Category: Wall Street


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

 

 

 

 

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

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

Ditto for nocturnal torch-light parades?

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

Whatever metric is used, the stock indices are sharply upward to the right: The NASDAQ increased 28 percent since the election, the S&P 500 is up 27 percent, and the Dow advanced 20 percent.According to Gallup, 55 percent of Americans owned individual stocks, stock mutual funds or managed 401(k) portfolios or IRAs in 2016. That figure is understandably down from 65 percent right before the economic crash in 2007, but it has been steadily advancing since then.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attacking The Cash Cow?

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

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

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

They both lost the presidency.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/07/20/stuart-varney-trump-has-already-made-america-4-trillion-richer-with-just-six-months-in-office.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

There are no statues devoted to critics.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Importance of Failure

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Big Short

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.goldmansachs.com/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you really think so, Oscar?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s Next For United?

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

Reagan just turned over in his grave.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Global F.U. Votes?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome to a new way of political thinking.

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

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

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

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

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

“There’s a pretty good chance we end up with a universal basic income, or something like that, due to automation. I’m not sure what else one would do. That’s what I think would happen.” – Tesla and SpaceX Founder Elon Musk

“It is the working man who is the happy man. It is the idle man who is the miserable man.” – Benjamin Franklin

“To be idle is a short road to death and to be diligent is a way of life; foolish people are idle, wise people are diligent.” — Buddharobots2

As a small-time shareholder in Tesla, the author of Almost DailyBrett is reconsidering his investment.

Have I’ve been foolish?

Should I be more diligent to be wise?

Don’t get this blog wrong. These posts have always supported and admired entrepreneurs (e.g., Musk) as job creators, dreamers of great new products, and economic forces for good (e.g., reducing dependence on fossil fuels).

Nonetheless it’s shocking to note that Musk’s (i.e. PayPal, Tesla, SpaceX) answer to the prospect of increased robotics/automated services (i.e., check-out machines, ATMs, robotic assembly lines) is too simply put all of these future displaced employees – maybe even millions of workers – on a politically acceptable dole (at least to some): Universal Basic Income or UBI.

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)

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)

Let’s face it: The shrinking middle class during the past 30 years is a major cause of serious political disruptions with populist causes taking hold on both sides of the Pond.

Pew Research revealed that 62 percent of Americans were categorized as middle class in 1970, falling to 43 percent in 2014.

Conversely, 29 percent of Americans were upper class in 1970, rising to 49 percent in 2014.

Lower class was essentially flat from 10 percent to 9 percent during these 44 years.

Almost DailyBrett is concerned that aggressive moves toward ever higher minimum wages may entice even more potential employers to seriously explore using even more machines, which don’t require the payment of benefits (e.g., medical, vision and dental), and don’t demand days off.robots1

And who would be most impacted by displacement by machines and robots? The middle class? The lower class? Both?

Under the failed Universal Basic Income (UBI) plebiscite in Switzerland earlier this year, displaced workers would have received an annual salary of $30,660 for a single, $61,320 for a couple and $76,728 for a family of four … placing them in the higher echelons of middle-income America … but without exerting any effort.

How does UBI square with the Protestant Work Ethic?

Funding A New Leisure Class

“People will have time to do other things and more complex things, more interesting things. [They will] certainly have more leisure time.” – Elon Musk

“Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” – President John F. Kennedy

“Given the crisis that we are in and the hardships that so many people are going through, we can’t allow any idle hands. Everybody has to get involved, everybody has to pitch in and I think the American people are ready to do that” – President Barack Obama

Earlier, Almost DailyBrett wrote about the record number of working-age men (e.g., 20-54), who are voluntarily not seeking a job … any job. Instead, they are averaging 5.5 hours per day playing video games, accessing streaming video and watching HDTV. That’s a shocking loss of brainpower and manpower, the type that President Kennedy said could be in service to the country.

Would UBI exacerbate this unacceptable trend, essentially making it politically acceptable to displace able workers with even smarter machines? The net result would be even more wards of the state with little or nothing to do. Idle hands will indeed rule.

The question still persists: Should millions of able-bodied people be paid to do nothing? Will they earn their paychecks? How will UBI be funded, if America becomes a donut with a huge whole in the middle — little or zero middle class?

Will the majority of these recipients ultimately become miserable on the certain road to death?

If all one is doing is running out the clock (e.g., playing video games and checking out social media) until that inevitable day arrives, then what is the purpose of life?

