Category: 21st Century Life


“Do I consider myself part of the casino capitalist process by which so few have so much and so many have so little by which Wall Street’s greed and recklessness wrecked this economy? No I don’t.” – Senator Bernie Sanders

Ever wonder why there are so few in the street carrying pitch forks?

Ditto for nocturnal torch-light parades?

Maybe the answer lies in the fact that Wall Street added $3.3 trillion in market capitalization (share prices x number of shares) since November 8. Translated: Investors are more than $3 trillion to the better since the election.

Whatever metric is used, the stock indices are sharply upward to the right: The NASDAQ increased 28 percent since the election, the S&P 500 is up 27 percent, and the Dow advanced 20 percent.

According to Gallup, 55 percent of Americans owned individual stocks, stock mutual funds or managed 401(k) portfolios or IRAs in 2016. That figure is understandably down from 65 percent right before the economic crash in 2007, but it has been steadily advancing since then.

Almost DailyBrett will go out on the limb, and will contend the 55 percent number has grown since the historic 2016  election.

Predictably, the Gallup survey revealed that 88 percent of American families making over $75,000 are invested in individual securities, mutual funds and 401(k)s and IRAs. More than half of those (56 percent) making between $30,000 and $75,000 are invested in stocks.

The survey also revealed that 73 percent with bachelor’s degrees own stocks, mutual funds or invest retirement accounts, and 83 percent with master’s degrees or above also are investing in these same U.S. markets.

When one takes a second to ponder that 55 percent of middle-and-upper income Americans are participating in stocks, mutual funds, 401(k) portfolios and IRAs, the conclusion is obvious: America now has an investor class that is growing in numbers and wealth.

What’s the alternative for those investing for their retirement, their children’s education or that dream vacation? Bank interest rates that barely keep up with inflation? Speculative real estate? Stashing gobs of cash under the bedroom mattress?

And yet there was an ill-fated movement to tarnish America’s markets, Occupy Wall Street.

And now there are efforts in a handful of progressive states to impose a 20 percent “privilege tax” on the fees of financial advisors. Hmmm … wonder if this tax will be passed onto investors, the very same people who are trying to fund their retirement or college for their kids?

Attacking The Cash Cow?

“ … You could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the ‘Basket of Deplorables’. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it.” – Hillary Clinton.

“ … There are 47 percent who are with him (Obama), who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it … And so my job is not to worry about those people.” – Mitt Romney.

What do Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton have in common besides being guilty of lambasting literally millions of people in one unwise campaign utterance?

They both lost the presidency.

Winston Churchill once said: “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”

Wall Street will never be perfect. The playing field has never been flat. Having said that, far more win with stocks, mutual funds, 401(k) plans and IRAs than lose. It has been upward to the right on a jagged line since 1929.

Maybe that is the reason why America has a more-than-half of its working age population investing in global markets. And for those investing, the six-plus months since the election has produced a record modern-era, bull market for any new president.

Granted, there will be those in the streets who bode ill for American markets, favor “privilege taxes” to stimulate more compulsory redistribution, and are maybe just a tad nostalgic for the mismanaged Occupy Wall Street debacle.

Do they really want to attack Wall Street and by extension America’s 55 percent and growing, investor class heading into the mid-terms of 2018 and beyond? Are these overheated rhetorical thrusts, smart politics?

If they relish in glorious defeat, they can insult America’s investor class to the content of their bleeding hearts.

They also should consider and ponder that America now has a new quiet majority, who fund their dreams with a simple click of the mouse while watching the tickers on CNBC.

http://www.gallup.com/poll/182816/little-change-percentage-americans-invested-market.aspx

https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/06/01/statement-president-trump-paris-climate-accord

https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/markets/2017/04/26/millennials-and-investing/100559680/

https://www.wsj.com/articles/illinoiss-privilege-tax-proposal-forgets-citizens-right-to-leave-1495834522

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=5922&action=edit

https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/winstonchu101776.html

 

 

 

 

 

These are not the best of days for American reporters, editors and correspondents, let alone journalism schools.

The American media is running eight points behind Donald Trump in national esteem.

This Gallup result was registered before CNN’s Anderson Cooper conjured up the impression of the president taking a “dump” on his desk. Ditto for the network’s Kathy Griffin holding up the image of the decapitated head of Donald Trump.

The glory days of Walter Cronkite, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein are clearly in the rear-view mirror. The era of CNN and conjured presidential excrement and bloody heads are upon us.

More to the point, Newsweek ist kaputt. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is gone. Farewell to the Rocky Mountain News, The Tucson Citizen and so many others that depended on Gutenberg’s printing press for far too long.

Let’s face it: many Fourth Estate types (i.e., reporters, editors, correspondents, anchors …) are looking for jobs, any job that keeps them in the business.

The good news is China is hiring. The bad news is China is hiring.

Should these journalists succumb and work for Chinese-government-sponsored and operated media?

Dollars are dollars. Yuan are yuan. Right?

Ketchum, Putin and $55 million

Before getting knickers in a twist or bowels in an uproar, consider that Almost DailyBrett has posed similar questions about the august public relations profession, namely Ketchum PR.

For years, Ketchum served a provocative client, Vladimir Putin’s Russia, to the tune of $55 million cumulatively. The ostensible mission was to promote the Rodina’s “economic development” and the country as a great place for “investment.” The fact that Putin was behaving as one would expect from the former head of the KGB appeared to be irrelevant to the brass at Ketchum’s New York headquarters.

Reportedly Putin eventually terminated the nation’s contract with Ketchum, which may have been a blessing in disguise for the New York based agency. No longer would they have to register as foreign agents for Putin’s public relations nightmare in which he wasn’t going to accept Ketchum’s council anyway.

