Category: Out of the Box Thinking


“Official statistics no longer countered this (Ossies) group — who were disproportionately young, clever, female and ambitious — as East Germans.” — The Economist’s “Thirty years after the Wall fell, ” November 2, 2019

“From adversity comes opportunity.” — Former Notre Dame Head Coach Lou Holtz

When the Berlin Wall came tumbling down in 1989, more than 1 million Ossies took advantage of their newfound freedom from Communism, immediately heading to West Germany and for the most part … thriving. More than one-quarter of East Germans aged 18-30 moved to the west, two-thirds of them … women.

They recognized there were two paths to go by, but in the long run, there was still time to change the road they were on … especially young, clever, ambitious females.

For those 16 million-plus souls adversely trapped for 28 years behind the borders of stultifying-oppressive-surveillance state East Germany, there finally was an opportunity to leave, begin a new life and build a lucrative career. Many took this new road to affluent Bavaria, Baden Württemberg, Hamburg … and never looked back.

Is moving to a more promising venue, the catalyst for success and building wealth?

Only one way to find out.

“I’m in Favor of Progress; It’s Change I Don’t Like” — Mark Twain

Ever meet Negative Nancy, Debbie Downer or Gloomy Gus?

Their cups are always half empty. They impress upon you what they can’t do rather then what they can do. Their little rain clouds follow them wherever they go … and in the most cases … they don’t go anywhere.

They settle for status quo mediocrity or worse. And soon it will be late … too late in their lives to make a change for the better.

They will choose neither path, and the road will soon be closed for good.

Almost DailyBrett was born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. The former steel town is a great place to be … from.

Fortunately your author’s family was afforded the opportunity to move to Southern California. For Almost DailyBrett, Sacramento, CA, Portland, OR, Pleasanton, CA Ellensburg, WA and now Eugene, OR followed.

With each move came a change of scenery, variables, superiors, colleagues, subordinates, issues to confront and problems to solve. There were always vexing adversities and intriguing opportunities, and most of all challenges to overcome.

In their coverage of the 30th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall earlier this month, most of the newsies focused on the disparity of those who reside and succeed in former West Germany, and those who remain mired in chronic poverty in former East Germany. For many, they could have moved to seek a better life, but for one reason or another … they didn’t.

Yes, there is income disparity even in a model European nation.

The story also needs to reflect the shift away from an agrarian economy, which is largely cosigned to the Stone Age. The following industrial revolution of Johnstown, PA is kaput. The world is now consumer dominated (e.g., 70 percent of the United States economy), digitized and service oriented.

Advantage women … particularly young, clever and ambitious women.

The service oriented consumer economy is right in their sweet spot. Public relations, marketing, advertising, event planning, local government, law, real estate, health care, hospitality … heck, even hardware stores … are dominated by the fairer gender or at a minimum … heading in that direction.

Can men, who once dominated the agrarian and industrial economies with their brute strength, ignorance and testosterone, succeed in this new service economy? Yes for some, but will they en masse? The evidence is not promising.

Not only have women passed men in terms of labor force participation, the same X-curve apply to women vs. men college graduates with a bachelor’s degree or above. And in the vast majority of cases, one must or want to move away from home to go to college. Universities and colleges should be a one-way ticket to independence, not back to mom and/or dad.

Graduates react after being recognized for their degree during the University of Wisconsin-Madison spring commencement ceremony ceremony at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis., Saturday, May 16, 2015. (Amber Arnold/Wisconsin State Journal via AP)

If professional women were a publicly traded stock compared to an equity for professional men, Almost DailyBrett would not hesitate to invest in the growth potential of the fairer gender. As your author has always noted, stocks are a forward rather than a lagging indicator … women are leading, men are behind and the gap is growing.

The wind is clearly in the sails of professional women, particularly those who are brave and smart enough to recognize there’s still time to change the road they are on.

And when their ship comes in they will be ready to board and set sail.

Alas way too many men will be killing time, playing video games at the airport.

https://www.economist.com/europe/2019/10/31/germans-still-dont-agree-on-what-reunification-meant

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2019/11/08/the-night-the-wall-came-tumbling-down/

“Billionaires should not exist.” — Millionaire U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont)

“Every billionaire is a policy failure.” — Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York)

“Personal wealth is at best an unreliable signal of bad behavior or failing policies. Often the reverse is true.” — The Economist

Super talented and accomplished media superstar Oprah Winfrey is worth $3 billion.

Basketball Hall of Famer Michael Jordan’s net worth is $1.9 billion.

Hip-hop star/investor Jay-Z just made into the three-comma club at $1,000,000,000.

Did government fail when Oprah, Michael and Jay-Z all succeeded and thrived, each because of their hard work, fortitude, perseverance and incredible talent?

Did anyone of them trade on their … privilege?

Almost DailyBrett doesn’t remember Oprah engaging in insider-trading.

Do you, Secretary Reich?

Ditto for Michael Jordan profiting from a monopoly unless Mr. Reich is pointing to Michael’s near-monopoly of talent against the competition he faced night-after-night in the NBA?

Is Jay-Z guilty of fraud, a political payoff or did he inherit his wealth?

Wonder if any of these “basically 5 ways” to accumulate a billion dollars in America apply to Nike founder/Philanthropist Phil Knight?

Have you read “Shoe Dog,” Professor Reich? Nike almost went under about nine times.

The former Labor Secretary’s “5 ways” Twitter screed is intellectually dishonest, and remarkably easy to discredit.

