Category: Mortality


Are the Germans finally – after all these years — happy?

If they are for the most part smiling about life, doesn’t that mean good news for the incumbent-chancellor-running-for-re-election, Angela Merkel?

Doesn’t good government translate into good politics?

And yet there’s so much for her to fear.

The Governor George Deukmejian Laws of Politics are two-fold: Always run as if you are running behind; and never take anything for granted.

Consider that two years ago, a national F-U movement led to Brexit, and the U.K.’s upcoming departure from the strictures of the EU.

Last year America’s fly-over states pointed their collective middle fingers into the sky, and elected Donald Trump as president.

How are Brexit and Donald Trump working out?

During the past three weeks, the author of Almost DailyBrett has been informally sounding out das Volk on trains, in Bier Gartens, in hotel lobbies (all very unscientific and anecdotal) about their views about the state of their country.

When asked if they are truly happy, they seem a little startled by the sophomoric question from a simple blog author. After devoting more than a few brain cells, they come back to the conclusion that Germany is successful (e.g., low unemployment rate of 3.9 percent).

If James Carville was correct in 1992 that “It’s the economy stupid,” then the prospects are good for Frau Merkel on September 24. As The Economist reported last month, Germany has the largest trade balance in the world at $300 billion.

The nation’s budget is not only balanced, it reflects a surplus. Inflation is low at a microscopic 0.4 percent. Personal savings are high. German engineering is legendary. Alles ist in Ordnung.

Has Germany’s Standard of Living Passed America’s?

When the author of Almost DailyBrett visited divided Germany for the first time 30 years ago, the question of German happiness would seem silly. In fact, one would not even imagine, posing that interrogative.

Sitting on the terrace of the Burg Hotel Auf Schönburg in Oberwesel on the Rhine River, one can easily imagine the DAX equivalent of the Dow Transports are easily going upwards to the right. Passenger and freight ships glide northwards on the Rhine or swim similar to salmon against the currents.

Trains emerge and disappear into tunnels. Passenger cars move along the two shores or just miles away race along the no-speed limit autobahns.

German cities including Berlin, Nürnberg and München are bustling with shoppers in the stores. Spaces in the sidewalk cafes are hard to find. The large beer gardens (e.g., München’s Viktualien Markt) are jammed from happy hour into the night.

The smaller tourist towns (i.e., Heidelberg, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Bacharach) are luring visitors seeking out castles, half-timbered houses, gardens and the white wine fruit of the vineyards.

Virtually everywhere are solar panels, modern windmills and soon electric cars from BMW and Tesla. Recycling is the rage, and clear demarcations lead to largely harmonious co-existence between walkers and bike riders.

Many have ruminated about Germany’s angst about Vergangenheitsbewältigung or dealing with the past, namely the Hitler era between 1933-1945. The Germans have addressed these horrific years by acknowledging responsibility, building monuments to the past (e.g., Holocaust Memorial in Berlin) or “Documentation Centers,” such as the one near the former Nazi parade grounds in Nürnberg or a Bunker Museum in Berlin.

Nothing has been forgotten. Everything has been acknowledged. History is all there in broad daylight. The Reichstag dome is transparent to signal a change in the national approach to governance.

Is It Truly Morning in Germany?

Ronald Reagan ran for re-election in 1984 under the banner, “Morning in America.”

The message was patriotism, good times, and a promising tomorrow. Reagan won 49 of 50 states that November.

Merkel is courageously embracing the German flag – the black, red and gold tricolor – as she presents her three-term administration for another four years next month. Germans proudly wave their democratic flag in Deutsche Fussball Bund games. The message is love of land, not nationalism. Those unfortunate days for the latter are gone, and for good reason.

Will Angela Merkel win in September embracing the flag, and essentially saying it is indeed “Morning in Germany”?

Almost DailyBrett was wrong about Brexit and the same about Trump. These undeniable points need to be acknowledged. And yet, there are no strident middle fingers to be seen in today’s Germany.

