Cyreenik Says

April 2017 issues

If Marcon wins will France secede?

If Emmanuel Macron wins the second round of the French presidential elections in May, this will put a surprise candidate in office. This will be the same kind of surprise that accompanied both Donald Trump and Abraham Lincoln getting voted in as President of the United States. In Lincoln's case the Republican Party first organized only six years before his election. In both these cases there was a lot of grumbling when the surprise happened and much of that grumbling was talk of leaving the Union. In 2017 this turned out to be just cheap talk mostly in California, but in 1861 The South put their money where their mouth was and left. This started the Civil War.

If Marcon gets elected in France, and a legislature that supports him follows (this will be another big surprise) what will be the French equivalent of secession talk in America? Like the US in 2017 it is likely to remain just cheap talk and grumbling, but what form will it take?

This will be fascinating to watch.

This 24 Apr 17 WSJ article, Will Emmanuel Macron Be Able to Run France If He Wins the Presidency? Political novice’s year-old party will have to secure majority of parliamentary seats in June elections for new president to implement his agenda by David Gauthier-Villars and William Horobin, talks about what comes next in the French election and governing process.

From the article, "Turning En Marche, or “On the Move,” the party that Mr. Macron founded barely a year ago, into a political machine will be a tall order for the 39 year-old former investment banker, who on Sunday won the first round of the presidential contest with 24% of the vote."

The Year of Surprises in politics continues

The French presidential election this month put two contenders into the final round who are not part of either of the traditional big parties. This Year of Election Surprises continues.

This series of big surprises mean that politics around the world is changing, and changing in surprising ways. So far the US, Britain, France and several central European countries have produced these big surprise results. One of the big questions for this Year of Surprises is whether or not Asian countries will participate as well. If so, what is the surprise going to look like in China and India?

Another question is, "What is at the root of all these surprises?" This has not been figured out, which in large part explains why the surprises are happening. The traditional dominant parties are facing voters who want something different from what they traditionally offer, but that these new desires are is not clear.

As I have pointed out elsewhere, the surprises are why we hold elections. If the results are never in question, why bother? But there are times when the surprises get bigger, and this year is one of those times.

No need to wait for driverless cars and drones, big lifestyle changes are happening now

Big change is coming in the near future as Big Data, automation, driverless cars and other neat technologies get implemented, but it is also happening now. It is happening now in how we buy things. This year the bricks-and-mortar retailing industry is taking it on the chin.

Our world keeps changing. The interesting part is that some of the changes are forecast years before they happen and other come as big surprises. People have been talking about driverless cars for years now, but having this retailing decline sharpen up in 2016 and 2017 is surprising. This is what keeps life interesting in business and technology circles.

This 21 Apr 17 WSJ article, Brick-and-Mortar Stores Are Shuttering at a Record Pace Years of overbuilding and the rise of online shopping have come to a head; malls as ‘energy suckers’ by Suzanne Kapner, gives a full overview of what is happening.

From the article, "American retailers are closing stores at a record pace this year as they feel the fallout from decades of overbuilding and the rise of online shopping. ... “There is no reason to believe that this will abate at any point in the foreseeable future,” said Mark Cohen, the director of retail studies for Columbia Business School and a former executive at Sears Canada Inc. and other department stores. ... Through April 6, closings have been announced for 2,880 retail locations this year, including hundreds of locations being shut by national chains such as Payless ShoeSource Inc. and RadioShack Corp. That is more than twice as many closings as announced during the same period last year, according to Credit Suisse."

Parking: the city shaper

It is not high-profile, but how cities and communities in developed economies handle car parking determines a lot about a city's looks and style. Free parking is like a free lunch -- there is no such thing, but who is paying makes a big difference in how it is handled and how car owners think about and drive their cars.

My personal experience compares Salt Lake Valley in Utah with the Cambridge area around MIT and Harvard in Massachusetts. In Salt Lake Valley it is taken for granted that most users of commercial buildings (customers and employees) are going to get to the building in a personally driven car. And land in the valley is flat, open, and comparatively cheap. The result is both an efficient road network that handles cars well and lots of free parking at all locations. The parking lots are spacious and conveniently located. The result: a car driver's paradise in most locations. The exceptions are those places that have been redesigned to accommodate millennial tastes that favor walking and bicycling -- downtown Salt Lake City is one of those places.

The Cambridge area was developed before personally driven cars became commonplace, and the local culture to this day looks upon cars as a necessary evil, not a blessing of progress. The result is accommodating parking is a second fiddle item in road and building design. The result of that is finding parking is a time consuming and uncertain activity, and it benefits a lot from knowledge of the local terrain and traffic patterns -- "drive into this alley before 3PM and you'll find a spot".

The result is that Cambridge and Salt Lake Valley architecture look different and living in them feels different. How parking is handled both identifies and defines how a community feels about driver-driven cars, and it shapes all the activities that relate to transporting people around the community.

Change is coming

Change is coming, big change. As driverless cars become both widespread and treated like Uber or taxies, not personally owned property, the parking issue drops dramatically in importance and in its role as a community shaper. As driverless cars take hold, the differences between Salt Lake Valley and Cambridge will diminish. Both will become walking and bicycling paradises with lots of taxi-style driverless cars not using up much parking moving along the roads.

This 6 Apr 17 Economist article, The perilous politics of parking The average car moves just 5% of the time. To improve cities, focus on the other 95%, talks about how much parking shapes cities.

From the article, "In many cities people can park on the street for nothing, or a pittance. In Boston most parking meters charge just $1.25 an hour; in Chennai the rate is 20 rupees (30 cents) a day. Because the number of people who would take advantage of such terrific deals, rather than pay a market rate to park in a garage, exceeds supply, drivers end up circling the block. Researchers have found that much traffic consists of drivers looking for spaces. The record is held by the German city of Freiburg—in one study 74% of cars were on the prowl."

Responding the right way to terrorism: Business as usual

Terrorism is about advertising a cause. This means it is a form of advertising. This means the perpetrators are paying attention to how much public response they get to their acts -- they are doing so in a perverse way, but they are very much doing so. When those around a suicide bomber see that person make big news, they are encouraged to repeat the activity.

This means that one pillar for fighting terrorism is "not paying attention" -- instead of watching the news and gasping in fear, ignore the news and conduct business as usual. This choice discourages those who are trying to decide whether or not to commit their own terrorist act some day in the future. I think of it this way, "I'm a potential terrorist. I can do this! ...But if I'm not getting my twenty virgins when I go to heaven, why should I go now?"

With this in mind here is some good news. This 9 Apr 17 WSJ article, Nothing to Fear, But the Lack of Fear in Markets Investors have taken recent geopolitical events in stride, but that won’t last forever by Steven Russolillo, talks about the financial markets not responding to terrorist news.

From the article, "Last week alone, a subway blast in Russia killed several people, a truck drove into pedestrians in Stockholm and the U.S. military launched dozens of missiles at a Syrian air base. Those three events normally would at least send some tremors through markets. Instead, stocks barely budged."

This, I am happy to report, is an example of responding to terrorism the right way.



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