Alas, it is beneath the respect normally afforded to Robert Reich. Next time go high Mr. Reich instead of racing to the bottom. Talented and hard working people can earn their wealth on their own without resorting to nefarious deeds.

From a policy standpoint, we need to ask:

Should we punish Oprah, Michael, Jay-Z, Uncle Phil and so many others who worked their tushes off to legitimately make their fortunes with a punitive Elizabeth Warren 6 percent wealth tax (up from the original 3 percent proposal), and income tax rates reaching 90 percent or beyond?

Whattyathink Senators Sanders and Warren?

Class warfare — born out of jealousy — is not new.

The effective tax rate for achievers in the United Kingdom in the 1970s once reached 98 percent. If you don’t believe Almost DailyBrett, ask The Beatles … ask The Rolling Stones, who fled to France and recorded “Exile On Main Street.”

Can a near 100 percent confiscatory tax rate, which was thankfully eliminated in the UK by former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, happen in the United States of America? Let’s hope not.

Celebrate Instead of Hate?

Almost DailyBrett remembers boys and girls practicing basketball, so they could be “Just Like Mike.”

Your author can imagine girls admiring and wanting to be the next Oprah.

You should check Ellen’s interview with Bill Gates. They discussed the works and deeds of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, donating a cumulative $50.1 billion to fight global childhood poverty and to improve public schools in our country.

According to Forbes, Gates is worth approximately $96.5 billion — give or take a shekel or two — making him the second wealthiest homo sapien on the planet. Virtually everyone in the first world is using Microsoft’s Windows Operating System, inspired and written by Gates. And his charitable foundation has contributed more than any other non-profit ever to make our world a better place (more than most governments).

His former company Microsoft is valued at $1.14 trillion, generates $96.5 billion in annual revenues, and employs 144,000 in well paying positions with full benefits and stock options. Taken together, the performance of Microsoft as a company and the generosity of the Gates Foundation, puts Bill’s wealth into perspective.

Can we have more “policy failures” just like Bill Gates, Phil Knight, Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan, Jay-Z and so many more?

Instead of hating people who are wealthy, let’s celebrate and cheer for the achievers (e.g., Michael Jordan).

If we are concerned about billionaires, our policies should focus on stimulating competition (i.e., über-tough content streaming, video game, smart phone markets…), not limitless redistribution or punitive taxation.

If our political intent is to further divide, demonizing billionaires (as others have been publicly denigrated for ages) is a good way to engender one of the seven Deadly Sins: Envy.

If our goal is growth and prosperity, then let’s encourage Millennials and the generations, who will follow, to shoot for the stars. Let them become tomorrow’s Oprah, Michael, Jay-Z, Bill Gates and Uncle Phil.

And if they succeed financially, let’s celebrate them and at the same time root for competitors to keep them on their toes.

https://www.economist.com/leaders/2019/11/09/billionaires-are-only-rarely-policy-failures

https://www.economist.com/finance-and-economics/2019/11/07/have-billionaires-accumulated-their-wealth-illegitimately

https://www.gatesfoundation.org/who-we-are/general-information/foundation-factsheet

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2019/02/06/the-lonely-guy-standing-in-line-for-a-burger/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2012/09/25/taxing-uncle-phil-to-death/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2015/08/23/three-comma-club/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/10/04/taxing-the-fab-four-exiling-the-stones/

During the course of your author’s life there have been four seminal events, each prompting the question: ‘Where were you when you heard … ?’

For Baby Boomer Almost DailyBrett, these were the four history changing news stories of a lifetime: JFK’s assassination (1963), Neil Armstrong walking on the Moon (1969), the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989) and the September 11 attacks (2001).

Ironically, it was a fatal PR mistake 30 years ago that triggered the final inevitable fall of the Wall, and with it the ultimate demise of Soviet Union-style Communism.

East Germany’s Günter Schabowski was tasked with announcing the planned travel policy easing of the so-called German Democratic Republic’s (Deutsche Demokratische Republik or DDR). When he was asked if the changes applied immediately … his assumed “as far as I know” response without reading the policy paper …  was affirmative.

Unintentionally he ignited the storming of the DDR’s borders, and most of all the toppling of the Berlin Wall.

Today ein Stück der Mauer prominently sits beside the elbow of your author, accompanying the futile search for the appropriate English words to recapture the global significance of this epochal event.

Tomorrow will mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the monstrous Berlin Wall (1961-1989), leading directly to the reunification of Germany and the end of the Communist menace in Russia and Eastern Europe. The world is a safer place as result of overjoyed Ossies walking and driving with their sputtering Trabants  across East Germany’s borders to freedom, one of them being a woman by the name of … Angela Merkel.

She started the evening consuming a beer in a sauna east of the wall, and ended the evening drinking a celebratory brew from a bottle with a label she had never seen before on the west side of the wall. Today, she is the Chancellor of the reunified (Wiedervereinigung) Federal Republic of Germany.

Giving Proper Credit For The End Of Communism

“Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” — President Ronald Reagan speaking before the Brandenburg Gate and the Berlin Wall

If you ever travel to Berlin to touch the remaining stretches of the Berlin Wall, be sure to take the time to check out The Checkpoint Charlie Museum. The visitor can stand without fear on the very spot on the Friedrichstrasse in which American and Soviet tanks went eyeball to eyeball with each other. A critical miscalculation could have triggered a nuclear World War III.

Former Wall Street Journal Berlin bureau chief Frederick Kempe’s “Berlin 1961, Kennedy, Khrushchev And The Most Dangerous Place On Earth” vividly recounts the tension of the superpower standoff. The museum also recounts these days, and the ingenious plots to escape East Germany and its hideous wall.

