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Thursday, September 20, 2018

How The Feds Save California

Considering that the state of California represents about one-sixth of the entire population of the United States, it's somewhat perplexing that the Golden State allowed itself to deteriorate into something more akin to stryrofoam.  The plain truth is that was once considered the Promised Land is now pretty much a showcase for how far the mighty can fall.

I'll spare you all the rhetoric about people pooping all over the streets of San Francisco. Or the numerous nests of needle exchanges sanctioned by the government.  I won't get into anything about immigration, the wall or the ridiculously corrupt primary election system designed to eventually bankrupt America's most glamorous welfare state.

It suffices to say that the political forces that condemned California to its current pathetic situation are mighty indeed, having entrenched themselves for no reason other than to further enrich themselves at public expense.  But that's an old saw. You've heard all that before. And if you happen to have a few Republican friends in California, you've probably heard their laments about how there's nothing they can do to fix the problem.

They're right.  But just because they feel powerless to fix California's ills doesn't mean the problem is not fixable.  Cast your orbs on this:

Chances are you don't recognize this. It's a map of the United States' Circuit Court system.  Circuit courts were created by Congress to adapt to the union's rapid geographical expansion.  Acknowledging that many Americans were unable to get to court, Congress decided to bring the courts to them, establishing routes, or circuits, which judges would travel to dispense justice.

You may have noticed that ninth circuit on the left coast.  You may be familiar with the phrase, "Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals."  That's because the ninth circuit is the one notorious for rendering decisions which often overturn -- or attempt to overturn -- the more conservative laws passed by legislatures or Executive Orders issued by the White House.  The ninth circuit is notoriously liberal, a handy ally in the left-leaning agenda of states like California, Hawaii, Washington and Oregon.  

But if you know your history, you also know that there weren't always a limited number of circuit courts.  At Congress's behest, their number was increased as the nation's population and geography expanded.  And therein lies the Federal solution to a statutory problem:

What if a conservative United States Congress authorized the creation of a new circuit court by splitting the ninth circuit into two?  Sound nutty?  I know.  So did the election of Donald Trump, but if you'd been reading this blog in 2015, you would have seen that coming, too.  

By taking California, Hawaii, Arizona and New Mexico into a new circuit -- staffed with new, centrist judges -- and restricting the ninth circuit to Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Idaho and Montana, it's just possible that the new court could hear and decide challenges that would free California to revert back to the social and economic glory it once enjoyed.

Hey, I'm just a branding guy.  But I get paid big dough to see solutions where others never dream of looking.  And considering the dearth of other possibilities, this may be one way to end California's nightmare.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Ink, X and DNA

I write and talk a lot about social values and trends, mainly because I realize that branding is much more about human nature than it is about logos and fancy packaging.  I care less about what people think than why they think it.  It puts everything into a totally different, far more effective perspective.  

If you've read any of my material, you're probably familiar with my mourning over the loss of the human soul and the rugged individualism that inspires it.  Thanks to various social and political influences (you know who you are), an entire generation of Millennials is now old enough to have been cast adrift in search of their own identities, resulting in three specific manifestations that are not only dangerous to society, but to themselves, as well.

“Give me a child until he is 7 and I will show you the man,” said Aristotle.  He was no dope.  Aristotle knew that humans are most receptive to influence in their first seven years.  However, that's mostly due to authoritarian intimidation:  they have little choice in the opinions and values thrust upon them.  What happens in the next twenty years is a lot more insidious:

Aristotle was speaking about proactive education, completely ignoring its dark evil twin, lack of guidance.  Remember latchkey kids? Kids from broken homes? Single parent kids?  You know, the ones left alone with nothing but video games and other aimless kids with too much time on their hands?  We call those types "at risk," but not because of what might influence them, but rather a total lack of any positive influences.  I suspect people tend to dismiss the damages done by banishing kids (up until their late twenties) into the void because there's no direct, perceivable cause to which they can relate.

But this is where it gets interesting:

I submit to you that while a kid with no purpose may be adrift, his innate spirit of individualism is still very much alive.  In each of us is a will to define ourselves and differentiate ourselves from others.  Not necessarily in a self-aggrandizing way, but in more of a truth-seeking manner.  Without the guidance to know what he is -- and more importantly, what he is not -- a young person remains rudderless and vulnerable to the first powerful influences that dangerously jeopardize his well-being.  This isn't peer pressure.  This is a lot more serious.

