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Thursday, June 28, 2018

It's not Millennials. It's you.

No matter where I go, the question is always the same: Your kids are out of college? And they're still living at home?  My answer is always the same, always responsible for the look of shock and awe when I respond:

Yup. Just like every other generation has.

Surprised?  Don't be. In the United States, and certainly in countries well beyond its borders, the fact is that with the exception of the latter half of the baby boomer generation, just about every family lived under the same roof with grandma and grandpa until the kids got married -- and even then, a lot of them stuck around to save money. I'd like to say that people forget that stuff, but it's a lot more accurate to say that nobody ever knew it because most people never bother to learn their history.

With the exception of twenty-somethings from about 1965 to 1985, the norm for Americans has always been to grow up, help out at home, go to school and launch forth on their own when they were ready to start a family.  It was only those two decades when boomers' parents' prosperity (the result of their own Depression era and war time hardships) and cheap, convenient birth control spurred boomer kids out of the house at an early age.

But that was a different time, with different circumstances.

The boomer generation was filled with optimism.  Jobs were plentiful and bigger was better. Rents were cheap and costs were low. America's population in 1958 and 1968 was less than half of what it is in 2018.  There were no fax machines or personal computers -- it took far more people to do far less work.  Above it all, a national ethos of "there's plenty out there if you just go get it" pervaded the land.

Not so for millennials.

As I've written previously,  anyone born after 1990 has endured a childhood, adolescence and young adulthood filled with economic and national pessimism, where initiative has been quashed by nearly three decades of institutionalized laziness and inertia.  Clinton was a party animal, the first boomer president who mistook ambition for success. Dubya was a rich kid boomer who didn't succeed at much, either. Obama was the boomer who will go down in history as the first American president to simply give up, intoning phrases like, "those jobs just aren't coming back."

It's the spoiled, selfish, untrained and uneducated boomers who traded long term wealth accumulation for short term quarterly gains.  Boomers are the first generation to prefer leasing to owning and living with unmanageable debt.  The first to eschew the security of savings for overpriced consumerism and the first to choose the short term solution of divorce over the commitment of marriage.

Hardly the virtues their millennial children needed to see in their everyday role models.

Growing up millennial was to endure the media's preoccupation with terrorism and bad news relentlessly pounded the brains of kids without any counterbalance of real progress and opportunity.  Couple that with an educational system that glorified impracticality, ignored real life skills and promoted biased political agenda, and after a while, one has to ask himself how anyone under 40 would be motivated to leave the nest.

What's the point of leaving if there's nothing out there worth pursuing?

It's true America has been polarized, but not the way you think.  It's not a black versus white thing.  It's not a rich versus poor thing, either.  It's a "can do" versus a "what's the point" thing, which is why both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have emerged as the voices of their respective viewpoints.  One camp still believes in the American promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness while the other has simply given up on the American dream.

So the next time someone asks you why your kids are "still living at home," school them in a little American history.  Let them know that historically, that's how it's always been. Tell them they've shirked their duty by depriving an entire generation of its rightful opportunities.

 And while you're at it, explain that it's the kids who are perfectly normal -- not them.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Timing is Everything

As you may or may not know by now, I've spent the better part of my life as a brand strategist, either initiating brand strategies and tactics for start-ups or resurrecting established brands' whose Caretaker Managers have neglected them to the point of causing imminent death.  It's been a fascinating career, replete with challenges that were overcome with equal parts observation, business acumen and more than a little imagination.

It's the imagination  part that seems to catch everyone by surprise. For some reason, people can embrace a "what if" scenario on a spreadsheet, but when it comes to human behavior, they're not nearly as receptive.  Given the unprecedented events that have occurred throughout the world since 2016, I can't understand why human imagination is still mired in the depths of conventional thought. If anything, by now people should have learned to expect the unexpected.

They don't. Do you? Let's see just how receptive you are to this imaginative prediction of a few imminent world events:

At the time of this writing, a great debate is ensuing in the United States as to the possible outcome of the midterm elections that will occur in November, 2018.  Some pundits are sure of a magnificent "blue wave" which will wash away the still-unbelievable victory scored by Donald Trump.  Others are just as sure that the "red wave" is an unstoppable train that will roll over both houses of Congress with grace and ease.

I happen to believe the red wave will prevail, but not for the reasons proffered by either side.  And this is where your imagination comes in.

First, understand that unlike most midterm elections, this one will likely be influenced by both domestic and foreign factors. For every American who values his Federal tax break there's another who deplores the construction of a southern border wall.  For every Hungarian and Norwegian who has shunned muslim immigrants, there's a Frenchman, Brit and Swede that has watched Western society become completely overrun with Middle Eastern invaders.