A separate wing of the museum is devoted to Reagan, his Tear Down This Wall speech on continuous loop, and his pivotal role in ending the Cold War.

And yet there is a debate to this day about who should take the lion’s share of the credit for putting together the plan, which led to the demise of the wall and the end of Communism.

The names in alphabetical order of Mikhail Gorbachev, Helmut Kohl, Pope Paul II and Margaret Thatcher all played a role in this transformation, and each should take a bow.

For Almost DailyBrett and those who despise historical revisionism for purely political purposes, Ronald Reagan will always take center stage in the eyes of history. He rejected detente or merely accepting Communist domination from Berlin to Vladivostok. Instead his policy was simple: “We win, they lose.”

The USSR lost.

Another winner was Chancellor Helmut Kohl (1930-2017), who skillfully linked and achieved feared German reunification with the success of the European Union.  “German and European Unification are two sides of the same coin.” („Deutsche und europäische Einigung sind zwei Seiten einer Medaille.“)

Today, Germany along with France are the de-facto leaders of Europe … regardless of when Britain leaves the EU. Germany has acknowledged, addressed and atoned its dark past (Vergangenheitsbewältigung), particularly the 12 horrid years of Hitler, the Nazis and the Holocaust.

“The thought that a great nation (Germany) that had run amok should repent its crimes to the world. What other country has ever done such as thing?” — The character “Ed” quoting himself in John le Carré’s Agent Running in the Field

And “Ed” speaking about yesterday leading to today:

“Germany was the cat’s whiskers. It’s citizens were simply the best Europeans ever. No other nation holds a candle to Germans, not when it comes to understanding what the European union is all about.”

Naturally, the point of emphasis is made by literary master John le Carré.

And it all started The Night The Wall Came Tumbling Down.

https://www.economist.com/europe/2019/10/31/germans-still-dont-agree-on-what-reunification-meant

https://www.forbes.com/profile/angela-merkel/#71bd54c022dd

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2017/08/22/morning-in-germany/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2019/06/06/cool-calm-and-collected-germany/

Welcome to America’s cul-de-sac: The Pacific Northwest.

There is no state in the nation’s contiguous states, which is located further away from a steady supply of stud football players, let alone media markets, than Oregon.

For the Oregon Ducks, geography could be an easy excuse. Instead, it is a challenge that must and is being surmounted.

Oregon has chosen to compete in terms of marketing, facilities, swagger and success.

Autzen Stadium is rocking on Saturdays, and yet there are some who cannot pronounce the name of the state correctly particularly those east of the Hudson and in bucolic Bristol, Connecticut. … It’s Or-ee-gun.

As a 30-year season ticket holder, Almost DailyBrett was rooting for the Ducks before it was cool.

Your author earned his bachelor’s degree in broadcasting journalism from USC and his master’s degree in communication from the University of Oregon. There is no game that tugs at the heart strings more than when the Ducks and Trojans come together as will be the case this Saturday at the LA Mausoleum.

The illustration of the GPS disparity (e.g., 858 miles) between Los Angeles, California and Eugene, Oregon cannot be minimized. Oregon is the home to 4.19 million souls. The Los Angeles area has 18.79 commuters.

Geography matters.

USC easily has greater access to more stud athletes within a 40-mile radius of its urban campus than Oregon has in a 400-mile radius of its college town setting. Historically, USC recruits and signs more decorated big men on high school campuses than Oregon.

What? Oregon is a 4.5 point favorite over USC in Los Angeles.

How can that be even remotely possible?

Oregon Chose To Compete

Can’t tell you how many times Oregon was confused in the 1990s with … the Beavers.

You can’t tell the difference between “The Jetsons” and “The Flintstones”?

The working pejorative by the lazy sports media was to simply lump the Ducks and Beavers together as … “The Oregon schools.”

Attempting to stay in the game with USC, UCLA, Stanford and Washington for a quarter or two was an accomplishment. If that was indeed the case, the next obvious question was … why bother?

Athletes in Oregon could not practice their game 24,7, 365 because of the state’s wet climate. The team would never prevail. Oregon would never win the conference crown. The Ducks would never go to the Rose Bowl. They would never play for the “Natty.” A Duck would never win the Heisman Trophy.

Whatever happened to all these modern-day Nostradamus,’ who uttered these ex-cathedra proclamations?

Since Almost DailyBrett first purchased his Oregon season tickets and made his initial donation to The Duck Athletic Fund in 1990, the Ducks have won six conference titles. They have played in Pasadena on New Year’s Day four times, winning two. They have competed in the “Natty” twice. And Oregon deity, Marcus Mariota, won the Heisman.

With each accomplishment, Oregon blew away each recruiting disincentive: Can’t work on your game, never will win, never play in a major bowl, never compete for the national championship, will never be in the conversation for the Heisman … let alone win the trophy.

Oregon Reign

It reigns in Oregon. It reigns big time.

Oregon is the ultimate overachiever, not just in football but men’s and women’s basketball and track and field as well.

What are the components of Oregon’s accomplishments?

Marketing: Oregon is forward-looking. Buy the stock. The school doesn’t concentrate on past tradition, but pivots off immediate success to project forward.  Oregon has identified its target audience (high school sophomore and junior studs) with fun football, cool uniforms, playing in ultra-loud Autzen Stadium on national television. The Ducks are cool, and everyone knows it (including those in Seattle and Corvallis). Maybe their images and likenesses of future Ducks will draw the attention of … Nike?