Let me give you a few examples:

INK:  In their quest for self-identity, over 30% of Americans under the age of thirty sport some kind of tattoo.  Over 27% of tattooed Americans over the age of 40 regret their decision to get one.  While I have no case to make against what images a person indelibly etches into his skin, I do have a quarrel with why anyone would want to do it.  Lulled by a sense of fashion and driven by a lack of self-identity, millions of kids don't realize that ink is the second best alternative to a national government-dominated national registry.  Once a security camera grabs an image of your bicep with that mean-looking cobra with the words, "Carpe Diem" arched over it, there can be no doubt as to who that person is.  The authorities have their proof, and taxpayers get a break because the government didn't have to pay a nickel for it.  And yes, there actually is a national database of tattoos for just such purposes.

DNA:  Older Millennials seem to prefer to express their identity through the technology that ruled their childhood.  "I didn't know I was Scottish," smiles the simpleton on the television commercial for a DNA testing service.  "All this time, I thought I was German!"  And for $99 and a swab of your saliva, he says you can find out who and what you are, too.  How any of the resulting information benefits anyone is certainly beyond me.  Okay, you thought you were Greek, but now you know you're 34% Latvian -- how, exactly will that change your life?  Does that truly enhance your sense of self?  Is there any real value in that information? 

Turns out there really is value in that information, just not to you.  Because whenever you submit a sample of your blood or DNA, you also submit a signed release form in which you abdicate any and all rights to the sample you submitted.  The bad news is that if the company finds a cure for cancer using your DNA, you have no right to share in any financial rewards they might reap.  The worse news is that your DNA can (and will) find its way into any one of the national DNA databases which law enforcement can (and does) use to forensically track down criminal suspects -- and it takes less than an 80% match for law enforcement to arrest and detain you.  It takes thousands of dollars to extricate yourself out of a pointless legal mess, none of which is reimbursed by the government.

X ON YOUR PASSPORT:   I find it amusing yet tragic every time I read a story about transgender people and their clumsy battles for self-identity.  Perhaps the most damaged of all, the transgender community suffers a 40%+ suicide rate and an astronomical rate of psychological issues.  I don't for a minute believe these are bad people. I do, however, strongly believe that these are kids who were psychologically abandoned their entire lives, desperate to express themselves to others because nobody has ever valued them  for who and what they are.  That pain cuts pretty deep.

That having been said, I find the whole "battle for gender identification" just as futile as getting tattooed, for the simple reason that choosing to mark "X" instead of "F" or "M" on a passport immediately marks that person as mentally unstable, owing to the fact that, as I pointed out above, the transgender community suffers a 40%+ suicide rate and an astronomical rate of psychological issues.  When the Feds come looking for "the most likely suspect," you can bet they pass right by Mr. and Mrs. Normal and go right to the folks who self-identify with a group documented to be mentally unstable.  Not a good plan.

There's a reason why the military drafts kids at age seventeen.  There's a reason why their heads are shaved, made to dress in uniforms and marched in formation.  The whole point is to drive out the individual so that the group can be commanded as a unit with identical moving parts.  But I submit to you that no matter how many drills they run, it is impossible to drive out each man's human desire for his own individuality.  It's still there, waiting for its chance to flourish.

Whether it ever gets a chance to flourish is another matter.  In the meantime, someone has to tell these kids that ink and hormone therapy is no match for genuine purpose.  Someone has to tell them there's more to life than living in a social media vacuum, doomed to wonder why everyone else isn't as miserable as they are.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Leveling the Internet

Years from now, history students -- assuming that some school, somewhere, somehow still teaches history -- will be studying the profound effects the internet had on the humans inhabiting planet Earth.  I'm sure there will be all kinds of term papers on Changing Habits of Social Intercourse -- How the Internet Transformed Love and Romance, and more than one doctoral thesis on The Free Speech Train Wreck: How Big Corporations Derailed Free Speech on the Information Superhighway.  

You get the idea. These are the kind of retrospectives in which freshmen and graduate students alike revel, gorging themselves on footnotes to sustain their arguments in an effort to substantiate their own points of view.  Just as twentieth century students viewed the War Between the States as being all about slavery (it wasn't) to naively bolster their discussions about civil rights, I suspect future posers will look to the mid-twentieth century to defend their take on "government overreach into the freedom of the press."  Specifically, they're going to try to make the case for the government'snot interfering with the data that flows throughout the internet.

I submit to you right here and now, they shall be proven wrong, and within a decade or two, all the tech mega-monoliths, specifically search engines and social media,  will be subject to a regulatory agency much like the Federal Communications Commission, if not the FCC itself.

To begin with, you have to know your history.  Understand that while the concept of wireless communication was proven viable in the late nineteenth century, it wasn't until the early twentieth century that radio went commercial.  Until then, the best electronic communication we had was the telegraph.  When "the wireless" was born, and millions of radios were sold throughout the country, an interesting question was born with it:

Who owns the airwaves across which radio content is broadcast?

