In this entry, I want to provide you with what I have encountered so far during the last several days of absolute madness and chaos. My intention is to offer evidence of some perspectives that are floating around so that you can make your own judgement
First and foremost, you may want to look at the video of George Floyd being arrested and killed by four policemen. It’s tragic and horrifying, but it shows the worst of the abuse of power from the police. Here is another incident when they kicked a powerless girl
Protesters tried to protect properties from looting
There are real peaceful protests, not just the violent ones that seem to attract more attention
There is a population among police who decided to join the protest
There are white people who compassionately and bravely stepped up to help their black brothers and sisters
There are also legitimate and terrible looters
There are also cooler heads
In the process, the police attacked the press and the First Amendment Right
I am sure there are other incidents that back up each of these perspectives or bring out new vantage points from which you can look at this whole chaos. These are multiple separate issues, each of which deserves its own investigation, national discussion and dramatic overhaul of what is currently in place. However, they are currently lumped into one confusing mess to muddy the waters. You can absolutely call for justice for George Floyd and other victims, and demand racial equality while absolutely condemning the looting that some terrible individuals carried out. The two are mutually exclusive. Just like you can appreciate the job of the police and justly call out the brutality whose frequency is so high that you can’t call it “a few bad apples” any more. Like a friend of mine from Belgium said, no one ever said this about plane crashes: well it crashed, but it’s one bad apple. Indeed, no one ever.
I hope these are helpful to you while you are processing the whole chaos unfolding in front of us.
Do you even remember how this week began? Do you remember that we are still in the middle of a deadly pandemic that killed more than 100,000 people in America?
What has happened in the last few days is scary, infuriating and sad. It blurred that happened before earlier this week or almost many events that occurred. A black man was arrested by four police officers in Minnesota and brutally killed after one officer put his knee on the victim’s throat for a few minutes. The offender, ironically a police officer in this case, continued his act even after George Floyd repeatedly pled for air. He died at a hospital shortly after. The whole episode was filmed by a few folks that happened to be at the scene and were kind and brave enough to ask the four policemen to stop. It sparked anger and riots across the country that called for justice for the victim. Violence took place. Destruction of properties happened. Police intervened. Politicians voiced opinions and of course, the President poured gas on the fire with his controversial tweets. The whole country is in chaos and suddenly, arguably the worst pandemic ever seems to take a back seat in people’s mind.
As I have been following coverage on this tragedy and the aftermath, I feel sad, angry, scared and worried about what comes next for America. The country is increasingly deep into chaos. The problems that America faces seem impossible to overcome. Let’s go over a few
The government is in disarray. The two parties are more willing to win at all cost than to do what’s best for the country. The current administration rolled back a lot of regulations that the previous one put in place. The next administration, if from the opposite party, will install back what was removed. The cylce may continue on
There is no longer a uniting, calm and compassionate leadership at the helm. Whenever the current leader gets involved in an issue, things tend to take a turn for worse
The trust in authorities is seriously eroded. Scandals, misinformation, corruption, cover-up, violence, ineffective policies, unkept promises
Courts seem to be politicized
Racism is still alive and well in America. What happened with George Floyd is just one of a few that were caught on camera. It’s 2020 and we still are having to deal with this
High unemployment rate amid a pandemic that doesn’t seem to end soon
Those are just a few significant challenges that US faces. Can you imagine even with the new leadership and Congress things will change? Can you imagine the divisiveness that we have right now will be lessened with a new administration? Can you imagine racism will go away when it hasn’t after decades? Can you imagine the trust in authorities will be regained soon?
What’s next for America? I think about this a lot because this is where I intended to reside for a while in the future. While China is still growing as an economy and a global power with a less democratic yet effective and stable leadership, America has too many structural challenges to deal with. Do a quick research and you can see America’s standing in the world also slipped over the past 3 years. The anti-immigrant policies make America less attractive to foreign talents. A couple of my friends who wanted to do PhD in the US already ruled out coming here. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend anyone to study here any more.