The advocacy side (PR) of the great communication divide is not the only one with moral dilemmas to confront. The same applies to the objective side (Journalism), particularly with so many journalists out of work or soon-to-be beating the bushes for another job.

According to The Economist, China expanded the number of foreign bureaus for its government-controlled main news agency, Xinhua, to 162 by the end of 2011. China’s goal is to establish a total of 200 Xinhua bureaus by 2020.Considering the many American media outlets are shutting down, does the Xinhua expansion – doubling its number of correspondents — provide new opportunities for employment?

Also consider that China completed the rebranding of its television network last year and has announced the formation of CGTN (China Global Television Network) to rival the BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera to spread China’s “voice” and to “showcase China’s role as a builder of world peace.”

Just as Ketchum would be tempted to dismiss the concerns about Putin’s Russia with “a client is a client,” will unemployed or soon-to-be-out-of-work American journalists regard a potential opening at Xinhua or CGTN (e.g., major DC bureau) as “a job is a job”?

In a way that sounds just like the Yuppie Nürnberg Defense — “I was only doing it for the mortgage”  — as preached in the Christopher Buckley book/movie, Thank You For Smoking.

The author of Almost DailyBrett remembers the days at USC journalism school, and the protracted discussions about objectively and Joseph Pulitzer’s mantra of “Accuracy, Accuracy, Accuracy.”

Is Xinhua or CGTN, objective?

Are the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, NBC or CBS objective, let alone MSNBC or Fox News? Many journalists employed by these institutions are miffed that  their “objectivity” may be somehow compromised by their employer’s corporate parent (e.g., NBC owned by Comcast).

What happens if your media employer is owned by the largest nation of earth, run by a single party, and established as part of that country’s $10 billion annual investment in soft power?

If objectivity and fairness are part of the personal DNA as a journalist, would she or he be predisposed to resign if the “editor” wanted to censure/delete submitted copy if it ran afoul with China’s policy toward Taiwan, the Dalia Lama, Tibet or some other hot-button issue for the totalitarian state?

Would the same journalist be comfortable that her or his objective copy was universally regarded as self-serving China propaganda by the vast majority of readers and viewers?

Some may be tempted to rationalize accepting a position with Xinhua or CGTN and following their “editorial” dictates as a job is job (e.g., Yuppie Nürnberg Defense).

Other journalists may not have these same flexible morals.

If the choice came down to aiding and abetting Chinese propaganda or maybe finding another job, maybe the journalist should even consider wearing a green apron instead?

“Was that a grande latte or mocha?”

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2017/05/21/has-the-media-reached-the-point-that-it-can-never-cover-trump-fairly/

https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/people/2017/05/31/cnn-fires-kathy-griffin-over-offensive-trump-photo/102349176/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/07/23/russia-doesnt-give-a-particle-about-public-relations/

 https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/03/11/ketchums-new-client-in-1938/

https://www.ketchum.com/

https://www.economist.com/news/china/21719508-can-money-buy-sort-thing-china-spending-billions-make-world-love-it

https://www.cgtn.com/

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/

 

 

I’d like to warn the best of them, the iconoclasts, the innovators, the rebels, that they will always have a bull’s-eye on their backs. The better they get, the bigger the bull’s-eye. It’s not one man’s opinion; it’s a law of nature.” – Nike founder Phil Knight

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena …” – President Teddy Roosevelt

There are no statues devoted to critics.

Our increasingly complex data-driven society is overloaded with analysts, reviewers, chroniclers, interpreters – creating nothing of meaningful value – but they are always quick to cast stones at those who try to make the world a better place.

As Phil Knight said in his New York Times best seller Shoe Dog, “Entrepreneurs have always been outgunned, outnumbered.”

A perfect example – not the first one and certainly not the last – is the use of a series of infographics to depict an engineering/entrepreneur who tried and tried and succeeded brilliantly, but is portrayed by his failures.

A May 26 MarketWatch piece by Sally French includes a five-part infographic, which catalogs a litany of failures by Tesla co-founder, SpaceX founder, SolarCity co-founder and PayPal co-founder Elon Musk.

When asked to describe himself by Steve Croft of CBS’ “60 Minutes,” Musk responded that he regarded himself simply as an engineer. Almost DailyBrett has worked with engineers for years, attempting to transform their anal exactitude, never-ending acronyms and nomenclature into plain English.

What characterizes engineers is their willingness, their compulsion to throw ideas at the wall. Some will stick, and others … oh well.

Elon Musk is not afraid to fail. He is more scared by the prospect of not even trying.

Alas, Musk is human. Five of his SpaceX rockets blew up. He was ousted from PayPal on his honeymoon. He made $180 million from his stake in PayPal. He invested this money and presumably much more in SpaceX and Tesla, both were hemorrhaging cash. He was not only broke, but in way-over-his-head debt in 2008.

Today, Musk is Forbes’ #80 wealthiest individual on the planet with an estimated worth of $13.9 billion. His Tesla is the pure-play leader in energy-efficient electric cars, ion-Lithium batteries and solar. Is Tesla an electric car company that helps combat climate change? An energy company that shuns fossil fuels? Or is it, Elon Musk’s company?

How about all of the above? To most investors, the answer would be third … Tesla is Elon Musk’s company … and there may lie the reason for the MarketWatch infographics, illustrating Musk’s failures. Schadenfreude has never felt so good or gut.

A similar set of questions can be asked about Musk’s SpaceX, which is transporting materials to the International Space Station and may someday put humans on Mars. Think of it this way, four entities have successfully fired rockets into space: The United States of America, Russia, China and Elon Musk’s privately held, SpaceX.

The Importance of Failure

“I think it’s important to have a good hard failure when you’re young because it makes you kind of aware of what can happen to you. Because of it, I’ve never had any fear in my whole life when we’ve been near collapse.” — Walt Disney

Would you rather be Steve Jobs, who was terminated by the company he created, Apple?