Radio waves traveling out into the air with no means of restriction meant that the content they carried could not be restricted, either.  Additionally, since the air over American soil was borderless, the good people of government were faced with a decision:  Either the American government could own the airwaves or the Americanpeople could own the airwaves.  In 1934, the Feds essentially split the difference, giving ownership of the airwaves to the American people while subjecting them to government regulation via the FCC.

Ever since, just about any kind of commercial content carried over government-regulated airwaves (there are bandwidths in which content is not regulated) has been subject to government rules and standards. And it worked just fine until about 1970, when the wheels started to come off.

The seventies is about when the first cable television systems began sprouting up. At first, cable was introduced to assure higher quality television reception where "rabbit ears" antennae simply weren't cutting it.  At some point, however, someone figured out that content flowing over privately-owned coaxial cable wasn't being transmitted over the air at all and therefore wasn't subject to government regulation.

It was a pretty slick loophole that let the Playboy channel in and cut government interference out. By trading a monthly fee for commercial free viewing, users happily propelled cable TV into an explosion of popularity.  About the only concession any government got was the local burgs' requiring cable companies to provide free public access in exchange for the monopoly within their zip codes.

But what does all this have to do with regulating the internet?  Stick with me:

In 2018, the big story is whether techno-giants like Facebook, Twitter and Google should be allowed to impose their own political biases on the content they provide between users of their services.  On the one hand, these are companies owned by shareholders, much like the radio and TV networks of old, all of which were subject to government regulation because they broadcast their content over the airwaves.  On the other, most Boomers spent the bulk of their internet infancy either dialing up through a phone cord or logging onthrough an Ethernet cable, which made the internet seem more like cable TV, and thus free from any government interference.

So with the explosive growth of internet usage, the big question when and if the government should step in and regulate or not?  I submit that government can and should regulate the techno-giants for one very simple reason:

History has repeated itself, only this time in reverse.  The internet is now as wireless as it is cabled (if not moreso), which means the content delivered to you wirelessly is once again traversing American air space.  And that's the stuff that belongs to all of us, not just the techno-giants.  All it would take is Congress updating the charter of the FCC to include any bandwidth over which internet content can be transmitted.  Simple!

Think it can't happen?  Think again.  After all, you didn't think Trump would win, either.

Friday, August 10, 2018

The Myth of Smart

I've spent most of my career as a brand strategist. That means I slap CEOs into the realization that no matter how much they spend on marketing and advertising and social media and public relations, nothing is going to happen until they develop and execute a true brand strategy.  And by true brand strategy, I mean the kind of strategy that's not only clear, credible, authoritative and defensible, but also fattens up the bottom line with cold, hard cash.

As I tell anyone who will listen, the trick to succeeding in business -- or anything, really -- is simply a matter of getting into the other guys' heads.  It doesn't matter if you're negotiating a real estate deal or blasting your brand through some narcissistic phone app:  If you don't know what's going on in your target audience's heads, you're going to fail. Period.

That particular pontification carries a lot more weight than you might imagine.  In fact, it's one of the basic tenets I convey to Millennials who find themselves frustrated in their post-collegitate travails.  Why, they wonder, are they feeling so helpless in their pursuits of careers?  After all, they're smart.  They're willing.  They're capable.  Yet somehow, nothing seems to be clicking.

I offer them two pieces of wisdom:

First, they have to get into the heads of the business world, and a good place to start is with the realizations that (A) all we want to do is make money and (B) everything prior to college graduation is a lie.  It's true. Out here in real life, working to achieve approval doesn't get you squat. In the same vein, advancement isn't a matter of doing the reading and writing a term paper.

Out here, there is no formal structure or fulfillment of requirements that automatically propels you to the next level.  There's also no meritocracy.  But by far, most disappointing of all is the realization that despite all those safe spaces and navel-gazing professors, nobody really cares about how smart you are.  That's because being smart has little, if anything, to do with business success.  Being a businessman, however, has plenty to do with it -- and that's something that no school currently teaches, because it's political taboo. 

Second, they must accept the fact that contrary to what they've been taught in school, there's a lot -- and I mean millions of metric tonnes -- of non-geniuses out there.  I'm not shooting from the hip here.  I'm talking plain, basic math.  Take a look at this bell curve of IQ distribution to get an idea of what I'm talking about:

Pretty scary, eh? And it's totally legit.  If you take a close look, you'll see that George Carlin was right on the mark when he said (and I'm paraphrasing here) that "the average person isn't very bright and half of them are even stupider than that." Hey, I know it's not a terribly popular, everyone-gets-a-trophy kind of sentiment.  But it's mathematically and statistically correct.

