David Fuller and Eoin Treacy's Comment of the Day
Category - General

    Donald Trump is Holding a Government Casting Call. He is Seeking The Look

    Donald Trump believes that those who aspire to the most visible spots in his administration should not just be able to do the job, but also look the part.

    Given Trump’s own background as a master brander and showman who ran beauty pageants as a sideline, it was probably inevitable that he would be looking beyond their résumés for a certain aesthetic in his supporting players.

    “Presentation is very important because you’re representing America not only on the national stage but also the international stage, depending on the position,” said Trump transition spokesman Jason Miller.

    To lead the Pentagon, Trump chose a rugged combat general, whom he compares to a historic one. At the United Nations, his ambassador will be a poised and elegant Indian American with a compelling immigrant backstory. As secretary of state, Trump tapped a neophyte to international diplomacy, but one whose silvery hair and boardroom bearing project authority.

    The parade of potential job-seekers passing a bank of media cameras to board the elevators at Trump Tower has the feel of a casting call. It is no coincidence that a disproportionate share of the names most mentioned for jobs at the upper echelon of the Trump administration are familiar faces to obsessive viewers of cable news — of whom the president-elect is one.

    “He likes people who present themselves very well, and he’s very impressed when somebody has a background of being good on television because he thinks it’s a very important medium for public policy,” said Chris Ruddy, chief executive of Newsmax Media and a longtime friend of Trump. “Don’t forget, he’s a showbiz guy. He was at the pinnacle of showbiz, and he thinks about showbiz. He sees this as a business that relates to the public.”

    “The look might not necessarily be somebody who should be on the cover of GQ magazine or Vanity Fair,” Ruddy said. “It’s more about the look and the demeanor and the swagger.”

    As Trump formally announced his vice presidential pick in July, he said that Mike Pence’s economic record as Indiana governor was “the primary reason I wanted Mike, other than he looks very good, other than he’s got an incredible family, incredible wife and family.”

    And in picking retired Marine Gen. James Mattis as his nominee for defense, Trump lauded him as “the closest thing to General George Patton that we have.”

    Mattis has a passing physical resemblance to the legendary World War II commander, as well as to the late actor George C. Scott, who won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Patton in the 1970 biopic. Trump also seems particularly enamored with a nickname that Mattis is said to privately dislike.

    “You know he’s known as ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis, right? ‘Mad Dog’ for a reason,” Trump said in a recent interview with the New York Times.

    The president-elect, however, does not mention Mattis’ other sobriquet, which is “Warrior Monk.” Or his call sign: “Chaos.”

    On the other hand, in Trump’s book, not having the right kind of appearance is tantamount to a disqualifier. During the presidential campaign, he stirred a controversy when he pronounced that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton lacked “a presidential look, and you need a presidential look.”

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    Email of the day 1

    On “Beware of height nervousness”:

    Email of the day 2

    On the UK negotiating trade terms with EU countries pre or post a clean Brexit:

    I have never been impressed by the argument that, because the UK imports more from the EU than it exports to it, the EU has more to lose. In value terms this is true but it is only part of the picture. The percentage of EU exports that come to the UK is much smaller than the percentage of total UK exports that go to the EU. Thus any increase in trade restrictions between the EU and the UK may cost the EU more in absolute value terms but the percentage damage to the UK economy will be much greater than the percentage damage to the EU. Only quoting half the facts is the sort of dishonesty that we were bombarded with by both sides during the referendum campaign.

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    Email of the day 3

    Also on the UK negotiating trade terms with EU countries pre or post a clean Brexit:

    Jingle bulls, jingle bulls, jingle all the way!

    Thanks to a subscriber for this report from the team at Deutsche Bank which may be of interest. Here is a section:

    The reality is that company managers are not Scrooges. Indeed aggregate real capex as a proportion of output is at or near record levels in America (figure five). It’s obvious! – Father Christmas would chuckle to his reindeer. What else has caused the rampant over capacity we observe down those factory chimneys as we zoom about? And clearly too much – not too little – capex also explains why businesses are having such a hard time raising prices and growing their top lines. More than 40 per cent of American companies will have seen no revenue growth this year – globally almost half won’t (figure six). 

    So the wise men were correct to point their fingers at businessmen – but for the wrong reason! Reckless over spending rather than deliberate under spending has led to the lack of growth and general unease. Investors were also oblivious to the decline in revenue growth caused by a profligate expansion of assets. Or maybe they were just not bothered. After all, toy factories were returning sacks of money to shareholders and equity prices were somewhere north of Lapland. This was sustainable, Father Christmas knew, because the erosion in asset-turn (revenues divided by assets) was being off-set by rising margins (figure seven) – thus supporting returns on equity.

    This overlooked dynamic explains everything from anaemic growth and booming equities to the rise of passive funds and lull in corporate deal making. What is more, it is a global phenomenon – especially so in emerging markets where excess capacity is chronic. To most people this looks worrying, given the tailwinds of lower wages, lower rates, and worldwide tax fiddling, which have pushed margins higher, are becoming headwinds. Only Father Christmas understands what an opportunity this is. Margin pressure will force companies to change behaviour for the better – with dazzling repercussions. 