Or would you rather be John Sculley, who will go down in history as the man who fired Steve Jobs?

 

 

Sculley recently tried to blame the termination of Jobs on the Apple Board of Directors at the time, but the die has already been cast. Sculley will follow Jobs to the grave as the man who sent packing the modern-day equivalent of Leonardo da Vinci.

Nike founder Phil Knight recounted in his memoir how he started his company with a $50 loan from his dad. Today, Nike is the planet’s No. 1 athletic apparel and shoe provider with $33.92 billion in revenues, $86.8 billion in market capitalization and 70,000 employees.

Uncle Phil is the 28th wealthiest homo sapien in the world at $26.2 billion. Keep in mind, this company was literally days, if not hours, away from bankruptcy too many times to count between 1962 and going public in 1980.

For Musk, his tale is a South Africa-to-America story. Today, Tesla is a $8.55 billion company, employing 17,782 with investors pouring $53.4 billion into its market cap.

Almost DailyBrett has been consistent in hailing the risk takers, the entrepreneurs, those who stare failure right in the face and sneer. The results are great companies that employ 10s of thousands and produce the products we want and need.

There will always be those who rage at the “billionaire class” to score political points.

And some with too-much-time-on-their-hands develop infographics to illustrate how the great have fallen here and there.

Wonder if any of these critics, analysts, reviewers etc. would have fired Steve Jobs?

Almost DailyBrett radical transparency: Your author happily owns shares in both Nike (NYSE: NKE) and Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA). The above epistle does not constitute investment advice for either company other than to generically say, Buy Low, Sell High.

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-many-failures-of-elon-musk-captured-in-one-giant-infographic-2017-05-24

http://www.theodore-roosevelt.com/trsorbonnespeech.html

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-fascinating-life-of-elon-musk-captured-in-one-giant-infographic-2016-04-13

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bojY5N2Ns3k

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2015/02/05/a-man-in-the-arena/

https://www.forbes.com/billionaires/list/#version:static

https://www.forbes.com/sites/randalllane/2013/09/09/john-sculley-just-gave-his-most-detailed-account-ever-of-how-steve-jobs-got-fired-from-apple/#38def8d4c655

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“If he (Trump) took a dump on his desk, you would defend it.” – CNN’s Anderson Cooper interviewing Trump supporter, Jeffrey Lord

Do you think Anderson Cooper has reached the point (and beyond) in which he can’t cover Donald Trump objectively and fairly let alone his network, CNN?

According to Harvard University, the answer following empirical research of media coverage by CNN and several other major outlets during the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency is a resounding, “no.”

Let’s pretend Donald Trump did something really good for the country … and didn’t nocturnally crow about it on Twitter?

Before answering this interrogative, let’s first pose a relevant side question: Who do reporters, editors, correspondents respect more than any other living creatures on this planet? The answer is other reporters, editors and correspondents.

Taking this essential and undeniable truth into account, Almost DailyBrett must ask:

Can a reporter — any reporter, editor or correspondent — outside of the friendly confines of Fox News – write or produce a totally objective piece about Trump without triggering the wrath and disdain of his or her precious media colleagues?

Would that journalist be willing to take the risk of enraging the pack mentality, and maybe even jeopardizing a career?

It appears to be seemingly impossible for a CNN or NBC reporter/correspondent in particular to provide positive coverage of Trump as evidenced by new data harvested by Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. Harvard reported that 93 percent of CNN and NBC’s first 100 days of Trump coverage have been overwhelmingly negative.

Seven percent of CNN and NBC Trump coverage has been positive? It doesn’t seem that high.

Right behind in the race to the bottom is CBS at 91 percent negative coverage, surprisedly beating even the New York Times with 87 percent and Washington Post with 83 percent respectively thumbs-down coverage of The Donald and his administration.

Conservative media outlets tilt to the negative on Trump, but they simply cannot compete with the Clinton News Network (CNN) or the networks of Meet the Depressed or Deface the Nation. The Wall Street Journal’s coverage is 70 percent to the negative, and even Fox News is 54/46 percent to the downside.

MSNBC was not even measured.

The only Trump story that was covered in a positive manner by the newsies was the launching of cruise missiles at poison-gas Syria with 80 percent of the media on the Trump side of the ledger. Guess the remaining 20 percent may be secretly siding with Bashar Assad or more likely … can’t bring themselves to say anything remotely positive about Trump.

As a result, Trump hates the media. The media hates Trump. And Sean Spicer was last seen in the bushes.

The Donald claims he is not being covered fairly compared to his predecessors. Conservative bastion Harvard backs up this contention. Barack Obama’s coverage during the first 100 days was 59 percent positive; George W. Bush’s was 43 percent affirmative; Bill Clinton’s was 40 percent positive … Donald Trump, 20 percent to the positive.

Is the media not-so-secretly rooting for Trump to be impeached, while trying to implicate Mike Pence as well? Consider the instant parallel to Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre” with James Comey’s firing.

Almost DailyBrett always thought that a massacre required more than one person.

Below the Mendoza Line

The media feasts on Donald Trump’s record 54 percent negative approval rating. According to the same Real Clear Politics average, Trump has a 39.6 percent positive approval rating.

Gallup reported last fall the nation’s approval of the work provided by the media stands at only 32 percent or 8 percent behind Donald Trump.

The same polling firm reported that 72 percent of Americans approved and admired the media’s standing and coverage in 1976, right on the heels of the Watergate busting Pulitzer Prize work of Messrs. Woodward and Bernstein. Since that time, public approval of the media has dropped 40 percent in as many years.

Could it be, the media has become more partisan, more “interpretive” and less objective (i.e., CNN, NBC, CBS, NYT, WAPO)? Do the media feed our nation’s divisiveness? Do they regale in the internecine warfare and bickering, while being above it all?

