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Sunday, April 07, 2019

There's No App For That

Unbeknownst to anyone under the age of thirty, there was a time when there was no digital technology -- and believe me, it was better.  I know.  I was there.

Ah, those were the good old analog days, before the internet's standardization ruined everything. Back in the day, everything from getting that job to dating that blonde revolved around genuine knowledge, fearlessness of risk and real time human interaction.  One could build his young life using no more than an idea in his mind and a twinkle in his eye. Technology? That stuff may have sent astronauts to the moon, given us Tang and pocket calculators, but it was no substitute for visceral, animal drive.

To grow up analog meant one had to actually know facts, data and history.  We explored and learned as much as we could, including how money and people work, because that's what gave us the edge over the other guys.  The last thing anyone did was sit in the dark all day watching a screen, because that wasted precious time. We wanted to be out there, searching, hunting and conquering opportunity.

Of course, things have changed drastically since then. An entire generation now really believes that making one's way in the world depends on where you click and which way you swipe.  Personal pride and a mastery of knowledge has given way to their weakening dependence on Google, and even the most menial challenges have apps to solve whatever issues perplex them, usually on a monthly subscription basis.

To keep this generation from feeling threatened by others' successes, the once-closed personal offices of my generation have been replaced by open, communal workspaces, where nobody monopolizes the views from those once-cherished corner office windows -- participation trophies for the workplace.  Modern floor-to-ceiling glass walls are sold as "luxurious," but actually enhance the peer pressure, communally intimidating anyone who might dare to invoke even the slightest right to privacy.

And so we have arrived at the point where the first internet generation has grown into post-collegiate adulthood, primed and ready for a lifetime of failure.

Just as we feared, our current young adults are woefully lacking in general knowledge, let alone the histories, cultures and sciences of America and the rest of the world, primarily because they've been raised to find answers rather than solve problems. The internet has taught them that pointing and clicking is better and faster than critical thinking.  What is now more important than Why and How. As such, many of them are completely helpless when the WiFi goes out, sitting blankly for hours with their phones in their hands, wondering how long it will be until service is restored.

It gets worse.

These young adults don't date, either. They never developed any social skills through real time human interaction, because the internet didn't let them.  All they know about dating are its apps, most of which produce nothing more than a quick hookup, a few moments of sexual gratification and an ever-growing bitterness toward the opposite sex.  Turns out that "Netflix and chill" doesn't translate into "happily ever after."

Hold on, I'm not done.

The job market is just as depressing, because companies allow algorithms to scan and reject resumés without any real time human interviews, which means the applicants' characteristics that drive human interaction have no way of being evaluated.  The result is that almost nobody gets a real job from Monster, or worse yet, LinkedIn, based on the single most important employment factor of all. And even if there is a real time interview, those on both sides of the table have absolutely no idea how to interact with each other.

If all this sounds awful, I assure you, it is.  But for all the hand-wringing, there is a silver lining:  A lovely sense of schadenfreude for silver-haired scoundrels like myself, watching in amusement from the sidelines, who always knew that the internet would fail us:

You see, we analog humans knew all along that there was no shortcut to owning and mastering one's own life.  We learned early on that if we were going to succeed, it would be because we took both the initiative and responsibility for ourselves.  We had no Google, because we didn't need it.  To have relied on some robot was an affront to our individuality and self-worth.  It still is.  We didn't buy into lazy, get rich quick schemes and never trusted those who offered them.

But the fools of the internet generation are different.  They know nothing of this.  They really believe that paying an algorithm to prepare and deliver their food and clothing is the way to go, because they really are that helpless and devoid of self-worth.

Of course, life has a way of sorting these things out.  Perhaps one day, the internet generation will figure things out, but when they do, they'll be far older than we were when we came of age.  Most will be married, maybe with kids, trapped as cogs in a gray, automated service economy where nobody accomplishes anything other than keeping the system running.

It's depressing, for sure. But all is not lost.

I submit that there will always be a few smart ones -- renegades, rogues and real assholes -- who will catch on to the scams of the man behind the curtain.  They'll figure it out quickly.  In fact, some already have.  You can tell who those kids are.  They're not the ones who are laughing with their social justice warrior friends.

They're the ones laughing at them.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

The Democrats' 2020 Nominee

At the time of this writing, there are well over twenty Democrats who have formally declared their intentions to seek the office of the President of the United States in the year 2020.  The list includes just about every size, shape, gender and color of human being in the catalog, but thus far, nobody seems to know who will emerge as the front runner.  At this point, I assume the higher-ups are panicked just trying to figure out how to cram everyone on to the same debate stage at one time.