The collective mood points to the prospect of a smiling Angela Merkel on September 24. If so, Germany will continue to be in Mutti’s sure hands.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/germans-are-learning-to-love-germany-again-and-merkel-takes-note/2017/07/20/28951bbe-68a8-11e7-94ab-5b1f0ff459df_story.html?utm_term=.147da70955c9

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2017/07/12/the-new-german-problem/

http://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/ronald-reagan/videos/morning-in-america

https://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21724810-country-saves-too-much-and-spends-too-little-why-germanys-current-account-surplus-bad

https://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21724801-germany-admired-its-stability-derided-persistent-trade-surpluses-good-and-bad

 

 

It’s been all downward-to-the-right for the media since the days of Walter Cronkite.

Quick: Name the Big Three Network anchors?

Can’t do it? Join the club.

Oh have times changed.

In 1972, the revered anchor of the CBS Evening News, Walter Cronkite, was the most trusted man in America.

In 2017, do we trust Sean Hannity of Fox News to be “fair and balanced” with the news?

Do we trust Rachel Maddow of MSNBC to be objective?

Do we trust the latest political “comedian” on Comedy Central to be thoughtful?

Do we trust what we read on Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook to be accurate?

Fair. Balanced. Objective. Thoughtful. Accurate. Those were all words that applied to Cronkite. Do they apply anymore?

As Almost DailyBrett mentioned before, the public gave the media a 72 percent approval rating in 1976 and only 32 percent in 2016.

Gallup’s surveys reflect a corresponding slide by Democrats, Independents and particularly Republicans in the past two decades.

In 1997, 64 percent of Democrats reported a great deal/fair amount of trust in the media. In 2016, that figure declined to 51 percent, a 13 percent drop.

For independents, the erosion in the last 20 years was 53 percent (just above the Mendoza Line) to 30 percent last year, a 23 percent decline.

For Republicans, 41 percent of GOP voters expressed a great deal/fair amount of trust in the media in 1997. That figure was 14 percent in 2016, a stunning 27 percent erosion in two decades.

In a match-up between CNN and Donald Trump, 89 percent of GOP voters expressed confidence in the president while only 9 percent sided with the number three cable news network.

Is there any plausible reason to optimistically hope these results will improve in the Trump era?

For CNN, it has now dropped to number three in a three-way race of major cable news outlets having been surpassed by liberal MSNBC for the number two slot behind No. 1 conservative Fox News.

Liberal? Liberal? Conservative?  What happened to honest brokers of information?

From Reporting to Interpreting?

Want to make a slow Friday night even slower? Watch “Washington Week in Review” on PBS in which reporters interview … reporters.

It used to be that reporters/correspondents covered the news. Now we are all entitled to their “interpretation.”

Remember what Clint Eastwood as “Dirty Harry” said about opinions? Every reporter, editor, correspondent has one and you are privileged to hear what they have to say. Instead of covering the news makers, they see themselves as the real news.

Except … this Donald Trump character seems to get in the way, particularly with his nocturnal tweets.

Should university journalism schools abandon teaching the quaint notion of objectively informing the public that desperately wants straight news?

How about simply declaring the stakes are too high to be truly objective, and encourage future reporters/correspondents to openly display their partisan instincts and guide the public in affirming their own deeply held political philosophies?

And then journalists can write and broadcast about the deeply divided nation they helped foster.

Should journalism schools endeavor to generate more of the likes of Dan Rather and Brian Williams? Almost DailyBrett doesn’t need to regurgitate how the two elite former champions of CBS and NBC respectively brought lasting shame to the media.

What strategies should schools of journalism and communication adopt to restore professionalism to the profession? Surely the task is worthy, particularly bringing objectivity back into to the classroom discussion.

Is it time to inform the public once again?

Will we know that journalism has recovered when the next Walter Cronkite becomes the most trusted man/woman in America?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/daily-202/2017/07/13/daily-202-trump-is-the-disrupter-in-chief-in-an-age-of-disruption/5966a386e9b69b7071abcb23/?wpmm=1&wpisrc=nl_daily202

https://www.wsj.com/articles/amid-turmoil-fox-news-holds-on-to-no-1-spot-as-msnbc-surges-1499601601

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-31152849

http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/tv/anchors-bring-new-era-network-stability-article-1.1922051

http://www.latimes.com/business/hollywood/

 

 

Not exactly, Cogito, ergo sum.

