Category: Wall Street


“In the darkness, we found the light. Introducing a new era of electronic driving.” – Volkswagen’s new advertising campaign tagline

“Hello, darkness, my old friend; I’ve come to talk to you again …” – Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel’s, “The Sounds of Silence”

Is the best defense a good offense?

Is the most effective present-day defense utilizing a Baby Boomer anthem and harkening back to the 1960s with its brightly colored Volkswagen Beetles and (Hippie) Microvans?

After being rightfully bashed and bloodied starting in the autumn of 2015 for deploying defeat software to deceive anti-pollution testing of its vehicles (Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche), heads rightfully started to roll at Volkswagen AG corporate headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany.

On the line with “Dieselgate” was Volkswagen’s brand, but also the reputation of Germany’s legendary designers and engineers. Consider, there is probably no nation on earth that prides itself more than Germany for its commitment to the environment (note the recent electoral successes of die Grünen).

The Volkswagen cheating scandal was akin to catching a falling knife. Using another well-worn metaphor, the shocking story has legs and has been running unabated for nearly four years.

The scandal started in September, 2015 when the U.S. EPA charged Volkswagen with using illegal (air quality testing) manipulation devices. A related Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation was launched. Volkswagen’s chief executive officer Martin Winterkorn was fired.

A continuous chorus of charges, fines, lawsuits, increased governmental regulation, falling stock prices and recalls mounted against Volkswagen and its Audi and Porsche subsidiaries. Last year, German authorities indicted Winterkorn on aggravated fraud charges.

Almost DailyBrett noted that Volkswagen did not follow to the letter the four basic tenets of Crisis Communications: Tell The Truth, Tell It All, Tell It Fast and Move On. In many ways Volkswagen management was just hoping this mess would simply subside.

Volkswagen management, employees, shareholders and even Kanzlerin Merkel and the German government had to confront the metaphorical Scheisse-Sandwich … you don’t nibble.

Back To The Drawing Board

At some point, the world’s largest automobile designer/manufacturer would have to go back on offense.

In doing so, Volkswagen realized it could not assume a business-as-usual approach.

Ultimately, Volkswagen appreciated that it has to acknowledge its wrongdoing, beg for forgiveness, and somehow, someway commence the hard work of rebranding … essentially moving on.

Volkswagen of America hired New York’s Johannes Leonardo advertising agency, and secured the rights to “The Sounds of Silence.”

The question posed to VW management: Can a major ad buy (part of a reported $2 billion campaign) for its 1:45 second spot featuring a Baby Boomer/Yuppie anthem make everything right in the world for Volkswagen?

In and of itself, the answer is obviously: no.

Almost DailyBrett has always believed that Volkswagen is engaged in a marathon, not a sprint. Volkswagen’s story, which began in 1937, deserves another chapter.

Americans are credited for being an understanding people. They will not forget, but are they willing to forgive and give … even a corporate entity … another chance?

The Johannes Leonardo creative, which debuted with the NBA Finals and the NHL’s Stanley Cup last week, is edgy as it literally starts in the darkness with a news announcer directly referencing the Volkswagen scandal.

One suspects that securing VW’s management approval for an open acknowledgement of moral failure was easier said than done. As Chairman Mao found out, the long-march back starts with the first step.

In our world of advertising bombast and overkill, it’s the extremely clever advertisement that stops the viewer in his or her tracks and commands attention.

The dark Sounds of Silence images convey going back to the drawing board. The result is the coming resurrection of the VW microvan … a concept vehicle for now … with the message the company’s environmentally friendly electric vehicle does not contribute to climate change. Volkswagen envisions 22 EVs (electric vehicles) by 2028, and becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

Volkswagen has stumbled for nearly four torturous years. The questions are with its new ad campaign and beyond: Has the company finally learned its lesson, and are we as consumers willing to forgive, while certainly not forgetting?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEvNL6oEr0U

https://www.fastcompany.com/90359361/volkswagen-aims-for-feel-good-redemption-in-new-major-ad-campaign

https://www.caranddriver.com/features/a27784322/vw-hello-light-commercial-column/

https://www.cleanenergywire.org/factsheets/dieselgate-timeline-germanys-car-emissions-fraud-scandal

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/15/business/winterkorn-volkswagen-emissions-scandal.html

https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidkiley5/2019/06/06/vw-goes-back-to-the-future-in-new-ad-campaign-to-put-dieselgate-in-rear-view/#1026a00d3aa5

https://www.vw.com/

http://johannesleonardo.com/

”I could say … that I ran a small grocery store on the corner (e.g., State of Arkansas), therefore I extrapolate that into the fact I can run Walmart. That`s not true.” – Ross Perot debating Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton and President George H.W. Bush

Perot labeled Clinton’s 12-year public sector experience as the chief executive of the “Natural State” as “irrelevant.”

