Category Archives: Science

Jeff Bezos | The Early Ages

Remember that analogies do not reflect your own reality. There are many types of CEOs out there. Here is one that is hilarious. Jeff Bezos and Amazon.com in 1999. Bezos was always nerdy. You should be a domain expert AND fresh thinking. Jeff Bezos has a Regret Minimization Framework that helps him to decide to get going with Amazon. That’s a useful framework for deciding if you should pursue what you are passionate about versus what will pay the bills for sure: will you regret that choice at aged 100; looking back?

“Trumpocracy” by David Frum + “How Democracies Die” by Steven Levitsky & Daniel Ziblatt

[David Frum is an ardent ideologue, historian and political scientist. Frum is a Bush era Republican from Canada. The following is in no way supportive of the current US President. Any statement to contrary is intellectually deficient.]

Trump’s Business Partnerships: Disassociation between Trump and his commercial interests has not been satisfactory according to Frum. Trump is driven by greed, he’s doing this in part so he can gain access to the best commercial deals for his company….Trump is in the payroll of foreign leaders. Putin is the obvious one but then there is a list of other countries that Frum doesn’t like and Trump is aligned with.

Criticism of Business Partnerships Assessment: David downplays the Israeli “Jerusalem capital” issue, and based on his other writing as an advocate for Israel over the years. Trump has wanted a tower in Tel Aviv according to the New York Times article Trump’s Business Ties to Middle East Precede Him and has close connections to the Jewish business community in New York, Toronto etc. So where does the line get crossed for Frum? Only when Trump does business with other ethno-religious groups is it a conflict of interest? It seems at a minimum disingenuous to not mention the Israeli connections here, although you’d have appreciate the nuance of Israel as a heterogeneous, complex political society. Frum does not give Trump the benefit of the doubt elsewhere in the Middle East, but never touches on Israel…(Unless he does mention this in the book, which I have not read…I’m extrapolating from interviews)…. A second point here is that basically anyone who is successful in business or even moderately successful should not be able to hold public office, especially if we think we know this person to be corrupt looking. In other words, Frum just doesn’t like Trump and is rationalizing his dislike by suggesting this particular individual is corrupt.

Being Unpredictable = Bad Governance: David says that Trump skipped a portion of a speech in which the writer has positive things for Trump to say on NATO therefore Trump is Putin’s lapdog or Trump is a fool or he doesn’t want to be told what to do therefore Trump is a bad politician. Trump does not defer to democratic convention which is what Frum would prefer as a prerequiste to leadership.

Criticism of Bring Unpredictable = Bad Governance: Frum fails to recognize the reality that being unpredictable is critical to power. Doing what no one expected in order to gain advantage is a law in the 48 Laws of Power for example. For Frum, Trump is non-ideological and therefore not reliable and as a result Trump’s staff could get cut down at any moment because they say one thing and Trump does another. David Frum is yesterday’s political analyst here. The old school model is one where, you back a candidate and then have to follow that candidate over a cliff if she or he decides that cliff jumping is a good idea. Trump is however a non-ideological and more importantly not subject to political science categorization much like the debate about whether Fascism is social democratic or totalitarian or right wing…it’s complicated and non-rational therefore academics freak out about such scenarios. Trump drives Frum crazy for the same reason.

Trump is Not A Centrist: Frum is saying that Jeremy Corbyn is also a dangerous force in British politics for similar reasons because Frum does not like social democratic principals and populists of some sort. Berney Sanders just the same. So these politicians are just freakish but the trend is worrying for Frum. David is concerned about the Democrat Party nominee for 2020, worries that it might be a Sanders-type leading to further extremism and or things he does not support.

Democracy Should Not Be Direct or Voting From Home Is Bad: Stopping certain people from voting is wrong and that democracy can be undermined by having people vote on a Tuesday in 14 hour window called election day. Conservatives supported suffrage because women would crack down on alcoholism and bash unions according to David Frum.

Counter Arguments for Democracy Should Not Be Direct or Voting From Home Is Bad: Sounds like Frum is a bit annoyed that the uninformed and misinformed have the vote….

Collaborators with Trump: The people who lie for him because they think that Trump can effect change. Frum is concerned that they will get mullified in the end. The Republicans support Trump and may do so to the point at which it is too late.

Authoritarianism is Growing and Democracy is Dying: Frum thinks democracy can be extinguished quickly and easily. He also thinks that it will be too late to stop its collapse when the end is near. It’s a sanctimonious point to be sure, but certainly resonates with lawyers and other such types.

Counter Argument for Authoritarianism is Growing: I just wonder if Frum is exaggerating a bit? Analogies aren’t effective arguments. Germany 1933 does not equal US 2016….Trump is not really a threat to democracy, in fact, we can see that he is flouting convention with the effect of garnering more and more media attention. He appears to get viral because he thinks democracy is ineffective *and many people agree with him* and there is ample evidence that American democracy is not a high functioning model from the electoral college to the jerry mandering.

General Maddis is the Defence Against Trump: Frum thinks Trump has no faculties of reason such taht only Mad-dog Mattis is the only guy protecting the US against Foreign policy disasters because Maddis not fire-able by the president…Mattis is a four star general.

Confront the Alt Right or any Extremist Groups: You need to meet them, isolate and then address the underlying concerns they have. Frum also points out that telling white men that they are privileged because of their skin and gender while living in their parents basement and weighing 300 lbs is counter productive for sure.

Counter Argument for Confronting the Alt Right or any Extremist Groups: Ironically, the book doesn’t emphasize these points when in reality, he’s correct.

Facebook Should Control Its Users: Unlike the Washington Post, Facebook as a publisher does not have responsibility for the content of its users. Like WordPress, Facebook is able to avoid that responsibility. Frum suggests that it is not the individuals on Facebook but rather Facebook itself who should editorialize everyone’s posts on its platform.

Counter-Argument on Facebook Should Control Its Users: Well, this is a trending topic based on the Russian Gov’t Interference investigations. Frum must know he saying something very unrealistic here in terms of logistically controlling Facebook users like the Washington Post editorial staff control their content. Frum totally misses the point. It’s $ad Revenue that is at the heart of Facebook and the Washington Post…in both cases i.e. keep those eye balls coming back for those advertisements on the sidebar, folks!

[Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt are Harvard professors and political scientists with some partisan leanings towards the Democrat Party in all likelihood. The following is in no way support for the current US President. Any statement to contrary is intellectually deficient.]

Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt and Revenue: Trump is a threat to democracy. Remember that just like $ad Revenue from any online publications (ie. click here to see a toothpaste add + look at this controversy! and look at this direct rebuttal to the current president), book sales are also tied to drawing intense readership, ie. willingness to buy their book. So say Trump = devil will sell a lot of books indeed.

Trump Acting Like an Authoritarian = Being an Authoritarian: Trump encouraged violence at his rallies, threatened to jail Hillary Clinton etc. Trump is attacking the media because of unfair reporting. While some might think those are just words, to Steven and Daniel, this is all too real.

Counter-Arguments on Trump Acting Like and Authoritarian = Being an Authoritarian: Steven and Daniel under appreciate the level of deadlock under Obama. While deadlock was not Obama’s fault for the most part, Obama was not able to get much done and therefore was not all that effective in translating his ideas into action. Trump was saying, he would smash the deadlock by circumventing democratic norms. It is possible that he might turn the US into a dictatorship if he is able to murder most of the Republican party and the Democrat party + burn down Congress + trigger a terrorist attack on US soil + perhaps a nuclear detonation in an a major urban centre. But that might be a stretch. Steven and Daniel do not go into HOW Trump would destroy the robust institutions that exist in US democracy as flawed as those institutions may be…The critical error Stephen and Daniel are making is that being crass, direct and non-presidential = authoritarianism, when it obviously is something else, something that academics can’t categorize yet. Ever ask an academic to categorize Fascism both on the left and right? Political scientist Academics is weak at these kinds of activities because ideologies defy logic and are persuasion more than logical entities.

Best Way to Stop Authoritarianism…Stop Them From Getting Elected: You need to prevent a democracy from allowing an authoritarianism. George Wallace ’60s, MCarthey in the ’50s, Barry Goldwater ’70s, these are authoritarians according to Steven and Daniel getting about 35% of the vote. Just like the Trump approval ratings in February 2018, some polls say different things. Trump is a demagogue. When do we (the Republican enablers) draw the lines in the sand to prevent Trump from doing what are authoritarian policies? Hugo Chavez was released from jail by the Venezualan president who wanted to get Chavez’s supporters. Same with Mussilini in Italy.

