Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Morning Links -- November 6

Yesterday was election day. 
Despite all the trouble with the new insurance reform legislation (mistakenly called health care reform) Democrats and ordinary Republicans -- as opposed to Tea Party reactionaries -- did tolerably well. 
These links are in no particular order. 
I post them as I come across them.
Finding and blogging them is time-consuming enough. On days when there is plenty of time at my disposal I am better at organizing. But this morning I'm limited to less than two hours. 
...a small but significant example: the book says that Amazon has an edge over bricks-and-mortar retailers because it has a "negative operating cycle", meaning its consumers pay it upfront while it pays its suppliers later, meaning it essentially gets free financing from its customers, which is a very very valuable thing to have for a business (as the owner of a consulting business, I certainly wish I were so lucky). The thing is, the "negative operating cycle" is not a feature of online-vs-offline businesses, it is a feature of *retail* businesses, as opposed to most other businesses. It's dead obvious: you pay Walmart upfront while it pays its suppliers later, just as much as Amazon. It's a significant error. If you describe the negative operating cycle this way in a carefully edited book, it means you just don't understand the concept at all. And it is a thoroughly foundational concept of the financial analysis of business. More businesses are destroyed by poor working capital management than by insufficient revenues. How can you analyze an online retail business if you don't understand how working capital works? It would be as if someone wrote a book about Boeing and described planes the way you would describe helicopters. Even if every other fact was correct, you would doubt the writer understands what he's describing.

Jeff Bezos is, for my money, the greatest business genius alive today. I certainly don't think you can argue he shouldn't be in the Top 10, or Top 5. And it's much too soon to draw a full account of some of Amazon's most daring adventures, such as Kindle and AWS. So it is perhaps an impossibly high bar to expect outstanding analysis of Amazon from any book written in 2013. But my hunger was not sated. The book is great at cataloguing facts, but not so great at analysis. I am reminded of the point John Gruber made about Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs bio: that it may be the definitive book on Jobs's life, but not on his work. Regardless of the controversy around the factual accuracy of the book, it's certainly not the definitive book on the work that is Amazon.
Nelly Ally doesn't post frequently, but when she does her stories can tear out your heart.
My name is Nelly Ali, I am Lecturer and a PhD student in the department of Geography, Environment and Development. My research is with Street Children in Cairo. I lecture on Childhood Studies at the Institute of Education, Birkbeck College, University of London and Anglia Ruskin University. I am also an active commentator on the socio-political situation in Egypt.
It was a few months and 15 group therapy sessions later that I found out why Amal was at the shelter. She had been raped for the last 4 years by her stepfather. Yes, reader, that was a full stop after that sentence. It’s a full stop because how can I cage the horror of that event in the form of words I type and you read?! For four years Amal had been subjected to the daily sexual assault of a father figure. It was only when Amal’s mother had walked into the house unexpectedly, that she made out the shrieking sound of her 9 year old daughter screaming, her husband grunting, and found him raping her young daughter, did the father’s sexual abuse come to an end.

Read what happens when KSA cracks down on "illegal immigrants."  In this case they are not immigrants but "foreign workers" using fake passports. 
Hello, America... anybody listening? 
Crackdown cripples life
JEDDAH/RIYADH – Residents and citizens woke up on Tuesday to a day crippled by a lack of necessary services as illegal expat workers, who failed to rectify their status, stayed indoors for fear of being arrested. 
Streets were less crowded where taxi drivers charged exorbitant fares, markets wore a deserted look, many commercial establishments and hospitals reported no-shows, shutters were down on many grocery stores and eateries, street vendors were no where to be seen. Customers were forced to fill grocery bags themselves at super market counters in the absence of expat workers who did this job. 
A Saudi national in Jeddah summed up the scenario: “It seems that the country was full of violators. Shops are closed, streets are empty, restaurants are empty. I counted 30 cell phone shops on one street closed. God help us! Where are the citizens?”

In Jazan, a number of Saudis said that they had to go to their workplaces, wearing un-ironed thobe and headgear (shemagh) as most of the laundries remained closed. “There was no way for me to wear a washed and ironed thobe and shemagh as I saw doors of the laundry where I deposited my clothes closed without any notice,” said Muhammad Qassem. Even the dead had to suffer. 
About 13 facilities for washing dead bodies were shut down in Jeddah due to the absence of workers. Those who wash dead bodies at these facilities are part-time workers who are scared of inspection raids.  [More at the link.]

Boosting startup companies need not mean giving them a blank, undated check not to pay taxes when they become prosperous.  This is not only crazy. It's stupid. 
When employees are paid in corporate stock options, the issuing companies can take a tax deduction for the difference between what the employees pay for the options and what the stocks are worth when the options are exercised years later. 
"Tax breaks for executive stock options have become an increasingly effective corporate tax avoidance tool," CTJ said. 
Twitter has $107 million of unused stock option deductions it can apply to future earnings, the report said.

President Vladimir Putin has proposed that the government use smart cameras to identify immigrants.
He said such technology would be able to help the Federal Migration Service keep track of the many migrant workers from former Soviet republics who can enter the country without a visa.
The president made the proposal Tuesday after meeting with the head of a startup company that is using smart cameras to identify people's faces and vehicles for secure access to bank machines and parking areas.
Public discontent over rising numbers of foreign workers has heated up in recent months, and in Moscow thousands of migrants have been detained in police raids.

No comments:

Post a Comment