Trump is getting blasted for — all of a sudden — unilaterally — announcing he’s levying a 25% tariff on steel and 10% on aluminium.  Outside of the steel and aluminium industries, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone supporting his actions.  Heck, there are even executives within those industries that don’t support his actions.

I disclaimed in my previous post on this topic that I’m no expert on trade, but the more I hear about how the rest of the world treats us in trade, the more I continue to agree with Trump that it’s time to create a more balance playing field.

But now, I’m even liking the way he’s doing it.

Apparently many of the trade structures in place had their origins in the 40’s… for example, helping a war-torn Japan and Germany get back on their feet (and not repeating the mistakes of the aftermath of WWI), helping an embryonic China move into the modern world, and so on.

Huh?  That’s was about 80 years ago!  For the last decade I’ve watched — first hand — tech companies tip-toe around China… either burdened with requirements that make us non-competitive… or, worse, getting blocked altogether.

I’ve been writing about Autodesk recently.  It occurs to me that they can be, in fact, the poster child for this entire topic!

AutoCAD is the de facto standard technology tool for construction all around the world — except China.

Want proof?  While China is always a big topic in many companies’ earnings call, the word “China” wasn’t even mentioned in Autodesk’s last two earnings transcripts (here and here).

Why?  Because there’s a Chinese company called ZWCAD that makes an AutoCAD-clone product and guess which product the Chinese government wants sold in China?

A Chinese company, by the way, that was caught red-handed stealing AutoCAD intellectual property.

So I continue to be with Trump on this issue… and upon further reflection am happy he’s playing the “mad man” card and throwing it directly in their grill.

America is, after all, the world’s biggest market.  If we’re really getting taken advantage of, then it’s time we stopped getting taken advantage of.

I’m very surprised I’m about to say this — but maybe this one is within Trump’s wheelhouse:  His juvenile, bullying, play-ground antics may be the most effective way — may be the only way — to get everyone on the playground to play fair.

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George, our closest of close friend, would have been 57-years young yesterday.  He passed 13 years ago today.

I can only imagine the hours and hours and hours of conversations we would be having… about politics (Trump!)… sports (Jimmy G!)… entertainment (Oscars!)… anything and everything.

George, my friend, you are missed.

This is the time where having atrophied social skills hurts.

No one wants a trade war.  That’s why there are a bunch of WTO (World Trade Organization) rules in place to make sure “free trade” doesn’t turn into “cheating trade.”

Now I’m no expert on trade, but we’ve all heard for years that other countries don’t play fair with the U.S.

I chalk up some of this to whinging.

Other countries processes may just be kicking our ass… that certainly happened in the auto industry… they just created a better product.

I always get a kick out of the subsidies debate, too.  We cry foul when other countries do it, yet didn’t the U.S. just bail out GM and a host of other “strategically important companies” just a few years ago?  Of course we did.

But some of it is real.

Other countries really do steal our intellectual property (i.e., our process and product inventions).  Tactically they’ll make it difficult for imports to enter their countries (i.e., port harassments and such).  And strategically they’ll artificially influence currency to be in their trade favor.

But, so what?

If Trump thinks rules are being broken, then why not use his formidable communications platform to expose these AND clearly articulate the ramifications — repercussions — for non-compliance?

That would be awesome… and something I’d be proud to support.

Instead, he went right to the “nuclear” option…

…and instead of inspiring productive, even patriotic “play fair or else” conversations, he just got everyone — even his supporters — all riled up, talking about trade wars, and running around like chaotic and contrasting chickens with their heads cut off.

That not only roiled the markets but, more importantly, DISTRACTED FROM HIS MAIN MESSAGE.  Which is a shame because it was a reasonable one.

Open mouth.  Insert foot.

Autodesk (ADSK) has its earnings call next week.

Recently Caterpillar (CAT), John Deere (DE), and The Home Depot (HD) all nicely surprised to the upside.  Could these proxies bode well for ADSK, too?

While the market was down today, ADSK was actually up most of the session and only dipped as the Nasdaq took a dive toward the close.  I think this show of strength is a positive sign as well.