Counter-Arguments on Best Way to Stop Authoritarianism You have Stop Them From Getting Elected: The obvious problem here is analogies do not explain different circumstances. Trump is uniquely not beholden to political donors and is thus his own leader, perhaps purely self-interested, but not owned by any one interest group. Authoritarians often have financial sources from book sales but not like Trump. Another analogy failure is that the approval ratings do not measure support accurately while Stephen and Daniel seem to believe that 35% approval rating = accurate polling, check the ’16 pre-election day polling guys! Then the political allies from the establishment think they can control the authoritarian, true. The only issue here is that Trump has yet to do overt and significant authoritarian shit like restricts freedom of movement, shutdown this/that and shutdown newspapers. In fact, the Republican enablers as Stephen and Daniel see it, can’t really just fire their president, that doesn’t really work unless Trump were to do something totally criminal….words don’t count in that category….None of the authoritarian actions in other context have happened and the logic that it will be too late to stand up against him when it does happens is really silly, you do know that Clinton had 3 million more votes right? Like the American public can fire Donald Trump obviously IF the Democrat candidate kicks-ass. Trump has done little in terms of pure authoritarianism, it’s a stretch here obviously. Meanwhile these academics are avoiding being too overt in their predicting the future because academia frowns upon that kind of behaviour…because they get it wrong more often than not.

The Constitution Will Not Save Us: Forbearance and Legitimacy: Constitutions don’t actually work without the people’s support. You need to accept your opponent in public and private as having a legitimate claim to the job you are both competing for…. Institutional forbearance; under utilization of power. Trump could pardon anyone and could expand the Supreme Court to 11 members. Congress can shutdown the government. Politicians can exploit the democracy into hardball mechanisms to screw democracy. But a shared forbearance is what soft guard-rails of democracy. There were partisan impeachments in Bill Clinton. Politicians in the 2008 election questioned Obama’s loyalty to the US, so the Republicans are to blame for decline.

Counter-Arguments on The Constitution Will Not Save Us: Republicans were not the only ones to abandon the forbearance. Republicans refused to let Obama appoint a Supreme Court justice. The truth is that the Republicans are more hardball yes, but Bush was also not super popular with the Democrats either. Basically losing the majority ethnic Daniel suggests that immigration didn’t start to be diverse until the 1960s…not sure Catholics considered the same as the Puritans. Extreme polarization is not the underlying cause.

Fight Like Republicans = Democracy Will Collapse: They need to fight like Democrats, not like the nasty Republicans according to Stephen, instead Democrats need to deliberate freely. If they build hard ball tactics Democrats need to not be drawn into a partisan spiral and it can be even worse. Abraham Lincoln was not democratic, so there was an erosion of trust between politicians. The norms of mutual tolerance is not possible in an ethnically diverse country where the Democrats are mostly multi-cultural and Republicans are mostly white and religious.  Republicans have churches and NRA associations, but the Democrats don’t have that infrastructure according to Stephen so the Democrats should be careful how they tread….

Counter-Argument on Fight Like Republicans = Democracy Will Collapse: It seems that the Democrats in the current model, really have to fight back and hard. Or they can work with Trump to push forward policies that Democrats really want like infrastructure spending. Co-operation does not mean supporting Trump, co-operation means getting things done in Washington. But obstruction is obviously what Obama had to endure so it seems like retaliation time. Stephen and Daniel clearly are over emphasizing the minor value of ideology and playing up identity politics as the core issue that drives the democratic process. Primaries are more homogeneous in recent years according to Stephen which is probably one of the weirdest claims. Both political parties are big tents for many different values. If anything the diversity is growing as more information is more easily available.

Criticism of “It Doesn’t End Well for America”: this is what they every time they get to the logical conslution of their views. The issues here is that, it’s more sophisticated that than, they can’t really maintain intellectual credibility AND predict the future because that would not be academically viable.

Criticism of “US Democracy Created Most Democratic Norms”: ever heard of Britain? France? Stephen and Daniel are Ameri-Centric or at least for their audience.

Criticism of The Media Has Been Very Effective in the Last Few Years: Daniel Ziblatt believe the media has been very active because the New York Times has 3x the number of subscription at 51:00 in the video above…Um, the media is obsesses with click bait in order to drive viewership. Do you think that might be why Trump has to spend almost no money on campaign advertising? The media is not objective, Ziblatt. This statement is pretty ridiculous; that’s not a partisan statement, US media is too commercially debilitated to reliably provide citizenry with non=partisan information.

Benjamin Franklin | The Walter Isaacson Biography Synopsis & Analysis

Walter Isaacson – Ben Franklin

The following is an analysis and synopsis of Ben Franklin by Walter Isaacson.

Chapter 1 | Benjamin Franklin and the Invention Of America

Benjamin Franklins’ life is an interesting one, and the first chapter explores the depths of his character in the outset of that life.  Significant emphasis is placed on the fact that Franklin’s was not a linear but rather a multi-layered character, who carried facets from his different experiences in life, all in a single, complex yet amusing entity.

Basically, Benjamin Franklin was a polymath.

Benjamin Franklin is introduced keeping in context with his autobiographical work, as a cheeky young man with the guise for humility, arriving in Philadelphia to develop his own personality. As the story progresses, the tone changes to that of an old man, writing his life’s story in retrospection and with the aim of passing it down to posterity. Therefore, this work spans a full circle where you will come to know the person of Benjamin Franklin rather intimately.

Benjamin Franklin’s character is a rather endearing one- despite being a statesman; he was approachable, accessible and even relatable. Benjamin Franklin adopts a conversational and witty tone to write his autobiography, which helps you to see him not as someone on a pedestal but as someone from among the masses, contemporary even.

Apart from his admirable personality, Benjamin Franklin was also a man well versed in the arts and sciences. An intellectual man, we will see that he turns out to be a successful scientist and innovator with some important inventions to his name. He also had proficiency in the language, writing, and management- skills he honed to become an efficient diplomat, writer, and business strategist. His intellectual inclinations made him a philosopher; a pragmatic one at that.

Franklin came from the American middle class and despite his ascent in the world, he did not forget his roots. This gives an earthiness to his humour that comes through in his writing; writing that appeals to the masses. His belief in the power of the middle class as the force that will drive a new nation to prosperity reflects in his policies and the many measures he took to empower them. He prized civil harmony and undertook several civic- improvement programmes as he sought to give more power to the people who formed the essence of a democracy.

This work is a careful study of Franklin’s character that also turns out to a study in the changing paradigms of American society itself. He has admirers as well as critics, based on the time context he is viewed in. Some praise his materialistic approach to life while others decry his lack of vision for an exalted existence. The romantics vilify him while the entrepreneurs glorify him. This book, however, insists that lessons that are to be drawn from Benjamin Franklin’s life are far more complex than this binary. When reading this book, try to engage with Franklin’s character with a clean slate and not view his motivations that translated into actions as the maxims he swore by in life, because people are definitely more complex than that.

 

Chapter 2 | Pilgrim’s Progress

The opening of the second chapter familiarises us with Benjamin Franklin’s lineage. The aim of this approach is to educate a biographer about a personality by examining his family history. We come up close and personal with the character of Benjamin Franklin’s great-grandfather, grandfather and father, all of who possessed a strain of dissent and intellectual proficiency, which trickled down to his generation.

A rather descriptive account of the family tree informs us that his family had always lived in Ecton, Northampshire, and operated the smith’s business. Further elucidation details his father’s brothers’ lives and their peculiar qualities. From this section, we also find that the Franklin’s family practiced Protestantism in a time and land when it was looked down upon and even persecuted.

Considerable space has been dedicated to the character of Josiah Franklin, Benjamin Franklin’s father, perhaps as a result of the profound impact that he had on the latter’s life.  An original piece from the autobiographical manuscript has been included in the book where Franklin talks at length about the inspiring spirit of his father’s character. A critical analysis at this point reveals that the idealistic description may be motivated by a desire to evoke respect from his son for his grandfather, to whom this account is addressed.

The rest of the chapter focuses on Benjamin Franklin’s childhood. His inquisitive and inventive streak was apparent even in his early years. Another trait that would become dominant later on in his life, that of leadership and organisational abilities, was also conspicuous even in his fun and games. He continues recounting his early years from the time Benjamin joined his father’s business. Since his heart was not in it, he could not sustain interest. However, his inquisitiveness made sure that he had a valuable take-away even from a task he found drab.

Further, we also come to know about Franklin’s other great interest, reading. He indulged in a variety of books, which is exemplary of the author’s voracious appetite for knowledge.  The Netflix of the 18th century was in these books which had great influence on him, and he acquired many skills because of them.

Owing to his penchant for reading, his father sought to set him up in a printing press. He was employed in his brother’s press at twelve; to work as an apprentice. He also developed a knack for prose during this period. His new interest soon translated into an interest in debate and argumentation.  To nurture it, he would spar with a friend of similar temperament, John Collins. Despite the clarity of thought, Franklin fell short in arguing his side, for want of better writing skills. His father helped him hone his skills by pointing out his mistakes. He then adopted a sophisticated method of memorising words and ideas that he would like to use in his writing. His moment of validation came when he wrote an opinion piece for his brother’s paper, and it found great acclaim among the latter’s friends who contributed to the paper.

