Category: Civility


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

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

“ … The old divide between left and right is growing less important than a new one between open and closed.” – The Economist, March 4, 2017

During the Cold War, the communism vs. capitalism divide was referred to as a contest of wills between “East and West.”

Even today, we use directions to describe the dangerous world of dark-and-foreboding North Korea and the bright lights of cosmopolitan-industrial powerhouse South Korea.

For more than 100 years, there were the Democrats from the left (e.g., Franklin Delano Roosevelt) and Republicans from the right (e.g. Ronald Reagan).

Reagan just turned over in his grave.

Reagan will be forever remembered for his controversial call, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this (Berlin) wall.” The eternally optimistic Republican president embraced neo-liberal open markets, globalization and free enterprise.

In contrast, Reagan’s “Republican” successor Donald J. Trump wants to build a wall. He implores American governments and businesses to his brand of populism, calling for them to “buy American” and “hire American.” There is open talk of “border adjustment taxes,” a taxing concept which would be an anathema to Reagan.

Against this backdrop, guess who is coming to visit The Donald this Tuesday? Frau “Open” (Offen) Angela Merkel, the chancellor of the nearly $300-billion world’s largest account surplus, export-powerhouse Germany.

Making the proceedings even more tender and sensitive is the fact that Americans buy 107 billion Euros worth of German goods each year, while Germans purchase 57 billion of American output per annum.

Translated: Americans consume German cars (e.g., BMW, Mercedes, Audi, VW) and down German beer, while Germans favor their own automotive companies and refuse to drink “dishwater” (e.g., Anheuser Busch products).

Using old thinking, one would conclude that moderate-conservative Christian Democrat Angela Merkel would be to the left of a right-wing Republican president. Instead, we need to recalibrate how we view our divided world with Merkel serving as the neo-liberal (open) and Trump as the isolationist (closed).

Global F.U. Votes?

“Trump’s election is going to be the biggest ‘fuck you’ ever recorded in human history — and it will feel good.” – Liberal film-maker Michael Moore.

International public relations pros, journalists, pundits and campaign managers need to change their ways of thinking. Left vs. right used to be so simple – oh so simple. Those thoughts are no longer operative as a populist “Human Molotov Cocktail” took over the Republican Party and the White House and dared the party (and Wall Street too) to follow in his protectionist footsteps.

No respectable elite on the Old-World side of the pond saw Brexit coming, until it did. The Midlands overwhelming sent an F-U message to London, Brussels and Berlin. Score a major win for the “closed” crowd.

Surely, the same would not occur in the United States or so we were told our Harvard-heads pundits and pollsters? They missed the F.U. vote with the “Blue Wall” falling in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Looking forward to the next month, France will be making a similar choice between “open” Emmanuel Marcon of the En Marche! Neo-liberal, pro-trade, pro-competition, pro-immigration and pro-EU stances and “closed” Marine LePen of the National Front, who not-so-secretly wants an exit referendum on the EU and the reintroduction of the French franc.

Will France be the third industrial economy F-U vote in a little less than one year?

Undoubtedly, this undeniable trend is on the radar screen of Angela Merkel. Will she enter the White House this week from a position of strength or weakness?

Keep in mind that Almost DailyBrett and many others originally thought she was a shoe-in to be elected for her fourth term as Kanzlerin this coming September. The same thinking applied to the inevitability of Hillary Clinton becoming the first Frau President of the United States.

Merkel’s decision and subsequent pull-back to welcome (e.g., Willkommenskultur) more than 1 million Syrian refugees to Deutschland appears to be a political loser. Her re-election after 12 years in office is anything but secure now as she trails Martin Schulz of the Social Democrat Party, and the (closed) Alternative für Deutschland is gaining strength.

Could France and Germany be the latest in a string of F.U. votes? Will that mean the end of the European Union as we know it? Is this trend the end of traditional left vs. right?

