Archive for September, 2008

Presidential Debates, v1. Did I hit all the talking points & slogans?

Saturday, September 27th, 2008

Riding my bike this morning as I try to cram-in a couple of workouts before I spend two weeks abroad (a wierdish term these days; where is abroad, really? or the Far East? or out West? I can get abroad faster than I can drive to Philadelphia on the same coast as me), it occurred to me that the candidates are suggesting the right behaviors in an incorrect manner. We do not need change! Goodness, Wachovia Bank may disappear next week, the largest employer in the largest banking center in the Southeastern USA (Charlotte for $50, Alex). And we do not need to rehash the Iraqi War. Erasing that episode still leaves us confronting lots of people intent on harming our way of life as they feel we have harmed theirs. And Mr. Putin reminds us that there are those capable and eager to help. I’d like to know who got us into this ‘sudden’ Wall Street mess and can we really expect the same crowd to get us out of it. There is certainly ‘change’ here that we’re looking for.

The senators last evening showed me why the country does not favor electing senators to the presidency. Last one was John Kennedy in 1960 and before that was….? Senators are not used to being disagreed with and do not like to mix public and private demeanors. Plus they really do not manage anything (am I sounding like Sarah Palin?).

So, how should either John or O shift the message to make it more appealing than just the old vet vs the young community organizer? P U R P O S E, not change. What is the purpose of the what we’re being asked to do in Iraq, on Wall Street, raising or lowering taxes, being frightened about health care systems. ‘It’ll be worse if we don’t change.’ ‘It’ll be worse if we change it his way.’

We know that things have to C H A N G E. Tell us the measureable purpose, i.e when Japan surrenders; when there is a man on the moon; when every home has a telephone. Guarantee us that we will A L L be in this together (yet another example of real change that we’re looking for); and let the people and the system go to work. This is how the country was founded, built, hardened and flourished.

The second verse of the Purpose speech could be And YOU Have To Accomplish This, Mr. and Mrs. America, at every level in every community. Our government can only assist in basic ways. You know what the problems are and you are in the best position to fix them, not 635 officials on Capitol Hill. For example, health care reform starts not with more complex financing and blaming schemes; health care reform starts with better health and this is the responsibility of every individual, i.e. You!

$700 billion dollars of magic might shore-up Wall Street for now. I fear that it will perpetuate our collective impression that difficult issues can be resolved easily and without consequences. Something is over and plenty has to change; let’s be purposeful in setting our priorities. cp

Merrill, Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Bean

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

My father completed his naval service in 1945, signalman third class on a sub-chaser in the Atlantic, to attend Loyola University in New Orleans, Louisiana. An incredible shift of prospects for a boy who lost his own father at 11 in the midst of the Depression. He recalls bringing home $6 on a Friday night to add to his mother’s weekly wage of $11. After a brief stint in journalism and public relations for Russell Long’s, son of Huey, senate campaign (in those days this meant tacking posters to telephone polls) he applied for a job as an investment broker with MLPF&B. One of his proudest achievements was the perfect score that he made on the Wall Street licensing exam and the letter of congratulations that he received from the chairman of the firm. I have this letter. After training stints on Wall Street and with the commodities exchange in Chicago, he returned home as the 18th registered broker to the branch office in downtown New Orleans, near the RKO Orpheum Theatre, The Roosevelt Hotel and a pleasant walk from Kolb’s Restaurant. His office manager was Darwin Fenner, son of founder, and a prominent and pompous member of the New Orleans social set. Eight or 10 years into the job, he accepted a sales position with a customer’s firm, Continental Can Corporation (Raul Vigore – there’s a story here about Astor, his lovely daughter, Tommy Patin and the gorgeous Beverly that should be told someday) to sell boxes throughout Louisiana. I remember the brown Ford Galaxy issued to him as a company car which replaced the beige, enormous Pontiac Firechief. How impressed were the 4 children. He returned to Merrill Lynch after travel on the two lane state roads lost its thrill. That Merrill took him back – this is the early 60s – speaks of his capabilities. There were struggles in the early sixties and then the market exploded. By the late 70s, and with the injection of electronics into the business (I recall the pretty girls, a criteria for hiring, in the office updating stocks on a chalk board from a ticker tape machine and my dad sending interoffice memos via pneumatic tubing system) the brokerage business expanded from stock and bond investments conducted between gentlemen (it was not a perfect world and Bourbon Street before the tee-shirt shops, Gulf Coast fishing trips and chartered jets to Las Vegas helped many a deal along) to a raucous bazaar of selling stocks, bonds, insurance, real estate, financial advice in a nearly incomprehensible array of products, instruments and packages.