Now, we come to know that this was a time when political correctness was observed rather strictly, and its violation could make one liable for punishment. Kind of like 21st century North America! Something similar happened with Benjamin’s brother, who was imprisoned for running a piece in his paper The New-England Courant that was unacceptable to the Assembly, the governing authority. Benjamin decided to write with the pseudonym Silence Dogood a middle aged widow; when Benjamin’s brother learned about the ruse; James was upset. Following this incident, Benjamin had to take over the printing press. However, this carved a new rift between the brothers, which only deepened with their clash of ideas, and attitudes. Therefore, the story will now take you on a journey with Benjamin Franklin as he parts ways with his to find with own; he left his job without telling anybody.

 

Chapter 3 | Journeyman

Benjamin Franklin appreciated rationality, as a virtue greatly. He was both an ardent practitioner in his life as well an observer of rationality in others life.  You will find frequent examples drawn of this characteristic of his from his early apprenticeship days.

Franklin was a practicing vegetarian, as he saw the futility in the expenditure of time and money dedicated to lavish food. However, on his trip to New York, when he could rationalise eating fish to himself by reasoning that if they can eat each other, why should not he indulge himself. Franklin’s adroitness at rationality made him an important figure of the European Enlightenment when the virtue was hailed. We find that man’s ability to rationalise what he finds convenient, was of specific fascination to Franklin.

Continuing from the last chapter, we find ourselves back at Franklin’s runaway journey when his friend, John Collins arranged for him to board a ship to New York so that he would start a new life there. He met the sole printer there, but he sent him off to Philadelphia to work for his son. When he could not find work there either, he was introduced to his employer-to-be, Samuel Keimer. He was just seventeen years old at this time. Therefore, you can comprehend that Benjamin Franklin was a man of strong mind and heart, who was ready to brave unexplored territory in order to carve a niche for him.

He developed a good rapport with Keimer as they both found common interest in Socratic argumentation. Benjamin’s magnetic persona also helped him win friends in a new place, people who were of a similar temperament and taught him lessons that he carried with him for life.

Franklin’s writing skills, which he had been honing seriously, found wide acclaim by accident and a worthwhile patron in Governor Keith. However, his promises turned out to be empty, and Franklin learned about the folly of blind faith. From the trajectory of a few friendships and relationships that Franklin formed in these years and which fell apart for one reason or another, it can be concluded that Franklin’s charm could easily attract friends, patrons, and admirers, but keeping them was an art he still had to master.

During his time as a printer, Franklin indulged his philosophical interest and wrote a dissertation concerning free will and the idea of God. This early work of his was a rather shoddy attempt at philosophical writing. However, his position can be defended by the immaturity of his years. Through this writing attempt, it becomes clear that he was not a religious bigot and in fact was pen to scrutinising all elements of religion. He opted for a brand of religion that was pragmatic and where the pursuit of salvation was achieved through good deeds.

Franklin’s obsession with rationality and leading a meaningful life urged him to write a ‘Plan for Future Conduct’ to guide his endeavours. This lists of pragmatic rules sought to make him more of a likeable and productive person in life.

On his voyage back to America from London, he made keen observations about human behaviour that instilled in him a greater appreciation for society. He also honed his scientific acumen in this period and armed with his pragmatic rules for a successful life, Benjamin Franklin was ready to set up a new life in America.

Chapter 4 | Printer

In the fourth chapter, we delve deeper into Benjamin Franklin’s character. In the vast repository of talents he possessed, a flair for salesmanship is also featured. However, when life threw a curveball at him, and he could not make much of it, he fell back on what he knew best, the print business.

Franklin had honed his talents so much as to become indispensable for people around him. For instance, we are told that his employer, Keimer had to beg him to return after the previous fallout because only he could produce the finesse Keimer’s work demanded. Inevitably, his talents could not be tamed for long, and he set out again to make his own niche by opening up a print shop.

Franklin carefully created an image for himself and his business The Pennsylvania Gazette. He did not consider it merely as a career. Rather, it became a way of life for him. Despite reaching the pinnacle of his career as the President, he continued to identify himself as a printer. This goes on to display the dedication and respect he developed for his work.

After going through all the chapters till now, we can confidently say that Franklin was an intellectually inclined man who constructed opportunities to indulge his love for debate and thinking. An important outcome of this was the Junto / The Leather Apron Club, a group of talented young men whom Franklin employed to encourage his cause. His conversational style can be analyzed as disarming, engaging and effective, which helped him carve a successful public persona for himself as a man of intellect.

Early beginnings of Franklin’s interest in civic life can be observed at this stage itself as he used the platform of the Junto not only to discuss but also promote plans for civic development. Therefore, this can be identified as the nascent stage of Franklin’s journey as a celebrated statesman.

Franklin undertook ventures like the Busy Body Essays and Pennsylvania Gazette, through which he established credibility for his career as a publicist. Having risen in his public life, he then directed towards his attention towards private life. Many prospects fell through, mainly for want of suitable dowry until Franklin “chanced” upon Deborah Read. She did not come with a dowry, but as Franklin would later realize, made a better partner for him with her frugality and practicality.

Benjamin’s personal life, much like his public one, was not devoid of scandal, the most uproarious one being his allegedly illegitimate son, William. Even though his descent is a matter of vibrant debate to this day, Franklin never denied his paternity.

From instances of his writing, we can read that Franklin had formulated a concrete idea of what a perfect woman should be like: frugal and industrious. This notion was a dominant theme in his works, which can be seen as sexist from a modern lens. However, despite his primitive ideas about women, he did not limit his advice to only them. He called out men too, on their extravagance and wasteful ways. Therefore, we can conclude that he had struck an unusual balance between primitive and modern ideas in his writings…arguably.

Lucky for Benjamin, Deborah turned out to be an embodiment of traits he deemed virtuous for a wife. Therefore, they formed a companionship where Deborah became his partner both in the household and at work. From a detailed account of the personal dynamic between the duo, it can be inferred that despite some of his rather bigoted views extolling docility, obedience, and servitude for married women, he did appreciate the rebellious and assertive nature of his wife. Theirs’ was not a love that manifested overtly in grand gestures but can be found in subtle ones, like in the letters that Franklin wrote to his wife which are mentioned in the chapter.

Almost as if out of force of habit, Franklin outgrew Deborah. He had developed a character trait of not following through with relationships and followed suit in this marriage. Their personalities and interests came to contradict each others’, and Franklin stayed away from her for a major part of their marriage.

Apart from his marriage, another relationship that would have a profound impact on Benjamin was with his son, Francis. Adorably called Franky, Franklin doted on him and was proud of how curious he was. However, as we see, this turned into a bitter memory for him as he passed away at the tender age of four from smallpox. This made Benjamin a life- long advocate of inoculation and also translated into poignant works that he wrote in his memory.

Moving on, we return to the theme of spirituality in Franklin’s life. At this stage in his life, Franklin seems to have held his views against the wastefulness and dogmatism of organized religion. He continued to be tolerant of other faiths and sects. Benjamin’s brand of religion, as he mentioned in his writings, preached the importance of closeness with God but with pragmatism and devoid of dogma. The developing clarity of his ideas can be gauged by the superior quality of his later work, titled ‘Articles of Belief and Acts of Religion,’ when compared with his earliest attempt of ‘Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity.’

Benjamin Franklin had made it a mission in life to lead it as virtuously as humanly possible. In fact, he made a mechanical process out of this by making himself a list of virtues to abide by. A scrutiny of this list reveals that it was made rather conveniently to help him succeed in life by keeping his efforts on the right track but not chastising him too much. Therefore, it was not constructed with an abstract aim, such as that of spiritual salvation but a more fathomable, practical one.

Benjamin’s religious ideas would attract admirers and critics alike and result in the outstanding success of his Poor Richard series. He became an American icon of the Enlightenment movement of Europe as he worshiped all notions that the movement promulgated: reason, logic, and tolerance as opposed to dogmatism and bigotry.

In conclusion, it can be inferred that by this time, Benjamin had formulated a solid religious identity that was very different from those prevalent in his times. He used his wit, charm, and audacity to promote these ideas through his writings, following the Junto principle of revealing personal ideas through indirection.

Chapter 5 | Public Citizen

By this chapter, we have learned that Benjamin Franklin’s religious ideas were inclined towards pragmatism, tolerance, and appreciation of a civic sense in man because he equated ‘goodness with godliness.’ An extension of this idea can be seen in the manifestation of several organizations for the public good that operated under Benjamin’s watch.

These institutions- hospitals, libraries, fire brigades, were built and supported by an American community that extolled the values of individualism and communitarianism in the same breath. The existence of this paradox was enabled by Franklin’s fervent reinforcement of the idea that a keen civic sense is necessary for the development of the individual as well as the community he was part of.

During the wave of Great Awakening, Franklin encountered a number of personalities that preached strains of faith different from him, similar as him or those that simply amused him. We see that by defending or admonishing them, Franklin wove together his financial interests with his personal zeal for civic pursuits.