Make no mistake, Americans are feeling a real divide out there and it could all come to head in time to affect the midterm elections under a huge red wave. Ready? Imagine this:

  1. Consider that with foreign countries restricting and outlawing guns (and now, apparently, knives) native populations are feeling increasingly squeezed into a corner. And while guns and knives may be illegal, cell phones, packages and explosives are not, which means that car-bombs and the like could become a street militia's weapon of choice. Who's to say that well-organized underground militias haven't already planted explosive packages in civilian neighborhoods of Paris and London? Disguised as repairmen, the bravest may have already placed these devices in high-rise tenements located in the most populous, most dangerous "no go" zones where even policemen are forbidden to trespass. What if one synchronized call to all those cell phone-activated packages would detonate hundreds of devices, bringing down tens of buildings at the same precise moment? No knives or guns required. And to top it off with just the right amount of poetic justice, what if it were all synchronized to happen on September 11th -- two months before the elections in America?

    That looks distinctly red to me.
  2. Consider that for almost two years since the inauguration of the 45th president, the United States' Department of Justice has been investigating the hijinks, crimes and intrigues involved in the election of 2016, and that while much has been discovered about Democrats and somewhat dismissed about Republicans, there has been virtually nothing in the way of prosecution of any culprits. Especially notable has been the absence of any litigation targeting Hillary Clinton by Jeff Sessions. One reason could be that there's no case to be prosecuted. But what if such a prosecution would have far more effect if it were launched closer to election day?  Even her most ardent supporters couldn't take it if Hillary Clinton were in a courthouse just weeks before an election. Following the foreign shock of September 11th, I'd venture to say that announcing a criminal prosecution of Hillary Clinton on October 15th seems just about right.

    That also looks a bit reddish to me, as well.
Of course, I could be wrong. Imagination is never about certainty. It's more about possibility.  It's there to cushion the shocks we experience when reality hits us where we least expect.

We live in strange, surprising times. It's possible that some of this could happen.  It's even more possible none of it ever will.  But like I said, sometimes you have to use a little imagination to see things from a radically different perspective.

Personally, I suspect a big red wave coming. But maybe it won't. One thing I have learned is that timing is everything -- particularly when November 6th falls so neatly in line with September 11th and October 15th.

As the bean counters with the spreadsheets say, what if?

Saturday, March 24, 2018

The Ticking of Black Apartheid

We live in truly historic times. And by historic, I mean eventful:  Since 2016, the world has been rocked and re-shaped in various places experiencing dynamic -- and quite frankly, foundation-shaking outcomes.  You know what they are and where they're happening. You can't dip into any medium without reports of all political stripes assaulting you with updates.

As eventful as it has been, however, the turbulence is far from over. As I've written here previously, Europe, the United States, the Middle East and others are now at the brink of even more disruption as invading cultures clash with national traditions for territorial dominance.

But here's something you may not know:

South Africa, that black-dominated country that shed its white Apartheid government decades ago, is now being torn apart by a reverse Apartheid.  White South African civilians, who comprise about 10% of the entire population, are being systematically attacked and slaughtered on their own legally-owned farms and domiciles. This is a particularly interesting situation to watch, because unlike every other western culture on the planet, white South Africans have never been subject to, nor hindered by any sense of political correctness.

They know only the agenda of survival -- and historically, they've been extremely vigilant about it.

Anyone who has any knowledge of South African history knows that historically, the Dutch and English do not go quietly into the night. Even when fighting each other at the turn of the twentieth century, they were fierce combatants, and perhaps more importantly, never ones to back down from a fight. Their descendants are no less stalwart, which leaves us wondering just how they will take the fight to their enemy, the black Apartheid government of South Africa.

As a strategist, I'm fascinated by this situation, because the outcome of this conflict will not be a negotiated settlement. Far from it. I expect that within the very near future, white South Africans will take up arms and, through shrewd planning and sheer determination, quite likely win their cause.

The question at the moment is, exactly what would they be winning?

Taking the entire country hardly seems a likely possibility.  Not only are whites only 10% of South Africa's population, they are concentrated in a few disparate, densely populated locations around the country. Strategically, it would be suicide for them to attempt a coup to restore the national white government -- they have neither the weaponry nor the fighting forces for that.  What might make more sense would be the fortification of one or more of those white-populated regions in order to declare its independence from South Africa.