Facilities:  If you build it, will they come? Almost DailyBrett remembers the alumni tent in the gravel parking lot. That mental image was light years ago. Conservatively, Oregon has invested $15 million for the Moshofsky Center (indoor practice facility), $41 million for the John Jacqua (athletic academic support center), $68 million for the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex (football operations center) and $68 million for the expansion of Autzen Stadium.

Kudos for a huge assist from Oregon’s resident alum swoosh billionaire, Phil Knight.

Swagger: The Golden Era of Oregon football has returned. Former lineman Mario Cristobal has brought Alabama smash-mouth football with speed to the perceived soft Pac-12 conference. Cristobal’s energy is infectious. Every potential recruit coming to Eugene, leaves with photos of himself in Oregon football pads with the Nike logo prominently featured. Once again, Oregon is the hunted, not the hunter.

Success: As John Madden once said: “When you win, nobody can hurt you. When you lose, nobody can help you.” After the school’s best-ever results (46-7) during Chip Kelly’s tenure from 2009 – 2012, and recorded three straight conference titles, four BCS bowl games, Oregon fell back into the Pac. Coaching matters.

Oregon comes to the LA Coliseum this Saturday with the wind in its collective sails (5-0 in the Pac-12). The Ducks respect USC, but don’t fear the Trojans. As evidenced by the Washington and Wazzu games, the contest is expected to be close, real close.

One way or the other, Oregon will be competing for conference title on December 6.

Will our fine-feathered friends have a Rosey future? Expect the Ducks to compete like hell for Pasadena, because they can.

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2019/01/02/the-conference-of-champions/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2012/08/16/rooting-for-oregon-before-it-was-cool/

 

“People who love to drive, love the car. Enthusiasts love the car. Automotive media love the car. Miata owners have an almost motorcycle-gang loyalty, with dozens of Miata clubs all over North America.” — Robert Duffer, Chicago Tribune, “Why Is The Mazda Miata So Beloved”

Talk about the ultimate first-world crisis.

Mazda quietly dropped the legendary “Miata” brand for MX-5.

MX-What?

Never in recorded history has a sports car touched the lives of so many people as the Mazda Miata introduction in 1989.

Thirty years later, the best selling roadster of all time (Guinness Book of World Records), Miata has stood the test of time with its reasonable price, 181 horses, 26 city and 35 highway fuel efficiency …  and most of all … it’s a blast to drive.

How do you spell fun in the sun? M-I-A-T-A.

For Almost DailyBrett, his little green chariot without pop-up headlights was purchased brand-spanking new in June 2004. It was love at first sight and the affair continues to this day. Some have suggested we need to get a room.

Can’t tell you how many times your author has garnered Miata envy from poor saps driving mini-vans with plenty of room for infant car seats.

Perhaps you should control your hormones?

Getting It Right The First Time

The Mazda Miata or MX-5 is going to be celebrating its 25th year of production. And there’s a reason for that. Very few times that you get something right, the first time, but this is a classic case of that.” — Jay Leno, “Jay Leno’s Garage,” February 2014

Jay Leno spoke in a glowing fashion about one of his two Mazda Miatas five years ago.  Fast forward to today.

Is nothing sacred? Is this Miata imprimatur disappearing act a sterling example of enlightened brand management?

As we wonder about the course of self-driving vehicles, Almost DailyBrett loves his Miata … it will always be his Miata … today, tomorrow and forever.

Can’t imagine a self-driving Miata. What would be the point?

Your author is not alone. There are 96 Miata clubs spread across America. The sports car keeps on selling, particularly in spring and summer.

Do you think there is a correlation between warmer temperatures and putting down the ultra-easy top?

The new MX-5 without any Miata branding looks like a sad Miata … a really sad Miata.

Remembering The New Coke Roll-Out Debacle

“Coke’s decided to make their formula sweeter; they’ve decided to mix it with Pepsi.” — Comedian David Letterman on the botched New Coke roll out

Coca-Cola came out with New Coke in 1985 without proper research about consumer reaction, and thus an unnecessary brand riot was born.

Mazda, can we see your quantitative and qualitative analysis, demonstrating that we wanted to bid adieu with the Miata name, and opt for MX-5?

No one asked Almost DailyBrett. 

If Miata owners wanted to drive a Mazda, we would drive a Mazda … let alone a Mazda MX-5.

If Corvette owners wanted to drive a Chevy, they would drive a Chevy.

A Miata is a Miata. A ‘Vette is a ‘Vette.

Simple, real simple. It’s the brand, stupid.

Miata owners love their Miatas. Competitors came out with the Honda S2000, Toyota M2, the BMW Z3 and the Pontiac POS (e.g., Fiero).

No dice on any of them.

Mazda management in Japan needs to understand that Miata parents control the brand.

As Robert Duffer in the Chicago Tribune, Miata owners/enthusiasts “love” the car. There are more than 100 Miata clubs in the United States and Canada combined. We are talking about the ultimate in “L” words.

Why get in the way of our public romance from sea-to-shining sea, across the fruited plain?

Mazda needs to understand the old, time-tested adage:

If something isn’t broken, don’t fix it.

https://www.cnet.com/roadshow/news/mazda-mx5-miata-history/

http://www.chicagotribune.com/autos/chi-why-is-the-mazda-miata-so-beloved-20140905-story.html

https://mossmiata.com/miata-car-clubs

Mazda MX-5 Miata

Selling My 2004 Mazda MX-5 Miata Was Remarkably Difficult, and Also Remarkably Easy

Are free dinners the same as free lunches?

