Business

More trade disasters ahead

In our last discussion of the dangers posed by the current round of free trade deals under consideration in the US, Europe and Asia a while back, we noted (as have others) the potential of these deals to undermine domestic legislation if that legislation negatively affects the potential profitability of a company. Both NAFTA and the World Trade Organization (WTO) have this sort of mechanism, wherein a company affected by domestic legislation can appeal to the WTO to be compensated for the potential financial impact, or ask for fines against the country found guilty of trade agreement violations. This mechanism of trade agreements is clearly financial blackmail, designed by multinational corporations (mostly American, but a fair number of European and Asian companies as well) to prevent domestic legislation covering stuff like pesky environmental regulations, or recurring European attempts to ban beef hormones. This sounds very bizarre, of course—who in their right mind would tolerate this? But the US does, as do all signatories to the agreements that created the WTO and NAFTA. As we have just been reminded. Continue reading

atlanta march bernie

Do the right thing: Hillary’s “southern firewall” is about to vanish

atlanta march bernie

photo courtesy of demotix.com

Dear Ta-Nehisi Coates: Senator Bernie Sanders is an honest man.

If you ask him a direct question, he will answer. If he doesn’t know, he will admit that he doesn’t know. He will tell you he wants to raise taxes. He will tell you he does not want to fight a war in the middle east. These are things other politicians will never admit, even if they are true, because in modern American political culture, the prevailing wisdom is that it is better to lie to the voters and win under false pretenses than to speak an unpopular truth and lose. Continue reading

CATEGORY: MusicPopularCulture

RIP David Bowie, marketing genius

David Bowie Space OddityOne of popular music’s greatest artists was also an icon of content marketing

This may be the most unexpected tribute you read to Rock megastar David Bowie, who has died at age 69 a mere two days after the release of his acclaimed new CD, Blackstar.

Before I start, let me acknowledge that some readers may feel like I’m sullying the legacy of one of our greatest artists by associating him with marketing. There are two answers to that charge. First off, art and marketing aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. You can do both. Second, if you can examine Bowie’s career, paying attention to all the times he reinvented his image and to the impact he exerted on fashion, without accepting that he was a branding genius, then you don’t know much about marketing. Continue reading

Scholars & Rogues Asshole-of-the-Year Martin Shkreli

Martin Shkreli edges Donald Trump for S&R’s Asshole of the Year Award

Scholars & Rogues Asshole-of-the-Year Martin Shkreli

Noted sociopath and PharmaDoucheBro Shkreli spent 2015 redefining what it means to be an asshole, upsets GOP presidential frontrunner Trump.

You’ve all known an asshole — a rude, arrogant, contemptuous person. Assholes are irritating. Assholes are the bad breath of personalities. A reasonable person’s reaction to the presence of an asshole is Get the fuck away from me, asshole.

How, then, to select an Asshole of the Year? Continue reading

Energy

Where there’s political smoke, there’s the oil and gas lobby

CATEGORY: CongressWell, isn’t that special: Congress passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill before heading off for a three-week holiday vacation. (You get that much time off?) Brinkmanship is avoided; threats to shut down the government over (this time) Syrian refugees or the Puerto Rican debt crisis are avoided (or, more likely, postponed).

But it’s a bad bill for any president serving in the next few decades. Those presidents, irrespective of party, will have to deal with the physical consequences of human-induced climate disruption as well as the political repercussions of not meeting the Paris accords.

That’s because provisions buried in the spending resolution hamper the ability of future presidents to cope with a warming climate. And that’s because your representatives caved (as usual) to the oil and gas industry lobby.

As Bill Moyers and Michael Winship report, each $1 the oil and gas lobby spent in 2013 and 2014 returned $103 in subsidies. The industry spent $326 million to lobby Congress. In return it received $33.7 billion in government favors.
Continue reading

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For 2016, re-elect Andrew Shepherd: Fiction trumps the Republican reality

the_american_president_28movie_poster29In my favorite bad movie, The American President, Michael Douglas as the fictional President Andrew Shepherd confronts his Republican challenger’s claims about Shepherd’s character.

We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you, Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things, and two things only: Making you afraid of it, and telling you who’s to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections.

You gather a group of middle-aged, middle-class, middle-income voters who remember with longing an easier time, and you talk to them about family and American values and character. … You scream about patriotism and tell them [who’s] to blame for their lot in life … [emphasis added]

Now remove Bob Rumson’s name and insert the name of any of the recent CNN main stage GOP presidential candidates (or even Wolf Blitzer, as he goaded them into ISIS hysteria). Continue reading

Barclays-Premier-League

Premier League TV deals, the Super League and the death of European domestic football leagues

Can Europe’s domestic football leagues survive the new Premier League TV deals? Not a chance.

Barclays-Premier-LeagueA good bit has been written about new TV deals for England’s Premier League – Sky domestically and NBC in the US – and the numbers are frankly mind-boggling: Sky is ponying up more than £5.1B (~$7.75B) and NBC is paying around $1B for rights through 2021-22. When rights for all international deals are factored in, the Prem will haul in around $4.3B a year. (Massively detailed analysis here.)