The famous 1992 debate exchange reminds Almost DailyBrett of today’s deep-state/elite media practice of automatically and terminally disqualifying anyone aspiring or even holding the presidency – including the present office holder – who does not have public sector experience.

Public sector über alles?

Some have suggested that seven-year South Bend Mayor Peter Buttigieg, 37, is more qualified to run the nation than billionaire entrepreneurs, who build, create breakthrough products, employ thousands and manage global business enterprises.

Let’s see, Mayor Pete’s South Bend has a $368 million city budget, 1,285 employees and 101,168 residents including thousands of Notre Damers who need their garbage picked up and their streets swept.

Okay …

In contrast, the $9.5 billion, The Trump Organization LLC, is the 48th largest privately held company in the world. Trump and his family manage 500 affiliated property development and marketing companies with 22,450 employees operating in 25 countries.

According to the New York Times, Trump’s business has been required to take losses and declare bankruptcy from time to time. Phil Knight in his book, Shoe Dog, recounted how Nike almost went under … nine times.

How’s Trump doing today? How’s Nike doing today?

And then there is Starbucks founder and chairman (political villain) Howard Schultz.

Sorry Howard … you can’t play this (presidential) game either … even though you created and turned Starbucks into the largest coffee roaster in the world. Let’s see … the company reports $24.7 billion in annual revenues, manages than 27,000 stores and hires 277,000 baristas et al. around the globe.

Kathleen Sebelius vs. Jeff Bezos For CIO

All kidding and snickering aside, the political class seemingly would rather hire as its CIO Kathleen Sebelius with her infamous crashing Obamacare website with its pathetic non-working calculator.

Conceivably the alternative would be private sector Amazon with its track record of successfully and accurately processing 1 million digital transactions per hour.

The millionaire Bernie and Elizabeth types rail daily against billionaires (i.e., Trump, Schultz, Knight, Bezos …) and their privately held/publicly traded corporations (i.e., Starbucks, Nike, Amazon), seemingly as the sources of all that is wrong in the world. The Massachusetts senator even talked about breaking up the most successful and useful of these companies.

If digital retail pioneer Amazon was forced to breakup, wouldn’t the company in an aw shucks moment, simply spin-off Amazon Web Services (AWS)? Considering Amazon’s marketing for AWS’ cloud services capability, don’t you suspect Jeff Bezos and company are already thinking about AWS as a separate publicly traded company?

How about the prospect of (NYSE: AWS)? Victory for the government? Victory for investors? Whattyathink Elizabeth?

Wasn’t there a movie actor/union president, who with the exception of a stint in the military, never spent a nanosecond in the public sector and became the governor of the largest state in the union, California?

How did that experiment turn out?

Not only was Ronald Reagan wildly popular in blue state California, he was one of our greatest presidents and the only one to ever hold a union card while serving as the nation’s chief executive.

Which Is More Important: Public or Private?

For Almost DailyBrett, your author served 14 years in the public sector (i.e., California press secretary and Central Washington University assistant professor). The same four-decade career also included 25 years in the private sector (i.e., LSI Logic Corporation, Semiconductor Industry Association, Edelman Public Relations, newspapers).

Which sector was more important in the development of your author’s institutional knowledge base?

Don’t know. Inclined to conclude that both are nice to have, and each is equally important.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1992-10-20-9204050015-story.html

https://money.cnn.com/2016/12/15/investing/trump-organization-48th-largest-private-company/

https://www.bloomberg.com/research/stocks/private/snapshot.asp?privcapId=344985

http://www.city-data.com/city/South-Bend-Indiana.html

https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/13/politics/bernie-sanders-millionaire-book-sales-tax-returns/index.html

 

 

“Not only had @realDonaldTrump become a mass-media juggernaut, but Twitter had for the first time become a primary outlet for the views of a major American politician. With Trump’s election, the transformation was complete: The social network had become the new public square.” – Nicholas Carr, POLITICO

Without a shred of doubt, nothing on this planet drives the media crazier than Twitter use by one Donald John Trump.

