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Grassroots Branding

November 6th, 2014

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Despite banner ads, billions of research dollars, and more focus groups than you could stuff into Madison Square Garden, actual paying customers constantly confound marketing executives.  Yesterday the Wall Street Journal reported that Disney execs are stunned that Frozen’s snow queen Elsa outsells her warmer sister Anna two-to-one.  My educational software firm Sproglit features cartoon kangaroos and a patented matrix called the Math Arrow to teach kids math.  We were thrilled when a Bay Area teacher sent us a Halloween … Continue Reading →



Does the White House Know About Canada?

November 3rd, 2014

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I don’t often answer questions, “I have no idea!” but that was my response when Maria Bartiromo asked me on TV about White House policy on the Keystone Pipeline. Here’s the key point: Canadian oil will be exported to the world. The only question is whether it stays on our continent and aids North America’s energy independence, or whether it crosses the Pacific to find a welcome home in China. Canada is tired of waiting for the … Continue Reading →



Are Corporate Campaign Contributions Protection Money?

October 30th, 2014

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Corporations are shifting their campaign dollars to Republicans.  In the first half of this year, Democrats received 61%.  That number dropped to 42% over the summer.  Firms are betting on a GOP takeover in the Senate.  Why would a firm suddenly swap allegiance from Democratic to Republican?  On television I explained to Maria Bartiromo’s viewers that corporations often must contribute for defensive reasons.  Giving money buys access.  If they do not have access to the chairman of a powerful … Continue Reading →



Why Doesn’t Putin Wear a Shirt? All About Oil

October 16th, 2014

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I’ve been arguing that oil prices could plunge to $50 a barrel, as fracking spreads across the globe, OPEC infighting gets bloody, and Elon Musk proves that electric cars can be swift, smart and sexy. The 20% plunge in oil prices since June has pummeled currencies closely tied to oil, driving the Norwegian Krone and Canadian dollar to four and five-year lows. Meanwhile, the Russian ruble is evaporating under the added pressure of Ukraine sanctions. Why does Vladimir Putin prance … Continue Reading →



ISIS and George H.W. Bush’s Socks

October 6th, 2014

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President George H.W. Bush’s stature must be rising.  I can tell because the GOP is selling striped socks emblazoned with his signature.  With all the acid hurled in Washington these days, many miss the elder Bush’s decency.  But it’s not only his preppie manners.  Of course, he knew which salad fork to use at dinner and never thought of stabbing his political rivals with the steak knife.  But more important, Bush managed to kick Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait in … Continue Reading →



Can France Pirouette? Mr. Hollande’s Mess

August 26th, 2014

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France’s government has fallen. With a 17 percent approval rating, President Francois Hollande cannot keep his Socialist ducks in order.

Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg flew away after a weekend squabble over Hollande’s leadership. You can’t blame him; it’s hard to be Economy Minister and defend a 10-percent unemployment rate along with a mucky business climate.  Here’s my CNBC.com commentary comparing Hollande to the wily Francois Mitterrand.

Hollande stormed into office in 2012 with populist propaganda condemning business owners and catapulting … Continue Reading →



Mom Got a 4% Yield on Her CD

August 18th, 2014

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Was my Mom scammed?  Here’s the story I wrote for CNBC that brings some laughs to a serious subject:

My mother called to tell me that she had just invested money in a bank CD that will pay her a 4-percent return.

“Is it a good deal? You’re a big shot; you should know,” she added. Perhaps I should not have told her that I recently met with a Federal Reserve Board governor.

“Well Mom, that sounds like a fair … Continue Reading →



Spend the Money!

August 8th, 2014

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Jerry Maguire taught us the first rule of agenting: Show me the money!
What’s the first rule of bureaucrats? Spend the money! In 2013, the Department of State shelled out $1 million for a piece of artwork made of rough granite blocks.
Although the following rule is not actually boldfaced in official training manuals, bureaucrats know that “Thou shall not leave any unspent funds in the cash till at the end of the fiscal year.” In their deeply ingrained logic, … Continue Reading →



Thank Queen Victoria for Sparing You Pain

July 22nd, 2014

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Whenever someone tells you that the modern economy makes people miserable and that people felt just as happy generations ago, ask the following question: “Would you like open-heart surgery without anesthesia?”

Today “sedation dentists” advertise on radio programs, offering to lull anxious patients to sleep for mere tooth cleanings. And so it’s hard for us in 2014 to imagine that in the 1850s doctors would amputate limbs without either washing their hands or putting their patients into a sleepy mood. … Continue Reading →



We’re Not the World’s Policeman

July 1st, 2014

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The U.S.’s only recent foreign policy success was our soccer team’s win over Ghana. “The U.S. can’t be the world’s policeman!” That’s the cliche that’s been tossed about ever since Vietnam. And it’s true, of course. We have trouble enough handling Toledo, much less Tripoli and Afghanistan.

But what happens when the U.S. appears to withdraw from the world, looking feeble and feckless? Just turn on the television to see the answer: Vladimir Putin struts into Crimea, Bashar Assad refuses … Continue Reading →