The problem with Presidential prognostication is that too many pundits are basing their predictions on unreliable or just plain weird data.  Some use the same tactics they applied in high school to determine whose popularity would win the prom queen crown.  Others utilize the "packaging" approach, trying to stuff as many facets into one conglomerated individual in order to pander to the maximum number of voters.  Still more prefer the cynical strategy, in which "nothing ever changes" or "the Deep State political machine will choose its candidate the same way it always has."

As usual, I opt for another method entirely.

I submit that to really get a handle on 2020, forget what color the people are and start focusing on what color the states are.  That's where the first big clue really is.  One glance at this map shows exactly which states the Democrats lost in 2016, but thought they were going to win.  The so-called "purple states" -- which could swing either way -- is where the big battles are.  The Dems want to do everything they can to swing those states' Electoral votes to blue in 2020, so it stands to reason that a nominee from one of those states has an inside track.

If you buy into that argument, the Democrat nominee is currently eating his lunch in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Wisconsin, North Carolina or Virginia.  Yes, there are more purple states, but with ten or fewer Electoral votes, they're minor players.

Notice I mentioned the nominee eating his lunch?  That's because even notable Democrats are spooked by the party's public shift to the far left and fear losing even more center-aligned Democrats to either an independent or President Trump.  So the second Democrat imperative is to recruit a middle-aged white man: First, in order to reassure the rank and file, the Democrats need optics that confirm the party hasn't gone over the edge.  Second, without conceding his successes, the Democrats want to wheel out their version of a kinder, gentler Donald Trump.

In case you were sleeping, this is why Howard Schultz is rattling the bars on his cage.

What about diversity, you ask?  Simple.  That's what Vice Presidents are for.  Roll up a non-white, female of questionable gender as your veep, limit her to one public debate and you're good to go.

Next, start eliminating the mathematical factors.  No member of the House of Representatives has made the leap to the Presidency in over a century.  No reason to think it would happen now, so scratch those names off your list.   You can also cross out any mayors or state politicians, because they're perceived as way too local and/or green.

That pretty much leaves the short list United States Senators and Governors. As you can see, only Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina have blue governors -- and they're all white men.

Ooooo, the plot thickens!

Look at those states' United States senators, and they're all white men, too.  Knock out the losers (Tim Kaine is too closely identified with Hillary and Ralph Northam is stained with black face) and the list gets pretty short -- if you're buying into any of this.

Okay, so maybe this isn't how it's going to play out.  But you have to admit one thing:  It makes more sense than anything else you're seeing from the Democrats these days.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Hot Chicks Will Destroy Socialism

Like anyone else, I have my own political viewpoints. I'd never ask anyone to agree with my own, for a number of reasons:

1.  I think it's rude to tell other people what and how to think.
2.  I think it's rude for other people to tell me what and how to think.
3.  Frankly, I really don't care what and how other people think.
4.  It really doesn't matter what and how other people think.

Okay, that last one probably sounds a bit presumptuous, but that's the one that's most important. Look, I realize I'm no longer a young man.  In fact, at this point, I may even qualify as a borderline antique.  Fine with me.  I'm totally okay with trading youth for experience, because if you pay close attention, life has a way of teaching you patterns that are, for the most part, totally and completely immutable, yielding wisdoms of the master sages.

That's why it never really matters what people think at any given moment. I know their opinions are going to change as they age and life starts beating the crap out of them with unforeseen events and circumstances that nobody saw coming, including deaths, diseases, accidents and girlfriends who got pregnant even though they swore they had taken their pills.

Oh, sure, when you're young, life is all about rejecting the old and exploring the new.  Your twenties are all about arrogantly defining who you are and to whom you're trying to sell it. Some tactics work; lots of them don't. And somewhere between the time they decide to reject their parents' values and the day they accept the late charge on their Mastercard bills, life begins to point and laugh at young people's attempts at self-direction.

Being young, poor and insecure, the easiest path for these kids to choose is usually socialism, which makes sense, since the majority of socialists in America are young people in their twenties (and early thirties) who haven't yet succeeded, accrued wealth or figured out how to make sense of their lives. In fact, about the only thing they have discovered, is that creating a successful life is far more challenging than how this week's Netflix movie would have them believe.

Success, as it turns out, is not a thirty-second montage.