Think it can't happen? It already has, sort of. The country of Lesotho is completely landlocked by South Africa. And within South Africa itself, the town of Orania has been whites-only for years. There's your proof of concept. Motive, means -- all that's left is opportunity for it to happen.  And my suspicion is that plans for a vicious armed rebellion are probably nearing or at completion.

Most people suspect South Africa has a maximum of five years until the lid blows off.  Don't you believe it. The fuse on this powder keg will burn faster than anyone thinks, and when it ignites, the explosion will rock the world off its axis.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Coolidge Effect

On the advice that "those who don't learn their history are condemned to repeat it," my favorite reading is biographies. I figure that knowing about people throughout history -- their successes and failures -- along with the recurrent phases of human behavior allow one to accurately predict what's just over our own horizon.  As with my wildly unpopular assertion in 2015 of Donald Trump's chances of election, lots of my opinions and observations turn out to be correct.

Believe me, it's not because I'm some psychic or genius. I just pay attention.

Reading the biography of Calvin Coolidge seems to be especially timely.  Most people, including most Americans, know little or nothing about Coolidge.  In fact, he was the 29th Vice President of the United States in 1920, who became the 30th President in 1923 when President Warren Harding died in the White House. Coolidge won re-election in 1924, serving more than five years as the nation's chief executive.

Other than one clean joke about his being a man of few words, nobody remembers much about Calvin Coolidge's presidency.  That's probably because what made him a nationally popular hero is what happened to him before he ever sought national office.

It happened in 1919, just after the first world war, when the globe was wrapped up in political instability. All over the planet, monarchies and kingdoms were giving way to industrialized republics, redrawing maps and changing governmental structures that had been in power for centuries, causing mass confusion.  It's no coincidence, for example, that the Russian revolution succeeded in 1917: As Machiavelli once noted, "the quickest ascension to power is through a vacuum."  By 1919, the success of Communism was a very real threat to the United States, especially with the Boston Police Strike of that year.

Coolidge was governor of Massachusetts at the time, faced with the dilemma of handling a breakdown of law and order of unprecedented proportion.  Although the police were forbidden by law from striking, they walked out anyway, figuring they had the public's support.  After all, the mood of the city was one of agitation, inspired by the newfound power enjoyed by Socialist and Communist labor unions throughout Europe and beyond.

The entire strike lasted about a week, throwing Boston into chaos and making national headlines. Despite the media's perceived sentiment leaning in favor of the striking policemen, Coolidge decided that the beyond the policemen's sworn and moral obligation to protect the public, the law was the law: Coolidge called in the militia and not only fired all the strikers, he guaranteed none would ever be re-hired by the Boston police under any circumstance.

Warned by pundits that his actions would be deemed politically unpopular by the public, Coolidge's decision to sustain law and order were actually enthusiastically endorsed by voters across the country. Firemen, telephone operators, nurses and coal miners who had been tempted to walk off their jobs, backed off their threats. It was the first instance in which the phrase "silent majority" was applied to those whose opinions and votes weren't even mentioned by the media.  Upon realizing their error, most media quickly changed their tunes and endorsed Coolidge as a true, solid leader. Real presidential material.

That was 1919. This is 2018.

Look around the planet.  As of this writing, lawlessness abounds. Apartheid is worse than ever in South Africa, only now it's the whites who are feeling the pain of state-sponsored robbery and murder.  The white population is now warning of violent rebellion against their corrupt black oppressors -- and they have the resources to back up their threats.  Check out the tension of European countries as they wring their hands over the continuing decay of their own customs and disciplines.  Watch how many South American countries drown in their own lawless poverty.

As I warned in 2017, it's only a matter of time until the lawlessness we're seeing -- on the same international scale seen by Coolidge a hundred years ago -- erupts into full scale conflict. My thesis that now, as then, the silent majority will again support leaders who can and will buck the media's advocacy of lawlessness, choosing a return to law and order.  The United States, Hungary, Poland and Italy have just weighed in; I suspect more are on the way.

It won't come cheaply. The media will likely accuse those leaders of unbridled nationalism and worse. Real people are going to bleed and die in the streets. History, however, will undoubtedly report the ultimate return to stability as one more natural diversion in the course of human history, the periodic purge that cleanses the system, followed by a period of worldwide prosperity.

Just like it did after Coolidge.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Future Imperfect

A lot of people use the quote "Those who don't know history are condemned to repeat it," attributing it to 19th/20th century Mexican General George Santayana, which is all well and good until, ironically, a little research reveals the phrase formally originated with British statesman Edmund Burke back in the 18th century.