In 1988, your Almost DailyBrett author had the privilege of spending a lovely Sunday Valentine’s Day lunch with Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters.

There was nothing romantic about our encounter. Dan was very interested in what was in my folder: a copy of the Democrat majority’s plan to conduct a Kangaroo Court hearing the following day to justify voting against former Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Long Beach) as state treasurer.

Each Democratic senator, one-after-another on the committee, was to serve as a “prosecutor” on an assigned issue (e.g., Lungren voting against reparation payments for families of Japanese WWII internees). Nobody who had successfully negotiated the riggers of second grade expected a fair-and-objective state Senate confirmation hearing. The memo made it clear the proceeding was indeed a “prosecution” in a stacked court case, meant to provide political cover for Democrats voting against Lungren.

And why was the majority so aligned against a mere member of Congress?

Five-term congressman Lungren was telegenic, articulate and represented an electoral threat to the Democrat majority in Sacramento. He was appointed to the state Treasurer position in 1987 by my boss, Governor George Deukmejian, after the passing of legendary former Speaker Jess “Big Daddy” Unruh.

Dan Walters naturally already had another column teed-up for Monday, February 15. Nonetheless, he instantly could appreciate how the publication of the infamous “Forsyth Letter” could result in collective knickers being in a twist at stormy state Senate confirmation hearing the following morning.

Almost DailyBrett compared the Forsyth letter – named after Senate Pro Tempore David Roberti’s press secretary and author, Robert T. Forsyth – to the Oklahoma Sooners game plan being published in the Lincoln Journal Star the morning of the big contest against Nebraska.

Walters’ piece was entitled, “A Game Plan for Democrats.”

Dan Lungren was outraged at the hearing, waving a copy of the Walters’ column at the Senate Democratic majority members on the panel. Lungren and by extension my boss, Governor Deukmejian, won the PR battle that day.

Alas, we were not ultimately successful. The Assembly confirmed Lungren. The Senate voted against Lungren. We did not prevail before the California Supreme Court on whether one house was sufficient for confirmation. Finis.

True to his battling form, Lungren recovered from the non-confirmation going forward to serve two terms as California’s attorney general, running for governor, and returning to Congress for another eight years. He is now lobbying on The Hill at 70-years young.

Number of People Knowing + Time = Leak

“If you don’t want to read about it in the Sacramento Bee, don’t put it down in writing.” – Often heard admonition in the State Capitol building

The Forsyth memo was prepared. Xerox machines started to hum. Copies were made. At least one of these game plans found its way to your author. Gasp, I leaked it to Dan Walters. The only stipulation: there would be no direct reference to me or my position in the Office of the Governor in his copy.

The column greeted Democrats the following day.

As the press secretary for Governor Deukmejian, my job in many cases was to deflect leaks targeting my boss and our administration. In this particular case, I was the leaker.

Every leak has a purpose. The practice is not new. And as long as the written word exists, particularly in digital form (e.g., leaked 2016 John Podesta campaign emails), leaking will remain intact until Armageddon.

As the New York Times defines the practice: “Generally, a leak is an intentional disclosure of secret information, often by an anonymous source whose goal is to make the information public.” Yep.

For example, the British provided a copy to President Woodrow Wilson of the secret 1917 (German foreign Minister Arthur) Zimmermann Telegram. The telegram was meant to entice Mexico to enter World War I on the side of Germany in exchange for U.S. territory. The subsequent publication of the telegram in March 1917, helped fuel the flames for the U.S. to declare war on Germany one month later.

Donald Trump has been known to fire off intemperate tweets condemning the widespread leaking in his administration, including one ironically posted on  Valentine’s Day 2017: “The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington? Will these leaks be happening as I deal on N.Korea etc?”

His predecessor Barack Obama conducted a “war on leaks” and yet these unauthorized disclosures continue.