Within the friendly confines of 280 characters coupled with the always-on powerful bully pulpit of the presidency, Trump can set the agenda and be a part of any breaking story regardless of subject.

Wait.

Under Agenda Setting Theory, the big masthead media (e.g., New York Times, Washington Post) supposedly establish the agenda about what grateful everyday Americans should be thinking about.

As they say in political circles the big mastheads have been, preempted.

The very dragon they are attempting to slay, is spewing counter-punching fire right back at them any time, all the time.

“Beware of the overnight tweet.” — CNBC NYSE reporter Bob Pisani

Most of the Trump Tweets are … provocative (outrageous?) and thus are newsworthy. The ensuing conversation is about Trump, always about Trump.

Does the sun ever set on Donald Trump’s Twitter account?

With the Müller Report destined to be a non-factor by the end of this year – let alone next year – the media/entertainment elites in Manhattan, within the confines of the Beltway and Hollywood are facing the prospect of a re-elected Twittering Trump.

Columbia Journalism Review worries about whether journalists are correcting all of Trump’s tweets and statements.

Will they eventually interrupt Trump during the State of Union, the same way MSNBC’s Brian Williams cut off Senator Lindsey Graham?

When it comes to always telling the truth, nobody does it better than Brian Williams.

Will the media at some point — kicking and screaming — be forced to stop pretending the no-further indictments/actions Müller Report is the death knell of a president they detest (putting it mildly)?

Even though they torched Joe Biden’s last days as a non-candidate, will they line up behind him if he somehow captures the Democratic nomination?

Whoever emerges as the Demo nominee, will be their standard bearer.

The Never-Ending, Always-On News Cycle

Campaigns are not happy places.

Familiarity always breeds more than contempt.

Sleep is a precious commodity, and there is never enough to go around.

There was a time when there was only one news cycle per day.

As Almost DailyBrett commented two years ago, White House “death watch” is not what it used to be. Translated: Reporters stationed in the White House briefing room while the president sleeps were Journalism’s answer to graveyard shift. No more.

Trump’s nocturnal tweets (does he ever sleep?) have changed the game. Just ask Wall Street.

Every campaign in the 2020 cycle will have to compete effectively in a digital-is-eternal atmosphere with a minimum of sleep. With digital social media – particularly Twitter – every campaign and every media outlet is an always-on, 24-7-365 wire service.

Trump tweeted (fill in the blank). Respond within the fewest nanoseconds possible.

Biden tweeted (fill in the blank). Democratic rivals answer within the fewest nanoseconds possible.

Bernie tweeted what? Man or Woman the Twitter barricades!

Almost DailyBrett remembers the days when wise pundits (oxymoron?) lamented about how policy debates were being reduced to 30-second bites.

How about 280-character tweets? Used to be 140 characters.

With more than 20+ would be Democratic nominees, how many pithy responses will immediately jump from their keyboards. More to the point how many mistakes, which can’t be recalled, will emerge from these Twitter accounts?

“Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” – Vince Lombardi

Even though early Baby Boomer Trump is 72-years-young, he seems to have the energy and stamina to keep the Twitter stream coming, even accelerating and intensifying the flow. There are no signs of fatigue.

Will the next president (or the same president) be the one who best utilizes the Twitter characters? Should social media be the penultimate factor in determining who will be the leader of the free world?

Let the Twitter debate commence.

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/01/26/donald-trump-twitter-addiction-216530

https://www.cjr.org/covering_trump/twitter-media-trump.php

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2017/10/16/death-watch-aint-what-it-used-to-be/

A “memorable” $211,703 Porsche or Land Rover?

A “visible” $86,423 Rolex?

And let’s not forget the applicable taxes on these two giveaways: $179,977 and $38,005 respectively.

For those scoring at home, Salesforce.com (NYSE:CRM) provided $516,108 in goodies to one man: newly minted co-CEO Keith Block, 57.

The Salesforce.com Compensation Committee justified the corporate largesse in its proxy statement filing:

“In this case, the committee approved this award because it believed that recognizing Mr. Block’s leadership and success in achieving company goals was warranted, and that doing so in a memorable and visible way would be motivational not only for the executive, but for other employees who observe exceptional performance being rewarded in exceptional ways consistent with the company’s philosophy of paying for performance.”