Welcome to a new way of political thinking.

http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21717814-why-french-presidential-election-will-have-consequences-far-beyond-its-borders-vote

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/merkel-prepares-for-difficult-visit-with-donald-trump-a-1138244.html

http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21716641-not-reasons-donald-trump-thinks-it-germanys-current-account-surplus-problem

http://www.salon.com/2016/10/26/michael-moore-people-will-vote-for-donald-trump-as-a-giant-fk-you-and-hell-win/

http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/766256/Angela-Merkel-Martin-Schulz-SDP-CDU-German-election-polls

By Dr. Stacey Robertson

For many people, mental illness is an uncomfortable topic …

But four public relations seniors from our Department of Communications (from left to right with me in the photo below) – Hunter Ventoza, Nikki Christopherson, Taylor Castillo, and Meghan Lynch – eagerly met the challenge, when last September they found out that promoting mental health awareness was their assignment for the next eight months. 

The student PR team was charged with initiating a campus-wide and community conversation about mental illnesses including anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

These four students comprise the 2016-2017 Central Washington University “Bateman” public relations collegiate competition team. The Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) annually sponsors this contest in honor of the late PRSA president Carroll Bateman. There are more than 50 schools nationally competing each academic year to most effectively focus attention on an assigned subject.

In this case, student teams were also charged with promoting two non-profits: The Campaign to Change Direction (mental health issues) and Give An Hour (assisting veterans returning from war with PTSD and other maladies).

The Campaign to Change Direction has drawn upon the dynamism of former First Lady Michelle Obama and others, identifying the five signs of mental distress: Personality Change, Agitation, Withdrawal, Poor Self Care, and Hopelessness.

Our four students were wise enough to know that virtually every effective Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) campaign – earned, owned, and paid media – requires collaboration with allies, in this case other CWU departments, student organizations, and a downtown Ellensburg art gallery.

In particular, our Bateman team coordinated interdepartmentally within the CWU College of Arts and Humanities, reaching out to our Art Department. They also teamed with the Department of Psychology from CWU’s College of the Sciences and its student Psychology Club and Neuroscience Club.

Our Bateman team staged an entire week of awareness events and activities, each day focused on one of the five signs of distress mentioned above. The week began with a panel on mental health moderated by Psychology Assistant Professor Meaghan Nolte.

Flanking Nolte were (from left-to-right below): Ruben Cardenas from our Veterans Center; education student David Sturgell, reflecting on post-war anxiety and PTSD; Rhonda McKinney from our campus Counseling Center; and public relations student Andrew Kollar, discussing depression.

It required great courage for these two students to openly discuss their illnesses, and to serve as thought leaders for others suffering from mental illness.

The week’s activities also included a campus march, two-days for students to sign a petition board and finally a combined Department of Art/Department of Communication mental health art exhibit at the John Ford Clymer Museum and Gallery.

 

The art exhibit, which coincided with Ellensburg’s First Friday celebration, showcased the collaboration between Art and Communication. Two student “artists in residence” – Krista Zimmerman and Lee Sullivan – painted and sketched representations of mental strain in a series of evocative and compelling images.

The four Bateman students were in charge of promoting the entire week to traditional media (e.g., Daily Record, Observer) and digital media (e.g., Facebook and Twitter #EBURGSPEAKS). They also lit a fuse for a student and community discussion about a very difficult subject.

Will we all have the courage to join the conversation?

http://prssa.prsa.org/scholarships_competitions/bateman/

http://www.changedirection.org/

https://www.giveanhour.org/

http://clymermuseum.org/

 

 

“The man who reads nothing is more educated than the one who reads nothing but newspapers.” – Thomas Jefferson

“A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself.” – Joseph Pulitzer

Has there ever been a time in recorded history when past-and-present reporters have been so incensed?

Has there ever been a time in recorded history when past-and-present reporters have been so happy?

trumpenemy1

 

 

Donald Trump is good to the last drop, and reporters, editors and correspondents love it.

In the parlance of journalism, Trump is “great copy,” maybe the best story of all time.

Just like catnip, the media can’t stay away. They can’t help themselves. They not-so-secretly want to bring down Trump, and they want to bring him down hard. He in turn has declared war on the “failing” New York Times and the “Clinton News Network” (CNN) and several others.