Let’s face it, Washington D.C has always leaked like a sieve and always will. Ditto for state Capitals (e.g., Sacramento) and highly covered publicly traded companies. Putting this genie back in the lantern is simply not going to happen, particularly in our Big Data world.

As an admitted leaker, the author of Almost DailyBrett has also been on the receiving end of unflattering leaks on more than one occasion. My advice to any political or business entity: Practice discipline. Remember: Good government/good business is indeed good politics/good business.

And to the leakers/aspiring leakers, there is a responsibility to always ask yourself whether you are hurting the country, you purport to love with your leaking?

If the answer is “yes,” the end does not justify the means. There are legitimate reasons for confidentiality particularly in our increasingly dangerous world.

Almost DailyBrett notes: Belated congratulations to Dan Walters for his 8,000 columns for the Sacramento Bee during the past 33 years, and 57 years in service as a journalist … Still miss Bobby Forsyth, one of the nicest and funniest guys I ever met. He passed away in 1999. May Bob continue to rest in peace.

http://articles.latimes.com/1987-11-26/news/mn-24766_1_state-treasurer

http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/politics-columns-blogs/dan-walters/

http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/

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

https://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/?year=1988&country=1

http://articles.latimes.com/1988-06-24/news/mn-5908_1_senate-democrats-position

http://articles.latimes.com/1988-06-24/news/mn-5912_1_state-supreme-court

http://newlearningonline.com/new-learning/chapter-7/descartes-i-think-therefore-i-am

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/17/business/media/are-leaks-illegal-explaining-history.html

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/10/obama-leaks-aggressive-nixon-report-prosecution

https://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/zimmermann

http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/politics-columns-blogs/dan-walters/article154087854.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” — Jerry Seinfeld

It was a Funeral for a Friend.

To be more precise, it was a service celebrating the life of my best man and my BFF.

John Newhouse moved into heaven at 62-years-young.The world would be a better place if there were more John Newhouses. Alas he was taken from us way too soon.

The author of Almost DailyBrett was honored to deliver the third of four eulogies June 30.

Having long ago conquered Glossophobia, which hails from the Greek γλῶσσα glōssa, meaning tongue, and φόβος phobos, fear or dread, delivering a eulogy was still an unprecedented, daunting challenge. The emotion cannot be minimized. The semantic issues are real. Even the best orators are confronted by the strictures of the eulogy.

If the family requests a three-minute eulogy that does not mean you should double or triple that amount of time. As Carly Simon sang: “You probably think this song is about you.” It’s not. Time your presentation. Stick to the written script. Work on your transitions, timing and eye contract. They all need to be just right.

As an assistant professor, a PowerPoint, a laser pointer and a clicker are de-rigueur standard tools of the trade. Using the Steve Jobs technique, each slide is a prompt, making speaking notes superfluous. Alas, there are no PowerPoints or Prezis for presenting the eulogy.

Speaking extemporaneously or winging it is not an option. Don’t go there. The eulogy needs to be just right. Standing behind the podium and mentally searching for the right words at the right time in the presence of the audience can very well lead to an embarrassing rhetorical train wreck.

And yet even with a tight script, the English language simply will not rise to the occasion. Nonetheless, there must be chosen words and they may not be perfect – that’s not possible – but still they must describe my best friend for 41 years.

Borrowing from another tongue, the Latin words of the U.S. Marine Corps motto — Semper Fidelis/ Semper Fi (always faithful) — spoke to the character of John Newhouse.

Regardless of his given cause/affinity, John was always loyal: The Spirit of Troy, The Los Angeles Dodgers, our USC Fraternity Phi Kappa Tau, his fellow Rotarians, his youth baseball teams … and most of all his family.

Looking into the collective eyes of his grieving family and recounting John’s unshakeable commitment to his two sons regardless of the circumstances, and how he treasured his wife and instinctively knew he overachieved in marriage, is a testament to why the phrase Semper Fi is appropriate.

Even though the author of Almost DailyBrett endured 12 years of parochial school with its sentences diagrams and the petty tyranny of the nuns and priests, the question comes whether it is kosher to add a Biblical verse 1 Corinthians near the conclusion of a church eulogy.