Maybe UBI is not so smart after all? Whattyathink Mr. Musk?

http://mashable.com/2016/11/05/elon-musk-universal-basic-income/#dmtbn21mkmq8

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2016/07/06/universal-right-to-a-paycheck/

http://www.voanews.com/a/a-13-2009-01-20-voa6-68822097/413577.html

https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/idle.html

http://fortune.com/video/2016/11/07/elon-musk-wants-universal-basic-income/

http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/12/09/the-american-middle-class-is-losing-ground/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2016/11/07/millions-of-active-women-supporting-millions-of-idle-men/

 

 

 

 

 

Does a Led Zeppelin concert photograph of singer Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page go with marble Romanesque columns?DSC02649

How about a sketch of Mick Jagger with his signature protruding lips combined with Moorish arches?

For that matter, should an operations manager attempt to incorporate Eric Clapton’s Gibson Les Paul electric guitar with Spanish tile?

One would think an acoustic guitar would fit better into the classic Castilian style, but no one will ever confuse Andres Segovia with heavy metal.

For months including the critical last three weeks before opening night in Sevilla, the team behind the Hard Rock Café worked diligently to fully respect Spanish tradition, while swearing allegiance to the rocking iconic restaurant chain.DSC02651

Carlos Gil, the Venezuelan-born Hard Rock Café operations manager out of Amsterdam, visited patrons on the opening night this past August 4. He said local authorities insisted on the preservation of the Romanesque columns. The chain was more than happy to comply and even to incorporate them into the setting for customers.

Hard Rock in the Land of the Flamenco?

Sounds like a potential prescription for integrated marketing communications (IMC) disaster, but from all appearances it is working in Sevilla, Spain as evidenced by the turnout on opening night.

Starbucks and The Prado

About the length of one futbol pitch is the distance between Madrid’s famous Prado art museum and the usually well-located, Starbucks.

Howard Schultz and his Starbucks team certainly have a knack for finding great locations for the 33,000 stores of the $19.28 billion largest coffee roaster in the world.

Without doubt, each of Starbucks’ venues is consistent with the company’s brand from the green aprons of the baristas to the coffee posters from all over the world. But what is different in Spain’s capital city is that Starbucks also incorporates the Spanish style into its store.DSC03188

As the inevitable pace toward globalization and a flatter world intensifies, so will the demands on multi-national brands to respect the culture while at the same time maintaining the integrity of the brand.

Many are opposed to multi-national chains, and will naturally opt for local choices. Others will yearn for the consistency of product. A Starbucks latte tastes the same in Seattle as it does in Madrid as it does in Dublin or München. There is a beauty in predictability in an unsettled world.

Starbucks wants to deliver a consistency of product wherever and whenever patrons come-in for a latte, mocha or cappuccino. At the same time, the company’s stores do not have to be indistinguishable cookie-cutter designs with each one mimicking the very first one at Seattle’s Pike Park Market.

Seasoned PR and marketing managers instinctively can sense a departure from the “conscience” of the brand, but are they are equally adept when it comes to incorporating a local culture and traditions into the presentation of the brand?

What is the smart solution? The answer lies with respecting a local culture, not going “native,” and at the same time be consistent with brand management.

Cultural Dimensions

Professor Geert Hofstede is famous for his Cultural Dimensions Theory measuring national differences in six arenas: Power Distance, Individualism, Masculinity, Uncertainty Avoidance, Long-Term Orientations and Indulgence.

Before dipping their collective toes into another culture’s waters, it is best to weigh the very real differences between what you know and call familiar, and what you don’t know.

Wal-Mart succeeded big time in Mexico and failed miserably in Germany. Unilever’s Dove “Real Curves” campaign was a hit in the United States, but went over like a lead balloon (not to be confused with Led Zeppelin) in Taiwan.

Under Hofstede’s theory, Spain is high in power distance (57 percent), average in individualism (51 percent); low in masculinity and high in compassion (42 percent), skyrocketing in uncertainty avoidance (86 percent); below average in long-term orientation (48 percent) and low in indulgence (44 percent).DSC02656

There are zero issues when it comes to Brand über Alles. The brand must be respected and maintained. At the same time, there are cultural considerations that need to be considered as well.