Perhaps, I am being pessimistic. But if right in the middle of the worst pandemic the social and political issues can dominate everyone’s mind, and we know that given enough time (a few weeks) there will be a bigger scandal, what’s the future looking like for the country? I hope I am wrong, but I don’t see too bright a near future
A word on the fight between the President and social media
It started when the President sent out a tweet about mail-in ballots. Twitter put a note below the tweet to suggest other content to fact-check what the President put out there. Trump took issues with it.
He then sent out a tweet on the debacle in Minnesota with language that seemed to call for violence. Twitter warned users of the content, but didn’t take down the tweet (see below)
Trump, his fanbase and allies accuse the company of violating First Amendment Right and censoring him. He was supported by Mark Zuckerberg, who disagreed with Twitter’s approach. Trump signed an Executive Order to curb protection for platforms like Twitter.
Now, I won’t get into the debate whether First Amendment Right is infringed here. I do want to talk a bit about the fine line social platforms are walking now. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter want to do both:
Enable expression and access to information, including what politicians say
Promote an impression that they are a safe place for users and that they contribute positively to the world
The challenge is difficult, but it’s not impossible. It becomes much more difficult when bad actors want to distribute misinformation for their agenda. Leaving misinformation intact is detrimental to our society; which contradicts one of the two things platforms want to do. Censoring misinformation will cause outcry over infringement of First Amendment Right and contradict the other. As bad actors want to take advantage of social media to aid their propaganda, the disregard for truth intensifies. Platforms like Twitter are stuck in a dilemma between censoring harmful or false content and abiding by free speech and expression.
In the case of Twitter, they are doing the best they can. They didn’t take down the President’s tweets despite repeated requests from many other users. They did put a label on two of his most egregious tweets recently. But that’s not enough, from both sides. Concerned users want a complete removal of some of Trump’s tweets while Trump is using his popularity and power to arm-twist the company not to.
When the two sides cannot compromise, platforms like Twitter, as some sort of a middleman, will soon have to pick a side. Eventually. The walking-a-fine-thin-line will likely not work for much longer.
What do you wish you knew sooner or later? I ask myself that question all the time. Here is what I came up with for myself.
Know how to curate what to read and how to read
A popular and widely cited stat reads that 90% of the world’s data is generated in the last two years. Regardless of the figures, I think the premise is true. We encounter a lot of information and data every day. News, social media, photos that we take, tweets that we write, new movies or shows that streamers release, songs that artists launch. The deluge of information makes it incredibly challenging for a person to know what information to absorb and from what source. There are days when I spend hours reading and there are days when I get information fatigue. What makes it more tricky and challenging is misinformation. It’s harder than ever to distinguish between accurate information and false information. The accuracy is only just relative, depending on how you look at things. For instance, somebody may claim that the government did a good job with the economy prior to Covid because the stock market hit all time highs and unemployment rate was rate. Well, that may be true, but it’s only part of the story. There are other serious issues to look at including but not limited to federal budget, minimum wages or income inequality. When you take those into account, the assessment won’t look as rosy. Additionally, while there is value in being informed in many areas, specialization into a few may serve you better. It would be valuable for us to learn how to curate what to read, how to read and how to say “no” to information.
No one knows everything all the time
Because we are overwhelmed by a lot of information every, as mentioned above, it makes everyone prone to mistakes in judgement. Hence, even established authorities in certain areas become wrong at times. Legendary investors lost money. Famous economists erred on their predictions. Analysts screwed up on assumptions and evaluations. Scientists’ claims were challenged and debunked. We often associate previous successes with the ability to be right all the time or successes in one area with knowledge in other areas. That often is not true. One tech founder that may succeed in building a billion dollar firm can make disastrously wrong claims on biology or sociology or even in other business areas such as fast food, hospitality or energy.
To figure out when an authority with credibility errs is tricky. How often do you read a scientific article from The Lancet and question it immediately? How often do you read a report from World Bank and pick it apart detail by detail? Or do you share them first? Past track record and credibility help, but they don’t guarantee accuracy all the time. Hence, although it’s good to respect and appreciate greatness, I think it’s valuable to learn to think for ourselves and be vigilant.
