Archive for August, 2018


“I’m not a car person. Three years after ‘The Da Vinci Code’ came out, I still had my old, rusted Volvo. And people are like, ‘Why don’t you have a Maserati?’ It never occurred to me. It wasn’t a priority for me. I just didn’t care.” – Dan Brown

If Dan Brown is not a “car person,” why does he write as if he is indeed a “car person?”

For years, Almost DailyBrett has been an avid Dan Brown fan having plowed through Digital Fortress, The Lost Symbol, Angels & Demons, The Da Vinci Code, and Inferno. Your author also consumed the last three as movies with Tom Hanks playing an unlikely hero, Harvard University Professor of Religious Iconology and Symbology (as if there is such a discipline) Robert Langdon.

The 24-hour plots incorporate landmark buildings and masterpiece art with Langdon racing against time with the recurring theme of science against religion, notably Catholicism.

Predictably and understandably, Brown uses the Vatican, Louvre, Capitol Hill, Firenze, Barcelona as the backdrop for his find-the-clue suspense novels.

Has Brown mentioned a commercial establishment/business in his previous books? Affirmative.

No trip to the piazza (Piazza della Signoria in Florence) was complete without sipping an espresso at Caffè Rivoire.” — Robert Langdon in Inferno.

 

The author of Almost DailyBrett asked the manager of Caffè Rivoire in 2015, if Dan Brown visited the restaurant. The manager pointed to Brown’s favorite spot for espresso.

Give Brown credit for sipping espresso at favorite place just steps away from Michelangelo’s “David,” and likewise for actually driving a Tesla X.

The question is why is Robert Langdon driving the exact same model of Tesla, so gloriously described in Dan Brown’s latest novel, Origin?

Robert Langdon Driving A Tesla?

 “The windshield on Edmond’s Tesla Model X was expansive, morphing seamlessly into the car’s roof somewhere behind Langdon’s head, giving him the disorienting sense he was floating inside a glass bubble.

“Guiding the car along the wooded highway north of Barcelona, Langdon was surprised to find himself driving well in excess of the roadway’s generous 120 kph speed limit. The vehicle’s silent electric engine and linear acceleration seemed to make every speed feel nearly identical.

“In the seat beside him, Ambra was busy browsing the Internet on the car’s massive dashboard computer display …” Dan Brown’s Origin, Chapter 49, Page 217

The gushing references to Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk’s SUV EV reads more like shameless marketing spin than the text of a suspense novel.

Expansive windshield?

Silent electric engine?

Linear acceleration seemed to make every speed feel nearly identical?

Browsing the Internet?

Massive dashboard computer display?

Almost DailyBrett knows marketing copy when he reads it in Origin.

If Elon Musk gave Dan Brown one heck of a deal on his own $80,000 Tesla Model X or even compensated him for the gushing praise for the EV, shouldn’t Tesla be required under SEC and FTC rules to fully disclose the monetary/in-lieu relationship as an operating expense?

Just as important — if not more so — did Dan Brown sell his personal brand and reputation for the highest dollar? Will all his future novels also include references to chosen companies such as Tesla and Uber in Origin? If Brown did sell Robert Langdon for product placement, who blame him? … But what about the rolling eyes of his faithful readers?

Or is the blatant Tesla plug just a coincidence?

Is Product Placement Ever Wrong?

“Once you give up integrity, the rest is a piece of cake.” – Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing

Some product placement is actually clever. An example is Julia Roberts jumping on board a Fed-Ex truck as Richard Gere chases in vain in The Runaway Bride. Wherever she was going, Mizz Roberts was guaranteed to be there by 10:30 in the morning.

NBC is not so subtle with its promo for Sunday Night Football with Verizon repeatedly and shamelessly mixed into the Carrie Underwood title song.

Our world has degenerated into product placement on baseball stadium outfield walls, hockey boards, soccer and (gasp) basketball jerseys.

And now … yes now, it appears the novels that we read, and more importantly purchase, are including thinly disguised product placement.