Funny how those things happen.

Regardless, the sentiment is as true as it is profound. You really can't tell where you're going until you know where you've been.  Everyone needs a point of reference, which is why if you're intelligent enough to be reading this, you should be frightened to death of the Millennial generation's inheriting the earth.


Hear me out on this, because this is not the usual rant of some troglodyte bemoaning the loss of his traditions of romance and exotic nobility. This is a guy who calls 'em like he sees 'em, and what he sees is unlike anything anyone has witnessed in the course of western civilization:

Millennials are the first generation whose future is compromised not just by its lack of education, but by a complete lack of interest in its own history.

Go ahead and ask any Millennial about the Age of Reason. The Renaissance. The Dark Ages. The Middle Ages. The Industrial Revolution. The Age of Enlightenment.  See if he can explain Greeks and Trojans as anything other than college fraternities with the best parties. Then watch for his two reactions:

1.  A glazed look in his eyes.
2.  A grab for his iPhone to Google it.

I'm not even going into the catastrophic impact that "information" services like Google and others practice by distorting their search results via their own personal and political agenda. If you really want to delve into what mind control is all about, you can read all the George Orwell and Aldous Huxley you please.

No, the real issue lies in the fact that for the first time in history, education (or what's left of it) is undergoing a lethal, quiet transformation from an active to a reactive process.

The broad acceptance of simply "looking it up" or "Googling it" is, by its very nature, displacing the centuries-proven alternative of active education, whose essence echoes Burke's and Santayana's very own sentiments.  Simply put, by the time a Millennial responds to new information (which itself may be wrong) it's likely too late to be of any real value.  By knowing one's history, however, that same Millennial could walk the earth prepared by his education because he took the time to learn it before he needed it.

But you can't know anything unless you ask about it, and fewer kids -- now past minimum voting age -- even bother with asking. It just doesn't occur to them to do so. So what we're left with is an army of drones doing just what they're told by their masters to do without question.

That, to me, is scary.

Human tragedy like wars and poverty are avoided with prior knowledge, not ignorance.  The civilized world is made a better place by remembering how bad things once were. The problem with Millennials is that they have no knowledge of their past, only fantasies of their futures, most of which have/will never materialize.  The sad part is that like lambs to the slaughter, they have no way of knowing it, and no desire to question it.

I always told my kids (and anyone else who'd listen) to talk back to the TV.  Yell at YouTube. Choose your own drive for knowledge over the toxic fumes generated by search engines.  I stressed that the first twenty years of life is mostly lies and that it takes a good few years beyond your last year of schooling to exchange infantile idealism for life's harsh lessons in reality.  That's where the value of history is: A record of truth stretching back eons, there for anyone to learn from, to avoid making the mistakes made by others and to improve their own lots as a result.

It's a tried and true system, assuming that anyone's interested in asking.  And sadly, that's an assumption we can no longer afford to make.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Meg Whitman 2.0

Back in 2015, I went on record -- to everyone's laughter -- with my favoring Donald Trump's chances of becoming President of the United States. Nobody's laughing now, however, which is one more reason why I so enjoy writing these posts.  This time, I've dug back to 2009, when to nobody's surprise, I pummeled tech CEO Meg Whitman for her clumsy losing bid to become governor of the state of California.

Despite spending over $150 million of her personal billion-dollar fortune, Whitman got crushed by bad handlers and Jerry Brown's measly $35 million effort. It would have been laughable were it not so pathetic. Whitman bungled every step of her way to the loser's shed, camping on the wrong side of each issue while crusading as one of the most antipathetic candidates in the state's history.  Her trail of scorched earth through Disney, Hasbro, DreamWorks and Ebay didn't exactly rally the forces of Silicon Valley to her cause. Neither did Gloria Allred's last minute lawsuit on behalf of Whitman's "abusive" employment of an undocumented alien in her own home.

But that was then. This is now.

In November, 2017, after nine years at its helm, Whitman quietly stepped down from her perch at Hewlett-Packard with little fanfare. It was a voluntary move that hardly went noticed, which can mean only one of three things:

1. She's terminally ill.
2. She's got another gig.
3. She's eyeing another run for the governor's seat.

I'm confident that at age 61, Whitman's health is just fine. If anything, her recent photographs reflect a new, more vibrant image than her past images that made her look more like Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1958. Someone is finally giving this woman media advice -- possibly for a reason.

I'm also not convinced that her "announcement" about buying into an MLS expansion team is anything more than a cover for her real agenda: the team she's reportedly buying is, not so coincidentally, based in Sacramento. Just a stone's throw from her would-be office.