The average IQ score is 100, encompassing about 68% of the population. If you add in the population who isn't even that bright, all the way down to the bottom of the barrel, you'll find that an astonishing 84% of the population ranges from "average" to "breathing paperweight."  That leaves about 16% of people who are "above average" or "really, really smart."

But what does all of that have to do with branding?

Well, if you subscribe to the notion that success really is a function of "getting into their heads," it's probably time you got real about the kind of heads you're getting into.  Whether you're climbing the corporate ladder or pitching some sort of digital dementia, it's a good idea to abandon your idealistic image of everyone being smart and motivated and as eager to change their lives as you are. Maybe it's time you start accepting that while you may be brilliant and aspirational, perhaps the rest of the world simply isn't up to your standards.

That could explain why, despite your smarts, nobody seems to buy into your fabulous ideas. I know it's happened to me over the years. Many were the times I'd traipse out of an office, scratching my head and wondering, "How could they not get this?" That's when I realized I hadn't gotten into their heads; I was expecting them to get into mine.

Big mistake.

Since then, I've come to accept that for 84% of the world, keeping things the way they are is just fine. For them, paying the rent, being a good parent, staying out of debt and mastering Call of Duty really is a worthy enough goal.  So maybe those ads of yours shouldn't be set in that east coast upper middle class Cape Cod townhome by the bay, starring some white collar interracial couple leasing that expensive foreign coupe that neither of them can afford.

Maybe you should be getting into the heads of folks to whom being super smart, totally ripped and uber hip isn't nearly as important as being happy and loved and satisfied with what they've got.  Folks who are smart enough to know who and what they are -- and who and what they aren't.  Those are people who value wisdom over smarts, and maybe that makes them a whole lot brighter than all those self-proclaimed, agenda-driven media gurus.

After all, according to the stats, 84% of them aren't exactly geniuses.

Monday, July 30, 2018

The End of Stupid Tech

July, 2018, will go down in history as the week when Facebook stock took a one-day, 20% stock hit, wiping out billions of market cap value for stockholders and its Chief ExecutiveTeenager, Marc Zuckerberg.  No doubt that many pundits and analysts will leap to conclusions about Facebook, its founder and the many reasons why it stumbled badly that week -- and at this point, continues to do so.

What so many of the analysts won't tell you is that other internet darlings, such as Twitter and Snapchat, took market hits just as hard as Facebook's, which in my humble opinion, tell a much bigger story than they would have you believe.

Flip through the media channels and you'll hear stories about these online brands' issues with privacy and accountability.  You'll likely hear more observations about the companies' failure to live up to revenue or advertising expectations.  Some are even reaching into the realm of fiction, citing diversity and employee practices for lackluster performance.

All of those may or may not be true.  But if you're looking for the real, heavyweight culprit, look no further:  The real reason is that the days of stupid tech are over.

What, exactly, is stupid tech? Pretty much what it sounds like: time-wasting, attention-sucking technologically-driven platforms that offer no truly useful value other than distracting disaffected, disenfranchised and under- or non-employed people from the misery of their daily, non-productive, unfulfilled lives.

That's not quite as ludicrous or simplistic as it sounds.  Allow me to explain:

As I've previously written here, until now, anyone born after 1990 has spent his entire life in the shadows of national economic and aspirational pessimism.  For more than two decades, they've been instructed to give up any hope of attaining wealth or success, choosing to rent rather than own everything from homes to power drills to car rides to their local overpriced coffee shop.  They've also endured a lethargic economy that confirmed Barack Obama's miserable edict that, "those jobs just aren't coming back."  Resigned to lives of mediocrity, those people embraced stupid tech brands like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat, all of which excel in two important aspects:

1.  Making people feel more important than they are.
2.  Keeping people busy making people feel they're more important than they are.

This, by the way, is why so many people rant about their politics and feel compelled to photograph their lunches:  Broadcasting into a void makes them feel valuable, even though nobody really cares or is, in fact, listening or watching.

But in July, 2018, something swooped in out of the ether that none of the usual suspects ever expected: A second quarter GDP growth rate of 4.1% -- a figure past administrations stated was totally unattainable, let alone sustainable.  That kind of growth means that during the second quarter of 2018, more people spent time making a real living and less time virtue-signaling from their keyboards.

With fewer people engaging in online services (along with every brand finally acknowledging its customer base is actually a fraction of their stated number due to phantom and fake accounts), the dream of stupid tech is virtually over.  As true investors know, with a growing economy, there are simply better, proven places to put their money now that the economy is back on track.

I don't care who you voted for. I don't care how young or old you are. I could care less about your politics.  Read your history. Learn from it.  This is the economy you've been waiting for.  This is the opportunity that built the USA into the most powerful country.

This is your chance to get out of stupid tech and start your life for real.

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?