As Franklin continued expressing his dissident views through his newspaper, it gained popularity for its anti-establishment and rational sentiment. However, he competed with another prominent newspaper of the time, American Weekly Mercury run by Andrew Bradford. The recollection of sparks between them reveals that Franklin was a prudent businessman who chose his battles wisely and even worked in tandem with rivals when it benefitted him.

Further, as we look into the development of Franklin’s character, we come to evaluate his views about women. Even though not as sexist as the gentry in his day and maybe to an extent modern, Franklin still reared some regressive ideas about the education of women. This dichotomy is exemplified in the case of his daughter Sally, for whom he arranged a proper education in academic subjects, but the emphasis was always laid upon practical subjects that would make her an agreeable homemaker.

Writing to his friends and prospective suitors about his daughters, he would exalt her capacities as a smart and industrious person, but with an undertone that appreciated the usefulness of these traits in making her a good housewife.  The duality in his attitude towards woman also comes forth in his writings. On the one hand, he writes the extremely sexist, almost degrading piece about why older women make better mistresses than young ones and on the other hand, pens the ‘Speech of Polly Baker’, which is an excellent critique of the hypocrisy of society towards a woman’s sexual liberty.

Franklin continued his mission of spreading pragmatic knowledge and power of reason among people by the establishment of organizations like the American Philosophical Society and the more radical Pennsylvania Militia. The success of these institutions reinforced in him the belief that a union of people with common interests was capable of ruling itself and creating a productive society.

This realization and his success in a social and professional capacity would prompt him to retire from the printing business and focus on the other callings in his life; his love for science and penchant for politics.

Chapter 6 | Scientist and Inventor

Benjamin Franklin’s most well-known achievements apart from the field of politics are in science. As we have noted earlier, he had inherited inquisitiveness and nurtured it with voracious reading and meaningful inquiry whenever possible. That enabled him in making significant scientific innovations from as early as in his 20s. His retirement from the printing business afforded him the luxury of time to pursue his curiosities.

Since a young age, Franklin had been experimental and had tried to employ new- found information in everyday tasks to produce something new. The kite and key experiment that catapulted his name into the ranks of Newton and Watson and Cricks was a result of this very enthusiasm to see science in action.

Interestingly, despite being a shrewd businessman, Franklin pursued science purely for pleasure. We come to this conclusion from the evidence that he declined patents and did not necessarily seek utility in his experiments as long as they were able to amuse him.

Practical use of the procedures, even though a secondary goal, did feature as a requisite in his experiments and led to the development of a new design of a stove that produced lesser smoke. The first catheter in America was also a product of this habit.

A detailed study of the process that led to the famous ‘lightning is electricity’ experiment reveals the meticulous method that Franklin observed; relentless endeavor, curiosity, improvisation and keen observation. Despite this, his lack of interest in scientific laws and limitation of his sphere of interest to experimentation leads us to the conclusion that he was not a systematic scientist but more of a whimsical experimenter.

His scientific progress drew equal amounts of applause and admonition. On the one hand, the religious community condemned his innovations as ‘ungodly’; on the other hand, the scientific community went gaga over him and showered him with honorary doctorates. This dichotomy was settled in the succeeding generations when the scientific worth of his work was unanimously established.

Benjamin Franklin’s lack of a formal education in theoretical mathematics or physics can be pegged as the reason why he cannot be considered a scientist of the same merit as Galileo or Newton. However, when we weigh the theoretical importance of his seminal works, we can establish unequivocally that his findings formed the bedrock of some the most basic scientific principles that were later sophisticated by scientists and put to practical use. A prominent example of this can be his discovery of the absorptive nature of black and white color.

We can, therefore, conclude that Franklin was a stellar example of the Age of Enlightenment. He possessed a robust curiosity and the will to experiment to quench his curiosity. He proved to the world that ‘philosophical amusements,’ as scientific experiments if pursued with vigor, have the capability of putting a man in control of even nature’s agents. This notion reinforced the idea of belief in man’s inherent intellectual ability, which was the basic theme of the Age of Enlightenment.

Chapter 7 | Politician

In this chapter, we explore the characteristics that helped Benjamin Franklin become one of the most successful political leaders to have graced our past. First off, we discuss the humanitarian sentiment that he nurtured, and that drew him to the public service sphere.

Franklin believed that a successful civic society is possible only with the active participation of its citizens. He also laid emphasis on the values of pragmatism and tolerance in conducting state affairs. That was the driving principle behind his effort for a non- sectarian educational institution (which resulted in the present day University of Pennsylvania) and a public and private funded hospital.

Benjamin’s ingenuity gave birth to the matching grant, a system of joint government and private funding that is prevalent in America to this day. Although not a libertarian in the present sense of the term, he did believe in the limited control of the government in civic affairs.

Additionally, he favored a government that would strike a right balance between public and private collaborations to produce maximum benefit for the people. However, his beliefs were not binary. Through letters that he sent to friends discussing his political philosophy, we find that he was skeptical of going overboard with public welfare, lest it should lead to complacency and laziness among masses.

However, these were more of questions than assertions. The composition of his political philosophy can be broken down into some basic elements: resistance to establishment, tolerance and non- sectarianism, freedom of social mobility and exaltation of the middle class as the savior of society. He believed in an egalitarian and democratic governance, which was also inclusive of new talent and not just a select elite.

He cannot be called a conservative really, but his ideas were not entirely free of the prevalent currents of thought. For instance, his stance against slavery was not based on the immorality of the act but its economic impracticality. However, he was soon to re-evaluate his position and become a fervent abolitionist.

Benjamin began a formal political career by being elected to the Philadelphia Assembly. He continued his public welfare schemes after assuming office. Federalism, as a system of governance, also saw the light of day under his leadership at the Albany conference. He actively began nurturing his non-parochial view for the American society, where the colonies could unite into a nation.

A look into the amorous relations that Franklin forged out of his marriage was always short of overt passion and often tinged with a paternalistic attitude that he adopted towards the paramour. On the professional front, he was more conducive to risks as he functioned as a pragmatic negotiator in times of crisis for the colonial government, be it with the Indians or the Crown on the question of proprietors.

Therefore, we see that this period can be viewed as the formative stage in Franklin’s political career. Benjamin Franklin enunciated his ideas of non-sectarianism and practical governance rather clearly but was yet to become a formidable political force.

Chapter 8 | Troubled Waters

Owing to his skills as a negotiator and overall prudent politician, Franklin was sent as an envoy to England to appeal the colonies’ case. This chapter explores his life and experiences in a society far removed from the one he was used to.

Firstly, on the personal front, he befriended and sustained romantic relations with a couple of women, including Polly Stevenson, who would prove to be a lifelong friend to him. As earlier, he projected an avuncular, along with amorous, attitude towards her. He was impressed by her intellectual inclinations, and somewhere tried to find a substitute in her, for Deborah’s lack of these qualities.

London appeared to him as an interesting paradox- disease-ridden and dirty on the one hand, vibrant and cosmopolitan on the other. We see that the intellectual community burgeoned here in privileged spheres such as the Royal Society and in common coffeehouses as well. His interaction in these circles helped him forge some useful friendships with the likes of Dr. John Fothergill, Dr. John Pringle, and William Strahan. These associations would help him immensely in achieving his political goals in London.

Since England’s political scenario was unchartered territory for him, we see that his old tricks failed to gain him progress. He had come to England to appeal against the Penns and privileges of the Proprietors at large. He believed that the American people under the British Crown should have the same rights as those in England. However, he soon made a rude realization that people in Britain did not think so and the Proprietors claim had support in the British courts.

He would go on to reason with the Penns directly but would act distinctly out of character. He would lose his calm and often make far-fetched claims that were not entirely correct. He failed to reach an end with his negotiations but decided not to leave England until he had achieved some ground. This is a classic example of Franklin’s resilience as a diplomat. It would take a while before Franklin would regain composure in his correspondence with the Proprietors and use his old pragmatism to win a compromise. Even though the victory was partial, it was definitely a step ahead.

Franklin can be seen as an interesting character based on his beliefs and demands. He was a professed British royalist, yet his demands against Proprietary privileges in colonies was not in consonance with English beliefs. He theorized that the British saw colonies as resource centers that could be exploited to benefit the mother country. He argued against this and concluded that if Britain treated its colonial subjects with the same regard as its natural citizens, then the colonies would never rebel.

After a 5-year stint at London, Franklin finally decided to leave for home. He had wrapped up his job fairly well, though not as expected. Following a sentimental and emotion-laden farewell with his ‘surrogate family’ of Polly Stevenson and her mother, he finally returned to America and continued his scientific pursuits.

Chapter 9 | Home Leave

After returning to America, Franklin resumed his role as a postmaster. We have explored so far that he entertained a keen interest in travel. Luckily for him, his job allowed him just to do that. Despite his fervent attempts, he could not get his wife to accompany him. This can be attributed to her beliefs against venturing too far from home. It can be said that they both asserted their independence in their own way.