What’s next: Streaming video of the 21st Century version of a fatal Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton duel with tisk-tisk anti-Second Amendment commentary by Rachel Maddow?

If the media was a stock with a 40 percent sustained decline during four decades – essentially down to the right – a wise investor would have dumped these shares a long time ago. Putting this metaphor aside, does it sound like the American public with only 32 percent support (e.g., 14 percent among Republicans) has rolled their eyes in unison and washed their collective hands of the media?

Anderson Cooper’s disgusting metaphor about presidential defecation can be dismissed as an unprofessional verbal assault in the heat of battle. CNN’s and NBC’s 93 percent negative coverage of Trump and his administration points directly to the fact the newsies have reached a point they can no longer be fair and objective to the president.

And who are the ultimate losers?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/05/20/anderson-cooper-apologizes-for-conjuring-image-of-trump-defecating-on-his-desk/?utm_term=.a458d852d72c

https://heatst.com/culture-wars/harvard-study-reveals-huge-extent-of-anti-trump-media-bias/?mod=sm_tw_post

http://www.gallup.com/poll/195542/americans-trust-mass-media-sinks-new-low.aspx

http://www.edelman.com/executive-summary/

 

 

 

 

When it comes to purchasing a time share, “investing” in an annuity or signing up for a reverse mortgage, please follow these simple, straightforward instructions:

Take a deep breath. Bend over. Grab your ankles.

In all three cases, someone is making plenty of money – without creating any value – at your personal expense. Of course, isn’t that the idea from a salesperson’s point of view?

Almost DailyBrett will gladly admit not being an expert about any of these someone-else-getting-rich schemes other to say, the more your author reads about them, the more he is convinced that commissioned sales dudes or sales dudettes — those reaping huge commissions, charging high annual fees, and serving as loan sharks — are the real winners.

Think about how many in-person pitches you receive on vacation about attending a “free” time-share presentation? Their mission is to get butts in seats and money out of wallets.

Ponder how many ads run on CNBC for guaranteed-income annuities? What the heck is an annuity? You really don’t want to know.

Consider how many commercials starring Hollywood has-beens (e.g., Henry Winkler), extol the virtues of reverse mortgages. Why not sell your house and rent, if you can’t afford the mortgage?

There are entire industries devoted to marketing and selling these undesirable money losers for you that do nothing more and nothing less than tying up your hard-earned money with difficult, if not impossible, escape hatches.

Do you really want to vacation in the exact same place this year and every year? There are 40-60 percent markups for timeshares, which never-ever appreciate in value.

Are these inconvenient facts mentioned by snazzy dressed timeshare snake-oil salesmen/saleswomen? Timeshares remind one of driving a new car off the dealer’s parking lot; you now own a used car (declining in value timeshare) that is extremely difficult to sell with high maintenance fees.

How many once excited folks simply give away their time shares? Someone won in this transaction and someone lost: The timeshare purchaser.

Ready to pay annual 3-4 percent fees for an annuity that was sold to you by a high-commissioned salesperson? How about “surrender” payments, if you change your mind? Is your money tied up for life with an annuity? Ready to wave the white flag?

Can’t one factor-in monthly Social Security payments, and then supplement this amount with your IRA or 401K retirement nest egg? Are you really going to starve to death without an annuity?

Just think about it, instead of paying a mortgage to build equity and gain from inevitable future appreciation in the real estate market, you can instead say goodbye to your equity increases and pay loan fees to a bank, thus depriving your heirs of inherited property.

Does that sound swell to you?

How Can You Beat the Salesperson?

The easy answer is not just saying “no”, but saying “puck no.”

Where are timeshare resorts located? Beachy tropical places or arid desert resorts.

Are surf and turf the only places for vacations? How about the castles and gardens of Europe? If you must have the tropics or the deserts, why not capitalize on another person’s timeshare misery, and utilize that suffering soul’s unit for a fraction of the cost, and no commitment? You can go somewhere else the following year.

Far too many worry about their money running out before they run out, which is a legitimate concern. That’s also the reason why so many annuity and reverse mortgage sharks prey on retirees. Do you really need to tie up your retirement income for life, and pay annual fees to have your own money doled back to you in digestible monthly increments?

Who thinks giving free rein to your money for a fee to an annuity firm is a good idea?

Why not devise a budget, which includes your monthly Social Security pay out, your retirement nest egg and (if applicable) your house, and figure how to manage your money for your own personal benefit and your family too, and not for someone else’s pocket?

And speaking about your house if you can, keep your terra firma in your control. The idea of having a roof over your head ideally without a bothersome mortgage or an aggravating rent to pay to a demanding landlord is a “good thing” in the words of Martha Stewart.

If the editor of Almost DailyBrett was king, we would bid adieu to timeshares, annuities and reverse mortgages. Think of the age-old adage: If something sounds too good to be true, don’t you think that is exactly the case?

http://traveltips.usatoday.com/timeshares-bad-investment-14751.html

http://time.com/money/4322377/retirement-incom-annuities-reasons/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/feeonlyplanner/2015/07/15/annuities-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/#5e453ada7990

http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/on-retirement/2012/12/11/5-reasons-to-avoid-a-reverse-mortgage

“You can’t foment. You can’t create an impression a stock is down. You do it anyway because the SEC doesn’t understand it.” – Former Goldman Sachs hedge fund manager Jim Cramer

“Apple is very important to spread the rumor that both Verizon and AT&T have decided they don’t like the phone (iPhone). It’s very easy to do. It’s also easy to spread the rumor the phone is not ready for Macworld.”  — Cramer explaining how shorting hedge-fund managers drive down a company’s stock price through rumor mongering

“I want the Jim Cramer of CNBC (Mad Money host) to protect me from that Jim Cramer (Goldman Sachs hedge-fund manager) – Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart

Many of us watched Jon Stewart take apart Jim Cramer on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show With Jon Stewart. The legendary 2009 interview went viral, including Cramer’s bragging about short selling, even among those who do not subscribe to the notion of buying low and selling high.