Almost DailyBrett is simply amazed by the sheer volume of invitations received every day since the onset of his retirement.

There are annoying robocalls, carnivorous telemarketers, “personal” letters, informational packets, not to mention a slew of digital and broadcast ads.

Dinner for two at the nicest places in town … free of charge.

New “friends” wanting to lend a helping hand in managing your author’s investments, providing a swell place to take vacations year-after-year, distributing retirement savings or taking over residential equity and kicking-back crumbs month-after-month.

Why does one need a middle-man for your own retirement nest egg?

There is a thriving industry to provide Almost DailyBrett and everyone else with a spiffy “vacation club,” spending quality time annually with family (assumes one wants to spend more time with family).

“You deserve it.” How do you know?

Conversely, there is reciprocal industry to extract (for a fee) pigeons from foolish time-share contracts.

Too much time with the family? Too good to be true? Didn’t read the contract? It must suck to be you. Only we can help.

Buy a time-share, get out of a time-share … either way the Land Sharks win and you lose.

Somebody is making money and sad to say, it’s the salesmen/saleswomen.

These apex predators all have the gift of gab with wonderful smiles and they are all well dressed, hiding their dorsal fins.

They have a deal … such as deal … for you.

Their basic proven strategy: Get your derriere into a comfy seat with a nice drink (or two or three … ) and soon it will be time for the contracts … time share, annuity, reverse mortgage … all waiting to be signed.

Just affix your signature right here on the bottom line … muther sucker.

“Die And Go To Hell”

“We don’t sell annuities. I would die and go to hell before I would sell an annuity.” — Ken Fisher of Fisher Investments’ 60-second advertisement

Can’t forget the image of Leonard DiCaprio giving the middle finger to a vacillating on-the-phone investor in Martin Scorsese’s over-the-top plethora of gratuitous F-bombs, drugs and skin: The Wolf of Wall Street.

What value to society is created by time-shares, annuities, reverse mortgage sales dudes and sales dudettes?

Do they really care about their clients? 

As we grow more mature, there seems to be a mindset that retirees in their sixties … let alone older … are losing it upstairs. They are ripe for exploitation.

It seems that new friends are popping up here, there and everywhere. They are always ready to help. Trust us.

Almost DailyBrett detests the hard sell. The harder the push, the greater the personal resistance.

Your author gravitates to proven friends. A prime example is Charles Schwab, which has managed my retail investment portfolio for a generation.

Is publicly traded Charles Schwab (NYSE: SCHW) intrinsically interested in driving the top and bottom lines, consistent with its fiduciary responsibility to investors? Absolutely.

Schwab’s core business … providing a low-cost trading platform (e.g., $4.95 for equity, mutual fund and bond transactions) … may be a tad boring and predictable, but the client is provided with real shareholder value.

Didn’t CNBC’s Mad Money with Jim Cramer write a book entitled, “Get Rich, Carefully?”

Does anyone think he or she is going to get rich carefully with a time share, annuity or reverse mortgage?

Didn’t think so.

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2017/05/16/hasta-la-vista-to-timeshares-annuities-and-reverse-mortgages/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2018/07/14/has-it-come-to-this-tom-selleck-and-henry-winkler/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2013/12/26/506-f-bombs/

https://www.consumeraffairs.com/news/timeshare-salesman-says-he-lied-for-a-living-062615.html

https://www.cnbc.com/mad-money/

 

“I’ve actually never met anybody who likes their health insurance company.” — Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts)
“And while Bernie (Sanders) wrote the bill, I read the bill. And on page eight — on page eight of the bill, it says that we will no longer have private insurance as we know it. And that means that 149 million Americans will no longer be able to have their current insurance.” — Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota)

If your author didn’t have bad luck 15 years ago, he wouldn’t have any luck at all.

In chronological order: there was the diagnosis of prostate cancer in 2004, my first wife died of stomach cancer nine months later, and to top it off … the brutal arrival of incurable (but today manageable) Valley Fever (e.g., fungus) came in 2006.

Fortunately, Almost DailyBrett was always covered by some flavor of Blue Cross … and that is true today.

At the expense of shedding any semblance of modesty your author earned his health insurance, waking before dawn for mind-numbing commutes and waiting hours for evening flights and confronting countless challenges in between.

The rapid fire series of bad medical luck with a new installment every year, each diagnosis had the potential to devastate your author financially … and yet there was thankfully health insurance, private-sector health insurance.

Any public discussion about eliminating my hard-earned Regence Blue Cross, particularly in the onset of my retirement years, is an absolute non-starter for yours truly. Your author will categorically state that he will not entertain even for a nanosecond, voting for any candidate who advocates taking away my Blue Cross.

Aren’t Democrats labeled by detractors as the “give-away” party, never as the “take-away” party?

Aren’t Democrats the “pro-choice” party, rather than the “no-choice” party?

Sorry Bernie and Elizabeth, Almost DailyBrett is one of the estimated 150-to-180 million Americans who would lose his or her private insurance with the onset of the “Medicare For All” elimination of private insurance scheme.

Think of it in terms of Monte Hall’s Let’s Make A Deal: On one stage is tried-and-true Blue Cross health insurance — the one that has served your author and his family since the 1980s — and on the other stage is … the door. What’s behind this scary door?

What we know for sure is that Blue Cross Blue Shield will be out of business. Private insurance will be nationalized. There will be zero “public option.” There will be only one option, the government, the same government that provides us with DMV, the US Postal Service (USPS) and Amtrak.

Sorry, you author does not want federally mandated Amtrak train wreck health care.