He toured the colonies several times and was familiar with the internal politics in a way that put him in a conducive position to bargain for their rights when the time came. First, such opportunity arose on the question of the Paxton boys, that threatened the outbreak of a religious and social civil war. Franklin came out in vehement opposition of the anti-Indian sentiment and published several pamphlets decrying the brutality. He came in direct confrontation with them and was able to pacify them enough not to unleash the same horror in his town.

We see that his hard line stance to bring the Paxton boys to justice was diametrically opposed to that of the Governor, John Penn, who wanted a negotiation for political benefit. This resurfaced the old antagonism between Franklin and the Penns. As a result, we find that Franklin grew increasingly cynical in his discourse on politics as its unjust arbitrariness dawned upon him. He rallied for a colonial rather than proprietary government, with renewed vigor. As a staunch Royalist, he wanted Pennsylvania to come under the direct Crown rule.

However, he faced much opposition for his views. There were two main reasons for this: the frontiersmen’s preference of a Proprietary government and the Penn family’s reputation as formidable political opponents that was known of, even in England. That did not, nevertheless, dampen Franklin’s resolve and he started a petition campaign against the government.  Amid fervent opposition that sought to drag his name through the dirt, he continued his crusade. Therefore, the election season of 1764 was an important year in America’s history of free expression, as it saw its uglier, unrestrained facet.

The elections resulted in a vote in the Assembly to send Franklin back to represent his cause in England. Franklin was more than willing to take up the task for the following reasons: he missed his stint in London, he felt confined in Philadelphia politics, and he had bigger plans for an American union that would require representation in the Parliament. The latter would become important amid news of the Crown planning to levy taxes on colonies. He thought it would be fair to extend citizenship to colonies if they were to be taxed.

He received a hearty farewell as people pinned hope to his efforts. Franklin, on a personal level, did not know what to expect from the trip. We come to this conclusion by his conflicting testimony to his friends, as he told some that he would return in a few months, while some had the knowledge that he did not plan to return at all.

Chapter 10 | Agent Provocateur

On his return to London, the first thing Franklin reconciled with was his ‘surrogate family’ of the Stevensons. He reconnected with Polly and continued sending her letters that portrayed avuncular affection and intellectual flirtation. He also got back with his friends and resumed appearing in their circles. Another important relationship he formed at this time was with his illegitimate grandson, Temple, whom he took under his wing and provided with education.

We will see that Franklin pursued his missions in England relentlessly. In fact, he had his blinders on so tightly that he would not return to America despite the news of his wife’s deteriorating health and would continue his futile fight for 10 years up to the eve of the Revolution. Owing to his political beliefs and allegiances, he had to perform a balancing act between being a royalist who advocated for an imperial rule over the colonies and establishing himself as an American patriot in the face of lack of sympathy from the colonial government.

Franklin found the political atmosphere of England rather bizarre and his old, trusted tricks failed to work there. One of the biggest miscalculations on his part occurred after the passing of the Stamp Act of 1765. It was a tax imposed by the Crown on the colonies, a fact that the populace resented.  Franklin took a pragmatic stance and advised that the people cooperate with the new law. However, he misjudged the attitude of the people who were willing to take up arms against the act. A conflict between the colonies’ and Crown’s interests caught Franklin in the crosshairs, who was villainized as an Imperial sympathizer.

While violence brewed back home, Franklin adopted a moderate stance owing to his love for Britain. Moreover, he was more of a smooth negotiator than a revolutionary by nature. However, his goal of making Pennsylvania an imperial colony now seemed far unrealistic than ever. To salvage his tarnished image as a supporter of the Stamp Act, he began a letter writing campaign where he categorically criticized the act and denied ever supporting it.

His moment of redemption came when he was able to present his case directly to the Parliament in 1766. He was able to put forth the social and emotional turmoil of the colonial population in strong and clear words. Therefore, an excellent performance there earned him his reputation back home.

Another political upheaval came with the passing of the Townshend Act. Franklin’s miscalculation this time was two-levelled; drawing a distinction between internal and external taxes, which was actually not respected in the colonies and adopting a position of moderation. He finally gave up a moderate stance when the British government thwarted his aspiration of Pennsylvania ever being free from the Proprietary rule.

Franklin took to writing critical articles against the government and its discriminatory Acts. However, his attack was still focussed on the Parliament rather than the Crown. Therefore, by the end of this turbulent phase, the inconvenience of Franklin’s paradox as a royalist and an American patriot resurfaced.

Chapter 11 | Rebel

When Franklin faced repeated failures in the political arena, he decided to forsake it for a while. He left in the pursuit of another passion he indulged in with great joy – traveling. He also resumed his scientific inquiries while vacationing around England as he found a subject of interest in the developments of the industrial revolution.

We see from accounts of this voyage that Benjamin’s burgeoning patriotic sentiment often came in conflict with his instilled allegiance as a royalist. For instance, he argued against British sanctions on the colonies by pleading that they would never threaten the British competition. Yet, on his tour of the industries, he wrote detailed descriptions of the manufacturing process in the hope of helping indigenous industries.

At 65, when Franklin found leisure from his professional duties, he took to writing his autobiography. Even though the professed aim of this project was to familiarize his son William with his ancestry and Franklin’s journey from obscurity to prominence, it does not seem to be that limited. Analyzing the writing style which details the processes of his achievements in the way of writing that maintained scope for corrections and additions, reveals that Franklin intended this work for mass consumption. By the time Franklin concluded his voyage of London, he had completed bout 4 chapters of what would turn out to be a lengthy autobiography.

On a personal front, we see that he found paternal affection for another young woman called Kitty, the daughter of his friends, the Shipleys. He would maintain a loving and healthy relationship with her for the rest of his life. At this point, he was also reminded of his grandson Benjamin Franklin Bache, whom he had never met.

Franklin often deemed his ‘surrogate’ relations more highly than he did his real ones. An instance of this can be observed in his behavior towards Benny, his real grandson whom he advised his wife against spoiling and his godson Billy, Polly’s son, whom he talked of very highly. 1774 turned out to be an especially trying time for him as he had begun estranging from his son William and then received the new of wife’s passing away in his absence.

While these developments underscored his life, Benjamin continued his scientific endeavors. Always better at pragmatic experimentation that theorizing, he made initiations into some important scientific themes that would serve as blueprints for subsequent generations of scientists. He, for example, continued his experiments with oil and water that would be a precedent for determining molecular size many years later. The cause of colds, lead poisoning, and saltiness of the ocean are just some of the many phenomena he unearthed in this period.

This was a time when his social philosophy was ripening, and even though it would be many years before he would declare himself an abolitionist, he had begun propounding liberal ideas. On the political front, he gained immense success by dislodging Hillsborough and receiving a land grant in Ohio. Unwittingly, he stirred up radical sentiment in the American colonies when his exchanges with an acquaintance were made public, which portrayed his fervent support for the colonies’ independence.

By 1775, Franklin was ready to leave London. His attempts at any compromise between the colonies and Britain had faded. Therefore, it turned out to be an emotionally challenging voyage for him as he sailed back to a warring America.

Chapter 12 | Independence

Agitations had broken out between British and American contingents, as Franklin sailed towards America in 1775. By the time he reached Philadelphia, the Second Congress was convened, and he was included as a member. The looming question was whether to fight the war for independence or of the assertion of American rights while remaining under British rule. This was a precarious position to be in for Franklin, who was torn between his sentiments as a royalist and an American patriot. He, therefore, chose to keep quiet while the other senators debated on the theme of independence.

He finally broke his silence during a meeting with Joseph Galloway and William Franklin and declared his stance in favor of complete independence for America. This decision was motivated by the several betrayals, personal slights and disappointments he had incurred by the British. It also exemplified the virtues he envisioned to build the ideal American society upon – appreciation of merit, a powerful middle class, liberty, tolerance, frugality, industriousness and respect for the merchant class.

Amidst certain dichotomy where some ministers sought a compromise with the Crown and others had radical ideas of rebellion, Franklin made his position clear by publishing a letter to his friend William Strahan in London. The language was terse and accusing, and its aim was to make public his ideas of America’s future. Even though the letter was not really sent and further correspondences between the friends were mellow and looked for conciliation, the letter did have its desired effect.

As an ardent supporter of an American union, he conceptualized the Articles of Confederation and the Perpetual Union. The kind of federation Franklin proposed was much ahead of its times as it meant the division of powers and a single-chamber Congress to ensure the security of rights and general welfare.

With his experience, managerial skills and visionary character, Franklin became a pillar in the American edifice against Britain. He was an obvious choice to head planning committees that drafted systems for the smooth transition of America into an independent state. Franklin often produced interesting amalgamations of his sharp wit and his political convictions, such as the rattlesnake flag with the motto of ‘Don’t Tread On Me,’ which symbolized American vigor and magnanimity.