Out there in the digital world, where virtue signaling is the currency in which young socialists trade, eschewing material wealth and demanding entitlements is the stuff to which young socialists can relate and fuels the charisma of pols such as Bernie Sanders.  After all, he's a socialist and he's old, which must mean socialism isn't just for young idealists.  An old socialist, it turns out, can be a very reassuring image to a young socialist, who still craves parental approval.

But I digress.

Since 2008, the socialist agenda has swelled along with the ranks of impoverished twenty-somethings who feel that sharing a little holds more promise than risking a lot.  But if history teaches us anything, it's that fads like socialism are doomed to fail, if only for one solid, basic, proven reason:

Hot chicks.

Don't laugh. History is on my side for this one.  And here's why:

Young people are not immune to the laws of nature. Neither are you. You can grow as big a man-bun as you please, but at the end of the day, women are viscerally drawn to masculine providers, not posers. The more a man can provide, the more women he can attract. This is why men build tall buildings and great bridges and foolishly lay it all at goddesses' feet.  Men, being the grunting savages we are, know that the more women we can attract, the higher quality woman we can win.  So we bulk up what we can, where we can -- usually in our bank accounts -- which unfailingly brings droves of incredibly gorgeous, talented, intelligent women within matrimonial striking range.

It doesn't take more than, say, one ten-year high school reunion before socialists in their late twenties meet up with their class members who've long since abandoned their socialist cause.  Most often, these are the hot chicks, with rich, older husbands in tow, who long ago traded their pussy hats and Bernie buttons for million dollar mansions, complete with three kids in private schools, two dogs who are walked by her live-in maid, and a leased limited edition Mercedes coupe.  One look at that three carat pear-shaped diamond on her hand tells Mitch, the sparsely-bearded former Sanders community organizer, that he's been hiking the wrong trail for the last ten years with nothing to show for it other than his father's wedding tuxedo that he borrowed for the occasion. In one instant, if he's paying attention, he'll have learned that nobody -- especially hot chicks -- chooses a flea-infested commune in Berkeley over a hot tub in Aspen as the more rewarding way of spending the rest of their lives.

Try as many drugs as you want; nothing wakes you up faster than the realization that life -- your life, in particular -- has been passing you by, made even more bitter by the fact that fewer and fewer people are sticking with your program and most are hopping the next train for their last chances of traditional happiness.  It happened to hippies in the sixties and it will happen to socialists just as predictably -- if it isn't already.

And that's why I don't worry about socialism at all. For the billionth generation in a row, nature wins again:  Women want the best providers. Men want the best women. Don't blame me if you find that sexist: that's nature's law, not mine.

Sure, Bernie likes to promise the nation's youth everything they could want.  But until he can deliver slender, curvy brunettes in high heels and string bikinis poolside, he doesn't have a chance.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Jeff Bezos is the Devil

You'd have to be a millennial Rip Van Winkle to not know who Jeff Bezos is.  The founder of Amazon is famous for becoming (at least as of this writing) the richest man on the planet.  Owning a digital empire that includes a vast retail operation, a national newspaper and even his own space flight program, Bezos has succeeded beyond anyone's wildest internet dreams.

He's definitely the most successful man on the planet. But I submit to you he is also the most evil.

Never mind his personal peccadilloes. That he's leaving his wife of 25 years for an aging ex-beauty queen holds no currency for me, moral or otherwise. The rumors swirling about deplorable working conditions of his thousands of employees doesn't interest me either, because I have no idea if any of those stories are based in fact.  No, what makes Jeff Bezos the most evil man on the planet is something altogether different:

Jeff Bezos is the man most responsible for the breakdown of human social interaction that's crippled us in more ways than you can imagine.  Allow me to explain:

Prior to Amazon, the quickest way to buy a book, special order a hammer or purchase a pair of shoes required two important factors:

1.  Time
2.  Human interaction

No matter what you wanted to buy, you had to move yourself to a brick and mortar destination, at which point your only choice was talk to a real person face to face.  That interaction required thoughtfulness, courtesy, clarity and quite often, a little casual humor.  It reinforced a bond or helpfulness and broke down barriers among strangers. Once that connection was established, the conversation usually resulted in one of two outcomes:  the salesman either had what you wanted in stock or if the item were not in stock, he'd order it for you.  At best, the transaction was completed in a matter of hours (by the time you returned home with your purchase); at worst, it would be weeks before the item arrived at the store for you to pick up, necessitating yet another trip.  For the record, you should know that along with commercial transactions, a substantial number of friendships, courtships and marriages got started this way.