It’s one thing for NBC to shamelessly plug Verizon; it’s another for Dan Brown to appear to be incorporating Tesla marketing spin into his latest Robert Langdon  novel and presumably more to come.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/30/books/dan-brown-origin.html

https://teslamotorsclub.com/tmc/threads/origin-book-by-dan-brown.99753/

http://theweek.com/articles/730426/dan-brown-bad-writer

http://www.rivoire.it/en/#

https://www.florenceinferno.com/caffe-rivoire/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Brown

 

 

 

 

 

Almost DailyBrett has never dunked a basketball, and never will.

Not enough height, hops and hand-circumference.

Palm a basketball? Forget it.

There are many people for a wide variety of endeavors, who just can’t.

And many times they bravely try anyway.

Which leads your author to those, who won’t.

They have the talent. They have the knowledge. They have in many cases extraordinary opportunity …Some even won the biological lottery.

But … their attitude. Their stubbornness. Their lack of motivation. Their gaming of the system are all symptom of … won’t.

The Best Economy in 20 Years

“It’s the economy, stupid.” – Successful Political Campaign Consultant James Carville

The help wanted signs are everywhere.

According to the U.S. Depart of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national unemployment rate stands at 3.9 percent or about 0.4 percent above full employment.

We have a labor shortage — not for just jobs with wages — but positions with salaries, a full array of benefits and maybe equity opportunities.

Our service oriented economy is in full gear with GDP growing at 4 percent and inflation hovering around 2 percent.

And yet there are so many out there (particularly lame males of the species), who still pretend the economy is mired in the 2007-2010 “Big Short” crash-and-burn mode.

Jobs did not exist back then, not even tasks (e.g., fast food) that many men type believed then and contend now were/are below their pride.

Fast forward to the present day, and these men still act as if jobs/positions do not exist. According to the American Enterprise Institute, up to 32 percent of working age males (20-54 years young) are voluntarily not working.

As Almost DailyBrett has mentioned before, these hombres are typically sleeping in until 11 am or noon, playing video games/binge watching for an average of 5.5. hours per day (e.g., Fortnite, Dungeons and Dragons … ), before happy hour/evening intoxication.

Do you think that someone obsessed with video games/binge watching could quite possibly be adept at software coding for a major publicly traded technology company?

Sure … but …

Ten years ago when the nation was mired in its worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, the national labor participation rate was 65 percent. Today during a boom, its 62.9 percent.

Yep, the economy went from depressing recession to robust economic expansion and the percent of Americans working went down … 2.1 percent or about 3.2 million workers.

Can you imagine the increased productivity and tax revenues if 3+ million workers entered the workforce en masse?

In-lieu of an increase or decrease in tax rates, what would be the impact be on the nation’s bottom line if all of these people were filing tax returns under existing rates each spring?

Instead of never-ending arguing about tax legislation wouldn’t it be more productive to focus on increasing the number of taxpayers?

Scared Of The Service Economy?

As America has matriculated from an agrarian-to-manufacturing-to-a-service-oriented economy brute strength, ignorance and testosterone has lost value. The upswing has been enjoyed by the fairer gender, albeit pay rates are not at parity.

As a result way too many hard-working women who can are supporting far too many sedentary men who won’t.

What would happen if these women realized they would be better off without these parasitical men?

What if they threatened to drop the hydrogen bomb and declare to their young retirees: “you can and you must” learn to add value to the service economy.

Yes, there are some who can’t … but not all of the record 9 million souls on disability. Is there really nothing some of these recipients can do to participate in society to make a difference? Are all of them just waiting for that day when they can’t operate the remote or video game controller?

In some cases for idle men, it’s just plain old arrogance. They appear to be rising out of their respective chairs to go out and find a job, but for some reason … that dog just won’t hunt.

These men can, but they won’t. There is always an excuse.