When his plans at negotiation were once again thwarted in London following a meeting Lord Richard Howe, Franklin was sent on a secret diplomatic mission to France in order to cajole its alliance. By this time, Franklin’s age had begun to catch up with him, and he accepted the proposal rather reluctantly. He did not keep very well and lacked in vigor and energy.

Yet, he was ambitious about the potential of this trip for America’s diplomatic goals. For his company, he had in tow both his grandsons, Temple and Benny. He hoped that the tour could be a good experiential exercise for both of them and they would prove to be a comforting company to his old soul. Therefore, with a mission in sight, the old Benjamin Franklin set sail for France.

Chapter 13 | Courtier

After an uncomfortable voyage that took a toll on the aged Franklin, he finally touched the French coast. He tried to maintain a low profile at the small towns he visited so that he could test the receptiveness of the French Court for American ministers before initiating anything. However, as we have seen earlier, Franklin had become one of the most famous Americans in Europe through his scientific discoveries and achievements as a politician. Therefore, he was received grandly and was immediately a fixture at social gatherings.

Franklin sought to leverage his fame to further his political interests. France’s long history of hostility with England would make it a perfect ally, only if Franklin could persuade them. France received Franklin with open arms, and he returned the adoration by exalting French civility in his writings. He soon made himself at home thereby setting up a court of sorts.

He made a new set of friends who pampered him and was met by new colleagues, whose conflicting views made his work interesting.

Since American opposition had significantly increased and was buttressed by vigorous diplomatic activity, England deployed a sophisticated espionage system in order to gather information on American movements. Franklin was made wary of this threat as soon as he began operations in France. He even was confronted with the presence of a certain Edward Bancroft who functioned as a spy for the British for a long time before being found.

Franklin had a rather naive response to this matter saying that an honest man had nothing to fear, but it can be fathomed that such a statement was possible only because the spy’s information was unable to do any serious damage.

Franklin soon found a reluctant ally in Comte de Vergennes, the French Foreign Minister, who shared his dislike for England and faith in the new nation. He also liked Franklin on a personal level due to his bourgeois sensibilities that Vergennes appreciated. Franklin, for his part, found a perfect blend of idealism and realism to appease the French minister. He professed a calculated balance- of- power calculus to portray the feasibility of a Franco- American alliance. On the other hand, he exalted American values and sought to establish faith in it by presenting it as an asylum in the face of tyranny. He also began recruitments for the American army while still in France, and was able to secure the loyalty of men who would prove pivotal in the Revolution.

The French soon agreed to an alliance but awaited Spanish acceptance as the two had made a pact to act in concert. Meanwhile, Britain initiated secret negotiations with the Americans to avoid further confrontation. Franklin, with keen diplomatic acumen, pitted the French against the English by leaking information. France, therefore, agreed to co-operate without Spanish support and treaties of friendship and alliance were signed.

Thus, the course of the Revolution was finalized and also of the world’s balance of power, even though it was not realized at that stage.

Chapter 14 | Bon Vivant

After securing a French alliance for the American cause, Franklin was in a much secure position as a diplomat. During this time, he made several acquaintances that would leave a lasting impact on him. One of them was John Adams, who joined as an American commissioner. His equation with Franklin can be seen as a rollercoaster, where the two went through a series of emotions ranging from resentment, to amusement to finally, admiration. They had contradictory personalities but found common ground in their Puritanical beliefs.

Another important acquaintance Franklin made was the famous French philosopher, Voltaire. This match, interestingly, was designed by an enthusiastic public imagination that saw them as fated to meet. Their meetings caused a frenzy of fans and were profusely written about. Franklin’s association with the French intelligentsia and literati prompted him to join a lodge where his ideas against absolutism found popular acclaim.

True to his character, he forged some lasting and meaningful relationships with the opposite sex in Paris. These relationships were amorous but limited to the intellectual and spiritual level. Franklin’s societal stature made him instantly attractive to aristocratic women who sought ways to make his acquaintance. These affairs, often sexually charged though not fully consummated, fed a flurry of scandalous stories.

He got into emotionally serious relationships, one with a Madame Brillon and the other with Madame Helvétius. However, his reluctance to commit kept him from going through with either. These tumultuous relations had the effect of distancing these women from him, but on Franklin, it was quite the opposite: he felt young again, at least in spirit.

Therefore, we see that while Franklin attended to a lively social life in France, he unknowingly began distancing his real family.  His correspondences with his daughter were often didactic and disapproving and were received with replies that reflected disappointment and dejection. He was much softer with his grandchildren although instructive just the same.

Over time, his frequency of correspondence with them also declined, and its direct impact on Benny was that he drew in himself and became rather reserved. A change of company would see a breakout of his rebellious streak, which was received with an admonition by Franklin. For Temple, Franklin was incessantly trying to play matchmaker by hitching him to one of the Brillon daughters. However, Temple’s descent proved to be a roadblock, and while things could have been worked out, Temple had already embarked on his way to becoming a philanderer.

Apart from social obligations, Franklin also found time to pursue his scientific endeavors. However, this time they were tinged with humor and were for the sake of amusement, like his study on the causes and cures of farts. He rejuvenated his admiration for chess and was known to play until the wee hours of the morning. He believed that chess was a good exercise for the brain and taught one foresight and circumspection.

We, therefore, observe that Franklin’s character had evolved much and was now true to his age. Just like an old man with leisure, he was indulging in his interests and cultivating a healthy social life. He also kept his political beliefs to himself until asked for or as he deemed them necessary to share.

Chapter 15 | Peacemaker

During his time in France, Franklin had done everything to make himself a favorite at the French Court as well as the social circles. As a result of this, the French themselves lobbied for him in 1778 to be sent as minister plenipotentiary, and he was guaranteed the job. This result also upset a few that did not believe that Franklin’s candidature befits the bill, like John Adams and Arthur Lee. However, they had no choice but to find a middle ground and work with Franklin.

He came across several interesting characters during his stint as the American ambassador. One of them was John Paul Jones, an adventurous and rogue lad picked to head the American fleet in case of a British invasion. Jones was a reckless man who acted on whims, but this also gave him immense courage that Franklin believed would be necessary for such an expedition.

He was also an incorrigible flirt, which landed him in a series of scandals. Franklin adopted several methods to tame Jones, often sending him didactic letters that instructed him to use restraint in his dealings. When Jones proved his mettle in a naval battle against the British, Franklin developed more admiration for him and would even go on to defend him in disputes.

America needed financial resources to aid the Revolution, and it became rather desperate by 1780. Franklin, therefore, had to act as a representative of this desperation to the French. He made personal pleas, invoked idealism and national interest to get the French to loosen their purse strings. He could not get them to agree to the sum he demanded, though he did secure a substantial amount. Despite this victory, a fervent opposition against him that brewed back home disheartened Franklin. His adversaries pegged him to be too old and ineffective to take charge. That did not go down well with him, and he decided to resign.

However, the Congress was smarter than letting go of an experienced diplomat at a crucial time. So, this request was rejected. Additionally, he was given the charge of peace negotiator with Britain. Britain still wanted to negotiate terms of independence, while Franklin strongly put forward America’s non-negotiable stance. In fact, he proposed that Britain should offer reparations to America for the years of damage that it had inflicted and one way of doing so would be to cede Canada.

A complex balance-of-power game ensued where Britain, France, and America weighed the consequences of such a treaty. Soon a peace conference was initiated for all the stakeholders.

Franklin was clear about the terms he on which he wanted America’s independence. Therefore, he was especially annoyed when France was negotiated vicariously, and America was not involved directly. He felt that American dignity was being belittled. Therefore, he gained special permission to hold peace negotiations with Britain separately. After enduring a lot of back channel intrigue, Franklin found just the right moment to propose his peace plan when people more receptive of his ideas came to power in Britain.

The details of Franklin’s plan are worth mentioning. He divided his peace plan into two parts that contained both non-negotiable and negotiable terms. Under the ‘necessary’ provisions he demanded independence for America, which would be absolute in every sense, removal of British troops, autonomous and secure borders and fishing rights off the coast of Canada. Under the ‘advisable’ provisions, he asked for reparations from the British, ceding of Canada, acknowledgment of British guilt and a free trade agreement.

The plan was tabled, and the negotiations began. Britain was unwilling to ratify the plan in its original form and wanted further dialogue on both categories. France’s position as a reliable ally also came under doubt and led to a rift between Jay the skeptic, and Franklin, the believer. It would take some more espionage to coax Britain into making the terms of the treaty clearer so that American dependence on French help could be diminished and it would be Jay’s endeavor that would achieve it. Following this, he and Franklin were back on the same page and resumed working towards a common goal.

However, this accord came at the expense of peace in French and American relations and on Franklin fell the onus to explain to Vergennes about this decision. He did so by writing a letter that is considered to this day a diplomatic masterpiece. After that, there was little Vergennes could do to stall the proceeding of peace negotiations and eventually gave way. Therefore, Franklin was successful in securing a peace treaty with England, without endangering relations with France; a feat only a man of his political acumen could have achieved.