Here’s a predictable sports metaphor that brings into question the morality of short selling.

Every sports fan knows there are teams that far-too-many of us love to hate (i.e. New England Patriots, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Todgers …). We will happily pop open a cold one and sit in front of the Hi-Def and root against these teams and many others. We want them to lose, and lose big.

Having acknowledged this indisputable fact of life, will we spend our hard-earned money to travel to their respective stadia or watch them on our home team fields, courts, ice rinks solely to indulge in an exercise of Schadenfreude, delighting in their misery when they lose? You are rooting against them and not necessarily for your team.

Don’t we have better things to do with our money and time than negative rooting?

Moving from metaphor to reality, should the cunning few take their discretionary investment dollars and place a trade – a short sell – with the intent of cashing-out based not upon a publicly traded company’s stock rising, but instead losing value for the vast majority of investors and their employees?

Before going any further, Almost DailyBrett must acknowledge that short selling is perfectly legal (it shouldn’t be), but the question remains: Is it moral? Yes, some may be wondering how morality and Wall Street work in tandem. Believe it or not, there is synergy when it comes to investing and morality.

For example, each of America’s 5,900 publicly traded companies on the NYSE or NASDAQ is legally required to practice fiduciary responsibility (don’t glaze over). Translated: Every company is obligated to do the best job possible to drive the top line (revenues) and raise the bottom line (net income or loss).

The beneficiaries of fiduciary responsibility are America’s Investor Class, the 55 percent of our nation that invests in mutual funds, bonds or stocks. When “Wall Street” is attacked, the hopes and dreams of literally millions for a comfortable retirement, their children’s college education, their donations to worthy charities, their once-in-a-lifetime vacations, are under siege as well.

The Big Short

“Stormy weather in Shortville … “— Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweet mocking short sellers

The literally millions of short trades fly directly in the face of the aspirations of middle-class and lower-upper class investors, who realize you can’t finance dreams through negligible bank interest rates and ping-ponging real estate. That’s why they turn En-masse to equities, bonds and mutual funds (e.g., IRAs and 401Ks).

For example, there are those (including the author of Almost DailyBrett) who invest in Elon Musk and Tesla. They are supporting the development of electric cars, ion lithium batteries and solar power, all intended to transport millions and provide energy – all without contributing to climate change.

And yet 31 million of Tesla’s (NASDAQ: TSLA) 163.1 million shares are sold short or about $8.46 billion in market capitalization or value that these traders are hoping will simply plunge big time to their greedy benefit.

Alas for them and hooray for the rest of us the Tesla short sellers are taking it in the shorts.

As we saw in the Oscar-nominated for Best Picture, The Big Short, there were cunning and callous short sellers who bet big time – and won – against the U.S. real estate market and thousands of underwater and underperforming mortgages.

They won, while literally hundreds of thousands lost their homes or were trapped in properties they could not afford, thus triggering the Great Recession of 2007-2008.

Almost DailyBrett believes the government regulates enough thank you very much. But should the feds (e.g., SEC, DOJ, FTC) take a long-and-hard look at short selling?

If the goal of the shorts is pure unmitigated greed, while literally hundreds of thousands suffer and see their hopes and dreams dashed, then short selling is not only wrong morally, but it should be frickin’ illegal as well.

http://www.goldmansachs.com/

http://www.biography.com/people/jon-stewart-16242282

http://www.cnbc.com/jim-cramer/

http://www.cc.com/video-clips/iinzrx/the-daily-show-with-jon-stewart-jim-cramer-pt–2

http://www.cc.com/video-clips/gliow5/the-daily-show-with-jon-stewart-jim-cramer-pt–3

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/11/movies/review-in-the-big-short-economic-collapse-for-fun-and-profit.html?_r=0

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-tesla-stocks-idUSKBN17522H

https://finance.yahoo.com/quote/TSLA/key-statistics?p=TSLA

We have come a long way from squeaky chalk or worse – finger nails screeching – on messy blackboards.

Mercifully, we have come nearly just as far from scribbling on overhead projectors (RIP).

Alas, we have not come far enough from wasting literally hours-upon-hours by means of “brain storming” with markers on white boards. Please put me out of my misery.

Now it’s time – way past time — to say goodbye to PowerPoints consisting of nothing more than black words on white backgrounds.

Bore me to the max! Gag me with the clicker!

And yet these mind-numbing presentations still exist. Simply adding more black words on the very same white background doesn’t make the message better, just more dazed and confused.

The author of Almost DailyBrett has sat through more PowerPoint briefings than he would care to even think about, and still he admires Microsoft for creating the ultimate for linear presentations. Bill Gates et al. deserve everlasting credit for developing an enduring tool for presenting ideas, explaining research and making recommendations.

Having said that, one has to ask why are PowerPoints so boring way too many times? They don’t have to be, and yet candidates for major positions, pitch men and women are still using this incredible tool in the most tired, lethargic and desultory ways possible.

Does the candidate really want the job? Do you really want to make the sale? Do you really want to convey an exciting new idea?

If the answer is affirmative, then why are you scratching the surface in what PowerPoint can do for you … and more importantly for the audience?

The Steve Jobs Cult

During Steve Jobs’ way-too-short presence on the planet, he and his company Apple developed a cult following. MacWorld presentations were akin to a spiritual revival. The audience literally gasped when the high priest of global technology held up the iPhone, iPad, iPod for all to see and admire for the first-time.

It was the Kodak Moment on digital steroids.

Steve’s PowerPoints were anything, but complicated … and that works beautifully in a complex world that yearns for simplicity.

