Baby Vulcan Smiles

We Texans love our guns, and therefore our gun stores.  So when some Noo Yawk assholes start fucking around with the latter, we take action:

Citigroup Inc. is once again facing an ouster from the booming Texas municipal-bond market after the state’s Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office determined the bank “discriminates” against the firearms industry. 

The ruling indicates that the New York-based bank runs afoul of a Republican-backed law passed nearly two years ago that bars most government contracts with companies that engage in anti-gun business practices. The decision appears to halt the bank’s ability to underwrite most municipal-bond offerings in the state.

It’s a whipsaw moment for Citigroup. The bank had temporarily halted its work in the Texas muni market after the law went into effect in September 2021 but had revived that business two months later, saying it complies with the law. Paxton’s ruling ends a months-long probe into Citi’s corporate policy.

“It has been determined that Citigroup has a policy that discriminates against a firearm entity or firearm trade association,” Leslie Brock, assistant attorney general chief of the public finance division, wrote in the letter. 

The determination means that Citigroup’s so-called standing letter, a document that had thus far allowed the bank to underwrite debt in one of the nation’s largest public bond markets, has been rejected, according to a Jan. 18 letter distributed to lawyers and viewed by Bloomberg.

“Therefore, until further notice, we will not approve any public security issued on or after today’s date in which Citigroup purchases or underwrites the public security, or in which Citigroup is otherwise a party to a covered contract relating to the public security,” according to the letter.

Of course, Citi’s acting all butt-hurt:

“We’re disappointed with the decision and will remain engaged with the Texas AG office to review our options,” said Mark Costiglio, a Citigroup spokesperson, in an emailed statement. “Citi has been financing public works in Texas for more than 150 years and we currently have more than 8,500 employees who call Texas home. As we’ve said previously, Citi does not discriminate against the firearms sector and believe we are in compliance with Texas law.”

Well, our legal guys say you do, and therefore you aren’t.

Yankee shitheads. Fuck ’em.

Consulting Ripoffs

Some time back, one of Insty’s contributors made the following comment regarding the foul McKinsey consulting company:

In my first hand experience, McKinsey was hired (no doubt at great expense) to “review” and “improve” the faltering Bloomberg TV network. What did they do? First, the “consultants” asked all the employees what they did, and how things worked. Then they created mountains of PowerPoint presentations and simply repeated what they’d been told. Finally, they recommended a “reduction in forces” (corporate-speak for layoffs). This pattern is the modus operandi for McKinsey: “Teach me what you do, and then I’m going to tell you how to do it.” Another pattern is that often consultants convince clients that they ought to be hired “in-house.” McKinsey doesn’t mind that at all because it’s one more “in”, one more tentacle reaching into corporate America.

It’s actually a lot worse than that — and McKinsey are far from the only bad actors in the management consulting business:  pretty much all of them (Bain, Booz Allen, Accenture, Deloitte, etc.) are pretty much the same, and operate in the same manner as McKinsey, as described above.

They are called “process” consultants in that they bring little actual industry experience to the party;  senior partners will make the sales pitches, but once the contract is signed, they’ll send in the freshly-minted MBAs (“junior associates”) who spend an inordinate amount of (billable, of course) time in learning the client’s business and industry mostly by talking to mid-level managers in the company.  These managers not only know the business, but are quite likely to know the solutions to whatever problems senior management don’t know how to address.

This knowledge will then be (stolen) used by the MBAs in drawing up their conclusions, with the caveat that if the client management do not adhere to their recommendations to the letter, then the consulting firm cannot be held responsible for any future failure.  Of course, this means eventual failure of the process as no one can follow a plan to the letter, ever.

The other kind of consultancy, by the way, is called “experiential”, meaning that the consultancy brings actual industry familiarity and a track record of both building and running a particular business practice or system.