Focus. Focus. Focus
I sometimes have to stop myself from multitasking. Modern societies have trained us to constantly want to multitask. We have all been there. Listening to music or podcasts during work. Putting on radio while driving. Chatting while studying at night or doing homework. It’s incredibly difficult to stay completely immune from distractions. I don’t believe anyone can do that. Nonetheless, it is extremely helpful and valuable to learn to be “in the zone” more, even for just a few hours every day to do deep work. I do believe that the more a person can do so, the more he or she can succeed
Learn to write
I think writing is as important, if not more important, than coding which is touted as something we all should learn as early as possible. The ability to communicate in writing, even in the form of an email, a report or an article, is essential nowadays. First, writing is a form of communication with others. A well-written piece can carry a message effectively and there can only be good things coming from effective communication. Second, writing is thinking. When thoughts go into words, we think about the thoughts at hand more. We pick apart every aspect of our thoughts more to make them more refined. So when you come across some good content, it mostly comes from a vigorous thinking process beforehand. It’s not a coincidence that Jeff Bezos replaces the use of Power Points at Amazon with a 6-page memo. Therefore, learning to write is highly important
Learn to different yourself
Whatever you want to do, it’s impossible that you are the first or only person in the world to do it. If you want to launch a cryptocurrency hedge fund, there are hundreds out there. If you want to launch a newsletter, there are thousands already in the market. If you want to build an Asian eatery in the local community, it’s impossible that there is none already in operations. Modern societies and technological advances make it easier than ever to launch individual ventures. At the same time, it’s also exceedingly challenging to stand out from the crowd. What I think can make each of us stand out are individual uniqueness and work ethic. Nobody in the world can beat you at being you. Each of us has a different unbringing, life experience and personality. Infusing that uniqueness into our work, I believe, can make us stand out more. For instance, millions of people can speak English. If you speak English, it’s nothing special. If you add a foreign language such as Japanese, it narrows down the competition. If you add another such as Latin or a special specialty such as flying a commercial jet, it narrows down the competition even more. The chance of standing out from the crowd is now higher. Hence, capitalizing on our unique experience, personality and perspective can be very useful.
The second piece is work ethic. Even if you have all the talent in the world, it means nothing if you don’t put in the work. Athletes like Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Michael Jordan, Cristiano Ronaldo put in hours of work every day even after achieving success and fame. If you don’t have genius-level talent, like most of us, the ability to put in 12-15 hours of work a day will differentiate you from a lot of folks that are not willing to work beyond the required 8 hours. On the other hand, even if you work long hours every day, yet you don’t have a factor that can help differentiate you from others, it doesn’t mean anything. That’s why thousands of blue collar workers who work two or three jobs a day are not as famous or rich as others. The work they do deserves respect, but it is nothing different from the work of hundreds of thousands of others.
Learning about your uniqueness, deploying it and working hard is important and the sooner one does it, the better.
Learn to avoid jealousy and self-pity
I believe it is tremendously important to learn about controlling jealousy and self-pity early in life. Everyone in the world should be happy. Life is too short not to. Though we differ from one another in the things that make us tick, there are a few common factors that contribute to happiness such as being healthy, avoiding jealousy or feeling sorry for yourself all the time. While they seem obvious, they all require practice and learning. If you sit on the couch on the time and eat fast food every day, chances are that you won’t be healthy. If you don’t purposefully train your mind not to be jealous of others or compare yourself to others, chances are you may not be able to do it. If you are trapped in self-pity and don’t make effort to get out of that trap, how can you? I grew up in Asia where your parents subject you to comparison with other kids all the time. If you get a 9 out of 10 from a school assignment after putting in a lot of work, you may still be scolded if other kids get 10. I was trained and wired to be jealous as a kid. I worked really hard in the past few years to escape from that and I make concerted effort every day to stay away from the jealousy and self-pity. Does it make me completely happy? No, because there are other factors at play: work, family, relationship, goals. But it surely helps me not be unhappy.
What do you wish you learned/knew sooner than later?
John Bradley, who played Sam Tarly in Game of Thrones, had a beautiful inspirational speech on accepting himself and being comfortable with finding his own way through life. He used to feel shy and sorry about himself before Thrones, until the two Executive Directors chose him for a very important role in arguably the biggest TV show ever in history. They chose him because of his virtues or what he considered as his failures. I can relate to the shyness and the self-consciousness.