Insurance: A Necessary Evil

Even though insurance by its very nature is a negative product (you pay for it, but you really don’t want to use it), Almost DailyBrett actually likes his private sector insurance company, and wants to keep it. Sorry Elizabeth, this author does not concur with your sweeping ex cathedra pronouncement.

Bernie loves to point out that drug and insurance companies generated a cumulative evil profit of $100 billion (e.g., denominator). Question: What is the numerator? How many companies are we talking about?

Keep in mind that each of these publicly traded health companies has a federally mandated fiduciary responsibility to drive the top, and yes … bottom lines. Are we including bio-tech companies, researching cures for cancer, heart disease and other ailments? Are all of these companies actually making money?

The $100 billion number sounds just a little too perfect … to be real.

Bernie and Elizabeth want to give everyone federal health insurance, and only federal health insurance. No issue divides the Democratic Party more than the question of taking away private health insurance from the one-half of the nation, the 150 million-plus who earned and rely upon their private health insurance.

Ladies and gentlemen, we now have a new “Third Rail of Politics,” and Bernie and Elizabeth are shocking the nation with their draconian plan.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/09/13/transcript-third-democratic-debate/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/prostate-cancer-a-piece-of-cake-compared-to-valley-fever/

 

“To liberals, the US is not good enough for the world. To conservatives, the world is not good enough for the US.” — Pulitzer Winning Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018)

My dear wife Jeanne and your author walked 125 miles, an average of 6.8 miles per day, during the course of 20 August vacation days, spanning three European nations: Austria, France and Germany.

We even dared visit  Paris in Verboten August, and were greeted by beautiful weather, easy access to restaurants and virtually no lines for Versailles and The Louvre. Wasn’t anything and everything supposed to be closed for vacation?

One never missed the living Renoir-style impressionism of the sidewalk cafes in France and the beer gardens in Austria and Germany, and could easily come away with the conclusion that all Europeans are happy, content and satisfied.

Touring the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, visitors are easily impressed with the union of 28 countries, speaking 24 separate languages, and serving as the home of 512 million people working together — sometimes in harmony — as members of the European Union (EU). Europe for the most part recorded almost 75 years of sustained peace since the establishment of the EU, rather than being at each other’s collective throats.

And yet there are storm clouds that won’t go away easily, namely Brexit.

A plethora of higher moral ground activists point to Denmark, Norway and Sweden as “happy little” royal countries. They rhetorically pose: ‘Why couldn’t the US be more like them?’ Almost DailyBrett must reply: We rebelled against monarchy (telling King George III where to put his royal scepter), so why wouldn’t we automatically reject monarchy, even constitutional monarchy?

If the expressed goal is true socialist justice, then how can one accept all the state-sponsored extravagance being bestowed upon the ultimate winners of a biological lottery, those born into a royal family? Versailles in France and Neuschwanstein in Germany are vivid examples of monarchial excesses, which ended with the King Louis XVI being guillotined and Mad King Ludwig II mysteriously drowning.

And yet dynastic monarchy is still being practiced in the three aforementioned Scandinavian countries, plus Belgium, Netherlands, Spain and of course, the United Kingdom. If the social justice types complain bitterly about the top 1 percent in America, how can they tolerate the birth-right exclusive … 0.000000000001 percent … in Europe?

Certainly, America has its own issues particularly when it comes to personal health, namely obesity, Diabetes, Opioids and more. Does that mean the vast majority of Europeans are better when it comes to waistlines and personal health? For the most part the answer is, yes.

However, the collective European commitment to the environment and public health abruptly ends with smoking. The deadly habit and its directly related second-hand smoke is right beside you in Europe, literally everywhere.

The warnings on packs of smokes are not mushy as is custom in the states. Even a non-German speaker can easily understand Rauchen kann ist tödlich sein (e.g., Smoking can be deadly), and still one can easily conclude the filthy practice is alive and dead on the European continent (some reportedly inhale to stay skinny). Most likely, they will have beautiful corpses.

Visiting Strasbourg in Alsace Lorraine in France and Baden-Baden in Germany’s Baden Württemberg, it’s easy to reflect on how many times these French-German towns have traded management teams at the point of the bayonet, particularly the former. The Germans took control in 1871, the French took it back in 1918, the Germans again in 1940 and then the French in 1944.

Is there any place in America that has been the subject of that many repeated wars in the 150 years? The answer is an obvious, no.

Let’s face it, a huge reason why Europe has remained peaceful for the past three generations has been the continued placement of U.S. troops and weapons systems in Western Europe during and after the Cold War. Europeans should write thank you notes to US taxpayers. Time for Europe to pay up in the form of their required 2 percent annual GDP equivalents to fund the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, otherwise known by the acronym, NATO

The French in particular were notorious (read: Charles DeGaulle) for not acknowledging our leadership in the liberation of France. Thankfully, French President Emmanuel Macron, gladly speaking English, has pointed to the countless U.S. GI graves in Normandy and recognized our role.

Sorry to say, Denmark did not liberate France and end Nazi and Communist tyranny in Europe. It was the United States in the forefront … of course.

Some complain about the presence of US corporate logos all over Europe, particularly Starbucks, McDonald’s, Apple, KFC, Amazon, Nike etc. The same concentration of European brands is not seen (exception: legendary German cars … BMW, Daimler, Audi, Porsche) other than French cosmetics and Spain’s Zara.

Let’s face it, there is no Silicon Valley in Europe and the entrepreneurial venture capital culture is not the same, maybe with the exception of Germany’s business software provider, SAP or Systemen, Anwedungen und Programmen (Systems, Applications and Programs).