This is great news for the league’s clubs, obviously, as the payout for even the worst teams will assure that they’re wealthier than all but the biggest clubs in the rest of the world. The top 14 English sides are already among the world’s 30 richest before the new deal even takes effect. Continue reading

refugees

Refugees: an American fail

refugees

image courtesy of LobeLog.com

We have accepted more than 100,000 Somali refugees since 1991. In the last 25 years, 50 of them have become terrorists. That’s 0.05%, which is good, but not good enough for us. We want zero terrorists, including those who go back to Africa to kill people. We don’t want African people to die either. That is our strength, no quarter, no shadowy corner where the darkness can hide from the light. Continue reading

CATEGORY: Education

America appreciates teachers, but we don’t value them

CATEGORY: EducationI’ve been wrestling a bit with my career situation lately. Like a lot of folks, I feel like I’m not being compensated very well, and that suspicion is validated by some basic salary research – and also by the CEO, who admits that the company needs to normalize a lot of salaries with the broader market.

Of course, the people I work with love me and get the importance of what I do. But they aren’t making the call on salary. Not long ago, in prepping for a conversation on the subject with the person I report to, and trying to decide how best to represent my position, and trying to anticipate what he might say, it hit me.

The company appreciates me, but it doesn’t value me. Continue reading

aging-infrastructure

Clinton’s infrastructure spending plan too little to tackle multi-trillion-dollar crisis

News item:

Hillary Clinton on Sunday announced her plan for infrastructure spending—a “down payment on our future,” she said—and it comes with a hefty price tag: $275 billion.

At a campaign event in Boston, the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination called for an increase in federal infrastructure spending over five years and the establishment of an infrastructure bank—two proposals that she says will create jobs and repair the U.S.’s crumbling highways and bridges.

aging-infrastructureJust $275 billion? That’s only $55 billion annually. That’s not enough to address the ailments of the nation’s roads and bridges — let alone everything else. The Federal Highway Administration argues $170 billion is needed each year to address safety issues and performance. Federal, state, and local investment, the American Society of Civil Engineers says, amounts to only $91 billion each year. Meanwhile, bad roads cost Americans more than $100 billion annually in wasted time and fuel.

Continue reading

Sports_NCAA

Sports: it’s how America deals with big social issues

SEC-football-modern-plantation-systemAhhhh sports. For whatever reason, we’ve decided that the best way to deal with our most pressing national issues isn’t directly through our elected representatives, but metaphorically, through sports.

Guns, drugs, income inequality, violence against women, gender identification, homosexual rights—you name it, our sports venues are where those issues are debated.

This week end was a big one on the metaphorical battlefront. Continue reading

SuperShuttle-Sucks

SuperShuttle satisfaction survey: you people need to get your act together

SuperShuttle is a smoldering dumpster fire.

I returned home from vacation this morning. I had reserved a lift with SuperShuttle to save a few bucks on airport parking. Never again.

As we landed I flipped on my phone. I had an e-mail from SuperShuttle explaining how to check in on the mobile. Sweet. I followed the instructions and proceeded to the baggage claim. I was to select “Downtown” or “Not Downtown” and submit once I had my bag. Here’s where it went sideways.

  • I was instructed to go out door 505 on the east side and head over to the shuttles on island 5. I did. Found SS there, gave the guy my reservation number, he says cool, and I hop in.
  • Once in we got into the “where are you going?” process. Turns out I was in the wrong van. Continue reading
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Stranded Assets and the Bank of England

41ECa85N+ILMark Carney, the former Goldman Sachs banker and head of the Bank of Canada who now heads up the Bank of England, threw the City of London financial community into a bit of a tizzy recently. Carney picked up on a line of argument that a number of NGOs have been pushing for several years now—that investing in fossil fuels carries some potentially serious financial risks that investors should be giving some thought to. Carney simply pointed out the obvious, or what has been increasingly obvious to a number of investors for a while now. And that is the notion that if governments really do stick to adopting measures that will help to insure that global temperatures rise only 2 degrees Centigrade, many of the carbon assets currently on the books of fossil fuel companies—coal in particular, but other fossil fuels as well— will be “unburnable.”

This is not a new issue. A number of NGOs have spent the past several years leading the charge to “de-carbonize portfolios.” This portfolio de-carbonization effort is based on the perception that, aside from whatever “ethical” concerns may justify this, there is also a high likelihood of increased financial risk associated with carbon ownership—the exact point that Carney made. Much of this effort has been led by Carbon Tracker, a UK organization, but the original argument actually goes back to a presentation by environmental activist Bill McKibbin. Continue reading

You don’t want to be sued for what your robot did. (Photo: Frankieleon / Flickr Commons)

Before you put it to work for you, don’t forget to incorporate your robot!

The upside and downside of incorporating robots.

You don’t want to be sued for what your robot did. (Photo: Frankieleon / Flickr Commons)

You don’t want to be sued for what your robot did. (Photo: Frankieleon / Flickr Commons)

You’ve heard about e-trading, or high-frequency trading — the use of algorithms to react instantly and reflexively to the market. And you may have heard about robo-advisors, in which software manages your portfolio. Also, as Jerry Kaplan writes in his new book, Humans Need Not Apply (Yale University Press, 2015), of Amazon, etc.:

Super-human omniscient systems observe our individual and group behavior, then guide us to what we purchase, listen to, watch, and read— while the profits quietly pile up elsewhere.

In fact, the day may come when robots will own assets.   Continue reading