Like him, I often went to bed, thinking that when I woke up, some things about myself would be different. In the past, I got jealous of folks who were more famous and richer than me, especially my peers. The jealousy has been reduced over the past few years after digging into how to live a happier life and the harm of jealousy. Nonetheless, the trap of jealousy and self-consciousness is always there, lurking around and waiting to take over at any time. It’s a real constant struggle to keep it at bay. I am sure that I am not the only person with that struggle. It feels encouraging to hear from a real life case study, especially a famous celebrity bravely talk about it.
I noted this book shortly before it was released as someone I followed on Twitter recommended it. I forgot about it until someone brought it up again on Twitter, saying that if you haven’t read the book, you don’t live the 21st century. Ok, what a big endorsement! So I picked the book up and started reading. Oh boy, what a disappointment.
The author briefly discussed the past before going into details the state of a few countries such as China, Japan, France, Germany, etc…After each chapter for each country, he has a summary in the form of a report card that includes his position on each country on Borders, Resources, Demography, Military Might, Economy and Outlook. The introduction part is fine. My issues with the book started in the first chapter.
Overstating America’s involvement in WWII
“During the Imperial Age, the Europeans had been at each other’s throats” Peace among them had been possible only because of American involvement in World War II, American financial support in the postwar rebuilding effort, American strategic overwatch during the Cold War, and the de facto American subsidization of their economies since 1945 via the Order. Without the Americans, there could not be a European Union, much less a euro. And to thank the Americans, the Europeans decided to launch a common currency expressly designed to chip away at American preeminence in global trade and finance.
Excerpt From: Peter Zeihan. “Disunited Nations.” Apple Books.
While the US did contribute to the defeat of the Nazis in World War II, the claim that America was the sole deciding factor in World War II is a bit too much. The US didn’t get involved until the late stage of the war. More importantly, thousands of Europeans and Soviet Union citizens died to keep the Nazis at bay before defeating them. The condescending tone in the last sentence is cringe-worthy. It is at best debatable and likely incorrect. Not everything that everybody does is about the US.
On America’s role in “bailing out” Europe
The rise of the euro complicated European-American relations, particularly when the Europeans came to Washington hat in hand for help in dealing with the European Financial Crisis, a crisis that would have not been nearly as severe if not for the euro’s creation.
The problem I have with this is that the financial crisis started from the US and rippled throughout the world. Additionally, there is no substantiating evidence to back up the claim that EU crawled out of the crisis hole solely by virtue of the US.
On America’s military might over China
Any Chinese expansion that would replace (much less overturn) the American position doesn’t simply begin after a long American head start, but must overcome an American naval global footprint that would take over a century to establish through force of arms—a footprint that is not replicable without complete victory in a world-spanning war that somehow manages to leave the Chinese mainland untouched. This is meant less as a slam against the Chinese as it is a recognition of global naval realities. After all, aside from the Americans, no one floats even a single fully functional supercarrier, much less a supercarrier battle group, much less a global naval force.
Beyond carriers, China is indeed floating an impressive number of missile frigates and destroyers that combine reach and lethality, but what the Chinese fleet lacks is operational range. Of China’s three hundred–plus naval vessels, only one-ninth of them are major surface combatants that can operate over a thousand miles from shore (a little less than the distance from Shanghai to Tokyo) under ideal circumstances—ideal, as in no one shooting at them.
Excerpt From: Peter Zeihan. “Disunited Nations.” Apple Books.
The author made his claims about how the US is still superior to China in terms of military. However, if you read the book: The Kill Chain, which I reviewed here and which was written by the top advisor of John McCain, the then-chair of the Armed Services Committee in the Senate, the picture cannot be more different. The author of the Kill Chain obviously knows what he was talking about as he was on the inside and he insisted that the US is going to be, if not already, behind China and time is running out. If I have to choose between Peter Zeihan and the guy who had access to classified military documents at the highest level in the government, I’ll pick the latter any day of the week. Here is what Christian Brose said, sorry for the long excerpts which, unfortunately, are necessary to make my point
“Cyberattacks would grind down the logistical movement of US forces into combat. The defenseless cargo ships and aircraft that would ferry much of that force across the Pacific would be attacked every step of the way. Satellites on which US forces depend for intelligence, communications, and global positioning would be blinded by lasers, shut down by high-energy jammers, or shot out of orbit altogether by antisatellite missiles. The command and control networks that manage the flow of critical information to US forces in combat would be broken apart and shattered by electronic attacks, cyberattacks, and missiles. Many US forces would be rendered deaf, dumb, and blind.”