According to The Economist, America’s top five companies in market capitalization (stock prices x number of shares) are technology firms with an abundant focus on services provided. Together, they average 30-years of age, generate $4.3 trillion investor capital and trade at 35 times last year’s earnings.

Conversely, Europe’s top firms are goods-oriented were founded a century ago (i.e., Royal Dutch Shell, Unilever). Collectively, they worth less than $1 trillion (Microsoft alone is larger) and trade at 23 times last year bottom lines. When it comes to “unicorns” or innovative privately held start-ups, think USA not Europe.

In terms of market performance you can’t beat America’s NYSE and the NASDAQ … sorry Britain’s “Footsie,”France’s CAC-40 and Germany’s DAX. And if you want to tie up your disposable investment income for 10 years in government bonds, which guarantee a certain loss … Europe (e.g., 10-year BUND) is at your beckon call.

Buy high and sell low?

Having traveled to Europe four times in the last five years for holiday, and many times before for business and pleasure (no one goes to Brussels for kicks), Almost DailyBrett qualifies as a spirited Europhile. Having said that, your author is a proud American.

Denmark may be happy. Good for the Danes and their lovely harbor mermaid.

When it comes to changing the world for the better, there is no contest. Europe en-masse cannot compete against the U.S. when it comes to being truly exceptional. This reality may drive certain elitists crazy, but your author has to call ’em as he sees ’em.

https://beta.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/charles-krauthammer-pulitzer-prize-winning-columnist-and-intellectual-provocateur-dies-at-68/2018/06/21/b71ee41a-759e-11e8-b4b7-308400242c2e_story.html

https://www.townandcountrymag.com/society/tradition/g12797004/current-monarchy-countries-in-the-world-list/

https://www.townandcountrymag.com/leisure/travel-guide/g19733989/happiest-countries-in-the-world-2018/

https://www.economist.com/briefing/2019/09/12/the-economic-policy-at-the-heart-of-europe-is-creaking

 

 

 

Has the global image of Germany changed for the better?

Is the Feminization of the Fatherland, complete?

Has the nation’s brand been revitalized through softening?

And is Germany’s image stronger as a result?

Consider the remarkable optics of new Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer sitting with incoming European Union President Ursula von der Leyen and Kanzlerin Angela Merkel. The modern image of Deutschland above may indeed constitute the pinnacle of Germany’s 1945-2019 Public Relations Miracle (Öffentlichkeitsarbeirtswunder). 

These three Frauen hail from Germany’s moderate-conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) with its strong emphasis on free market capitalism and memberships in the European Union (EU) and NATO.

Compare the perception of these women, leading today’s Germany with three muscular populists in America, Britain and Russia with Messrs. Boris, Donald and Vladimir.

Which image inspires stability, confidence and security and which precipitates concern and worry?

Is Almost DailyBrett openly suggesting that a nation’s brand is benefited by simply putting women in charge?

Your author mentioned on more than one occasion that he is proud that his lifelong voting record is and will always be Clinton-free, both Bill and Hillary.

America’s Mother in Law Hillary will never be favorably compared with Germany’s “Mutti” (Angela Merkel).

Britain’s “Iron Lady” Margaret Thatcher certainly did not soften the U.K.’s brand in the 1970s/1980s, but she was the right woman at the right time.

Thatcher was not warm and fuzzy, and certainly recorded low scores on the “likeable” scale. The “likeable” question was posed with Hillary candidacies, and now with Elizabeth Warren. Drinking a beer on a poorly shot video probably will not solve this issue.

In contrast Angela Merkel in her portrayal as a solid reassuring leader, ran a re-election campaign based upon the concept of Germany safely in “Mutti’s” hands.

Does Image Softening Lead To Brand Weakening?

Some may be tempted to equate feminization and softening with brand weakness. Almost DailyBrett couldn’t disagree more.

Angela Merkel has learned and demonstrated her ability to parry the rhetorical thrusts of über competitive males, particularly Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump and soon Brexiteer Boris Johnson. Far friendlier are her relations with France’s ambitious Emmanuel Macron, who is attempting to pull France even with Germany when it comes to the European Union’s governing duopoly.

Is there a nation on this planet that has placed its national defense of not just one talented woman, but two? Before leaving for her new post as president of the European Union, Ursula von der Leyen served as Germany’s Verteidigungsministerin (defense minister). Her successor? The aforementioned CDU party leader and heir-apparent to Angela Merkel as Chancellor, Annegret Karrenbauer-Kramp.

The images of these two women reviewing a military honor guard are striking, coupled with the knowledge that Germany’s Sicherheit is as certain as ever.

As discussed by Almost DailyBrett, a nation can demonstrate “hard power” by the traditional means of its economy and military. Germany’s 4th largest GDP of $4.14 trillion and its greatly reduced military for obvious reasons, still matter.

Germany’s “soft power” represents the projection of a country’s culture, language and elements in demand by all countries (e.g., image, success, brand names). For Germany, these elements include its engineering prowess, four World Cup wins in Fussball, and legendary names such as Daimler Benz, BMW, Siemens and Bayer.

Can the Feminization of the Fatherland also be included in the elements of Germany’s soft power? There is zero doubt the presence of confident, measured, competent and talented women at the helm of its leadership represents a new way to approach the German brand and image.

What can other nations learn from Germany’s softening and strengthened global brand?