I was one of those.  Typically, I would be brought in by a retail company to either help build or rebuild a customer loyalty program, back before there were actual systems designed to run them.  Building from scratch meant designing a reporting stream (first), and then creating the database structure that would enable such a reporting stream to function.  Rebuilding often meant tweaking the existing system to work properly, but to be honest, most of the time the programs were a veritable shit-show of catastrophes because they had been designed and built by the IT department rather than designed by Marketing.  I would come with an actual drop-in-ready reporting system to start with, that management could tweak or enhance (depending on their specific needs), and a database- and table structure to support it — CEO-level overviews, Buying/Merchandising detailed data, Store Operations (down to store-manager level) and Marketing/Advertising.

I never had a system fail on me, despite all attempts by IT to sabotage or delay implementation.  (I have stories, hoo boy do I have stories…)

If I were running a large-ish business today and needed help in a particular area where I had little experience, I would only hire consultants in the latter group, and probably not even then — it’s always better to find someone who knows the problem and has solved it before than to make it a blank-page project.

But the process guys?  Waste of money, waste of time.

I remember once working for a Great Big Company whose management decided that we needed restructuring, and hired Bain & Co. to consult on the project.  Because most of us peons were pretty smart guys, we soon realized two things:  a) the Bainies were scouting for people and functions they could recommend for termination, and b) the Bainies themselves were only interested in recommendations over a two-year period (the time in which they themselves were going to be judged by their own management).  Consequently, whenever “interviewed” by a Bainie, you had to make sure that in showing them your function and your business plan, that plan had to have a resolution date of at least three or (better yet) five years in the future.  Then they’d lose interest in you and move on to greener pastures.  As I recall, this intelligence was communicated company-wide by jungle telegraph (cafeteria lunch table, phone calls to friends in the branch offices etc.) after the first three days of Bain’s involvement.  (When I told my boss this tale — long after the Bainies had left — he just put his head in his hands and laughed for five minutes.)

I don’t know what Bain finally recommended to our senior management, but I never saw any particular change in the day-to-day.  Quite frankly, the Bain money would have been better spent in performance bonuses, but no doubt the Finance department would have had a shit-fit, for all their usual reasons.

Don’t get me started on Finance…

Next To Go

Here’s a fun exercise:

Fallen crypto guru Sam Bankman-Fried is likely to be placed on suicide watch when moved to a tiny cell in his hellhole jail in the Bahamas.

The former CEO of collapsed currency exchange FTX – who takes medication for depression – remains under evaluation in the maximum security sickbay and is expected to be there until the end of next week.

His next move inside notorious His Majesty’s Prison Fox Hill will be decided by the jail’s Classification Board and a medical assessment.

Ordinarily, this would be a post about his impending “suicide” — — but this skulduggery is of the Ponzi kind, and nothing to do with the Clinton Foundation, so all we have to think about is this pudgy little asshole doing away with himself out of self-pity.

Frankly, given that he’s a vegan and future inmate, there’s not much reason for him to live, so he might as well.

One of the “side benefits” of being old is that one spends a lot of time in waiting-rooms — in this case, at Discount Tires — where I happened upon the Aug/Sep issue of Forbes magazine which had an interview with the above asshole (long before his financial criminality and -irresponsibility became well known, of course).

I read the interview, which spent a lot of time looking at all FTX’s acquisitions and share purchases, and I thought (not with hindsight, but as a contemporaneous reader):

“Where the hell are you getting all your investment capital from?”

FTX was either leveraged to the hilt — couldn’t be, because he was paying out mouthwatering returns to his investors — or he was playing the old Bernie Maddow game of using fresh investor money to pay out earlier investors.  Certainly, he wasn’t getting anything like dividends from flaccid blockchain exchanges or collapsing software companies — his favored purchase targets, so the money had to be coming from new investors.

What suckers.  It’s even worse when you learn that some of his new (and earlier) investors were not individuals, but institutional.  Don’t these places have any safety controls or risk-assessment checks?