“While these attacks were under way, America’s forward bases in places like Japan and Guam would be inundated with waves of precise ballistic and cruise missiles. The few defenses those bases have would quickly be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of weapons coming at them, with many leaking through. Those bases would have no defense against China’s hypersonic weapons, which can maneuver unpredictably, fly at five times the speed of sound, and strike their targets within minutes of being launched. As all of these missiles slammed into US bases, they would destroy fighter jets and other aircraft on the ground before US pilots could even get them airborne. They would crater runways, blow up operations centers and fuel storage tanks, and render those US forward bases inoperable. If any aircraft did manage to escape the Chinese missiles, it would be forced to relocate to another base in the region, which itself would come under attack. It would look like a US evacuation.”
“A similar dynamic would play out with America’s sea bases. Once the war started, US aircraft carriers in the region would immediately turn east and sail away from China, intent on getting more than a thousand miles away from the opponent’s long-range anti-ship missiles. But from that far away, none of the aircraft on the flight deck would be capable of reaching their targets without aerial refueling, so the Navy would find itself on the horns of the same dilemma the Air Force faced: its stealthy fighter jets would be pushed so far back that they could only get to their targets with the help of non-stealthy, defenseless refueling aircraft that would be shot down in large numbers.”
That assessment was echoed by a bipartisan commission of military experts that McCain had established through legislation that year to provide an independent examination of US defense strategy. They rendered their judgment to Congress shortly after McCain’s death in 2018. “America’s military superiority… has eroded to a dangerous degree,” they wrote. “The U.S. military could suffer unacceptably high casualties and loss of major capital assets in its next conflict. It might struggle to win, or perhaps lose, a war against China or Russia.”
Excerpt From: Christian Brose. “The Kill Chain.” Apple Books.
On America making all strategic decisions for Europe!???
The only way the Europeans have ever discovered to prevent this never-ending cycle of wars is to change the game. To bring in an external security guarantor who forces everyone to be on the same side. Who makes all major strategic decisions for everyone. Who enables access to raw materials without needing to resort to war. Who allows for the mass export of Germany’s always destabilizing volumes of manufactured goods to somewhere beyond Europe. That’s the United States. That’s the Order.
False claim on Germany’s electricity source
Germany receives less than 10 percent of its electricity needs from green power.
One quick check on Google can prove that this is false
Overly optimistic view of the US
“OUTLOOK: The Americans excel at missing opportunities due to domestic squabbling, but there is nothing in what’s left of the international system that will threaten the American heartland either militarily or economically before 2050.”
This is the theme throughout the book. Peter Zeihan is overly optimistic and borderline delusional about the US’ outlook. It is still the richest country on Earth, but claiming that the country faces no military or economic threats before 2050 is simply wrong. China is projected to overtake the US economically in the near future. It is now the second biggest economy in the world and the gap is closing. As mentioned above, China’s military IS already a threat to the US. and it’s not me that said so. It’s the people who served at the highest level of the government that did.
I jumped into this book with excitement and curiosity which were quickly evaporated by bold yet unsubstantiated claims, omission of human factors, delusional outlook on the US, false statements and the condescending tone towards others. This book is music to the ears of the folks who claim that despite what is going on in the country, the US is still the greatest in the world. To others who are more pragmatic, especially those with international exposure like me, it is less so. To be fair, the world needs America, but as much as America needs the world. Despite all the advances and great things that this country produces, it faces monumental threats such as eroding global standing among allies, rising income inequality, outdated infrastructure, a dysfunctional government, voter suppression, corruption, bitter and severe divide in America’s society, healthcare, etc…
Not everyone who points out America’s shortcomings has malicious intent. Many, myself included, are forthcoming and honest about what America can do better because we want the country to improve and to be better. I’d not be here if I didn’t like America. I do love it less now, but it doesn’t mean I want it to fail. I want to see it succeed and to do so, I prefer folks saying “Look, America has problems, but we can fix them and be better” to “To hell with all problems, America is still the greatest”. Since this book is blindly and condescendingly pro America, it may as well be labeled that way.