Paying for exceptional performance?

Does Block walk on water? Does he change water into wine? Does he dole out loaves and fishes to feed the hungry?

Before being named co-CEO last August, Block was already earning $2.3 million annually in salary and bonuses (not including stock option exercises) as the company’s vice chairman, president and chief operating officer.

Almost DailyBrett extensively researched and taught the relationship between fiduciary responsibility (doing well) and corporate social responsibility (doing good) as a master’s student at University of Oregon and later as a PR professor at Central Washington University.

Your author also served as the director of Corporate Public Relations for LSI Logic (NYSE: LSI) for a decade including preparing 10-Q, 10-K and 8-K news releases and regulatory filings for financial media and the SEC.

More to the point, Almost DailyBrett is a long-time Republican, free-enterprise supporter, and up-to-now a more than satisfied shareholder of Salesforce.com founded by fellow USC alum Marc Benioff.

Let’s state here and now: giving away a cool car and groovy watch (plus paying related income taxes for these two goodies) is inconsistent with Salesforce’s fiduciary responsibility to its shareholders … including not trying to be SaaS-see,  yours truly.

God help the company’s corporate PR department.

Ready to make chicken salad out of chicken feces?

How do you defend the indefensible? How do you stand-up on behalf of the untenable? Did the Compensation Committee discuss its decision with the PR types before giving away a Porsche and a Rolex to Monsieur Block?

And where is Salesforce.com located? San Francisco.

Do you think Bernie, Kamala or Elizabeth supporters residing in the Sodom and Gomorrah by the Bay are going to seize about this outrageous caper as an example about everything wrong with corporate America?

Occupy Salesforce?

Publicly traded corporations (e.g., Salesforce) provide the products we need (e.g., enterprise software), employ millions (e.g., CRM, 29,000) and provide a return on capital to millions investing in their retirement, health care or children’s education.

Buy-side (i.e., mutual funds, retirement systems) and sell-side (i.e. Goldman, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley) institutions hold 82 percent of Salesforce’s 774 million shares outstanding.

In contrast, Almost DailyBrett is a lowly Charles Schwab retail investor with 300 shares.

If your author threatened to sell all of his shares because he is upset by the Keith Block giveaways, would company even notice, let alone care?

Heck, your author’s holding is a friggin’ corporate rounding error.

Salesforce has demonstrated by its regulatory filing temerity, it really doesn’t take fiscal stewardship and fiduciary responsibility seriously.

Actions speak louder than words. The perception and reality both stink.

No carefully massaged explanation and no amount of corporate social responsibility (CSR) – including calling for local tax increases to take care of the homeless – are going to change the undeniable fact that giving away a luxury car, a costly watch and paying the related taxes for one lousy executive … is wrong.

Dead wrong to be precise.

Almost DailyBrett editor’s note: According to Business Insider, the company did not disclose the exact make or model of Keith Block’s new car and watch. However, an educated guesstimate was made by the digital publication based upon the disclosed sales prices and related tax payments for the two luxury items. If the company actually bought Block a Lamborghini instead of a Porsche, your author will accept personal responsibility for the egregious mistake.

https://www.businessinsider.com/salesforce-ceo-keith-block-car-watch-2019-4

https://www1.salary.com/Keith-Block-Salary-Bonus-Stock-Options-for-SALESFORCE-COM-INC.html

https://www.salesforce.com/company/leadership/bios/bio-block/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/12/13/fiduciary-responsibility-vs-corporate-social-responsibility/

 

 

 

Governor Newsom Calls for Nation’s First Air Tax On California’s Wealthiest

Proceeds To Fund New Air Quality And Climate Change Programs

April 15 To Become A State Holiday 

SACRAMENTO – Following up on his proposed “digital dividend” levy on data usage, California Governor Gavin Newsom today called upon the state Legislature to approve the nation’s first surcharge on the consumption of air by the Golden State’s wealthiest households.

Privileged Californians with assets (i.e., homes, cars, stocks, mutual funds, bonds, savings accounts, furniture … ) exceeding $500,000 will be assessed an annual surcharge of 1 percent of their total gross wealth. The yearly progressive surcharge will escalate to 2 percent for those with more than $1 million in total assets, eventually capping at 10 percent for those with accumulated wealth exceeding $1 billion or more.