Jeff Bezos destroyed all that.

Today, if you wish to purchase just about anything, you simply look at a screen, point and click.  For no fee, the item will arrive at your doorstep in a day or three.  For a few bucks more, it will arrive the very next day.  And if you order early enough in the day, it might just arrive before tonight's dinner.

No human interaction. No waiting.  Just quick, cold service that panders to your whims.

It all sounds wonderful until you realize that an entire generation has grown into adulthood lacking any sense of patience or communication skills.  People don't initiate relationships in real time any more; it's all done via text.  And texting isn't a dialogue.  It's a two-way monologue, a series of one-sided comments launched into the ether at no particular time for no particular reason, totally lacking the subtle vocal responses and timing cues that are essential to meaningful conversation.  Likewise, people have lost all sense of patience, demanding instant results and getting angry when their needs aren't immediately served -- or their texts aren't immediately acknowledged.

But it gets worse. More evil.

If Bezos's pioneering were strictly limited to the commercial sector, I wouldn't be writing this. But the fact is that his model has proliferated, permeating and polluting our social and political environment.  He has created a model which negates the need for human interaction, replacing it with a sense of selfish entitlement.  What he's sold as convenience has simply removed all human contact, increasing polarization, isolation and serious cases of depression.  Enhanced by the false notion of "luxury marketing" we end up with a society that turns to Siri instead of its friends, and insists on Peleton bikes in their living rooms instead of communing with other humans at the local gym.

Then people wonder why they end up single, alone and living with their cats.

It doesn't stop there, either.  Politically, the United States has always endured widespread factionalism. From 1776 onward, debate has raged throughout the land over policies and practices.  That's nothing new. What is new is the deeply-rooted divisiveness, because prior to this century, our social and political fabric was woven with far less self-interest and far more collective responsibility. We got along because we were all interdependent. That, I'm sad to say, is no more. Today, schools no longer teach the basics on which our society exists, choosing instead to "cater to the individual needs of each student."

And then you wonder why those kids just want to play video games in their parents' basements.

Today, thanks largely to Jeff Bezos and his irresponsible ilk, the very best of humanity has been undermined, reducing us to a bunch of isolated, miserable peons, each in his own little box wondering how he became so miserable in a world so full of promise. Nobody, it seems, is interested in anyone or anything beyond his own wants and needs.  It's heartbreaking and I blame Jeff Bezos for all of that.

Then again, while Jeff Bezos may have robbed us of our humanity, it's only because we've allowed him to.  If you don't take back your humanity, he remains the most evil man in the world.

But you're running a close second.

Friday, January 18, 2019

How to Bring Back Journalism

Between the time you're first labeled a Nazi and accused of Fake News, there comes a time when combatants of all stripes bemoan the fact that "journalism isn't what it used to be."  They're right, of course.  Most, if not all of what passes for journalism today would have failed Mrs. Johnson's seventh grade English class for rambling discourse, lack of structure, editorializing, misspelling, bad grammar and inappropriate use of the Oxford comma.

People like to think journalism isn't the grand Fourth Estate as it once was.  They mourn how the bastion of impartial reporting has long since crumbled into a juvenile, biased free-for-all, in which readers never get past sensational headlines written by media salesmen motivated by generating clicks.

But how much of that is even true?

The reality is that ever since the invention of the printing press, mass media has hardly lived up to its romantic ideal as the source of objective fact-gathering.  In 19th century America, for example, virtually every important newspaper -- including the illustrious New York Times -- railed against businessmen, politicians and socialites with reckless abandon, accountable to nobody for anything they published.  The inaccurate reporting got so bad that more than a few of the media victims countered with the defensive strategy of purchasing controlling interests in competing publications in an attempt to level the playing field.

So the devolution of ideal journalism has always been something of a convenient myth. When you add the sad fact that an internet allows anyone, anywhere (including me) to publish anything on a potentially international platform, you eventually land in a swampy quicksand of bad information, fueled by the flight of professional old school reporters who simply can't survive on the money publishers are paying 20 year-old kids living in their parents' basements.

Quite the conundrum.  If, as I suspect, the American public would choose objective, sourced news reporting over click-bait, baseless editorials, how could a journalistic enterprise take advantage of that market in a digitally viral age?  I submit the answer is deceptively simple:

I'm a branding guy, so when everyone else zigs, I prefer to zag.  And in the field of journalism, the big zag is taking the business offline.  That's right, I'm talking about going back to good old tree-killing weekly or monthly publications delivered by U.S Mail.  Sound absurd?  Read the next paragraph and see if you don't agree.

