The Most Useless Time In America

What To Do Instead of Watching The Super Bowl Halftime Show

Introduction

The most useless, wasted time in America is the 30 minutes which constitute the Super Bowl halftime ‘extravaganza.’

Kid Rock wearing the American flag like a poncho . . . rapper M.I.A. giving the finger wearing, of course, Egyptian head dress and fishnet stockings. And who could forget the wardrobe malfunction?

This book offers some prescriptions for what Americans could do with this time.

Here’s the nib of it: the 30 minutes wasted by the 110 million Super Bowl fans exceeds 2,000 years of time. Two millennium. When you consider what Einstein or Franklin accomplished with their brief mortal dalliances, imagine the possibilities of reclaiming entire millennia. read more

The Book of Business

David R. Evanson

Forward: I wrote this book for students of business, and maybe students of human nature too.

I say students because, for better or for worse, the people covered in these few short stories, all of them clients, taught me a lot of what I learned on both topics.

It’s a gallery of heros, fools, visionaries and rogues who succeeded and failed on a grand scale. Some operated in the spotlight, but, like most of us, most toiled in relative anonymity.

In each story, I’ve offered up what I learned, but I hope readers will not get too caught up in that. Really, the main goal here is to entertain and amuse.
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2020: It Was A Very Good Year?

That’s a sentence you don’t see too often.  However, if you like dividends, it was with the 500 largest public companies in the U.S. paying nearly $500 billion to their shareholders.  Any way you measure it, $500 billion is a big number.  

Net of the defense budget ($616 billion), the dividends paid by the largest U.S. companies were greater than the funding for almost every cabinet level department — Education, Homeland Security, Justice, Veterans Affairs, among 11 others as well as major agencies such as the EPA and SBA for 2019.   read more

Media Exposure By The Numbers

Since November 2010, I’ve sent out 12,471 queries to the media.  I know this because the software platform I use keeps track of them. That’s about 5 a day for a decade.  The learning comes not so much from what I’ve sent out, but rather from what comes back.  Based on the responses I get, and the buckets they fall into, here’s what seems to drive media interest: 1) Serendipity; 2) Consistency; 3) Brevity.

First, reporters often get back to me not about what I’m pitching, but about something else they are working on.  The query reminds them my client is a source. read more

Why The Tax Cut Bonuses Ring False

Every once in a while, when a baseball player hits one out of the park at an away game, the fan who catches the ball throws it back on the field. Why celebrate the opponent’s achievement? As rebukes go, it’s not subtle.

Sometimes I wonder if the rank and file employees who got $1,000 “tax cut” bonuses might give it back to their employer or use it to light a cigar. The list of companies giving $1,000 bonuses to employees in the wake of the tax cut keeps growing. AT&T, Alaska Air, Charles Schwab, U.S. Bancorp, Tyson Foods and Comcast, among others, have doled out $1,000 raises. read more

The Feminine Touch, Hopefully

Jane Fraser was selected to be the next CEO of Citigroup, the first woman to run a “money center” bank.  One can only hope that she will best the performance of her predecessors.  Aside from a decade of irrational exuberance in the price of Citigroup shares (see graph below) any time frame in which one might evaluate them, year to date, one year, five years, or say 25 years, the performance is abysmal. 

And let’s not forget, Citigroup was a stock that was trading at $557 before the Great Recession.  At today’s price of about $50, the leadership prior to Ms. Fraser’s ascent lost more than 90% of the value once held by shareholders.    read more

Bullet Proof Balance Sheets

While a focus on growth has always been in fashion, the advent of COVID-19 has enhanced the currency of balance sheets.  

I know this because an article I wrote with client Ken Berman of Gorilla Trades quickly generated more than 400,000 page views after we published it on Kiplinger.

The list of 25 companies includes predictable entries like Google, Amazon, Apple, which sport truly amazing balance sheets, but also fly-below-the-radar mid caps like data security firm Fortinet (FTNT), Cognex (CGNX), which develops machine visions systems, biotech’s Incyte (INCY) and Old Dominion Freight Lines (ODFL).  read more

Reminiscing The IPO Market

The unicorns are filing one after another for initial public offerings and the excitement in the IPO market is taking me back to 1982, when I was working at a publication called Going Public: The IPO Reporter, the pre eminent journal tracking initial public offerings.

I joined the staff in late 1982, and the total tally of IPOs for the year was something like 300 deals. Then near the end of the year, a well placed venture capitalist predicted that next year’s haul would be something like 600 deals. read more

Elon Musk’s Mark Twain Moment

Mark Twain was the pen name of Samuel Clemens. Clemens was a very clever writer. So it should come as no surprise the very name he chose for himself — Mark Twain — would be steeped in mystery and uncertainty.

Since time immemorial sailors have marked the depth of by throwing a weight in the water at the end of a sounding rope with knots every 6 feet. The second knot was known as the twain, and it marked 12 feet, the minimum amount of water the paddle boats during Twain’s time needed without running aground. So when sailors yelled out ‘mark twain!’ for the captain, it was a moment of uncertainty. Was the boat moving into deeper, safer waters, or was it heading into shallower dangerous waters? read more

Innumeracy Hurts

Innumeracy — the numerical version of illiteracy — hurts.  It hurts more because unscrupulous parties use it to paint a convincing picture that is at odds with reality. Discourse, opposition, and needed change can all be suppressed by preying on innumeracy.  To see this in action, consider the case of Walmart back in the spring of 2015.  At the time, the inadequacy of the minimum wage was a raging national debate.  Fast food workers were organizing a walk out.  One after another, corporations were announcing increases in the minimum wages they paid to avoid a social media backlash. read more

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