Monday, March 27, 2017

The C.I. and the target dance

On March 23, 2017 a Bloomberg Business Week feature brought to the spotlight the issue of confidential informants (C.Is.) in financial crimes, the handling of CIs by law enforcement personnel and in this case, agents being duped by an [alleged] criminal who "went rogue" and wiretapped his case agents in an effort to compromise them.

The case screams of idiocy in handling the CI, a guy who was hyping dubious stocks in a foreign jurisdiction (Bahamas). A main issue in developing informants: Is the CI vulnerable to recidivism ? A CI should never be allowed to fall back into criminal behavior while working undercover.

During that period, the agents were letting him suggest his own "targets". Sounds like agents dumb and dumber were on the However perverse it may sound, it is not unusual for agents to "fall in love" with a CI they established a close camaraderie report with. These agents even let the CI "make his own game", get his own targets [based on what, his nosebleeds] ? Finally the turncoat turned on them recording 100 calls, trying to prove they acted unethically and inconsistent. In the end they couldn't convict him because the statute of limitations had run out.

I'm not just showing the poor judgement on part of law enforcement who let a criminal run amok in this story.

How can you fast detect CIs - if you ever deal with one.

The CI and the target "dance"



  • Stress test the individual. CIs have two identities: they can only keep one of them up for so long.
  • The weakest link is the family. Family in distress or incommunicado could mean somebody has turned into a turncoat.
  • Breaking the prearranged meeting sites (diner, coffee house) where the environment allows for easy surveillance by their handlers.
  • If the target disappears for a month or two, what will the CI do ? Retreat or pursue ?
  • Emphasis is placed on wires CIs wear recordings that can be used as evidence. These wearables, while being inconspicuous, button/lapel size are RF transmitters. You can buy a signal bug detector (like these) to detect if the CI is wearing a wire.
  • Of course, a phone -any phone- can be bugged and also used as a recording device. People need just two to three minutes with that phone. 


If the CI is a long known co-worker or employee how do you tell they've turned ? Kevin Mitnick looks at defendants docket "traffic"analysis.


Saturday, March 25, 2017

How to emphasize mental toughness


Mental toughness is described in Wikipedia as
"having the natural or developed psychological edge that enables you to: generally, cope better than your opponents with the many demands (competition, training, lifestyle) that sport places on a performer; specifically, be more consistent and better than your opponents in remaining determined, focused, confident, and in control under pressure." (Jones, Hanton, & Connaughton, 2002, p. 209)
"Peter Clough et al. (2002) [4] proposed a model of mental toughness, conceptualizing it more like a personality trait. Their model has four components: confidence; challenge; control and commitment. In initially conceptualizing mental toughness and developing the MTQ48[5] questionnaire measurement tool, the approach taken by Clough et al. (2002) was to combine existing psychological theory and applied sport psychology."


You can read about lots of implemented scenarios here. Heart rate variability (HRV) was taken as a measure of physiological response, with lower levels of HRV indicating higher levels of stress response.

This sample list from AQR International will show you what to look for in each of the four components. Example "challenges" includes affirmations, heroes and heroines, thermometer, and a "not-do-do list". Surprised by the inclusion of a "not-to-do list" when we are so used to a "to-do list" ? You can order a MTQ48 assessment for £45.00

Controlled breathing exercises matter (NY Times)


"Daniel Gucciardi, Sandy Gordon, and James Dimmock of Australia have proposed a different definition and framework of mental toughness, based primarily on their work with Australian footballers. Using personal construct psychology, these authors proposed the following definition of mental toughness: a "collection of values, attitudes, behaviors, and emotions that enable you to persevere and overcome any obstacle, adversity, or pressure experienced, but also to maintain concentration and motivation when things are going well to consistently achieve your goals."

— Gucciardi, Gordon, & Dimmock, 2008, p. 278, [7]

The single most important lesson learned from 83,000 brain scans is that

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Not everyone is cut to be a CEO

If "Not everyone is cut to be a CEO" isn't a truism then I don't know what is.

Last week at the Monty Technology Summit I got inspired by the "Around The World in 45 Minutes" fireside chat with General David Petraeus which was hosted by Michael Milken. The idea came across my mind: what if there was an "accelerated" way to becoming a CEO ?

I have seen good arguments in favor of [emotional] fitness, determination, even levelheadedness described being like muscles, therefore, trainable. Those three traits I'm certain they're part of a good CEO makeup.

CEOs, they're both:

  • abrasive yet super likable,
  • uncanning yet predictable,
  • direct yet rhetoric,
  • semantic yet unstructured,
  • unifying yet disruptive,
  • a "lover" yet a fighter,
  • visionary yet pragmatic,
  • answering yet asking [questions],
  • sophisticated yet simple,
  • imposing yet friendly,



Cool site for new learning: QuantifiedSelf

Video debate of the month:

The Future of God with Sam Harris, Michael Shermer, Jean Houston and Deepak Chopra (2010)

Saturday, March 18, 2017

NOLs (Net Operating Losses) Carryforwards

On March 14th, 2016 on the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC it was said that President Trump was able to write off $103 MM of the reported $153 MM that he made in 2005. The "leaked" two page 1040 Form at DCreports lacks the accompanying schedules (such as Schedule D) that would itemize what those losses represented. Trump's supposedly had realized capital losses on investments in real estate, casinos in Atlantic City and the folded Trump Airlines. NY Times: Trump Wrote Off $100 Million in Losses in 2005.