“I have to sign a document.” “I have to urinate in a cup.” “I have to …

How do you spell the word, F-R-A-U-D?

https://tradingeconomics.com/united-states/labor-force-participation-rate

 

With all due respect to the memory of LBJ and his colorful comment about FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover, American politics has been turned on its head.

Way back in the 20th Century, the conventional wisdom was to take the time to provide quality TLC to your electoral base, reach out to independents, and be extremely anal about your political enemies.

The rationale: Your friends can change, but your enemies will always be there for you.

Some contend the ageless adage: “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer” … is attributable to Chinese militarist Sun Tzu or maybe Italian philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli or even Al Pacino in Godfather II.

We may never know for sure.

The Economist’s Lexington this week examined the prospects of the “Never Trump” movement within the Republican Party to possibly mount a primary challenge against Donald Trump when the 2020 presidential cycle immediately commences after the November midterms.

Considering that Trump’s approval rating is 90 percent among Republicans (i.e., two Supreme Court picks, tax reform, regulatory relief, strong economy, no wars), the chances of beating him right now in the GOP primary appear to be slim and none with Slim being out-of-town.

Ready for more GOP primary punishment, Ohio Governor John Kasich? Been there, done that?

Almost DailyBrett also is mindful of the time period between now and 2020 is a political lifetime.

What Do Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama All Have in Common?

Even though the philosophical gap among these former presidents is wide, they all enjoyed not having primary opposition when they successfully ran for their respective second terms in 1996, 2004 and 2012 respectively. They also focused their GOTV (Get Out The Vote) efforts on enticing millions of their close friends to vote on election day.

The aforementioned Lyndon Johnson (1968, Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy) along with Jimmy Carter (1980, Ted Kennedy) and George H.W. Bush (Pat Buchanan) all faced credible primary opponents. They all failed re-election, big time.

Trump’s enemies are not going anywhere. They will intensify their rhetoric, ferocity and protests (if that is even possible) between now and November 2020.

The question remains: What will Trump’s friends do in two-years-time?

Donald Trump – whether you adore him or detest him (there is literally no middle ground) – he knows how to play the “us” vs. “them” game better than ever before.

The editorials and op-eds in the New York Times and the Washington Post and the commentary from the talking heads on CNN and MSNBC are consumed by people who didn’t vote for Trump before, and will never vote for him in two years or ever.

As former coach Dennis Green once said: “They are who we thought they were.”

Barring the political fantasy of the 12th Amendment (e.g. Electoral College) being overturned, Trump needs to focus on keeping the red states, red or … keeping his friends, his friends.

One of the ways, he is doing exactly that is by fulfilling promises (e.g., steel and aluminum tariffs for Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania).

Another is the almost by the minute denigration emanating from the political class, questioning the cerebral capabilities of those in the fly-over states that provided Trump with his Electoral College majority.

When all is said (there will be a ton of pontificating and bloviating between now and the next 27 months), the number that still matters is 270 electoral votes to win the presidency.

Trump delivered a relatively comfortable 2016 winning margin of 36 electoral votes above the 270 threshold. And if he holds his 30 states. Game, set and match.

The eventual Democratic nominee must peel away at least two red states. A good place to start would be Florida and its 29 electoral votes.

For Trump, it’s in his best political interest to keep close his friends in Florida.

Maybe even invite them over for some fun in the sun at Mar-a-Lago.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfHJDLoGInM

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/389068855293185830/?lp=true

https://www.economist.com/united-states/2018/08/11/never-trump-republicans-could-have-their-revenge

http://www.startribune.com/he-was-who-we-thought-he-was-the-best-dennis-green-quotes/387948942/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2018/07/19/electoral-college-blues/

 

 

 

“As far as I know, I’m the first press secretary in the history of the United States that’s required Secret Service protection.” – Sarah Huckabee Sanders

As a former press secretary – albeit one who served a mere state (e.g., California) – your author only once had concern about personal safety (e.g., anti-South Africa demonstrators at UC Berkeley).