In the first place, scooping your competition by reporting news first is no longer winnable or even relevant.  Everyone pretty much gets the same news at the same time, which means those trying to win the "first to report it" war will never win that battle.   Second, digital delivery is another myth that counters all business sense.  Since people don't need to get most of their news immediately, there's no need for an "instant, updatable resource," especially in a market when most news is reported before it's even fact-checked.  Third -- and this is critical -- going back to paper returns bulletproof ownership of reader data to the publication.  No hacks. No "denial of service" attacks on their servers. Fourth, a pure paper play offers time delay, in which the publication never rushes out an issue, instead delivering thoughtful, considered content that delivers real value.  Finally, going back to pulp ensures there's only one way to obtain the publication's content.  No screen shots.  No sharing of posts.  Oh, I suppose a few cheapskates could scan a few pages here and there, but it's not like illegally downloading an MP3.  In the model, everyone who plays, pays -- like real businesses do.

Does this mean journalism eschews all things digital?  Certainly not.  It just means recalibrating and downsizing their digital presences to a few pages:

1.  How to subscribe to the print edition
2.  A list of topics covered in this week's issue
3.  A directory of back issues for purchase.

That's it.  Simple. Easy. And probably effective.  Of course, I doubt the current generation of business illiterates will comprehend it, but if and when they do, believe me: You'll read all about it.

Friday, December 07, 2018

The Lawsuit You Don't See Coming

Back when a liberal arts college education was actually useful in teaching people how to think, I spent one quarter of my junior year in one of the most perennially effective courses I ever undertook. It was called An Introduction to Business Law, essentially a four-year law school education packed into ten torture-soaked weeks that were both agonizing and fascinating at the same time.

Perhaps the greatest impact the course had on me was the manner in which it shifted my thinking from purely reactive, youthful emotion to a more thoughtful, rational style of pre-adult logic.  Among its most fundamental precepts was how, for the first time in my life, I came to see how feelings took a back seat to concepts like "reasonableness" and critical thinking.  It was a whole new world for me.  A safer, more predictable -- and not to put too fine a point on it -- a more successful world, too.

Over the years, that one course allowed me to outwit some adversaries and completely vanquish others.  To this day, I compose all but my most intricate legal documents and agreements.  On those rare occasions when I do hire lawyers, the meetings are quick, decisive -- and deadly efficient.  The greatest benefit of the course, however, hasn't been its guidance as to how to get out of trouble, but how to avoid a problem by spotting it long before it has a chance to become a problem.

The fact is that with the exception of Black Swan events, most lawsuits are easily avoidable.  Usually, they're the result of one or more parties' inability or unwillingness to consider all the options of a given situation.  Those involved may be lazy, ignorant or in most cases, both.  But to the rational, fact-based critical observer, it really isn't that difficult to see trouble coming down the road, no matter how many miles or years away it may be.

Here's one that nobody sees coming, but it is.  Charging straight at us like a locomotive on rails:

Let me start by telling you I hold the unpopular opinion that there are only two genders.  I realize that some of you will stop reading at this point, but the rest of you who are mentally sound will want to keep reading, because it's within my unpopular opinion that my observation begins, with these two questions:

1.  Who decides a child's gender?
2.  When do they decide it?

At this writing, there are parents in the USA who are administering hormone-suppressants to their pre-pubescent children in a bid to stave off those children's sexual development.  The theory behind this practice is that these parents strongly believe their children may be/are misgendered.  I have to believe these parents think they're doing what's best for their child, but let's put that issue aside for now.  Here's the critical question that nobody is asking, let alone considering:

What happens ten or fifteen years after the child is robbed of his pubescent development?  What if the kid has a change of mind?  What if she's permanently sterilized, unable to have the family she's always dreamed of?  What if he's permanently physically disfigured?  Or psychologically impaired? Never mind that the transgender suicide rate is well north of 40%.  Forget about any moral or religious arguments you can muster.  Stick to the facts.  Like, say, this one from An Introduction to Business Law:

"Whenever one person is found to have unjustly caused harm to another, those matters are generally resolved in court as personal injury lawsuits," and unless I miss my guess, the fastest-growing segment of P.I. suits is set to pit children against their parents for the permanent damages suffered by those kids as a result of their parents' decisions to subject the kids to hormone-suppression treatments.