“California’s new Rarefied Air Tax (RAT) is initially projected to raise approximately $3 billion in additional revenues to enhance air quality, combat climate change, and to establish a complementary agency to the California Air Resources Board (CARB),” said Newsom.

“The Golden State is the recognized leader in the usage of progressive revenue schemes to extract and redistribute literally billions from California’s achievers by means of income, sales, property, gas, vehicle, water, corporate, payroll, liquor, and weed taxes and soon a surcharge for those who choose to consume O2.  If the wealthy wish to avoid the Rarefied Air Tax, they can simply opt out of oxygen usage,” Newsom said.

According to the non-partisan Tax Foundation, California has fallen from the top to second in total taxation among states. New Jersey is now #1, California #2 and New York #3.

“We intend to restore our rightful place as the number one state in terms of progressive redistributive taxation,” said Newsom. “The appropriate annual total assets surcharge for O2  usage by those with wealth reaching and exceeding six-seven-eight figures is recognition of their moral obligation to pay their fair share for the rarefied California air they breathe and consume.”

To recognize and celebrate California’s nationwide leadership in taxation, Newsom signed a proclamation declaring that each April 15 (or following Monday if tax day falls on a weekend) as a paid public holiday for all Golden State public employees. Newsom urged the federal government and all other states to follow suit.

Fully anticipating constitutional challenges by mean-spirited, hateful, racist, sexist, homophobic and unpleasant non-profit tax foundations, Newsom called upon the state Department of Justice to prepare a vigorous defense against expected questions about the legality of RAT total asset surcharges for California’s wealthiest … those with assets exceeding $500,000 in riches.

California telegenic governor will hold a news conference in Room 1190 of the State Capitol today at 1 pm PDT to provide more details about the RAT tax. Tax-free air will be provided to all media attending the event.

Following the news conference, Governor Newsom will be available for photographs and to autograph full, medium and wallet-size glossy images of himself for adoring reporters and correspondents.

https://taxfoundation.org/individual-income-taxes-2019-state-business-tax-climate-index/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2015/02/08/golden-state-handcuffs/

https://www.foxnews.com/politics/california-goes-tax-wild-eyes-levies-on-everything-from-water-to-tires

 

 

“(The intent of the Tax Wall Street Act is to) drive leeches that are front running the market out of business.” – Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) on CNBC

Is the Eugene, Oregon-based author of Almost DailyBrett, a lecherous leech?

Your author builds a career. Your author works all of his life. Your author pays his fair share of taxes. Your author chooses the time (2018) and place for his retirement (Eugene).

Sounds good, but …

My congressman, Mr. DeFazio, wants to double tax everyone’s retirement with a 0.1 percent tax on every stock or mutual fund trade we will ever make as long-term investors, conceivably until it’s time to meet our respective makers.

Ostensibly, DeFazio’s tax targets high-frequency/high-velocity investors, many disguised as algorithms. The only problem is his sweeping tax also applies to millions of real middle-class people … including retail investors residing in Oregon’s 4th Congressional District.

All they want to do is invest their already taxed discretionary income to fund their retirement, pay for their children’s education (e.g., University of Oregon) and maybe to pursue their dreams. Alas, Rep. DeFazio has introduced the “Tax Wall Street Act of 2019” with its punitive stock and mutual fund trade tax.

Mr. Congressman, my family is not Wall Street in Manhattan. We are East of Willamette Street in Eugene.

The honorable congressman thinks he is punishing Wall Street, when he instead is taking dead aim at America’s investor class or the 52 percent of Americans (approximately 170 million), who invest in individual stocks or mutual funds.

Many of these mutual fund investment trades are made by pension managers and by individual employee managed 401Ks at work (e.g., public employees, including school teachers). Almost DailyBrett maintains a humble retail account with Charles Schwab. Sorry, no Goldman Sachs for me.

Why are you (DeFazio) sticking a Wall Street tax on all investors who live in your district, and any other investor in every congressional district across the fruited plain?

DeFazio’s Dithering Performance on CNBC

CNBC’s Kelly Evans asked you point blank on “The Exchange” last week why you didn’t “target” high-velocity algorithmic day traders instead of proposing a sweeping tax, which applies to every middle-class investor in the country.

You dithered, Congressman DeFazio. You know, you did.

