• FRUSTRATED CALLING FOR TECH SUPPORT? A NY Times survey found 75% of Customer Service managers admitting that “company procedures actually prevent satisfactory service… limiting the time agents can be on the phone, leading to endless rounds of transfers and being placed on hold… Some even engineer the process so customers wait at least an hour to speak to someone in Support while bombarded with messages advertising immediate, premium support for a fee.” [THE WEEK – Jul 15,16]
  • PUBLIC COMPANY CEO COMPENSATION, ON AVERAGE, IS NOW AROUND 140 TIMES THAT OF AVERAGE WORKERS; thirty years ago is was 40 times. (America’s highest hourly male workers last year were Asians at $24, white men at $21, black $15 and Hispanic $14 according to newest Pew study.) For around 8 in 10 execs, the pay package is conceptually sensible – a combination of fixed salary, annual bonus related to short-term performance targets, and stock or option awards related to longer-term performance (usually a few years). Reality however is that the stock/option component (generally exceeding 60% of the package) “seems to be especially liable to manipulation that boosts share prices in the short run, but harms them in the longer term… One study at Univ. of Notre Dame found that option-heavy pay plans were correlated with a higher likelihood of product recalls – as execs were tempted to push out products to juice up share price, content in the knowledge that they had nothing to lose.” In today’s volatile market turmoil, this issue is certain to increase and potentially to become toxic.   [THE ECONOMIST – Jun 25, 16]
  • THE “NUISANCE OF ILLEGAL ROBOCALLS” IS PERVASIVE, with private home-line & cellphones bombarded daily irrespective of the purported ‘Do Not Call’ registry, and pretty much accepted by the public as inevitable. But the Federal Trade Commission is actually attempting to enforce some level of compliance and has filed 39 actions in the last eighteen months against abusers – most recently, a scammer “using generic names like ‘Bank Card Services’ and ‘Credit Assistance Program,’ claiming to be a ‘licensed enrollment center’ for major card networks…and promising to ‘substantially & permanently’ lower card rates by paying debt off faster.” After hundreds-of-thousands of robocalls and collecting over $15 million from duped citizens, the FTC (with Florida Attorney General’s office) has at least temporarily shut this one down.  [MANATT ADVERTISING LAW – Jun 30, 16]
  • PRIORITY GEOPOLITICAL ISSUES NOW APPEAR CLEARLY TO INCLUDE: (1) Lone Wolf Islamic Terrorism – which is “almost impossible to contain because there are few avenues for discovery, and if civil liberties are to be maintained.” ISIS and remaining Al Qaida groups face ongoing losses of territory and stature, but can continue to ‘inspire’ attacks which generate upheaval in peoples’ psyches and economic behavior” as well as government response; and (2) The rise of ‘populism’ – as middle classes have stagnated globally and the refugee crisis in Europe increasingly triggers changes in the ‘social fabric’ of many nations, while political elites are seen as detached and unconcerned. Anti-establishment parties (both left and right wing) are increasing, with sentiment against 25 years of “establishment consensus supporting globalization, deregulation and rapid adoption of new technology with few regulatory restrictions… likely to lead to a leaderless world characterized by regional trading blocs which could involve fighting.” Oh fun on the way. [O’GRADY WEEKLY GEOPOLITICAL REPORT – Jun 27, 16]
  • “POWER TENDS TO CORRUPT, AND ABSOLUTE POWER CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY” postured Lord Acton in 1887. There are also positive effects of power, like reducing stress levels, but studies consistently find examples of selfish behavior: “Mercedes drivers 25% less likely to stop at a crossing & four times as likely to cut in front of another car as drivers of beaten up Ford Pintos or Dodge Colts… Wealthy subjects more likely to cheat in games involving small cash stakes and dip into a jar of sweets marked for the use of visiting children… Volunteer ‘managers’ reaching for twice as many snacks as did those assigned to ‘worker’ roles… Powerful individuals asked to work together and proving to be less efficient, creative & productive than others beneath them – partly because they spent too much time squabbling about who should be in-charge.” Reality is that the more ‘entitled’ one feels, the more likely & comfortable he/she feels violating rules, manners, or common sense.  Some recent studies suggest that “leftwing opinion is overrepresented in psychology faculties where this type of research is conducted and (even subconsciously), “distorts experimental findings” as well as denying publication of contradictory research – but that serves to prove the point: that those in power are corrupted by that power to best ensure they can keep the power.   [ECONOMIST 1843 – Jun/July 16]

       Wonder whether your mission on earth is finished? “If you’re alive, it isn’t.”