“Love is patient. Love is kind … “seemed to work for this setting. John was patient, did not keep score (except at a baseball game), always protected, always trusted. Yes, 1 Corinthians did the job.

As the clock clicked past three minutes, it was time for the close and a promise to share a microbrew together, if your author ever makes it to the pearly gates.

There are a myriad of challenges that each one of us will face in life. We will do better with some than others. Crafting and properly delivering the eulogy is one of them. With proper preparation, an understanding the English language will not cut it, and with a confidence the words will make the mark, then it will be time to go forward to remember, celebrate and pay proper respects to a departed colleague, friend or dear family member.

“Love Never Fails.”

John Robert Newhouse: A Celebration of Life

“John Newhouse was my best man.

“John Newhouse was my best friend … forever.

“He was everyone’s friend.

“He was my fraternity brother … and a fraternity brother to several in this room.

“He was the kindest person I ever knew.

“John Newhouse loved the world, and was a renowned traveler.

“My grandfather told me there were two places he never wanted to go.

“One was hell. The other was Russia.

“John and I went ‘Back to the USSR’ during the height of the Cold War in 1981.

“More than a few thought we were crazy, and they were right.

“When one talked about going to The Evil Empire it was not to-and-from, but in-and-out.

“John saw Moscow, Leningrad and the Baltic States as just another adventure.

“We did come out of Russia. We came back to America.

“John literally visited every continent on the planet, and was always looking forward to his next road trip. Wendy knows this undeniable fact oh-too-well.

“Speaking about the world, we can all say ex cathedra, our planet is a better place because of John Newhouse.

“When celebrating a life of someone so special that ended way too early, the world’s Lingua Franca, the English language, simply fails us.

“The U.S. Marine Corps adopted from the Latin, Semper Fidelis or Semper Fi as its motto. Translated it means: ‘Always faithful.’”

“There are many virtues about John, but his passionate loyalty to the Spirit of Troy, his devotion to his beloved Los Angeles Dodgers, his commitment to his fraternity bros, his service with his fellow Rotarians, but most importantly his faithfulness to his family, stand out when one contemplates what made John Newhouse just so special.

“John Jr. and Scott. Let’s face it: From time-to-time, you drove him insane. Nonetheless he was proud of each of you, and he literally would do anything in his power to make your lives the best they could be.

“Wendy, you were always a miracle in John’s eyes. He was so proud to have you on his arm. He loved you dearly. I can state with impunity he was always Semper Fi when it came to you and your 33-years of marital bliss. He instinctively knew that he overachieved in marriage and he treasured your union every day.

“Considering that we are celebrating the life of John Robert Newhouse in a house of God, there are lines of scripture that seem just right in depicting why John was a gift to all of us. They come from 1 Corinthians:

“Love is patient, love is kind.

“It does not envy. It does not boast.

“It is not proud.

“It is not rude. It is not self-seeking.

“It is not easily angered.

“It keeps no record of wrongs.

“Love does not delight in evil.

“But rejoices with the truth.

“It always protects, always trusts.

“Always hopes. Always perseveres.

“Love never fails.”

“John, I love you. Your family loves you. Your wonderful spouse loves you. Everyone here will always love you.

 

“And on a personal note as your best man, John: If I am good enough to enter those pearly gates to join you in eternity, the first microbrew is on me.”

 

 

 

“[If] you have, as performers will call it, ‘f–k you’ money, all that means is that I don’t have to do what I don’t want to do.” – Johnny Carson 

The original American dream consists of the spouse, the kidlets, the house in the burbs, the dog and the cat.

And to some extent, that long-standing vision of success still rocks on.

Even though many are still grousing in this summer of discontent, what CNBC calls the “Trump Rally” continues. Since the November 8 election, the NYSE is up 13.4 percent and it has increased 6.8 percent from Trump’s inauguration in January to July 7.

More than half of all Americans are making money in this bull market. These participants comprise the Investor Class, those who buy individual stocks, mutual funds and manage 401(k) portfolios and IRAs.