Having overcome this Herculean task, Franklin retired himself to the leisures of life. He found time to indulge in his family and called Benny to stay with him at Passy. For Temple, he continued to pull strings to secure a good office for him. This time was also conducive for him to resume his scientific pursuits that he had been away from for quite some time. The French were just as intrigued with science as he was and so he found ample opportunity to indulge himself.

He enjoyed the marvel of hot air balloons and perfected the design of bifocal lenses. He also continued writing anti-elitist literature and remained a crucial part of America’s independence proceedings. He also continued to work on his autobiography well into 1784, and he was 50% done with the project by that time.

Soon, it was time for him to return to America, but his bad health and affection for French society made him reluctant. However, when he received the news that his resignation had been approved by the Congress and that his efforts to secure an overseas appointment for Temple were futile, he decided to go back. Franklin conducted elaborate formalities of exchanging gifts and pleasantries with his high society friends and acquaintances, which included the King and Queen of France. He finally bid adieu to France on July 12 and was sent off by tearful eyes of his many admirers.

Chapter 16 | Sage

From accounts of his voyage to America, we can gather that he had finally let his age catch up with him. He did not attempt any studies nor made any observations. It was as if he was finally at peace, having completed all his duties. He also forsook work on his autobiography for that time. He now completely dedicated his time and effort to scientific experimentation. What resulted was a detailed budget of his maritime observations, replete with sketches.

He arrived in Philadelphia in 1785 and was received with great pomp and show by a large crowd. He soon settled into his Market Street home, surrounded by family and admirers. Despite his age and ensuing immobility, he was as sociable as ever and resumed meetings of old associations. He also went on a building spree and remodeled houses that he owned on Market Street. He installed a remarkable library there, equipped with some fascinating scientific implements, all of which were Franklin’s inventions.

It was almost impossible to keep Franklin away from an active political life, sometimes by his own insistence and otherwise by his admirers. He was soon elected president of the state executive council in Pennsylvania and was pleasantly surprised to find his popularity intact after so many years. He became part of the Constitutional Convention, whose task it was to draw up a final constitution for independent America.

He did not let his age or bad health hinder his work and took his seat every morning. He adopted wry storytelling over ostentatious oratory which was exemplary of the gravity he had gained with age.

He was a strong supporter of democracy and embodied the values of Enlightenments. He also had unparalleled experience in world affairs.

These qualifications made sure that his suggestions were always regarded even if they seemed incredulous to some. He professed compromise as a virtue for a nation that was proud of its diversity. This belief had helped him win battles in life. However, the one time that he forsook the value of compromise was also one of the most important ones on the issue of slavery.

Franklin, aged at 82 and having achieved the pinnacle of political success and recognition, had every reason to retire. However, his pride, by his own admission, still made him appreciate public ardor. Therefore, he accepted the renewal of his state presidency for another year. His swan song to a long and successful political career was to be his public mission against slavery. He presented an abolition petition in 1790, which pleaded for the recognition of the equality of man. It was an emotionally charged literature that sought to plead with reason. However, his petition by denounced by supporters of slavery and the Congress also refused to act on it.

Towards the end of his life, his faith in his religion became firmer than ever. Franklin preached indulgence in religion, but his reason for doing so also exemplified his rational beliefs; that it helped people behave better. He was an apostle of tolerance and left statues of this belief in the form of funds that he built for every religious sect in Philadelphia. Letters from the last days of his life are replete with his religious beliefs.

The very last letter that he wrote was to Thomas Jefferson, his spiritual heir to the nation.

His condition began to worsen and reached an all-time low. The final blow came on 17th April 1790, when Benjamin Franklin succumbed to an abscess which had burst in his lung. His funeral procession was a grand display of everything that the great man had achieved in life; throngs of admirers led by clergymen of every faith walking hand in hand to pay respect to one of the greatest Americans to have ever lived. Benjamin Franklin was a total badass indeed.

 

How Finance Is Central to Business Management | Earnings Management “Chainsaw Al”

Chainsaw Al & the Sunbeam Case:

To unpack this story, first we need to look at the industry; Sunbeam is not particularly profitable in 1996 and they need a new CEO. Sunbeam is a seller of BBQs, dough mixers and other electronics appliances. They are selling discretionary items and counter-balance summer products with winter product lines. They are manufacturers and not retailers with a Buy/Make breakdown of 70/30. If they had inelastic demand, that would have near monopoly power. However, Sunbeam has elastic demand. They have a competitive market where prices are low. At it’s core Sunbeam is a Cost Leader with razor thin margins.

Enter “Chainsaw” Al Dunlap. A man who famously sold Scotts Paper to Kimberly Clark for $7 billion dollars. Dunlap built his career in the paper mill industry where cutting costs is relatively clear cut in the sense that those types of firms do not have the diversity of product lines that a Sunbeam has.

Incentives Alignment? Dunlap was brought on at Sunbeam to turn around that company’s profit performance. His salary was $1 million dollars. He also signed with extensive stock options which is typical of a new CEO. However, with Stock Options, you have a very serious concern around incentives. The CEO is incentivized to crave volatility since you can make more money if the stock price goes over the Option strike price. If the Option is for shares at $50, then you, as the CEO, will take risks to get it past that threshold so that you can cash out part of your options. And what’s the worst thing that could happen anyway? You miss your target then you get no funds because you wouldn’t action your Options in that scenario.

Challenges at Sunbeam

What were the changes that Al Dunlap implemented as the new CEO of Sunbeam? There are two ways to increase net income; either you increase your prices thereby driving revenue upwards or your decrease your operating expenditure thereby driving costs downwards.

So what were Chainsaw Al’s strategy?:

  • Cut back on non-core businesses;
  • Reduced the head count by half and engaged in divestitures of non-core businesses;
  • Products and stores development;
  • Centralized decision-making at head office;
  • He fired the senior management at Sunbeam and replaced them with his own team from Scotts Paper;
  • Aimed to increase international sales by 300%;
  • Used confusion about the company direction to his advantage;
  • Dunlap aimed to double revenue by 1999; Dunlap gave himself extremely myopic targets around profit margins.
  • He also called to the end of any debt within the year.
  • And he engaged in an effort to acquire other firms.

Chainsaw Al’s Narrative was Inconsistent and Paradoxical

  • The timing is a bit odd for the strategy he applies.
  • They wanted to innovate in 4 months in an industry that is Cost Leadership.
  • They are divesting while also expanding product lines.

Efficiencies on the one hand: Sunbeam is looking to cut costs, cutting down on the debt in one year, you can find a cheaper way to manage labour.

Growth on the other hand: Sunbeam wants to grow the business but typically, growth phases are inefficient, the margins should be very low, once you can’t grow anymore you return to efficiencies.

Two Options in Any Company: Raise the Price, Cut Costs

  • Interestingly innovation is an area where fraud can occur.
  • They have the impetus to manage earnings;
  • The board is eager;
  • Centralizing authority gives them power

ROE: Ratios on Equity: turnover income. What’s the formula?

Return on Equity = Net Income/Shareholder’s Equity

  • They want to diminish they debt as a firm.
  • The more debt, the more ROE you have because debt is anti-equity!

Let’s look at the 1996 versus 1997 period:

1996Net Income ’961997Net Income ’97
Cost of Goods Sold was 92%SG&A is cut
Debit PP&E UP
Credit Cash UP
UP
Debit Inventory Impairment Write Down
Credit Inventory UP (they sold the inventory anyway)
DownDebit Cash UP
Credit Revenue UP
UP
Debit PP&E Impairment
Credit PP&E
DownOverproduction UP
COGST Down
UP (but 1998 will look really bad)
Debit A/R UP (Bill & Hold)
Credit Revenue UP (Channel Stuffing)
UP
Debit Warrantee Expense
Credit Warrantee Revenue Down (too much expenses in 1996, I can take more expense)
Down

Assets – Liabilities = Equity

Assets UP – Liabilities Down = Equity UP

  • Inventory (Impairments)
  • Discretion when they do a write down.

Remember that profit = net income = net earnings

Accounting Adjustments

There are some commonly occurring distortions. In particular asset distortions, liability distortions and equity distortions. Beyond question is the fact that income statements effect the balance sheet and vice versa. So any distortion in overstating revenue will also appear in the balance sheet in overstating equity.

Recall that the Income Statement is basically:

+ Sale

  • VC
  • FC

= Profit

i.e. sales minus expenses = Net Income

While the balance sheet is effected by what is highlights in the box:

Current Assets                  Current Liabilities

Long Term Assets            Long Term Liabilities

Shareholders’ Equity

Recall basic Accounting Principle | The Only Formula You Need

Assets – Liabilities = Equity

If Assets (increase) – Liabilities (decrease) = Equity (increase)

Sales Returns: the product might be returned before I recognize the revenue.