I get that ADSK is expensive, in transition, etc., etc. But I used to compete against AutoCAD. They own the market.  Actually, they own a few markets, including general CAD and Hollywood animation stuff.  Both construction and Hollywood are on fuego, yet more positive indicators.

I also get that ADSK stumbled after their last earnings call.  From an all-time high, the stock tumbled some 20%.

As best as I could determine, though, it was a series of items blown out of proportion that stung them.

For example:

* They announced a layoff, which always sounds bad.

But when you listened to the conference call (and subsequent CEO interview), the layoff wasn’t a, “we’re doing badly” kinda layoff, rather, it was a, “we’re changing our business model from product to subscription so that’s going to streamline our infrastructure” thing.  In other words, it sounds like good, proactive management.

* ADSK had a few less subscribers than expected, and they lowered the top end of their subscriber projections from 675K to 650K, which also sounds bad.

But people didn’t want to hear the reason why: Because they’re finding that each subscription is worth more than they thought.

I thought the CEO was very open and positive about this… he said subscriptions is a relatively new thing for ADSK so they’re still learning how to project appropriately… and he immediately followed that up with something to the effect that while they guessed subs a bit too high (in actuality off by less than 3%), they guessed a bit too low on the value of each subscription (sub revs were up over 105.6%), which the CEO (and I!) thought was a perfectly fine trade-off.

Note they kept the low end of the range (625K) intact, which I think is also a good sign (i.e., nothing is “crumbling”).

* The headlines were wrong! Investors.com said, “… delivered disappointing fiscal third-quarter results and guidance”… yet, they beat on both the top and bottom lines and revised guidance upwards. I firmly believe that — in the rush to get out news — if the starting headlines are wrong, unfortunately everyone follows suit… in these days of instant news, there simply isn’t time to properly analyze.

Of course I’m trying to read tea leaves here… but I think ADSK could see an earnings pop… maybe amplified by what I believe was an overdone (erroneous?) pounding after last earnings release.  We’ll see next week!

 

3/7/18 UPDATE:  ADSK REPORTED EARNINGS YESTERDAY AND TODAY WAS UP ALMOST 15%.  :)

 

In June of 2016 I had the sad responsibility of taking Warrior Klay Thompson to task for wearing a f***ing Dodger hat to a Giants game.  (Here.)

Klay was there supporting his brother Trayce, who was playing for the f***ing Dodgers.  I love brotherly support, but he could have supported his brother without disrespecting 3/4’s of his fan base.  Case in point:  Steve Kerr, a big f***ing Dodger fan, was also at the game, but Steve was professional and respectful enough — i.e., wasn’t a clueless moron — not to wear f***ing Dodger blue at AT&T Park.

Over the few years, my resentment hasn’t diminished.  While I root for the Warriors, I don’t actually root for Klay any more… which makes me a bit sad since he has always seemed like a nice guy and great role model.  Unfortunately, it’s a “… other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play” thing for me.

I heard something last night, though, that made me LAUGH OUT LOUD.  Apparently the Dodgers may release Trayce Thompson… and guess who might pick him up?  THE GIANTS!  HA HA HA, TRAYCE IN A GIANTS’ COLORS… TAKE THAT THOMPSON TWINS!

If and when Klay wears a Giants cap to a Giants game… then I will accept his apology.

That will be perfect.

I’ve often said that running a company with too little money is easier than running it with too much money.

I know that may sound counter-intuitive.  But not having money sharply clarifies what is important and forces you to focus on just the critical priorities.

In contrast, when you have too much money, the world is your oyster (so to speak)… so everything is possible… so most of the time you end up trying to do everything… regardless of how important — or unimportant — it is to the mission.

I believe that’s the problem with our military spending.  We have too much money.  We already can bury every other country in the world with thousands of nukes… yet we feel like we need to spend more… because… we can…

… because all we have to do is just rack up some more deficit spending.

What does this mean in terms of dollars and cents?  Way over half of our government’s discretionary spending goes to the military!

If that number was way smaller, I guarantee you that we’d get a lot more done simply by being forced to focus on our top priorities.