The unemployment rate is down to 4.4 percent; there is a labor shortage. That means wages are slowly rising, and there are more discretionary dollars to invest.

At the same time, there is no conceivable doubt that many are destitute, enduring desultory lives, living from one-paycheck to the next just to make ends meet. These ignored Americans made their presence known in a big way last fall.

And yet there are more than just a few, who have earned their F-U Money. They are not privileged. They worked. They saved. They invested. Thank (f..k) you very much.

As John Goodman said in The Gambler, own your house, have a “couple of bucks” in the bank, don’t drink … and you have your “Fortress of Solitude.”

To Almost DailyBrett, F-U Money equates to the freedom to do what you want to do, not what someone else tells you to do.

It is more than having the means to tell some irritating superior to go out and have passionate carnal knowledge with himself/herself, but having the confidence to back up the explicative.

Your author has never been a proponent of burning bridges, no matter how good it may feel at the moment. As George C. Patton recited: “All glory is fleeting.”

There is a responsibility that comes with F-U Money.

Are you prepared for your bluff to be called? Are you really serious, because your employer may happily accept your resignation. And then what?

Retirement? Decades at home? How many trips to the overpriced, upscale coffee shop can you make before it gets old?

Keep Overhead to a Minimum

Almost DailyBrett has always asked his classes: “What are the most vital public relations of all?” The answer: Your personal brand and reputation.

In your last act as a working stiff, do you want to be remembered for using the ultimate explicative with your employer? Who wants to hire you, if later you cool off and come to the conclusion that you made a mistake?

Are you certain this temporary euphoria will not stick to you like Velcro or an insensitive tweet, when we all know that digital is eternal?

Let’s say you gave your boss the final (middle) finger, when you know — or at least you believe — you have more than adequate F-U Money. Okay, now what?

Money Magazine suggested that one must calmly calculate what amount each year + inflation will be enough to ensure a moderately comfortable life. Next, figure out how many more years you can reasonably expect to be on this planet.

Finally, how much F-U Money do you really have? Is it enough to ensure your money doesn’t run out before you run out?

One suggestion that Almost DailyBrett will make for the F-U Money crowd is to own your residence outright: No mortgage, no monthly rent. Another point is to maintain fiscal discipline and to avoid recurring payments if you can (e.g., car payments, credit card bills, furniture purchases, orange doors to store your “stuff.”) and most of all, keep your overhead to a minimum.

Can you keep driving your same car, making periodic upkeep payments? If you can, you may be able to enjoy exotic trips every now and then.

You Decide When Enough Is Enough

One major advantage of F-U Money is you have the freedom of deciding when enough-is-enough as opposed to your employer selecting the time and place to put you out to pasture. There is an eternal satisfaction that comes from leaving on your own terms, not when someone who doesn’t necessarily have your best interest at heart determines when to put a fork in you, because you’re done in their eyes.

How many people do you know, who are surprised when they are cashiered after 15, 17, 20, 30 years on the job? What these poor souls see as eternal loyalty, maybe a few in younger management may regard as stagnation.

Maybe the best solution involves sweetly telling a superior that it’s time, perhaps it is past time for you to leave. You didn’t burn any bridges. You determined when it was time to depart on your own terms at time of your choosing. You’re not bitter. Best of all, you are leaving to do what you want to do – all because you have an F-U Account.

WTF!

http://time.com/money/4187538/f-u-money-defined-how-much-calculator/

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

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=fuck%20you%20money

https://www.quora.com/What-is-fuck-you-money

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/daily-202/2017/07/13/daily-202-trump-is-the-disrupter-in-chief-in-an-age-of-disruption/5966a386e9b69b7071abcb23/?wpmm=1&wpisrc=nl_daily202

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

After at least four years of more lectures, labs, study groups, readings, papers and presentations than you would ever care to count, the prospect of taking up to another 18 months to attain a master’s degree or maybe even four years to earn a Ph.D is a prospect most graduating seniors would rather not even think about.

And yet the question still persists for some: Should you seriously consider taking the advanced degree plunge right here and now following graduation? Consider that even more employers are requiring advanced degrees; many want MBAs.