I am not a nihilist by any stretch, but I swear there are times when I want the whole fucking house of cards to collapse, rich people / institutions to be impoverished, and crowds of the now-desperately-poor (that would be people like me) roaming the streets with shotguns and AK-47s, shooting these bastards as they walk out of their office buildings, or using their plummeting bodies as skeet targets as they try to escape the shame and ruin that has ensued from their greed, mendacity and foolishness.

No doubt someone will have a problem with this scenario.

I Like This

I remember back when Wal-Mart and their ilk were building stores everywhere, and small-town businesses everywhere were being put out of business by their erstwhile customers falling prey to the fallacy that Price Is King, and lured into the soulless caverns that were Wal-Mart, Home Depot and so on, all for the chance to save a couple bucks on nails and screwdrivers.

I was heartened when I visited Britishland for the first time, back in 1997, and found that there were still plenty of ironmongers (hardware stores) dotted in the main streets of British towns.  Invariably, I’d drift into one, and wish that I lived somewhere nearby because of all the cool stuff they sold, stuff which I hadn’t seen in over decade of walking through Lowes or Home Depot, let alone Wal-Mart.

Let me be clear here:  to men of my generation, hardware stores are to us like drugstores are to women.  Yet while you can find a CVS, Walgreens or Osco drugstore within spitting distance of your house in any town, you will not find a hardware store which caters to men.  Oh sure, drive a few miles and get drawn into a Wal-Mart, only to find that if you want a couple of #2 self-tapping screws for that project on the honey-do list, sorry but they’re only available in the 50-pack, $5.99 instead of a buck for the two you needed.  (And yes, I know all about economies of scale and bulk savings — but at the end of the day, you end up spending six bucks instead of two, and are saddled with four dozen screws that you may or may not need in the future.)

It doesn’t have to be that way.  Here’s a story from, of all places, Wales, where the local ironmongery was about to close its doors after years of serving the town, but the locals, realizing what they might miss if the place disappeared, did something about it.

Note how carefully they structured the financing, so that GlobalMegaCorp Inc. couldn’t sink their ravenous fangs into the place and turn it into something other than what they wanted to keep.

I wish we’d done something like this in small towns Over Here, but that bullet’s gone through the church and we’re stuck with megastores, damn it.

There are about three or four posts that burst the banks of this stream of consciousness, but they can wait for another time.

Diddly Squat

Ben Ainslie and his wife Georgia Thompson are probably not known to many Murkins, although in the yachting world he’s very well known as the most successful Olympic sailor of all time, not to mention the head of Britain’s America’s Cup team.

So during the Covid Lockdown Silliness they created a podcast / TV show called Performance People in which they talk to various successful people such as F1 Mercedes AMG team principal Toto Wolff and his equally-accomplished wife Susie — surely the absolute exemplars of the “power couple”.

The show that got me, however, was their interview with The Greatest Living Englishman and his man Kaleb, on the Diddly Squat Farm.  Funny as always, the pair are wonderfully entertaining, right up until the discussion moves to farming, and what farmers have to deal with.

I have no idea whether our farmers have to put up with the same degree of red tape as the Brits do, but when Jeremy Clarkson points out that the suicide rate for British farmers is the highest of any profession in the U.K., things get really serious.

If you do nothing else today, watch this show.

Recession Times

As always, we should ignore all government pronouncements as to the state of the economy.  Thus, when we are told that “recession is not coming” or “inflation is temporary”, we should instead look to what’s actually happening.

We all know that over the past dozen or so years, Christmas spending has moved away from High Street to the Internet — most especially to places like Amazon.com, to mention just the biggest.

Therefore, as we approach this festive [sic]  season, we would expect that Amazon would be hiring staff to handle the increased demand for merchandise, yes?

No.

The New York Times reports that according to verified sources, Amazon plans to reduce its corporate and technology workforce by as much as 10,000 employees as soon as this week, the largest downsizing in the firm’s history.

Merry Christmas, y’all.