There is the iPhone and the Mac. Can there be a new gadget in between? Well yes, there can be. It’s called the iPad. Simple message, well delivered.

The PowerPoint was not bright white with black words, but a black background with images and well-timed words, and most importantly … not too many words.

Venture Capitalist Guy Kawasaki has heard more business-pitch presentations than any human should have to endure. Sure, he gets paid extremely well. Regardless, he is mortal and every minute spent listening to a boring presentation is a minute lost.

He will always have a soft-spot in the heart of the author of Almost DailyBrett for conceiving the 10-20-30 rule: 10 slides, 20 minutes, 30-point font (or above).

The impressive thinking behind the 10-20-30 rule is straight-forward: If you can’t put forward a robust and well-crafter business plan in 10 slides, you don’t have a workable business plan.

The 20-minute rule takes into account the attention span of the average listener, which may be shrinking as you read this missive. People get restless quickly. They want to check their messages on their smart phone. They want to ask questions. They are wondering when is it ‘my turn’?

The 30-point-font or above recommendation is meant to ensure the poor soul in the back of the room can see the presentation. More important is the “tyranny” of the 30-point font because it forces the presentation developer to reduce the number of words. There is just so much PowerPoint real estate.

A Good Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

Studies have shown conclusively that we are drawn to pictures, illustrations, pie and bar charts. Who can’t love a bar chart that goes upwards to the right with a CAGR line (Compounded Annual Growth Rate) guiding the way ?

In particular, we can quickly access JPEGs or compressed image files through Google Images to add to our PowerPoints. Every presenter should seriously consider incorporating one image (“Art”) into every slide to maintain audience attention.

An added bonus of a JPEG per page is it forces an economy of words. As Martha would say, “It’s a good thing.”

Our PowerPoint backdrops can be different colors. Almost DailyBrett is a big fan of royal blue and black because the words and images literally explode off these backgrounds.

Maybe we want to incorporate video into our presentations? We can drop the video URL into our presentation, and literally play it from there. Keep in mind for a major presento, you want to ensure your video works the first time, every time.

Let’s see: Incorporating the 10-20-30 Rule. Less words. JPEGs, Dynamic backdrops. Video and absolutely no black words on plain white backdrops. Sounds like a winner to little ole me.

Not everyone can be a Steve Jobs or Elon Musk, but everyone has the potential to hold an audience’s attention for upwards of 20 minutes even in our always-on, digital texting world. We can do all of this if we think of ourselves more like Michelangelo painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and less Albert Einstein at the chalk board.

https://office.live.com/start/PowerPoint.aspx

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ndnmtz8-S5I

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2013/10/30/the-wisdom-of-the-10-20-30-rule/

https://guykawasaki.com/guy-kawasaki/

http://whatis.techtarget.com/fileformat/JPG-JPEG-bitmap

 

 

 

This is an upsetting event for all of us at United. I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers.” –PR Week’s “Communicator of the Year,” United CEO Oscar Munoz

Do you really think so, Oscar?

Last Sunday morning, United Continental Holdings, Inc., or more commonly known as United Airlines (NYSE: UAL) positioned its brand as a global airline with the tagline “The Friendly Skies” and backed by the music of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.”

By Sunday evening the airline’s brand was radically changed, maybe even permanently altered, by what happened on a commuter flight (United Express #3411) from Chicago’s horrible O’Hare Airport to the home of the Kentucky Derby, Louisville.

Note that horses are treated better than United’s overbooked passengers, one in particular.

Almost DailyBrett has researched and written extensively about the loss of branding control. With social media and easy-to-use and outstanding-quality smart-phone cameras and recorders, everybody is a potential reporter, even one sitting in an aisle seat on United.

Just as BP is no longer seen as an oil and gas company, but rather one that caused the massive Deepwater Horizon “spill,” United is now linked to inexplicable violence against one of its own paying customers, whose only crime was wanting to fly home to treat his patients.

The inexcusable exercise of violence and brutality against a 69-year-old Vietnamese refugee, Dr. David Dao, including losing two front teeth, sustaining a concussion, and suffering a broken nose — all because he committed the cardinal sin of refusing to leave a seat he purchased on an overbooked flight to accommodate a United employee — is now a viral social and legacy media legend.

Most likely, this horror video could also be the topic of a heavily covered jury trial (United will try to avoid this scenario at all costs by attempting to settle out of court), and possibly a congressional investigation (United probably will have to respond to a subpoena). There is very little chance United could prevail before any jury regardless of venue.

The author of Almost DailyBrett has repeatedly told students at Central Washington University that company, non-profit, agency, government, politician brands are now “traded” on social media and blogging exchanges every second of every day.

These brands can soar (e.g., Tesla and Elon Musk) on glowing reports (and company common stock usually moves in tandem). They can also plunge into binary code oblivion triggered by a game-changing incident (i.e., Chipotle and E. coli; Volkswagen and “defeat software”; Wells Fargo, phony accounts; Anthony Weiner and his tweeted wiener).

So far, United investors and employees have lost an estimated $1.5 billion in market capitalization on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). On the social media stock exchange, the company has lost even more as millions around the world are shocked and appalled by about 60 seconds of gratitous violence video.

In China as well as other countries in East Asia that serve as United destinations, the bloody treatment of Dr. Dao is seen as a racist act. Is United racist? The answer really doesn’t matter when the perception in the Asian community (and other ethnic communities) is that United perpetrated a racially motivated attack.

Does PR Week rescind Oscar Munoz’ “Communicator of the Year” Award just as the Heisman Trust recalled the famous statue from Reggie Bush? The call seems easy.

What’s Next For United?