Before answering this perplexing interrogative: Consider the unmistakable NFW response by the author of Almost DailyBrett in 1978. Yours truly had just received his bachelor’s in Broadcasting Journalism from the University of Southern California. There was simply no way when it came to the question of signing up for even more college.

I was done, thank you very much.

Looking back at that easy-and-yet momentous decision, your author now regrets not pursuing a master’s degree right then and there, when he was as free as a bird … no spouse, no kidlet, no mortgage, no car payment … absolutely nothing.

Fortunately, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page were right in Stairway to Heaven: “Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there’s still time to change the road you’re on.”

A confluence of events in my life (i.e., widowerhood, adult daughter, real estate appreciation, fellowship) gave me that one-last-chance-in-a-lifetime opportunity in 2010 to pursue my master’s degree in mid-life at the University of Oregon.

The author of Almost DailyBrett was very fortunate, very fortunate indeed.

Died and Went to Heaven

When the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication offered me a fellowship, your author jumped at the opportunity in two nanoseconds or less.

You should do the same, if you are selected for an on-campus fellowship at a R1 university.

Becoming a Graduate Teaching Fellow (GTF) provides the following benefits:

  1. An absolutely free master’s degree or Ph.D … yep no-instate or better yet, no out-of-state or private school tuition;
  2. Medical, dental and vision health care benefits for at least the fellow, and maybe the whole family as well;
  3. A stipend of $1,000 or more per month;
  4. Invaluable teaching experience as a teaching assistant to a professor.

As Almost DailyBrett wrote before, I appreciated this unbelievable deal and thought I had died and gone to heaven. It was perplexing to say the least when the University of Oregon GTFs went on strike in 2014 … Patience, Kevin. Patience. Let’s not get started on this subject again.

Some have asked: Should I take an online master’s degree or Ph.D? My short answer is nein.

If one is pursuing an advanced degree in public relations, marketing, journalism, broadcast, film etc., it is best to be on campus to directly interact with your colleagues and Ph.D professors. Sorry to say, file sharing and texting just don’t cut it.

If one is pursuing an advanced degree in accounting, an online program may be appropriate. Having said that, communications requires – face-to-face interaction and diplomacy – no online program can help you advance these interpersonal story telling skills.

What about the necessary evil? The Graduate Record Exam (GRE)?

Brace yourself and come to full acceptance mode as quickly as possible. Any graduate school worth its salt (sorry University of Phoenix, that designation does NOT apply to you), particularly a Research One or R1 university, will require the GRE.

Your author took it twice, the second time after a prep course, and lived to talk about it. Take the prep course and do as well as possible on the GRE.

What About Grad School?

“No one does bull shit better than you.” – A compliment from one of my USC fraternity brothers

Trust me, bull shit does not work in Pro Seminar.

The two-night-per week, three-hours per class, was the most intense review of communications philosophy one can imagine (i.e., Kant, Marx, Althusser, Descartes, Hegel, Le Bon …). Don’t even think about going to class without doing the reading; you can’t hide in plain sight for three hours. Don’t even think about B.S.- ing a full professor with a Ph.D in Philosophy from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana.

And once you have navigated the benign sounding, but mind-numbing Pro Seminar class with its up-to-five hours per night of reading, you will be ready for … qualitative and quantitative analysis in the next quarter.

Sounds horrible? Right?

In reality, pursuing a graduate degree was an incredible and rewarding challenge. It soon dawned on me that I was only using a mere fraction of my brain. I made some great friends as well.

One of my profs said: “We are working on your intellectual growth.”

Intellectual growth? Me? Really?

Oh, did I mention that my master’s degree was an absolute prerequisite for landing a tenure track professorship in public relations and advertising at Central Washington University? Guess, learning about Immanuel Kant and his categorical imperatives was well worth it.

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2013/08/11/taking-the-gre-again/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/12/03/are-striking-uo-graduate-teaching-fellows-certifiable/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2015/07/18/online-college-not-good-enough-for-pr/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/07/01/did-a-perfect-storm-lead-to-the-gathering-storm/

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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