As a message formulator/chief spokesman for a Republican governor, there were many in Sacramento (e.g., Maxine Waters) who did not care for the politics of my boss (Governor George Deukmejian).

Nevertheless, the author of Almost DailyBrett never worried about going to a California capital restaurant with family.

Presidential Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders can’t say the same, and that is a vivid commentary on our sad state of affairs, very sad.

Sanders was viciously attacked for her physical appearance and gender at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner. She was asked to leave the Red Hat restaurant in Lexington, Va., because she speaks for the president and holds a related political philosophy.

Some chastise Sanders for serving the United States. She is the last in a long line of presidential press secretaries, originating with Amos Kendall (worked for Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren) starting in 1829.

Each and every press secretary since (Kendall, slavery) has been embroiled in contentious issues of the day and adversarial relationships with the Fourth Estate. Having said that, none before Sanders needed Secret Service protection for her, her spouse and three young children.

There is no doubt the stakes are high and the vitriol is out of control (see CNN’s Jim Acosta storming out of the White House briefing center), but is the rhetoric worse than the fight over slavery?

Don’t think so.

Some may remember Reagan presidential press secretary Jim Brady being in the line of fire during John Hinckley’s assassination attempt against the president in 1981. Neither Brady nor his successors Larry Speakes and Marlin Fitzwater needed Secret Service protection.

Can’t Sarah Huckabee Sanders be free to joust with the media without any threat to her personal safety?

Praise From An Unlikely Source

“Would it be better if that (Red Hat incident) didn’t happen? I think it would.” — Bill Clinton

William Jefferson Clinton knows something about the job of press secretary.

Speaking to Comedy Central’s Trevor Noah, Clinton said he has “a lot of respect” for how Sanders deported herself in the wake of her and family being shown the door for purely political reasons by a restaurant owner.

There are some, including the aforementioned Maxine Waters, who urge activists to get into the face of public officials harboring different political philosophies and Weltanschauung.

Is the net effect of smash-mouth, in-your-face confrontation in public places against Sanders and others, unprecedented in American history? Maybe in modern times. At least we don’t have a latter-day Aaron Burr challenging Alexander Hamilton to a duel.

At least not yet.

Sanders last tweeted words about her banishment from the suburban restaurant should be required reading for all:

I always do my best to treat people, including those I disagree with, respectfully and will continue to do so.”

Sanders appears to have her heart in the right place, and yet she is the first press secretary to require round-the-clock Secret Service protection.

Does the fact she needs Secret Service officers at her side, and that includes her family, speak to Sarah Huckabee Sanders or does it represent something fundamentally wrong with our violent society (e.g., Rep. Steve Scalise shooting)?

Maybe we can embrace the notion of treating people respectfully, regardless of how they come down on the great philosophical divide.

http://fortune.com/2018/06/26/secret-service-sarah-sanders/

https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2018/jun/26/sarah-huckabee-sanders-get-secret-service-protecti/

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/02/business/media/sarah-huckabee-sanders-jim-acosta.html

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2017/07/27/sympathy-for-sarah-huckabee-sanders/

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2018/08/02/sarah-sanders-blasts-trump-hating-media-and-exposes-their-blatant-bias.html

https://www.thedailybeast.com/bill-clinton-defends-sarah-huckabee-sanders-i-have-a-lot-of-respect-for-her

http://faculty.buffalostate.edu/smithrd/pr/pioneers.htm

 

 

Mark Parker of Nike is also one of my mutual fund advisors.

Ditto for Marc Benioff of Salesforce.com

Let’s not forget of Dennis Muilenburg of Boeing.

Can’t tell you how many times Almost DailyBrett has been told to invest anything and everything into mutual funds.

For the record 70 percent of your author’s Charles Schwab portfolio is held in mutual funds, the largest amount managed by William Danoff of the Fidelity Contrafund.

Having made this point, let’s take a contrarian stand.