“I think corporate America needs to understand that we all want to be treated in the same manner with the same respect and the same dignity that they would treat their own family members. If they do that, wouldn’t it be great? So, will there be a lawsuit? Yeah, probably.” — Attorney Thomas Demetrio

United knows as evidenced by the live coverage of today’s Chicago news conference by Dr. Dao’s lawyers on CNN, Fox News, CNBC, Fox Business and others, this story has “legs.” Just as BP found that out every day the Deepwater Horizon well was leaking, United will also realize this public relations nightmare will endure for weeks and months.

So what should United’s PR team do in the interim?

  1. The “service” company needs to dramatically alter its way of doing business. Literally thousands upon thousands are justifiably angry at United and other carriers for their well-documented and long-endured arrogance and disregard for their customers, the passengers.
  2. United needs to forever foreswear the use of violence on its aircraft except in the rare circumstances in which a passenger is a threat to themselves or others.
  3. The days of “overbooked flights” need to come to an end. If someone buys a ticket to a football game that person is entitled to that seat on the 30-yard line. If a passenger buys a ticket for a plane that passenger is entitled to seat 9C.
  4. The airlines need to enshrine this simple notion as a new policy and champion it. If they don’t, one suspects that Congress will do exactly that. Don’t try to lobby against this change. Be a part of the solution.
  5. Be nice. United, American and Delta – the so-called legacy carriers – need to shed their well-earned image of being rude, arrogant, un-empathetic and uncaring. For once an attorney is right: We all deserve respect and dignity.
  6. The lawyers will have a field day, starting with the discovery process. Sell-side analysts will downgrade the stock. Congressional committees will beat up Oscar Munoz. For United’s PR team, this is not the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning.
  7. Time can heal. Keep in mind, United’s brand will never be the same and will literally take years to turn the corner. One suspects United will somehow move forward. A little humility and the willingness to admit wrong, to learn and become change agents on behalf of customers and not just the bottom line, may one day lead to a better tomorrow.

 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/on-leadership/wp/2017/04/12/united-ceo-oscar-munoz-the-rise-and-fall-of-a-communicator-of-the-year/?utm_term=.c0660d2cfa9b&wpisrc=nl_headlines&wpmm=1

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/07/11/loss-of-control-how-to-safeguard-reputations-and-brands-in-a-digital-world/

http://www.cnbc.com/2017/04/13/attorney-for-united-airlines-passenger-dao-says-there-will-probably-be-a-lawsuit.html

 

 

 

 

“We all know what’s wrong with each other, and what is right with each other.” – Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts on his three four-decade-plus colleagues

“Love is patient, love is kind … It keeps no record of wrongs … It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” — 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Almost DailyBrett is not suggesting the Rolling Stones – Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood — love each other.

The 1980s feud between Mick and Keith almost tore the band apart.

Mild-mannered Charlie once decked Mick after the latter signed a solo recording contract, and started touring without his fellow Rolling Stones.

Regardless, your author notes the four members of the widely proclaimed and regarded “Greatest Rock ‘n Roll Band in the World” have been together for 42 years, and three-of-the-original five (i.e., Jagger, Richards and Watts) have prevailed for an amazing 55 years as a still-relevant force in music, culture and at times, international relations.

Are the Rolling Stones a net plus or a net minus for humanity? This hopelessly biased blog takes the “over.”

As Keith Richards is fond of saying, his job is to touch as many people as he can.

Mission accomplished. The Stones have touched and made happy literally millions around the world from London to Perth and from Shanghai (e.g., March 2014) to Havana (March 2016). The latter two reflected a marked relaxation of political/societal norms in Marxist China and Cuba, and provided a glimmer of hope for greater freedoms in these countries.

Of course, not everything in the career of the Rolling Stones has been rosy. Almost DailyBrett commented on the organizational and humanitarian disaster at Altamont in 1969 when someone – anyone – needed to say ‘no’ to a free, totally disorganized free concert for 400,000 people with the Hell’s Angels serving as the Praetorian Guards.

There is the good. There is the bad. The band members do not love each other. How do they stay together?

“Closest of Brothers”?

“Mick’s album was called ‘She’s the Boss,’ which said it all. I’ve never listened to the entire thing al the way through. Who has? It’s like ‘Mein Kampf. Everybody had a copy, but nobody listened to it.” – Guitarist Keith Richards in his memoirs, “Life”

“Mick and I may not be friends – too much wear and tear for that – but we’re the closest of brothers, and that can’t be severed … Nobody else can say anything against Mick that I can hear. I’ll slit their throat.” – Keith Richards on Mick Jagger

Almost DailyBrett must interject for a nanosecond and ask: How many relationships of highly accomplished, high ego lads (or ladies) can stay together for five-plus decades?

As Charlie said there are definitely things wrong with each member of the Rolling Stones, but more importantly there are more things that are right. Human nature unfortunately gravitates toward the negative, but it is the positive that keeps people together and on track.

In organizations, sometimes the best candidate is the internal candidate. But isn’t that same person undermined by the fact that he or she did something wrong during the course of performing the job?

Some critic must point out this transgression or that failing. The internal candidate may be the best person for the job. And yet someone remembers the fault, and the organization subsequently hires someone outside and maybe prompting the internal candidate to leave.

Who are the most apt violators of “Love is Patient, Love is Kind”? You guessed it: Families.

For some reason, diplomacy goes right out the window as family members contend they are obligated to point out another family member’s transgression without any attempt to utilize tact and diplomacy.

As Almost DailyBrett has repeatedly asked: “If they were not your relatives, would they be your friends?”

The Rolling Stones are not related to each other, but as Keith has suggested they are the closest of brothers. Charlie has added that they are so close that they know each other’s faults, but more importantly their positives.

How much longer the Stones will tour, record, exhibit and break down barriers? Only Father Time will tell. Charlie is 75. Mick and Keith are 73. Ronnie is the “youngster” at 69.

