actually sure what the rules are around this but we clearly need to find another solution.  Enter the Amazon Mailbox.

The idea is that this box would be larger than your average mail box, so that it’s capable of receiving much larger packages.  I’m not entirely sure what the optimal size would be.  Perhaps a review of the average dimensions of packages shipped would shine some light on that.  There’s a good chance that we’d find a stat like 95% of packages are less than 2’x2’x2′.  If that’s the case, make it just a bit bigger and offer some XL options for those looking to receive larger packages.

So a giant mailbox eh?  Well there should probably be more to it than that.  A big mailbox is just going to be a target for theft if there aren’t any security measures.  I’m thinking a solid lock that can be opened through an NFC panel.  That way a delivery driver can receive a one-time, time-locked code which will allow them to make the delivery.  Once the package is in and the door is closed, you’re back to being the only one with the ‘key’.  If someone somehow manages to get in with a code that they weren’t supposed to, good chance it’ll contain all the metadata necessary to know who it was.

Good enough?  Not quite.  In this age, you probably need a security camera.  Perhaps one built into the actual mailbox with a birds eye lens that gives you full view of your doorway.  If it was motion activated, you could have a recording of every delivery as well as anyone else who was creeping around your front door.  In the mobile age, it would be also be nice to have a notification arrive to your phone when your mailbox has been opened so you can quickly check the footage and make sure everything was straight forward.

So where do these things go?  If you own a home, there’s probably enough real estate at the front of your house to make this work without too many issues.    Maybe it gets bolted to the floor or door.  The problem is that E-comm seems to be most heavily used in areas of high urban density.  The idea of retroactively installing these things in old apartment or condo buildings seems like an uphill battle.  I think there’s good reason to make this a standard in new buildings, but you would probably need some traction first.  Hmm…

I’m genuinely not sure if something like this would work but I’ll put it out there.  What if you created your own PO box?  Rent a space and load it up with as many of these Amazon mailboxes as logistically possible and charge something like $10/mo for a rental fee.  You might even get away with having the place fully automated.  An NFC panel on the front door could let you in while keeping uninvited visitors out.  Load the place up with security cameras and have them tethered into a central security monitoring system with clear instructions around showing up and sorting out the rift-raft when it happens.  If you have any issues, just use your app to start a customer service chat.

I can’t help but want to run the numbers for a sec… Lets say a 1000 sqft location and assume these Amazon mailboxes are 2’x2’x2′.  Without any room to walk, you could place 500 of these on the floor.  Stacked up 6′ high, that’s 1500 mailboxes.  Accommodating for walkways, let’s cut that in half and say 750 mailboxes total.  750 @ $10/month would be $7500/month in income.  Lower than I would’ve liked.  Maybe there’s a way to increase the density here.  Maybe there’s a formula that would leave us with an ideal square footage for a location.  Either way, the overhead would be extremely low if you could avoid having to staff it.  Electric, IT, security… and general corporate overhead.  I found an average rate of $23/sqft for retail.  Applying that here, we’re looking at about $2300/month in rent.  If you could keep monthly overhead for each location under $2500, you have a pretty healthy margin.  That said, 750 mailboxes @ $10/month still only amounts to $90,000 in annual revenue.  Hardly worth the effort for most.  Even with multiple locations, you’d need 12 just to break $1,000,000 in revenue.

But maybe it’s not about modern PO boxes.  Maybe that’s the penetration strategy for being able to manufacture and sell these boxes.  If you could get people using them and excited about their convenience, it’s only a matter of time until people start requesting them in their homes.  If you could get some major property development companies on board, you could have these installed in every new condo tower they build.  If the average building has (guessing) 40 units and these boxes come at a cost of $250 each, that’s a $10,000 for every new building that goes up.  If you get to the point where most new builds include a ecomm-ready mailbox, that would likely build enough traction for these things to go mainstream.  If they go mainstream, e-comm becomes that much more effective (and attractive).  If e-comm gets that much more effective and attractive, that many more people will want to buy these boxes.

All speculative, of course… just an exercise in problem solving 🙂