All of which points to Option #3, which makes a whole lot of sense, for a whole lot of reasons.

As Steve Bannon recently advised a group of Republicans in an Orange County speech, "you guys got everything you need" to produce the same results in California that his team produced nationally for Donald Trump. People, money, effort and a purpose -- everything else is just icing on the cake.

More to the point, the timing is right. In the first place, Donald Trump proved that one person really can take on an entrenched system and win. He made believers out of a country that previously had given up its government as hopeless. Secondly, Hillary Clinton may have lost the election, but in her own way, advanced and encouraged the potential of women's gains in much the same way as Trump did for his platform.  Third, the Harvey Weinstein Syndrome wreaked havoc in a very public way, and by all accounts, will continue to reverberate and vilify men throughout the election year, especially when the top two Democrats contenders, Gavin Newsom and Antonio Villaraigosa, are on public record as lifelong womanizers.

For those of you who don't reside in California, let me add three more ingredients to the mix:

1.  While it's not politically or socially acceptable to do so, an increasing number of Californians -- at least those outside of San Francisco -- are getting tired of dealing with the costs and crimes of illegal immigrants. Off the record, far more people -- including legal immigrants -- prefer Trump's wall to be built sooner rather than later.

2.  The new Federal Tax Reform plan hits high-income, high-tax states like New York and California particularly hard, because it no longer allows those residents to deduct their 11% state income taxes from their Federal tax returns.  Ouch. That means more people will likely vote for lower taxes and less government.

3.  While everyone accuses Republicans of representing the rich, by far, the bulk of the "let's have the government spend more" sentiment is being attributed to Democrats, whose public perception is deteriorating faster than the chances of cashing an expired food stamp at a liquor store.

Put them all together and this branding guy sees a big picture in which the right woman at the right time -- this time with all the right answers -- could upset the Democratic stranglehold that's been killing California.

That woman could be Meg Whitman, assuming of course, that this time Whitman's maid has a valid Social Security number.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Misunderstanding Nazis

Anyone who knows me also knows how much I've enjoyed the last year or two here in the United States. I tell young people to pay attention, because these are historic times that won't reoccur any time soon. There hasn't been a "world order" shake-up like this since the turn of the twentieth century, when most of the world's monarchies were displaced by republics in a relatively short number of years.

Of course, not too many people know their history, so they know nothing about that previous shake-up. Millennials know even less, because they simply accept whatever answers Google retrieves as the gospel truth. Revisionist academics seem intent on censoring, altering and filtering historical facts, patting them into place in an effort to fit the world comfortably to their own agenda.

Unfortunately, the truth has a funny way of surfacing all by itself. It's happening as we speak. This time, it's with Nazis.

I spend my time observing from the sidelines, where I can't help but laugh at everyone calling anyone with whom they disagree a Nazi. These are, by and large, the same people who are offended by everything and seek to limit your personal freedoms in order to quell their own inadequacies. But I'm not here to preach. You already know all that stuff.

Here's something you might not know:

If you talk to the people who really know what Nazism is about, you'll find them to be strong advocates of an open, limitless society.  These are incredibly tolerant people, accepting anything other than limits on their -- and your -- personal freedoms. These are not people who majored in sociology and political science. They're not academics isolated in their university ivory towers. Nor are they uneducated marchers with smart phones in hand.

No, the folks I'm talking about have real Nazi experiences. These are the true authorities on what Nazis are. They're holocaust survivors.

Most of them are dying off now, but not before they've told and recorded their experiences for posterity. Were it not so tragic, it's almost amusing to hear some twenty-something rant about Nazis within earshot of an elder victim who watched her entire family shot to death in her own home or wither away from starvation in a death camp for no reason other than who and what they were.

They've had decades to suffer with the memories and the loss, as opposed to an uneducated, uninformed and wholly unrealistic generation of kids -- including those forty-somethings suffering from their own chronic condition of prolonged adolescence -- who have convinced themselves they really know what Nazism is all about.

They do not. One viewing of Schindler's List or Sophie's Choice doesn't speak to the real life experiences of those whose lives were destroyed in Europe, only to be rebuilt under the aegis of American freedom.  That's why virtually all holocaust survivors have defected from the left to wholeheartedly embrace and protect the freedoms that saved their very souls.

Personally, I love it when I hear people calling other folks Nazis. The uneducated are so easy to defeat. And that's not just my opinion.  As history notes, it was certified by a national vote in 2016.

Let's see them try to rewrite that.