Almost DailyBrett can only surmise that as long as their collective health is decent; they still have the fire in their bellies, and they do not keep a record of wrongs: Time Very Well Will Be On Their Side.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Corinthians+13:4-8

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/event/article-2345279/Mick-Jagger-Keith-Richards-feud-nearly-broke-Rolling-Stones.html

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2012/11/25/the-permanency-of-altamont/

It’s not whose army wins, it’s also whose story wins. And we have to think more about narratives and whose narrative is going to be the most effective.” – Harvard Kennedy School Political Science Professor Joseph Nye, 2010 TED Talk

The U.S. ranks No. 1 for Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at $18.56 trillion, and holds the top position in The National Brand Index.

When it comes to “hard power,” including its military and its economy, the U.S. has no rivals … at least for the immediate future.

Despite these clear hard-power advantages, the U.S. reportedly spent $670 million for “public diplomacy” in 2014, according to George Washington University professor of political science David Shambaugh.

In contrast, China spends $10 billion annually to project itself as a “soft power.”

China as a soft power? In essence, the answer is affirmative. China recognizes it needs more than the collective power of its 1.37 billion people, its second-ranking $11.39 trillion economy, and its growing military strength. China is trying to promote its distinct culture, its language and market its country as a place to invest and visit.

The aforementioned Professor Nye is widely credited with formulating the notion of “soft power” or projecting what you have in terms of culture, language, business, tourism etc. to those who may want the same.

Some contend as mentioned in the stately The Economist that a totalitarian state (e.g., China) may not effectively exhibit soft power as it may be interpreted as single-party propaganda. And yet China created The Confucius Institute in 2004 to entice the appreciation of its culture, to lure hundreds of thousands to study its difficult language and visit and invest in China.

Is the Politburo in Beijing trying to buy love?

From The Devastation of War, Occupation, Division and the Holocaust

The activities of the Goethe Institut improve Germany’s reputation abroad, enhance the quality of German-language teaching, contribute to the development of the German language, promote German artists worldwide, and attract talented youth and professionals to Germany.” – Tatiana Lanshina, “The Goethe Institute and Soft Power”

Germany experimented twice in “hard power” in the 20th Century … and lost big time, both times.

In 1951, Germany’s public relations (Öffentlichkeitsarbeit) were understandably at an all-time low … most likely the deepest nadir experienced by any country at any time. Interest in German Kultur, Sprache and Land was close to nil.

These facts did not stop Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and the German government from creating the Goethe Institut in 1951. The mission of this 350-Euro non-profit organization, drawing the majority of its funds from the German foreign ministry, was to use the forgiveness of time to eventually and systematically regain interest in Das Land in der Mitte (The country in the middle of Europe).

Fast forward to today, Germany is No. 2 in the National Brand Index trailing only the United States. The country’s transformation from an international pariah to revered is nothing less than a public relations miracle (Öffentlichkeitsarbeitswunder).

The author of Almost DailyBrett has a framed Goethe Institut Zertifikat B1 for German language study in his office at Central Washington University. Is the Goethe Institut solely responsible for Germany’s resurrection? Of course not.

There are many other determinants including the reunification, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Economic Miracle, the Marshall Plan, Made in Germany, four World Cup wins, German business success, Germany’s hegemony in the European Union, the popularity of Angela Merkel and many other factors.

Germany understands more than other nations that hard power is not the answer. China obviously appreciates this fact as well. Ditto France with its Alliance Francaise, Italy with its Societa Dante Alighieri, Great Britain with its British Council, Spain with its Instituto Cervantes and Portugal with its Instituto Camoes.

All of the above brings up the obviously question: Who and what projects “soft power” for the United States? One other question: Are we satisfied with the answers?

Donald Trump, Hollyweird, American Media?

Certainly, the U.S. is nowhere near the lousy image that Germany endured – and still suffers – as a result of the 12 years of Hitler and the Nazis. Nonetheless, the U.S. image at home and abroad is less than ideal regardless of the nation’s military and economic hard-power advantages and the country’s number one ranking in the National Brand Index.

Who sets the tone for the United States of America?

Try traveling abroad and see how many times you are asked about Donald Trump once it becomes known that you reside in the Land of Uncle Sam? Does the intemperate, nocturnal Tweeter-in-Chief send the best of image of the red, white and blue across the fruited plain and across the ponds?

How about Hollyweird and the denizens of the TMZ?

The entertainment industry can’t even deliver the right envelope for its biggest announcement of the year (e.g., Oscar for Best Picture) at its most celebrated venue (e.g., The 2017 Academy Awards). Do we really want to entrust our soft power to this motley crew?

When it comes to our elite media, the American public sold the stock and voted them out of office. According to Gallup, the Woodward & Bernstein media of 1976 enjoyed a 72 percent approval rating. Last year, the same polling firm recorded a 32 percent approval rating for the boys and girls of the Fourth Estate, a 55.5 percent decline in the last 40 years.

If the American public is turned off by our nattering nabobs of negativism, why would those beyond our borders respect their interpretations of American soft power?

Maybe the time has come for a non-profit, soft-power Mark Twain, Will Rogers or some other American literary giant institute to celebrate American culture (e.g., baseball, hot dogs and apple pie), our unique take on the English language, and the USA as a wonderful place for investment and tourism?

Or maybe we can instead just leave the task to Donald Trump, Hollyweird and the failing American elite media?

https://www.economist.com/news/china/21719508-can-money-buy-sort-thing-china-spending-billions-make-world-love-it

http://www.ted.com/talks/joseph_nye_on_global_power_shifts

http://www.demdigest.net/tag/soft-power/

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

https://www.goethe.de/en/index.html

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2017/02/25/enemy-of-the-american-people/

http://www.gallup.com/poll/195542/americans-trust-mass-media-sinks-new-low.aspx

 

 

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