How many businesses use these NOLs ? The answer is, quite a few. The value of NOLs can be a valuable asset for a business.

In fact, there are some top companies with NOLs and tax credits to market capitalization of 10%, 15%, and 20%. including large caps General Motors, Delta Air Lines, AIG, United Continental, Calpine, CIT Group, Charter Communications, CMS Energy, MGM Resorts.

Clarification: there's no connection between Trump and AIG. AIG and other companies are mentioned here because of their use of NOLs.



Tuesday, March 14, 2017

How to Win (the lottery, at life, on Wall Street, on Main Street)

Folks ask me for recommended reading on "How to win at life".  This month recommendation is "The Marine Corps Way to Win on Wall Street" by Ken Marlin, Founder of Marlin Associates. Marlin shows us 11 Marine Corps principles in ways that apply to business, illustrating each principle with examples from the Tet Offensive and the Iraq War to Marlin’s decisions on Wall Street.

The Principles:

-There's no such thing as a "former marine". (not a principle in the book, but another worthy insight)
-It is not necessary to fight every battle that presents itself.
-Take a stand.
-Be the expert. Operational area expertise is in high demand.
-Know the enemy. Expanding this, I'd say know the target, their motivations, goals
-Know what the terrain is worth before fighting.
-Know yourself. What are your greatest assets ? Expertise
-Control the timing
-Take the higher ground
-It's an interconnected world -see the entanglements
-Trust and Verify
-Luck is not a plan

Source: Marlin & Associates



Adding to Marlin's words of wisdom.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Overconfidence is underrated

Have you ever seen a blind man walking with a stick flawlessly ? I saw one today, very much like this one in this video.



Not all legally blind walk this way, but the ones that do are are a sight [no pun indented] to behold. Where does their steadiness, sureness comes from, if not from over-the-top confidence ?

On March 8, 2017, WSJ published an article, authored by Joann S. Lublin, "Overconfident CEOs: Their Era Is Ending". The writeup says overconfident CEOs "take too many risks" citing Don A. Moore of UC Berkeley Hass's School of Business.
"Top executives attribute their success to their own brilliance and neglect the role of circumstance and good fortune."

This statement, in my opinion, doesn't hold water. Number one, confidence or utmost confidence is not something somebody is born with. Is is something painstakingly achieved thought sweat work and personal achievement. Overconfidence is not random but a result of thought exercise and mental conditioning, bringing forth target, attention and intention. The existing problem is that so many executives lack that "overconfidence", or else why would there be so many confidence "bootcamps" and a whole litany of career coaches ? I have never heard of a career coach hired to defuse somebody's confidence yet, they all get paid to improve CEO confidence within the overall corporate performance. Let it be clear overconfidence doesn't mean use of vulgarity, profanity or beration. Career coaches get hired to improve the communication skills and public images of CEOs. A mean person who lacks control of his/hers emotions shouldn't be a CEO to begin with.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

You're fired...

Some time ago...the boss called John into his office. John saw three security guards posted at the door. Something was up.

Boss: John, good to see you ! Firing on all cylinders today ? How's Rachel [John's wife] doing ?

John: She's good.

Boss: The reason we're here today is most unfortunate. [Takes a deep breath]. You're fired ! I'm sorry.

But... but...

No ifs and buts with this one. When you're given three hours to pack up your things, you're up against the wall.

Somebody asked me what John should have done or said.

  • "If you wanna take responsibility for firing me, you just did." -Depending on the circumstances, saying that may not be a such a good idea. Sometimes it may.

  • "Good luck !" Say good luck to your firing boss -before he does.

  • "See you in the movies"! -Please, only say it if you wanna make a movie about it.

  • "You're on a collision course with planet Earth". If you say that your boss knows where he is-spatially.

  • "Ok, I'm hosting my mom's birthday party and I need a caterer. You're hired !" -If you say that, make sure you are having that party.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Increase your joy

Last night on Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel they featured a man by the name of Ashrita Furman.

Ashrita is a remarkable individual who since 1979 has set 628 world records, of which 205 are still standing. He is featured in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Happiness is progress and reaching a goal, says Ashrita.


The Record Breaker from Brian McGinn on Vimeo.

Is Ashrita a model for "psycho executing" at the highest level ? I think so.

Let's refer to a concept known as "Bloom's Taxonomy". Dr. Benjamin S. Bloom initiated “Bloom’s Taxonomy of learning in 1956 as a design and evaluation toolkit for academic education. Today it is applicable to all types of learning.

There are three domains in Bloom’s Taxonomy:


  1. Cognitive Domain (knowledge)
  2. Affective Domain (attitude)
  3. Psychomotor Domain (skills) (Wikipedia)

Bloom believes that all three domains are important, however, Ashrita's performances fall under the psychomotor "domain".

"A domain simply means category. What is the Psychomotor Domain? The Psychomotor Domain is skill based and refers to the learning of skills. Physical skills are the ability to move, act, or manually manipulate the body to perform a physical movement. What is taxonomy? Taxonomy is a structure, a plan, or a checklist to assist in planning training to cover each development stage of the learner’s growth. It is important that each stage is mastered before moving on to the next stage." 

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