    And the winds have already turned in America. For example, average hourly earnings growth has doubled since two years ago (figure eight) and keeps rising. Even Father Christmas’s laziest elf appreciates that his labour is scarce these days and has demanded more porridge. Meanwhile borrowing costs have turned upwards having declined for most of the millennium (illustration nine). Finally, there is less scope for taxes to fall than everyone thinks – American companies already pay a much lower effective tax rate than they did a decade ago (figure ten). 

    Margin pressure is the snowball in the face company bosses need to start investing more cleverly. Out with the irrational extra production line, fourteenth systems patch or mindless overseas expansion in order to boast being global. And in with capex that boosts productivity and returns. So ineffectually have most firms been spending money that investment will rise despite being elevated in real terms. The biggest gains will be made by the lowest quality companies. Forget about robots and artificial intelligence; this is about basic new IT infrastructure, client relationship software or logistics systems. So many companies do not do the simple things well because the tailwind of low wages, taxes and interest rates has meant they haven’t needed to. Only the top ten per cent of American companies have managed to significantly boost their returns on capital, excluding goodwill, over the past 15 years (figure 11). Other developed countries have similar skews too.

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    Businesses Are Friskier After Trump Victory, BofA's Moynihan Says

    This article by Laura J Keller for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    Bank of America Corp. doesn’t expect Donald Trump’s election to jolt the U.S. economy next year, but its corporate customers are enthusiastic and already seeking funds to expand, according to Chief Executive Officer Brian Moynihan.

    Mid-sized companies “are friskier, they’re more active,” Moynihan, 57, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s David Westin for broadcast Thursday. Recently, some have been drawing down credit lines to invest in operations, he said. “They feel better about the prospects of the regulatory environment and their businesses. They feel better about the possibility of final demand.”

    Moynihan, who runs the second-largest U.S. lender, said it may take a while for Trump’s initiatives as president to play out in the economy, which already was benefiting from rising consumer spending. The bank has forecast about 2 percent growth next year, he said -- up from the 1.6 percent that economists estimate for 2016.

     

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    Apple's Search for Better iPhone Screens Leads to Japan's Rice Fields

    This article by Pavel Alpeyev  and Takashi Amano for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    That push has also put a spotlight on suppliers of previously obscure technologies, testing their capacity to satisfy demand that drives sales of more than 200 million iPhones each year. A couple of years ago, Apple sought to use strong sapphire glass for iPhones, only to abandon the effort when a manufacturer couldn't deliver enough of acceptable quality and went bankrupt. The scratch-resistant material is now featured on the Apple Watch.

    Now OLED is the big goal. The technology has been included on top-end smartphones for years, including almost all of Samsung Electronics Co.'s high-end phones. While LCDs rely on a backlight panel, OLED pixels can glow on their own, resulting in thinner displays, better battery life and improved contrast. OLED screens can also be made on flexible plastic, allowing for a wider variety of shapes and applications.

    "OLEDs aren't just for flat areas, but can be used on edges, so smartphone makers will challenge themselves by building displays with new shapes," Tsugami said. "These qualities in OLED will give it an advantage."

     

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    Email of the day more on back pain

    I was sorry to hear about your wife's disc problem. My wife had a bad episode some years back and eventually had to resort to surgery, the sciatic pain having become unbearable. Luckily we discovered that the surgery could be minimally invasive - keyhole, in fact, to simply remove the detritus from the burst disc (L5) which was pressing on the sciatic nerve. A few hours later and she was out of bed and pain free. 

    I have suffered from a more generalised lower back pain most of my adult life, but many years ago I discovered a morning stretch which I do every day and which I believe really helps. It was explained in a book by an Australian physiotherapist called Sarah Key. It's been brilliant for me. I later discovered an article in an NHS primary care journal which explains in detail how it works, and which I have attached (sorry for poor quality). It's dead easy to do. You can order Sarah's "back block"(for the stretch)  from her web site, though I bought good back block mats from yogamatters.com. Perhaps this may be useful to add to your other subscriber's excellent recommendations.

    And 

    Just read the back stuff. I’ve had multiple back surgeries including a fusion. The basic stuff is out patient and like going to the dentist. You are fine the next day and pain is gone at the moment your eyes open. The world of back surgery deniers are living in the 1984. I tried everything else. Had surgery way later than I should have. 

    Insurance companies had a rule and most likely still do that you must try 3 non-invasive courses before they would pay for back surgery. This started for me in the later 1990s. Then with any type of work you were taking a chance. Now it’s quick and simple. A fusion is much more difficult but even then you are walking the same day and home the next. 

    And 

    I can testify that core exercises to strengthen the lower back muscles and also the stomach muscles are easy to do and really work. Nearly 40 years ago, two different surgeons told me I had to have an operation, including disc infusion or removal.  With the core exercises I avoided all that and have had no back problems subsequently.  

    The other exercise, which soon becomes automatic, is never bend over, let alone to lift something, without tightening your stomach muscles.  

     

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