Can they work together? Hard Rock Café and Starbucks are at least two global companies that have responded in the affirmative.

http://www.hardrock.com/corporate/history.aspx

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

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andr%C3%A9s_Segovia

http://investor.starbucks.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=99518&p=irol-presentations

https://geert-hofstede.com/national-culture.html

 

 

“I love Yahoo, and I believe in all of you. It’s important to me to see Yahoo into its next chapter.” Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer in her July 25 employee letter announcing Verizon’s $4.8 billion cash acquisition of Yahoo!

What next chapter?mayerbook

Want to take an Internet pioneer, first-mover $125 billion company and transform it into an also-ran, acquisition target for four pennies on the dollar?

And to top it off, reward Yahoo! chief executive officer Marissa Mayer with more than $50 million in severance pay?

Wonder why so many are so upset with Wall Street?

What is it with high-accolade, lofty-expectations, lavaliere-strutting narcissistic chief executives, who are ostensibly hired to reverse the fortunes of struggling companies?

Much later, we all discover their real personal agenda was to simply put the corporation on the auction block, and to get paid handsomely for the privilege.

Where can I sign up for this lucrative gig?

The author of Almost DailyBrett will gladly say all the right things for a few years, bloviate at a few “developer” conferences, CES, SXSW and TED Talks and then when no one is looking, sell the company to the highest of low bidders and get rewarded for creating … nothing, absolutely nothing.

Hold That Horizontal Pose!

Alas, one thing your author will never be asked to do is pose for Vogue. Sorry, I don’t own a Michael Kors dress … and never will.mayer

Almost DailyBrett three years ago questioned why relatively new Yahoo! CEO Mayer would accept Vogue’s invitation for a horizontal spread in a fashion magazine? Was she trying to impress buy-side and sell-side institutional investors?

Women have long and justifiably complained about being objectified. What was telegenic Mayer doing with her Vogue reclining pose?

What did her PR team think about her proving once again that sex sells? Did her photo draw even more eyeballs to rival Google’s market-leading search engine?

Before you start thinking that Almost DailyBrett is solely focusing on the lucrative PR disaster record of one Marissa Mayer, please consider that many are still smarting over how Abhi Talwalkar drove LSI Logic into the ditch and received at least a $5.74 million severance payment for burying the company.abhi1

Your author served as the director of Corporate Public Relations for LSI Logic. Even though I left after 10 years to join Edelman Public Relations in December 2005, one could already see what Abhi had in mind … shed as many assets as quickly as possible to make the company more attractive to buyers.

As Almost DailyBrett previously reported, LSI Logic was the innovator of the application specific integrated circuit (ASIC) specialty semiconductor market for nearly 25 years under the leadership of founder Wilfred J. Corrigan.

It took Abhi less than nine years to end its existence, eventually accepting Avago Technologies (H-P’s former semiconductor business) for $6.6 billion offer in late 2013. LSI Logic is no more, but Abhi’s contract provided for the following:

  1. In the case of our Chief Executive Officer, a lump sum payment equal to 2.75 times his or her base salary and average bonus received over the preceding three years. In the case of a participant other than our Chief Executive Officer, a lump sum payment equal to two times the individual’s base salary and average bonus received over the preceding three years. 2. Full acceleration of all unvested equity awards. 3. Reimbursement of COBRA premiums for health insurance for 18 months. 4. In the event that a participant’s “parachute payments” are subject to the excise tax imposed by Section 4999 of the Internal Revenue Code, then LSI will make a supplemental payment to the participant in an amount that equals the excise tax on the parachute payments, plus any additional excise tax and federal, state and local and employment income taxes, on the supplemental payment. However, the total supplemental payment shall not exceed the sum of the participant’s (i) base salary immediately prior to the change in control, and (ii) target bonus for the year in which the change in control occurs.

Glad to see the “supplemental payment” would not exceed Abhi’s $2.09 million annual salary. Enough is enough … Right?

It’s even better that Vogue didn’t ask Abhi to pose horizontally in a Michael Kors dress.

His severance was obscene enough.

http://fortune.com/2016/04/19/verizon-yahoo/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/briansolomon/2016/07/25/yahoo-sells-to-verizon-for-5-billion-marissa-mayer/#7b9c799b71b4

http://www.forbes.com/sites/briansolomon/2016/07/25/here-is-marissa-mayers-final-letter-to-yahoo-employees/#54a12ae875ba

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2013/08/18/mayer-vogue-nasdaq-yhoo/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/farewell-lsi-logic/

http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2013/12/16/avago-to-buy-lsi-for-6-6-billion/?_r=0

 

 

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