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/06/24/feminizing-the-fatherland/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2017/08/22/morning-in-germany/

https://countryeconomy.com/gdp/germany

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2017/04/02/does-the-usa-need-its-own-soft-power-goethe-institut/

 

 

 

“I don’t have a racist bone in my body.” — President Donald Trump

At least he’s not a “crook” or didn’t have sex with “that woman,” Monica Lewinsky?

“I do not believe you are a racist.” — Senator Kamala Harris casting doubt on the integrity of former Vice President Joe Biden

Are you sure about that, Kamala?

By incorporating the good name of Joe Biden and “racist” in the same sentence, was Senator Harris connecting the former vice president with this über-charged word? Talk about damning with faint praise.

Kamala knows full well that, “I do not believe you (Biden) are a racist,” is subjunctive. I don’t believe you are, but Mr. Vice President … you could be.

The damage was done.

The real question Almost DailyBrett is posing today: Is the word, “racist,” in danger of becoming just another delicious condiment for every outrageous political attack sandwich?

Let’s see … should we slap some “racist” on sour dough at this contact sport delicatessen? Maybe, we can add “sexist” as another ingredient? How about “homophobic” and/or “transphobic” as well? Hmmm … a juicy racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic … political invective sandwich.

Consider the debating points of Elizabeth Warren: “We live in a country now where the president is advancing environmental racism, economic racism, criminal justice racism, health care racism.”  If you are scoring at home that is four racisms in one mere sentence.

By employing … over-employing … these venomous words time-and-time again …  to humiliate a political opponent and silence dissent … is the power and shock value of these words becoming diluted? Will Americans between now and November 3, 2020 (and beyond) just roll their collective eyes when they once again hear the words, “racist” or “racism” bandied about?

It really doesn’t matter whether the word is being used as an adjective (e.g., “racist tweets”) or a noun (e.g., … not a racist), racist is now so accepted, the media is employing it without qualifiers, such as alleged racist, charged racist, accused racist. Instead the political target is just … an unmitigated, unadulterated, categorical … racist. Will the word have the same power next year that it has this year?

According to Merriam-Webster, cliché equates to a “trite phrase or expression, a hackneyed theme, characterization or situation, something that has become overly familiar or commonplace.”

If a Catholic high school lad is standing at a rally in Washington D.C., wearing a MAGA hat (Make America Great Again), is he “racist” or practicing “racism” by doing nothing and saying absolutely nothing?

“We’re a Catholic school and it’s not tolerated. They don’t tolerate racism and none of my classmates are racist people.” — Nick Sandmann responding to NBC’s Savannah Guthrie’s predictable, “Are you a racist?” question.

Wonder if Almost DailyBrett is going to have “racism” lathered on his sandwich for daring to raise the spectre that the Mother of All Charged Words is maybe losing its steam? Are we overdosing on “racist” and “racism” opioids?

Barack, Who?

Remember Barack Obama’s, “Yes We Can,” campaign?

He won and the motto was updated to “Yes We Did” in a transformative moment when America took the extraordinary step of electing an African-American to the White House.

As Almost DailyBrett mentioned before, America proved once again it’s an extraordinary and exceptional nation by rising above ancient racist dialogue to prove the overwhelming majority can set aside any and all consideration of one’s ethnicity, when deciding who was going to lead the free world in the second decade of the 21st Century.

Have to admit it, your author back in 2009 was wondering about Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. With Obama’s historic election, what were they going to talk about?

Keep in mind that not only was Barack Obama elected and re-elected, America passed the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, ended segregation laws, implemented Brown v. Board of Education (Topeka, Kansas), and abolished slavery with the 13th Amendment. We have come a long way from America’s “Birth Defect” of slavery as described by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

What happens if the battle is over and the war is won? As it turns out, “racist” and “racism” are once again daily entrees featured on any political attack menu.

Your author is NOT suggesting the last vestiges of racism have been completely wiped off the fruited plain. They exist. Having said that, Almost DailyBrett does not concur with the insinuation the 62 million Americans, who did not vote for Hillary Clinton, are indeed “racist.”

The fight is not over, but does the word “racist” need to be employed by every pandering candidate and every screaming talking head on cable television?

Are we going to reach a point that we collectively tune out the word, leading to the possibility that we do not respond to a real racist hate crime?

As Senator Cory Booker said: “Trump is worse than a racist.” Will there be a new attack dog word to follow, “racist”?

Almost DailyBrett believes the once verboten in proper company, F-word … oh WTF … the word “fuck” has become routine and cliché.

Will “racist” join the ranks of words that once were used sparingly, but have now become oh-so-commonplace in our coarse society?

Almost DailyBrett thought long and hard about even raising this volatile subject. The fact that journalists and correspondents are cavalierly using this attack word without any qualifiers is yet another example of growing Opposition Journalism, and another nail in the coffin of Objective Journalism.

How many nanoseconds are there between now and the close of the polls, November 3, 2020?

Wonder how many times the word, “racist,” will be conventionally and digitally uttered, printed and transmitted between now and then? Hundreds? Thousands? Millions? Billions?

Will this practice stop once the election has come and gone?

Don’t count on it.

https://www.politico.com/story/2019/07/16/trump-attack-progressive-congresswomen-1416579

Watch Kamala Harris Demolish Joe Biden on Race During the Democratic Debate

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2018/10/27/what-happened-to-the-exceptional-nation-that-twice-elected-barack-obama/

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/clich%C3%A9

https://www.vox.com/2019/1/22/18192908/covington-catholic-video-nick-sandmann-maga

https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2019/07/22/limbaugh_if_you_can_be_worse_than_a_racist_it_means_the_word_is_losing_its_impact.html

 

 

 

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