When Evans inquired about the use of the projected $777 billion in additional revenues, you suggested restoring some of the expanding deficit triggered by tax reform. Congressman DeFazio didn’t know where and how the money will be spent. He only wanted to sock-it to Wall Street and with it, middle-class investors.

Maybe, you should Occupy Wall Street? How did that movement work out?

Fortunately, there are enough adults in the House of Representatives and certainly in the U.S. Senate to ensure this bill goes absolutely nowhere.

Having made this point, the coast is not clear. The mindset of my congressman and his partner in crime, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and without a doubt many others in positions of immense power, indicates an antipathy to all publicly traded companies (none of which are headquartered in Oregon’s 4th Congressional District).

Every issue large and small seemingly requires the same remedy: a new tax.

Congressman DeFazio, you need to understand that middle-class retirees in your district have already been taxed on their nest eggs. Under your plan, each-and-every-one of your investing constituents will pay an additional tax just for the right to continue to invest their hard-earned money on their futures.

You know you are wrong, but you will piously insist you are right … err correct.

Almost DailyBrett has never been a “high-velocity” trader and never will be.

Just hoping to keep up my velocity for years to come.

https://www.cnbc.com/video/2019/03/08/rep-peter-defazio-on-the-tax-wall-street-act.html

https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/03/wall-street-tax-act-financial-illiteracy-in-congress/

https://www.foxbusiness.com/politics/its-premature-to-start-freaking-out-over-the-wall-street-tax-act-liz-ann-sonders

http://investsnips.com/publicly-traded-companies-in-oregon/

 

 

 

 

“For the American generation which has grown up since the downfall of the USSR, socialism is no longer the boo word it once was.” The Economist, Feb. 16, 2019

The youngest of all Millennials were gestating in 1980.

Reagan called upon Gorbachev to “Tear Down This Wall” in 1987.

The Berlin Wall came tumbling down in 1989.

The Soviet Union collapsed under its sheer weight in 1991.

The last of the Millennials arrived in the millennial year, 2000.

The largely overlooked question: How many Millennials personally remember the USSR?

Alas, the answer is very, very few.

Only the oldest Millennials may have any memory of the Wall coming down when they were nine or the Soviet Union imploding without a shot being fired when they were 11.

For the vast majority of Millennials including all of the younger members of the Y-Generation, none of them remember the USSR and most of all, its authoritarian brand (being charitable) of socialism/communism.

To top it off, they are thus easily impressionable for exploitation by politicians, entertainers and academics who absolutely adore all things Karl Marx including some wearing red star hats and sporting Che Guevara t-shirts and posters.

Instead of “We the people” and liberty, it’s “Dictatorship of the Proletariat.”

When someone says government can provide a whole cavalcade of goodies – government-paid health insurance, college, jobs — for free, including Universal Basic Income (UBI) for those “unwilling” to work … don’t you just know there will be Big Brother Orwellian strings attached?

Back From The USSR

“I’m back in the U.S.S.R.
You don’t know how lucky you are boy
Back in the U.S.S.R. (Yeah)”
– Lennon (Not Lenin) & McCartney

For Almost DailyBrett, a 1981 two-week trip to Leonid Brezhnev’s “Evil Empire” was an eye-opening, life-changing journey.

Kevin in Moscow – 1981

The flood-lit Wunder of Red Square (Красная площадь) in Moscow, the Swan Lake performance of the Bolshoi, the splendor of the Czar’s winter and summer palaces in St. Petersburg (Leningrad at the time) are all must see for any student of history and politics, let alone art.

Your author has placed a return-venture to modern-day Russia on his Bucket List, particularly what has changed and unfortunately what has remained the same (tyranny).

It’s safe to say that Russia has transformed itself after attempted Glasnost and Perestroika into an authoritarian oligarchical capitalist state with widespread corruption.

You can take the Vladimir Putin out of the KGB, but you can’t the KGB out of Vladimir Putin.

Looking back to your author’s trip to the Soviet Union, there were the wonders of Russia. There was also the socialist/communist police state reality of the USSR.

There were the jammed horrible motor coaches,

There were the lines for food and the basics of life.

There were well-stocked Beriozka or “little birch” stores, which accepted all currencies except for Russian rubles. It must suck to be you, Ivan and Tanya.