Just as with mesothelioma, Thalidomide and a whole spate of industrial and pharmaceutical disasters, it would seem that a whole new discipline is about to emerge, specializing in the psychological and physical damages inflicted on innocent children by parents who were supposed to know, who should have known better.  Like those parents who think chaining their kids in a dark closet with no food for a month is "good discipline."  Or those who feel that burning kids with cigarettes is "the only way they'll learn."  Yeah, like that.  Only for way bigger bucks and even more tragic consequences.

Think it can't happen?  It can. And it will.  Maybe not today and perhaps not tomorrow.  But thanks to An Introduction to Business Law, I can see trouble coming from twenty miles out.  If you open your eyes and take a look for yourself, maybe you can see it, too.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

How J.C. Penney Predicted Trump's Win

By now you must have heard that yet another all-American brand is circling the drain.  Yes, it's true: Sears has declared bankruptcy.  This comes as absolutely no surprise to those of us who watched how, since the late 1980s, Sears' CEO, Ed Lampert -- a financial guy, not a retail guy -- abandoned Sears' retail efforts in favor of "unlocking shareholder value."  Like so many corporate raiders of his time, that meant plundering assets and selling them off for cash.  In Sears' case, that meant selling/developing/inflating real estate parcels that were valued on the books at 1920s prices, and spinning off solid gold brands like Craftsman and DieHard.

A sad story, but a predictable one.  With Lampert at the helm, there was never any doubt that Sears was headed for the meat grinder.  But if you'd been watching retail over the years, a far more subtle-yet-telling story was developing across the street at Sears' still-breathing-but-just-barely competitor, J.C. Penney.

Unlike Sears, the board at J.C. Penney has always been about retail.  As a staunch all-American brand, its presence has been ubiquitous around the United States for as long as any other, outliving most of them due to its unwavering allegiance to its core retail brand values.

At least until 2011.  That's the year things got very interesting for J.C. Penney -- and those who watch it.

If you'd been paying attention in 2011, you'd have seen that the name on everyone's lips at the time was Apple.  Despite Steve Jobs' death, the company was roaring ahead, turning everything it touched into gold.  The country was in the midst of the Great Recession, but Apple was thriving.  "If only we could get an Apple guy aboard," dreamed most corporate directors, "....maybe we could be the Apple of low tech retail."

And so it happened that (according to Wikipedia)  "in June, 2011, J.C. Penney announced that Ron Johnson, who had led Apple retail stores in a period of high growth, became the company's new CEO."  J.C. Penney's board of directors fastened their seat belts as Johnson, fresh in from the coast, dive-bombed the midwest with his magic wand in hand, and instantly began to change everything about J.C. Penney:  its merchandising, its layouts, its operations, its stores, its people, its culture -- you name it.

Everything happened with lightning speed, which unfortunately, included this:

That's right.  JCP stock dropped like a rock, from the high 20s to about $4 a share and stayed there, mainly on the disastrous losses suffered by Johnson and his Apple-flavored nightmare.  After huge layoffs and losses, Johnson was forcefully invited to leave J.C. Penney -- forever.  As of October, 2018, JCP stock shares are keeping their noses just above delisting at $1.52.

Not pretty.

But look deeper into that chart and you'll see something that only true branding guys seem to be able to discern.  In this case, it was J.C. Penney customers voicing their dislike for all the Johnsonian New Age/Millennial changes being forced on them.  They didn't like their old brand being taken from them, and they let J.C. Penney know it, the best way they could:  With their wallets.

It wasn't the rejection of the brand that hit me as much as how sustained it was.  This was no blip on the radar.  This was not an anomaly.  Something was up with Middle America.  They were angry.  They were fed up.  And their entire story added chapter after chapter on one simple stock chart.  To them, J.C. Penney's abandonment of its American heritage and tradition was one last betrayal they were no longer willing to tolerate.

They didn't yell.  They didn't protest.  They simply -- and very quietly -- took their business elsewhere.

They did the same with their politics.  Which is why in 2015, it was not terribly difficult to imagine that the next President of the United States would not -- and could not -- be the Ron Johnson of politics.  It was going to be someone who was true to the traditional American brand.

And that's exactly how it turned out.

Customers are voters.  Voters are customers.  Every once in a while, you have to stop selling them what you've got and start listening to what they want.  You've always got to watch them -- especially as they're headed out the door.