Some First Amendment types have brought up the names of the worst despots (i.e., Stalin, Mao, Mussolini …) in global history, stating that totalitarian regimes start this way. These critics completely omit the inconvenient fact that dictators dominate their media and use it for their own propaganda.

Trump may be trying to control the media through Twitter and other means, but he can’t … and he is crafty enough to know that. When his tenure comes to an end, the media will have the last word.

An Adversary By Any Other Name Is Still An Adversary

As a press secretary for a Republican governor (e.g., George Deukmejian) in a blue state (e.g., California) during a time when it was “Morning in America” (e.g., The 1980s), the author of Almost DailyBrett confronted two adversaries on a daily basis: The Democrats in the state Legislature, and the political press corps.

Were these two adversaries officially aligned, and did they coordinate their opposition to our administration? The answer of course was for the most part, negative.

Democratic press secretaries really only have to be concerned with one adversary: Republicans. The media largely serve as their unofficial allies.

enemiesofthepeople

Keep in mind, the vast majority of reporters, editors and correspondents take a vow of poverty to work in the Fourth Estate. As a result, they are distrustful of those who espouse buy low, sell high. The media for the most part concur with those who see raising taxes and manna from the government as the solution to every societal problem.

Is it a stretch to suggest the media (i.e., NYT, WAPO, NBC News, CNN …) are an extension of the Democratic Party? Yes, but not that much of a stretch. Republicans instinctively look at the masthead or the source of any poll or assertion, and immediately discount it, if it hails from predictable liberal media.

Think of it this way, good-and-dependable government is contrary to the economic interests of the media. If government works and is grounded in a steady philosophy (e.g., Deukmejian years), the media is bored and restless … a bored media is a dangerous media.

Consider this question: If 999 planes land safely at DFW Airport and one crashes, which one gets the attention of the newsies? The media feed off crisis, chaos and dysfunction. Whatever you admit, acknowledge or concede will be printed or broadcasted 99 percent of the time … or does Almost DailyBrett understate the case?

And what has Trump given the media? A steady stream of chaos and controversy, which leads to “great copy” and “good dirt.” Let’s ask here and now: Are the media’s best interests consistent with the nation’s well-being? Does the media relish reporting about that one plane, which falls out of the sky, allowing them to cover it and generate good copy?

trumpenemy

If the answer is “yes,” does that make the media a friend, an adversary … or worse?

The great-and-late New York Times pundit, William Safire, ghostwrote these words about the media for largely inarticulate and disgraced former Vice President Spiro Agnew: “Nattering Nabobs of Negativism.”

Is it good politics for Trump to take on the media, especially before red meat audiences such as the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC)?

According to Gallup in 2016, only 32 percent have a great deal/fair amount of confidence in the media, a decrease of 8 percent from 2015 and down 40 percent from the post Woodward & Bernstein era in 1976. Yikes! Guess that means that nearly 70 percent of Americans have a poor or no opinion about the media.

The media relishes pointing out Trump’s approval rating of only 44.4 percent (e.g., Real Clear Politics polling average), but even the unpopular president is running 12 percent ahead of the post-Dan Rather-era elite media. Both Trump and especially, the media, need better public relations.

Trump has many sins to atone for, but he is neither the first White House resident to complain and disdain the media nor will he be the last.

One rule he certainly has violated was summed up beautifully in the 19th Century:

“Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel.” – Mark Twain

https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/426038.Joseph_Pulitzer

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/02/17/trump-calls-the-media-the-enemy-of-the-american-people/?utm_term=.8431a8b1b181

http://www.denverpost.com/2017/02/21/the-lefts-hypocrisy-on-trumps-enemy-of-the-american-people-comment/

https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/m/marktwain135280.html

http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/attytood/Nabobs_natter_about_the_passing_of_William_Safire_1929-2009.html

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2013/11/17/admit-acknowledge-or-concede/

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

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/other/president_trump_job_approval-6179.html

 

The dog does not bother you, does she? She’s a friendly dog and I’m sure she will behave herself.” – Russian President Introducing “Koni,” the black lab, to German Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2007

“It (Koni) doesn’t eat journalists, after all?” – German Chancellor Angela Merkel

putinmerkelkoni

Even though the canine caper happened 10 years ago, Almost DailyBrett contends that Vladimir Putin’s Machiavellian ploy was clearly intended to intimidate and embarrass Kanzlerin Merkel. And considering the recent seismic shifts in global politics, the incident is more relevant than ever.