There were the tiny little cars with lawn-mower engines for the fortunate few (10 years wait), while Zil limousines carried Communist big shots to their exclusive dachas.

The Most Equal Of The Equals

“In an ideal socialist society, “the people” own the means of production. Everyone’s basic needs are met. Leaders are elected democratically. When implemented, however, human nature intervenes. Powerful elites take charge.” – Alex Berezow. USA Today Board of Contributors

Bummer.

There is so much discussion about the haves and the have-nots of American society.

There are cries for social justice: Translated some all-powerful state entity must level the playing field.

The question, which remains: Did socialist/communist USSR really even the score for everyone?

Whattya think AOC? How’s Venezuela working out? Is history repeating itself?

Even more to the point: Do Millennials in their lack of deep direct knowledge/remembrance of the USSR appreciate the stark dark truth of government provided socialism?

Karl Marx may be turning over in his grave but sorry to say, his idea did not work, and will not work regardless of the nation. Too many people want to achieve, and to do better for themselves and their families.

And yet there is hope for Millennials, and proof that many have not consumed the red cool aid.

It’s called Buy Low Sell High, and that beautifully simple concept applies to Millennials too.

https://www.economist.com/leaders/2019/02/14/millennial-socialism

https://www.economist.com/briefing/2019/02/14/millennial-socialists-want-to-shake-up-the-economy-and-save-the-climate

https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2018/02/21/cnn-thinks-socialism-cool-my-grandparents-ussr-would-disagree/349830002/

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/millennials-communism-sounds-pretty-chill-2017-11-01

“Can’t decide whether you are a Democrat or a Republican …”

Bless these two students, who on separate occasions, refreshingly relayed their puzzlement to your author.

Almost DailyBrett does not believe that classrooms should ever be the venue for the indoctrination, let along the formation of young warriors in the fight between noble socialism and evil capitalism.

Gee … maybe … just maybe these students are smart enough to make up their own minds on these issues?

Even though long-time Almost DailyBrett readers and contemporaries know or at least suspect your author’s political predilection, it was rewarding to know at least some of my students weren’t so sure … and that is how it should be for all professors or instructors.

There seems to be a contagious disease among tenure-track or tenured academic types (e.g., professors and instructors) that university students are there to endure for hours on end their personal political pontifications and bloviations.

Is that why students are taking out loans averaging $30,000 each, waiting tables or asking mom and dad to dig deep … real deep … for their college education?

Don’t think so.

Buy Low, Sell High

As Almost DailyBrett fondly looks back to more than five years teaching public relations, integrated marketing, corporate communications and investor relations, one particular moment always brings back tears to the eyes.

More than 30 of my Central Washington University PR students chanted in unison … “Buy Low, Sell High!” … at my retirement party.

Upon receiving the Central Washington University Department of Communication Faculty Spotlight Award, they gathered around me for a group picture. Your author will always remember this moment.

Isn’t Buy Low and Sell High the essence of capitalism, particularly publicly traded corporate capitalism?

The answer is “yes.” Keep in mind that buying low and selling high is easier said than done. More importantly this phrase is the backbone to the practice of fiduciary responsibility on behalf of the 54 percent of Americans investing in stocks and stock-based mutual funds.

America’s investor class — planning for retirements, funding higher education for their children, opening up a new businesses — require accurate and complete communication about a company’s business plan, financials and simply … how does a corporation make money.

The highest expected communications professional compensation levels … usually in six figures … are directed to students adept at financial communications, who are studying at today’s schools of journalism and mass communication.

Almost DailyBrett believes wholeheartedly the purpose of universities/colleges is to prepare students to attain and sustain salaried professional positions with full benefits … and maybe even employee stock purchase plans (ESPP) and/or stock options.

Universities and colleges should be professional schools, providing students with lifelong learning skills and tools to succeed in our increasingly complex digital world … including beating artificial intelligence (AI).

If students wish to Occupy Wall Street that should be their choice, not their command.

By the way, how did that movement work out?

Students should always be fully aware of the imperfections of Capitalism. For example, watching The Smartest Men In The Room (Fortune’s Bethany McLean’s tome on the Enron bankruptcy) was required for each of your author’s Corporate Communications/Investor Relations classes.

In addition to the aforementioned Fiduciary Responsibility, a publicly traded company needs to complement this requirement with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Besides doing well, a company should be mindful of doing good … including giving back to communities, protecting the environment … that make success, possible.