It’s all over now. Bank of America, really Nation’s Bank of Charlotte, bought Merril Lynch (it dropped Mr. Bean a long time ago and added Mr. Smith and then dropped Pierce, Fenner and Smith. Look whose laughing now) a couple of days ago as ML could not unwind itself from the sub-prime, housing tangle. Not to worry and not long to be missed. The RKO is gone, joined by The Roosevelt and Kolb’s. Merrill, like the once powerful v-8 Firechief, is off the road and into pasture.

Social Networking: do I know you?

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

I publish a newsletter for my job that discusses trends in Internet technologies.  Yesterday, I received a harried sounding note from someone on this mailing list asking to be removed from distribution.  No problem, of course.  Who needs more unwanted email?!  The shock expressed in his note caused me to feel impolite: ‘What is this?  Why am I on this mailing list?  Take me off, please.”  Then I laughed out-loud because he seems to have forgotten that we spoke in a panel discussion together in the past Spring; that I treated him to drinks thereafter; and that he invited me to join his social network (of 1000s).  His role as a Linked-In employee must generate lots of unfamiliar mail from unremembered links.  There is still plenty of room for professional networks that work.  cp

Web 2.0 & summer: plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

So much is going on in nearly every direction everywhere that it’s hard to get a bearing on what is really going on anywhere: the US  presidential election represents more than the selection of the 44th president; the Beijing Olympics revealed more than quadrennial athletic achievements (now we know that 1/100 of a second can create alot of space); Georgia is now known to Americans as more than the favorite to win a college football league.

A few Web 2.0 notables from the summer:

Mobility: I like my new 3G iPhone.  I am offered over 800 Internet-based applications from the related Web Apps store which range in price from free to $39.99.  Two of my favorite are Remote which allows me to control my home stereo from my iPhone as I stream iTunes music via our wireless network (if I can do it , you can too!) and Netter’s AnatomyFlashcards which offer 900 intricate views of the human body to help doctors advise patients.  I can imagine similar applications on mobile computing devices for nearly everyone of our businesses.

- Mobility II: if the trend of cell phone purchases begun in 2005 continues through 2009, on average, nearly every person on the planet will have bought a cell phone in this period.  Each of our businesses require a mobile strategy as these devices outnumber PCs 3:1.

– Which is why Microsoft purchased Greenfield and Google launched Chrome, it’s open source browser. Microsoft is not conceding the battle for advertising on the mobile device.  Internet Explorer may be the browser of choice on the PC and Chrome is a framework intended to convert the browser to a desktop by enabling us to populate our browsers with applications of our choice (see Web Apps above).  Then such a desktop could easily be shared on our mobile devices which outnumber PCs ……..

Batman with The Joker and Wall-E with Eva were favorite films (insert your own presidential campaign comparison).  It’s worth noting that Wall-E was produced by Pixar and Pixar is owned by Disney and Disney’s largest shareholder is Steve Jobs. Now consider video on the mobile device.

– Closer to home, one son headed to college armed with converter boxes to watch Internet TV and to play his PS3 on his 23″ monitor.  Attending school in Colorado, he researched and transferred his banking, savings and investment accounts from North Carolina to Texas solely via the Web.  In our basement, or command center as we call it, I watched his brother so much enjoy on-line PS3 games (it is almost like being in your own movie) that have I’ve almost given up on the battle over screen-time.  We’ve come a long way from Pong.  

cp