To be fair, the book has some good thought-provoking bits, but they are not worth the time spent on 300 pages and the frustration I detailed above. Long post short, I would NOT recommend this book.
Yum! was founded in 1997 as Tricon Global Restaurants under Pepsi and spun off in the same year. Headquartered in Kentucky, the company was rebranded as YUM! in 2002. As of 31st December 2019, YUM! “franchises or operates a worldwide system of over 50,000 restaurants in more than 150 countries and territories, primarily under the concepts of KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell”, according to its latest annual report. Let’s get to know a little bit about the business that owns and operates three brands that are well-known among Americans and thousands around the world.
YUM! revenue comes from two primary sources: Company Sales and Franchise Revenue. Company Sales refers to the sale of food items at company-owned restaurants which make up about 2% of YUM’s total restaurants. Franchise revenue includes upfront fees in order to be a franchisee, continuous percentage of monthly revenue (typically around 4-6%) and contribution to advertising. In terms of expenses, YUM! is responsible for all expenses at their own stores. For franchised stores, YUM!’s costs consist of lease, depreciation of the buildings/lands that YUM! owns and leases to franchisees, direct marketing support and others.
Over the past 5 years, the new unit growth rate is pretty steady at the mid single-digit while the franchise segment makes up an increasing part of the whole business
The shift towards franchise is understandable, if you look at the margin of company sales and franchise revenue. In 2019, YUM’s own restaurants’ margin stood at 20% while margin of the franchise segment was almost 93%.
The company sales decreased by over 50% in 2019 compared to 2017 level. Franchise and property revenue continued to the biggest revenue generator for YUM!. The company-wide operating margin stood at a respectable 34% in 2019, even though it is down from 46% in 2017.
As of the end of 2019, there were about 24,000 KFC restaurants under YUM!, of which 83% were outside the US and 99% were operated by franchisees. Revenue has been declining since 2019 due to the drop in company sales and shift towards more profitable franchise model which helped push operating margin
Franchise revenue rose to 56% of KFC’s total revenue in 2019, up from 38% in 2017. While restaurant margin largely remained at 15%, franchise margin rose by 400 basis points in 2019, compared to 2017.
As of the end of 2019, there were around 18,700 Pizza Hut stores, of which 61% were outside the US and 99% were operated by franchisees. Revenue for Pizza Hut has been on the rise since 2017, albeit the fact that its operating margin slightly dipped
While restaurant margin fluctuated as the company didn’t even make money at its own stores in 2018, franchise margin has been on the rise, reaching 93% in 2019. As in the case of KFC, YUM! shifted Pizza Hut’s model towards franchise model which made up 56% of the chain’s total revenue in 2019
Taco Bell has much smaller footprint than its siblings under YUM!. As of the end of 2019, there were around 7,300 units of which 92% were in the US and 94% were operated by franchisees. Revenue has been on the rise while operating margin remains steady at around 30-35%
Franchise revenue made up a smaller chunk of total revenue for Taco Bell than it did for Pizza Hut or KFC. While franchise margin is in the same ballpark as that of the other two brands, restaurant margin is much higher for Taco Bell
The difference in restaurant margin, overall operating margin and the number of stores explained why KFC led the way at YUM! in terms of franchise sale contribution and operating profit contribution while Taco Bell was the leader with regard to restaurant sales
Even though these fast food chains share the same high franchise margin, they differ from one another in terms of restaurant margin. I am curious about what factors result in such a difference. Is it because of the competition in each vertical? Is it due to specifically how each product line is made as in pizzas carry more expenses than chicken wings/fries or Mexican tacos? I’ll try to dig deeper in the near future, but that’s it for today. Hope that it is helpful to you guys. Have a safe and pleasant weekend!