Certainly, students can be taught to live in tents, recite cumbersome theory or rail at the world back in their own bedrooms at mom and dad’s house.

They also can learn how to decipher an income statement, a balance sheet, a cash-flow statement and to understand the significance and formulas associated with market capitalization, earnings per share (EPS), and price/earnings (P/E) ratios and related multiples.

Looking back at your author’s professorship, there is no doubt about political disposition. There was also a comprehension that students are to be prepared for the professional world, and many of these graduates have done well, real well.

And if a couple of students or more, can’t tell whether Almost DailyBrett or any other professor/instructor, drifts left or right that’s the way … it should be.

 

 

 

Ever wonder how Venezuela became … Venezuela?

Almost DailyBrett at one time expected that Amazon would announce Austin, Texas as the recipient of HQ2 with its estimated $50 billion total investment and upwards to 50,000 technology positions with full benefits.

As a major technology hub, Austin offers a well-trained workforce, the capital of a right-to-work state, no state income taxes, and politicians’ favorably predisposed to corporate capitalism. In addition, Amazon bought Whole Foods in 2017 for $13.7 billion, which is based in … Austin.

Instead, Amazon selected Northern Virginia with it well-educated workforce and proximity to the infinite wisdom emanating within the Beltway. The other choice, which raised more than a few eyebrows, was heavily unionized and über-taxed Long Island.

The original thinking was Amazon would be welcomed with the prospect of providing 40,000 real positions with annual salaries averaging $150,000 and full benefits – not strip mall jobs – and $27.5 billion in new tax revenues during the course of 10 years. Yes, there were $3 billion in tax incentives from the State of New and New York City and these are always controversial.

Let’s see $3 billion in exchange for $27.5 billion in new revenues and 40,000 direct high-paying positions, not counting all the indirect economic activity supporting Amazon HQ2 in terms of suppliers, vendors and utilities.

Buy Low, Sell High?

Alas the United States is a divided nation, not just Democrats vs Republicans … but more to the point: Socialism vs. Capitalism.

Some wish to punish Amazon and its wealthiest dude on the planet boss, Jeff Bezos, for pioneering digital retail, employing 613,300, generating $232 billion in annual revenues, and stimulating $798 billion in investor market capitalization.

Amazon was greeted to Gotham by a buzz-saw of those who disdain capitalism in favor of command-and-control socialism.

As a former gubernatorial press secretary, the author of Almost DailyBrett imagined what it would be like to be relaying really bad news to the boss – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo – and answering the flood of media calls.

The alternative of a root canal is looking real attractive right now.

Ever hear the one about banging your head against the wall?

It only feels good, when you … stop.

Is Amazon Serious?

Is Amazon just firing a shot across the bow?

“It (loss of Amazon investment) would certainly undermine confidence in governance. You can’t empower anti-capitalist ideologues and expect the capitalists to embrace them. I still think they will work this out, because the embarrassment would be severe.” – Joel Kotkin, Chapman University professor of Urban Studies

“You have to be tough to make it in New York City. We gave Amazon the opportunity to be a good neighbor and do business in the greatest city in the world. Instead of working with the community, Amazon threw away that opportunity.” – New York Mayor Bill de Blasio

“Threw away” constitutes fighting words.

These provocative words make it more difficult for the City of New York and Amazon to “work this out.” Why did da Mayor challenge Bezos’ manhood (we know it exists) in the first sentence of his prepared statement, and then charge the company with throwing away an opportunity in the concluding sentence.

Hey Mr. Mayor ever heard of the words … “disappointed”? … “concerned? … “let’s talk”?

If New York bids adieu to 25,000-to-40,000 Amazon positions and $27.5 billion in tax revenues in Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ congressional district, will those who are cheering today be demanding social justice from New York state and city tomorrow?

Even China with its brand of authoritarian capitalism figured out that buying low and selling high is the best way to provide prosperity for its people.

New York had the prospect of becoming a lucrative technology hub … but it “threw away” that opportunity.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/14/nyregion/amazon-hq2-queens.html

https://www.forbes.com/sites/alyyale/2019/02/13/leaving-long-island-city-what-losing-amazon-hq2-would-mean-for-nycs-future/#18d48f01127c

https://nypost.com/2019/02/14/de-blasio-amazon-threw-away-great-opportunity-in-nyc/

 

 

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