Why can’t investors create their own mutual fund comprised of individual and diversified stocks within their own portfolios?

Whoa … aren’t you the investor taking on too much … risk? Shouldn’t you diversify?

The humble answers are “not necessarily” and “yes.”

As legendary investor Peter Lynch once said: “Know what you own, and know why you own it.”

When it comes to investing and in the spirit of Lynch’s axiom, Almost DailyBrett follows these self-formulated rules:

  • Never invest in a stock in which you personally detest/loathe the lead executive (e.g., Oracle’s Larry Ellison)
  • Buy shares in firms you personally use or have a 100 percent understanding of how the company makes money (e.g., Apple).

For example, ever cutesy Scott McNealy of extinct Sun Microsystems once labeled Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates as Ballmer and Butthead. McNealy would have been funny, if his company stock wasn’t trading at the very same time at $3 per share.

Whatever happened to Scott McNealy? His company was devoured by Oracle.

Another example: your author won’t touch Bitcoin because even though it is the choice of money launderers around the world, the crypto currency is not associated with any country and there is zero logical explanation of how it makes money.

Isn’t Tim Cook A CEO?

Why is Tim Cook my mutual fund portfolio manager?

Doesn’t Cook run the largest capitalized – $1 trillion-plus – publicly traded company in the world? Absolutely.

Almost DailyBrett clearly understands that Apple is not a mutual fund, but still it offers the complexity, confidence and diversity of a mutual fund.

Apple plays in the hardware (i.e., smart phones, tablets, wearables, PCs) space. Ditto for software (e.g., iOS) and services (e.g., iTunes). Think of it this way, Apple has as many if more investors as any mutual fund … including mutual funds themselves – both buy side and sell side institutional investors – and 75 million shares recently bought by Warren Buffett too.

And who runs this diversified enterprise with the expectation of $60 billion to $62 billion on the top line in the next (fourth) quarter? Revenues grew 17 percent year-over-year. Gross margin remained steady at 38 percent. EPS jumped year-over-year from $1.67 to $2.34 and dividends grew from $0.63 to $0.73.

The dilemma for every Apple investor, particularly today, is when is it time to ring the register at least for a portion of the shares? Almost DailyBrett does not hear very many bells clanging.

There is little doubt that Apple is tearing the cover off the ball. Apple has proven it is not necessarily the number of smart phones sold – even though these mobile devices are an absolute must for our lives – in many ways it is the average sales price, climbing closer to four figures for every unit.

Back to Danoff and Fidelity Contrafund. Today it has a reported $130 billion in assets under management. Cook counters with $1 trillion in investor confidence in Apple’s shares.

Which “mutual fund” manager would you choose, if you could only select, one?

And for diversification, you package Apple with Boeing (U.S. commercial airliner and defense aircraft innovator and manufacturer) …

And Nike, the #1 athletic apparel manufacturer in die Welt.

Finally, Almost DailyBrett has bought Salesforce.com nine times and sold eight times for a profit. To describe Salesforce.com as business software company seriously understates its business strategy.

With all due respect to Satya Nadella of Microsoft, Salesforce.com is THE Cloud pioneer selling software as a service (SaaS) to enterprises around the world.

Let’s see: Apple, Boeing, Nike and Salesforce.com in the Almost DailyBrett mutual fund.

Is your author right? Only time will tell. Will this “mutual fund” adjust and change its holdings? No doubt.

Here’s the point: As Ken Fisher of Fisher Investments would say, it’s time to “graduate” from pure mutual funds.

There is risk associated with selecting stocks for your portfolio, but isn’t that also the case for mutual funds? Some think that mutual funds are no brainers. Not true, and let’s not forget the fees.

When it comes to my “mutual fund” portfolio — AAPL, BA, NKE, CRM — the only fees yours truly pays are $4.95 per trade.

Not bad, not bad at all.

https://fundresearch.fidelity.com/mutual-funds/summary/316071109

https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2018/07/apple-reports-third-quarter-results/

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