Whether you like him or hate him, Senator Rand Paul (KY) recently wrote an interesting piece that touches on this, entitled, Is Our Military Budget Too Small, Or Is Our Mission Too Large?  It’s short and well worth the read (underlining is my emphasis):

     Is our military budget too small, or is our mission too large?  Since 2001, the U.S. military budget has more than doubled in nominal terms and grown over 37% accounting for inflation. The U.S. spends more than the next eight countries combined.

It’s really hard to argue that our military is underfunded, so perhaps our mission has grown too large. That mission includes being currently involved in combat operations in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Niger, Libya, and Yemen. We have troops in over 50 of 54 African countries. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost over a trillion dollars and lasted for over 15 years.

Unfortunately, none of these wars have been authorized by Congress, and Afghanistan and Iraq have gone far beyond their original authorizations. And when all combined, these wars are draining our treasury. A country can only remain strong as long as it remains solvent.

In Afghanistan, we spend about $50 billion each year. Where does the money go? For troops and weapons, of course, but billions have also been spent on roads, bridges, and schools for Afghanistan. Seems a shame that bridges, roads, and schools crumble here while we persist in nation-building abroad. Maybe it’s time to do some nation-building at home.

Don’t get me wrong. I supported going after the jihadists who attacked us on 9/11. But that mission is long past over. We killed the plotters and their supporters. The question we need to ask is, “When will the Afghanis be able to defend themselves?”

Most conservatives believe welfare should be temporary, and that ultimately the able-bodied must stand on their own. Foreign assistance is no different. If the U.S. coddles and comforts and does all the fighting, the Afghanis will never become self-sufficient. People argue that the Taliban will take over Afghanistan. Not if the Afghanis stand and fight. We’ve given them 15 years of training and billions of dollars of the most sophisticated weapons known to man. Surely, the time for them to step up and fight is now.

Is it worth one more American life to try to build a nation for people unwilling to fight for their own country?

The recent 21% increase in the military budget will buy a lot of weapons, but it won’t win the war in Afghanistan. President Obama already tried that. Obama increased our troops to around 100,000, and, sure enough, the Taliban ran and bided their time for the inevitable troop withdrawals.

The Taliban now controls a sizeable area of Afghanistan. I just can’t, in good conscience, ask our soldiers to go back to Afghanistan to take back the same villages they’ve taken twice, first in 2002 and then again in 2010.

Candidate Trump wisely ran on a platform that the Iraq War was a mistake. But President Trump is surrounded by Generals who’ve never seen a war that they believe cannot be won. And so the wars continue.

My hope is that President Trump will remember Candidate Trump and tell the Generals who surround him: “Enough is enough. I’m bringing the boys home.”

 

And, I would add, “… so we can stop spending so much money on non-prioritized military stuff… so we have a hope of balancing our OUT-OF-CONTROL deficits!”

 

I know what you are going to think, “just take all guns away and that will stop high school gun violence.”

That’s not what I’m going to say.

Information is the key.

Certainly the community can chime in more… maybe someone heard something or saw something on social media?  I’ve always said “people on the front lines” (whether employees or students) know the most about what’s really going on.

But how do parents fit into this?  In fact, how does a parent with a troubled child know when to ask for help… or even when to turn their child into the authorities?

Most likely a parent in this situation already has their hands full just dealing with a difficult child… imagine how gut-wrenching it would be to make the leap from acknowledging your child is not only difficult but potentially a killer!

Stigma aside, I’m not sure how many parents would be so quick to make that leap… especially in this day & age where violent video games are not just standard fare but celebrated. In other words, what really is normal these days?

What I think we may need — what I think the entire country may need — is some kind of standardized “Child Assessment Test”…

… i.e., some kind of simple, multiple choice test that a parent can honestly fill out and in return get an honest, professional, and *anonymous* psychological appraisal of a child’s mental health as it relates to the potential for mass violence and such.

Having such an assessment might give a parent confidence that they are not acting alone, which would be a tremendous burden lifted.

A website could be setup with a conversational FAQ that could help answer frequently asked questions about the surveys, designed to further advise a parent whether they should seek more immediate guidance to prevent a dangerous situation to others or even the child themself.

Maybe there’s already such a thing?  If not, I think we may be reaching the point where it’s needed.

P.S.  Taking guns away from crazy people — whether student or adult — is a good thing to do, too!