The most powerful woman on the planet has a well-documented case of cynophobia. She was attacked by a dog in 1995. She clearly does not relish any contact with man’s best friend, including Putin’s best canine.

During the January 21, 2007 summit with Merkel at his summer residence in Sochi, Putin’s eight-year-old Labrador retriever, Koni, made a cameo appearance during their negotiations. Even though she tried to appear cool, calm and collected, Merkel was clearly uncomfortable and unnerved by the sniffing dog.

When asked about the incident last year by the German periodical Bild, Putin insisted he did not know about Merkel’s fear of dogs.

“I wanted to do something nice for her (Merkel). When I found out that she doesn’t like dogs, of course I apologized.” – Russian President Vladimir Putin

“I understand why he has to do this — to prove he’s a man. He’s afraid of his own weakness. Russia has nothing, no successful politics or economy. All they have is this.” – Kanzlerin Angela Merkel

putinmerkelkoni1

Putin Exploiting Donald Trump’s Weaknesses?

At some point, at some venue, at some pre-determined time, Donald Trump is going to meet Vladimir Putin. Will the Russian leader try to do something “nice” for the new American president?

Russia’s legendary xenophobia, coupled with its record of hacking and espionage, will certainly encourage Putin to seek out and fully exploit Trump’s personal weaknesses.

Who would have thought that a fear of dogs would be a weak point for the chancellor of the fourth largest economy of the world and the de-facto leader of the European Union? Putin obviously knew this fact, and used his Labrador to get inside of Merkel’s head.

If the tenets of military strategy are to capitalize on one’s advantages and exploit the weaknesses of an adversary, then it’s safe to assume that Putin is carefully studying Donald Trump.

trumpputinhorse

In many ways Trump and Putin are similar, but Almost DailyBrett takes issue with any discussion of a “Bromance.” Heck, they have not even met each other.

Having taken care of that silly reference, one can safely conclude they are both demagogic, alpha males with a craving for public attention and reverence. In particular, Trump is known for his thin-skin and is quick to take offense, particularly via Twitter. Will this failing be an opening for Putin to exploit?

At the same time, it is well known the Soviets took note of President Ronald Reagan publicly firing the members of the striking Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) in August, 1981. The president knew he was jeopardizing thousands of vacations and even worse risking the possibility of mid-air collisions in the skies. Putin was a key operative in the Soviet Union’s KGB at the time.

reaganpatco

Reagan was roundly criticized for exhibiting strength, and the same applies to Trump. Putin is becoming aware of Trump’s demonstrations of bravado, while at the same time finding out more about Trump’s weaknesses. Call it “opposition research” or “oppo.”

One “nice” thing that Trump does not need to worry about when he finally meets Putin, “Koni” will not be making a cameo appearance. Alas, Koni lived for 15-years, before finally buying the kennel in 2014.

The new president would be wise to remember what Harry S. Truman once said: “If you need a friend in Washington, D.C., get a dog.”

http://www.bild.de/politik/ausland/wladimir-putin/interview-mit-dem-russischen-praesidenten-russland-44091672.bild.html

http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/12/europe/putin-merkel-scared-dog/

http://edition.cnn.com/2013/09/20/world/europe/germany-merkel-profile/

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/vladimir-putin/12094074/Vladimir-Putin-denies-setting-his-dog-on-Angela-Merkel.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/vladimir-putin-says-he-didnt-intend-to-scare-dog-phobic-angela-merkel-when-he-brought-his-labrador-a6805801.html

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/germanys-angela-merkel-afraid-one-thing-its-not-david-cameron-1482159

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

http://time.com/4139802/time-person-of-the-year-angela-merkel-surprising-facts/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Konni_(dog)

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/03/opinion/reagan-vs-patco-the-strike-that-busted-unions.html

 

 

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: