Category: Out of the Box Thinking


“Donald Trump is like a vampire; he never sleeps.” – Bill O’Reilly

To be accurate he does sleep a tad, and nocturnally he tweets a ton to 40.6 million-plus recipients.

During a late-1980s visit of Almost DailyBrett to Sardine City (a.k.a. The White House Press Briefing Room), there were wire-service reporters, who drew the short straws, and were assigned to Presidential “Death Watch.”

Translated these graveyard-shift members of the Fourth Estate were expected to be poised and ready to report, if the president passed away in his sleep. Fortunately, the media was never required to write/broadcast about a president expiring in the White House living quarters.

It was quite simply one of the most boring jobs on the planet … until 10 months ago.

The “Death Watch” reporter now has to be glued to her/his mobile device/laptop for the next 140-character-or-less epistle(s) from the Tweeter-in Chief @realDonaldTrump. In the last two years, his Twitter handle has generated 36,100 tweets, ranking the president at #22 worldwide, ironically one place in front of … The New York Times.

As it turns out the political class now needs to be aware of what Trump is tweeting at 3:20 am EDT, and there appears to be little if any advance warning for even his allies (e.g., Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders) or objective/non-objective adversaries.

Trump has introduced widespread insomnia to the denizens of the Potomac, and also media/pundit types east of the Hudson. At the same time he has usurped the elite media’s role in setting the agenda for America’s national conversation.

It’s time to state the obvious:

Instead of the elite-media (i.e. NYT, WaPo, Big Three nets) framing national issue discussions under Agenda Setting Theory, Trump has stolen this mantle through his frantic and many times undisciplined tweeting.

For better or worse, Trump is setting or preempting the agenda and the elite media doesn’t like it one little bit.

The First Social Media President?

“Think of Franklin Roosevelt’s fireside chats or Ronald Reagan’s television addresses. More recently, presidents have used the internet to directly reach the public, making journalists increasingly irrelevant … “– Northeastern Associate Communication Studies Professor Greg Goodale

“Increasingly irrelevant”? Those are fightin’ words.

Considering that Twitter was founded only 11 years ago, it stands to reason that President Barack Obama was the first chief executive to dabble with tweeting. Having said that, did Obama’s tweets ever rise to the level of newsworthy stories, much less threatening elite-media Agenda Setting?

There is a new sheriff in town and part of the reason he is occupying the White House is directly linked to his provocative and disruptive tweets. Not only does Trump set the agenda, he can also shift, preempt and deflect the 24/7 news cycles with subjects of his choosing.

Some contended the elite-media’s cherished role in Agenda Setting would be eroded by widespread public participation in social media (e.g., 10.3 million tweeted during the first Obama vs. Romney debate in 2012).

Instead, research has demonstrated that reporters/correspondents/pundits use Twitter to silently collude with each during a 21st Century presidential debate. Instead of weakening Agenda Setting Theory, the media role in setting the agenda was actually enhanced through second-screen group think.

Whether the elite media should be charged with deciding what issues should be the subject of national conversation is debatable. What is not the subject of dispute is the fact that Twitter has become Trump’s most reliable bully pulpit.

Is Trump provocative in his tweets? Absolutely.

Has he interrupted the elite media setting of the national discussion? With relish.

Has Trump stepped on his own legislative/political agenda with his tweets? No question.

Has Trump in far too many cases to count been undisciplined in his use of Twitter, attacking both friends and foes? The case is closed.

Does the elite media absolutely grind their collective teeth and literally hate Trump’s Twitter use most of all? Is the Pope Catholic?

Will the 46th President of the United States use social media? Did FDR hold radio “Fireside Chats”? Did Kennedy and Reagan excel on television?

Social media tools are here to stay. As Harvard Business Professor Clayton Christensen coined, they are game-changing “destructive technologies.”

And similar to nuclear devices, Twitter is at the fingertips of one Donald John Trump.

http://news.northeastern.edu/2016/12/how-donald-trump-is-changing-presidential-communication/

https://www.newsbusters.org/blogs/nb/curtis-houck/2017/08/07/

https://techofcomm.wordpress.com/tag/donald-trump/

https://twittercounter.com/realDonaldTrump

http://politics.oxfordre.com/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228637.001.0001/acrefore-9780190228637-e-46

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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 Fussballbund 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”? Her latest campaign ad reflects that strategy.

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

 

 

Doesn’t the Declaration of Independence provide for life, liberty and the happiness of pumping our own gas?

There is certain joy that comes from feeling the surging petroleum rocket from the pump directly into my little green chariot. This Freude is kosher in the State of Washington and in California.

But what about that state in between?

Since 1951, it has been Verboten for a mere mortal motorist to pump his or her own gas in the State of Oregon. This antiquated 20th Century law requires petroleum transfer engineers (e.g., popular major at Oregon State University), and only PTEs to exchange fluids in the Beaver State.

What’s that Elon Musk?

Are you saying that EVs could spell doom to the PTEs?

The first affordable Tesla Model 3s are coming off the production lines in Fremont, California (the old NUMMI plant). The initial plans call for 110,000 this year and 500,000 next year.

From $35,000 upwards to $60,000 with all the fixins’, the intrepid all-electric motorist can roar from zero-to- 60 mph in 5.6 seconds with just a tap on the dashboard tablet without omitting one fossil fuel particle into the atmosphere.

Elon Musk, CEO of US automotive and energy storage company Tesla, presents his outlook on climate change at the Paris-Sorbonne University in Paris on December 2, 2015. / AFP / ERIC PIERMONT (Photo credit should read ERIC PIERMONT/AFP/Getty Images)

How’s that sound green Oregonians?

Even a Prius requires a PTE now-and-then. And despite all the hype and owner strutting, the Toyota hybrid still contributes to Climate Change. The proud owner may still be gluten free, but his or her precious Prius is nonetheless putting CO² into the air.

In contrast, the Tesla Model 3 can travel 220-to-310 miles on one charge of electricity. What does that mean to Oregon’s PTEs (same for New Jersey’s legally mandated PTEs)? Are each of you heading for the same crash landing as those who made buggy whips?

Electronic vehicles make PTEs as uncomfortable as a former sales dude or sales dudette at Borders as the imposing Amazon digital shadow hovered over the bricks-and-mortar store. Did you have that out-of-print book, Borders? Do you sell that obscure concerto, Barnes & Noble? Amazon does (Google “Long Tail” Theory”) as there are no physical restraints on its inventory.

Maybe the Oregon PTEs will unionize (if that haven’t already) and march into Salem (not the one where they burned witches) and ask for a new law requiring ETEs (Electricity Transfer Engineers) to recharge EVs in Oregon.

Wait a minute? Oregon could actually mandate that ETEs recharge your Climate Change friendly EV? Don’t bet against it.

Think of it this way, if the state Legislature in its infinite wisdom for 66 years and counting required PTEs to pump gas into each car and expressly forbids the motorist from doing the same, then what’s to prevent them from requiring highly trained electricity transfer engineers (ETEs) to recharge your EV Tesla, Volvo, BMW, Chevy etc.?

What’s next? Will the state mandate an ETE to plug in your toaster or change a light bulb?

Incentives Today; Taxes Tomorrow

Immediately south of Oregon, the Golden State’s one-party Legislature is weighing adopting the California Electric Vehicle Initiative, which would designate $3 billion for larger rebates for those who purchase Tesla and other electric cars.

In April, the same Legislature passed legislation raising California’s gas tax by 12 cents to 30 cents per gallon.

Let’s see the state is considering incentivizing EVs to the tune of $3 billion. And nearly at the same time raising gas taxes to raise $5.2 billion.

What happens if the EV revolution is real and a precipitous decline in fossil-burning vehicles ensues? Does that mean gas revenues will simultaneously decline? Oh dear.

And does that lead to actually taxing EV recharges even though these environmentally friendly cars have been incentivized by the state?

What’s more important in Sacramento and other state capitals? The environment? Tax revenues?

Seems like a silly question to even ask.

https://www.cnbc.com/2017/07/31/tesla-falls-after-model-3-as-street-thinks-musk-sounded-squeamish.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/innovations/wp/2017/07/29/i-spent-three-minutes-inside-teslas-model-3-and-im-still-thinking-about-it-a-day-later/?utm_term=.98459e459664

https://www.quora.com/Why-is-it-illegal-to-pump-your-own-gas-in-New-Jersey-and-Oregon

https://www.wsj.com/articles/tesla-model-3-arrives-as-elon-musk-tries-to-manage-expectations-1501234208

http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/06/28/new-bigger-incentives-for-electric-cars-could-be-ahead-in-california/

http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-sac-gas-tax-signing-20170428-story.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.

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Big Short

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.goldmansachs.com/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Steve Jobs Cult

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

It was the Kodak Moment on digital steroids.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Good Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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/

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is the Politburo in Beijing trying to buy love?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Donald Trump, Hollyweird, American Media?

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

Who sets the tone for the United States of America?

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

How about Hollyweird and the denizens of the TMZ?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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