Bally’s Gym: there may be a collectability issues. So you have membership policies that you lock down in a contract and so you recognize revenue immediately. You then have liberal credit policy where customers who didn’t want to go the gym still paid for it because of the 12 month contracts. However, what started happening is that the level of default was much higher. All the Gym’s were following Bally’s lead. However, you can only recognize revenue when you get the cash now as a result.

The Valeant Case: potential channel stuffing in 2015; when you have an entity that you technically own called Philidor and you sell product to that entity for $100 millions at a cost of $0, then the right hand is selling to the left hand. This is not clear that performance is working up to code.

The Alibaba Case: Alibaba “Single Day” have massive sales on November 11th of each year. However, the SEC needed to investigate them because they were recognizing revenue on November 11th as a barometer for Alibaba growth however, they were not also mentioning the rate of returns for these singles day items. They are overstated revenues because of the inadequate reserving for bad debts.

Conversely – understated because of cookie jar reserves (new CEO effect). The same effect occurs at Amazon’s Prime Day.

Asset Distortions

Receivables (channel stuffing and under-reserving)

Why might receivables be distorted: Firms using liberal interpretation of revenue recognition rules related to performance, measurement and collectability. It’s because of:

(1) overstated underlying revenue via techniques such as channel stuffing.

2) they may be overstated because a firm may be taking inadequate reserves from bad debts.

Conversely, receivables might be effected if the firm is engaged in “cookie jarring” by deferring revenue that was earned or taking on more expenses through excessive reserved for bad debts.

Receivables matter for firms where the business is providing credit to customers as an important aspect of doing business.

Where are Receivables crucial:

  • Any business where credit to customers is crucial;

Telltale Signs

  • Worsening receivables turnover from customers.
  • Others competitors are increasing reserves/customers doing badly

Case 1: Channel Stuffing at Diageo

Diageo: accused of channel stuffing. This liquor manufacturer is pre-booking revenue based on accelerated shipments to distributors, thereby overstating revenues, receivables and profits. So you need to undo the distortion: the adjustments we will make in the statement are as follows: You can pay lower taxes after adjusting.

So the impact on the balance sheet is considerable. With receive-able going down by $0.5 billion. So there is a $105 million income tax expense The adjustments lower the deferred tax liability; the implicit assumption is that no effect on the income tax reporting. If income tax is affted the impact will be income tax payable instead of deferred income taxes.

***The market anchors on earnings*** at the expense of long-term growth.

The market is overly focused on earnings.

Balance Sheet:

The inventory didn’t change that much with Sunbeam.

Case 2: Lucent Under-Reserving Adjustment

Lucent was effected by the dot-com bubble burst. Most customers were in the high tech space and went bankrupt. Lucent as a result increased their reserves only marginally. So if you assume that you would take an addition $200 million adjustment what will make? Deferred Tax Assets $70 million UP

This is an estimate; I want to minimize my bad debt as an estimate, so it’s a future benefit. There is an increase in deferred tax liabilities, we will have an increase in deferred tax assets.

Making adjustments for understated receivables: the adjustments. An analyst might undo this by increase net income, writing up the net receivables, reducing deferred tax asset

Accounting Adjustments

Inventory

Inventory ->

Why might inventory be distorted?

  • Overstated because of impairment charges not taken
  • Conversely – understated because of excessive impairment (new CEO effect)
  • Overstated because of deliberate overproduction which results in allocated fixed costs being capitalized as a part of inventory.

Where crucial:

Any business where inventory levels are high and obsolescence/style is crucial (manufacturing, retail, electronics)

Telltale Signs

  • Worsening inventory turnover
  • Others taking impairments/slowdown in demand

Case 3: Making Adjustments for Overstated Inventory:

In the fourth quarter of 2014, Blackberry states it was going to take a pre-tax impairment charge of $1.6 billion dollars> due to the failed launch of the Z series handsets. If the tax rate is 20% how would you adjust the income statements and balance sheets?  Inventory Turnover is Low in February. Blackberry takes a huge impairment: Reduce Inventory $1600 Down for the Z series handsets.

You will save on taxes, you don’t get the tax benefit if you XXXXX

Not a distortion per se – as they actually take the charge (often firms delay this)

https://www.forbes.com/sites/parmyolson/2013/09/27/blackberry-lost-nearly-1-billion-in-the-last-quarter/#16abfce86cad

So you have this pre-tax expense “20% with a Deferred Tax Assets of $320 Million.

An example where there might be a problem; Lehman Brother had a huge exposure and was not making any write offs that was a sign of problems there.

Accounting Adjustments

Fixed Assets (on Balance Sheet)

There are two main reasons that a firm’s balance sheet is distorted.

  • Ongoing (differences or changes in depreciation): The first is continuous or ongoing and happens because a firm’s depreciation policy might be systematically different from the industry.
  • Episodic (impairment charge delayed/not taken): Is that more episodic and happens because a firm does not impair or write down fixed assets.

Where crucial:

Fixed asset intensive business (manufacturing, mining, fast food, airlines).

Telltale Signs

  1. Worsening fixed asset turnover
  2. Others taking asset write-downs: if a peer firm is taking an asset write-down, an analyst should ascertain if this firm should also have an asset write down.
  3. Return on Assets: ROA consistently lower than cost of capital it may be a sign of impaired assets (asset not generating adequate returns).

The Financial Perspective in Business | Strategy Analysis

There are a few critical steps to engaging in Business Analysis and Valuation. In this post, we begin with Strategy Analysis by looking at Financial Statements themselves as a means of describing business performance.

Step 1 is the Strategy Analysis: What is the core strategy of the firm?

How is the kind of firm you are dealing with reflected in their financial statements?

This work requires an understanding of the Financial Statements of the firm. What would you expect of this firm based on the balance sheet and income statement? These types of questions need to be answered using the classic MBA training test of Identifying the Firms from their Financial Statements. In order to Identify the Firms, first you’ll need to group the firms by Industry. So here are some classic industry traits.

Remember – these financial statements do not have to be from the most recent year.

  • US Steel – manufactures and sells a range of steel products.
  • American Insurance Group – sells a broad range of insurance products. Revenues include premiums from customers and revenues earned from cash received from customers. Expenses include amounts paid out or expected to be paid out for claims.
  • Gillette – makes and sells a wide range of consumer personal grooming products. Has made a lot of acquisitions recently.

  • Hewlett Packard – the firm develops, manufactures and sells computer hardware, with a large part of the manufacturing outsourced.
  • Household International : A firm that lends money to consumers for periods ranging from few months to many years. A big part of expenses is the estimated uncollected loans.
  • Interpublic Group : A media services firm. Creates advertising copy. Purchases ad time and space. Revenues are commissions for these services. Has made a lot of acquisitions recently.
  • Kelly Services : A “temp” agency. Hires out temporary help.
  • Lands End : An catalog based apparel selling firm. Most revenues through 3rd party credit card. Sells own branded merchandise.
  • TJX Enterprises : Owns TJ Maxx and Marshalls – clothing stores. Sells bargain priced “famous maker” apparel.

  • McDonalds – Operates fast food restaurants, both thru firm owned as well as franchised operations. McDonalds often owns and leases properties to franchisees under long term leases.
  • Newmont Mining – Mines gold and other metals. R&D includes exploration costs, but can be zero if there is no exploration
  • Wendys – Similar to McDonalds, but Wendys owns most of its restaurants.

So, take a look at this spreadsheet and see which firm likely matches the above….

 

Answer Key: Identification

Start with what industry each of these companies likely works in. 

  • 9 & 10 R&D
  • 1, 11, 12 No Inventory
  • 1, 7 Receivables
  • 2, 4, 5, 8 Net PP&E (Property, Plant & Equipment)
  • 3, 12 no Long-Term Debt
  • 7, 11 Cash/MS
  • 5, 8 Inventory/COGS (Cost of Goods Sold)

 

Services businesses (law firm etc): (11)  and (12)

If you have a high account receivables that means other firms, customer owe you money. This makes sense, you would expect the accounts receivable to be rather large, as you wait for the client to pay you. If you have high Assets number relative to sales that suggests that your balance is about holdings rather than sales.

Financial Services Businesses: 1 and 7

I would expect your Assets relative to sales to be high.  Sales over assets should also be high. Financial Services also typically have a higher level of long-term debt.

Retailers : 3 Land’s End, 6 TJX

You would have marketing inventory here. Often renting space.

Branded (Supply and Retailers) (10) HP and (9) Gillette

Gillette and HP have high Research & Development costs. Branded firms also have SGA over sales ratios because they are heavily invested in advertising. If your cost of goods sold is low relative to sales that also suggests you have that markup indicative of branded goods.

Fast Food Chains: (5) McDonald’s (8) Wendy’s

Look at inventory divided by the COGS. – Fast Food are Price Setters!They have high turnover with perishable goods. They have some inventory and COGS is low margins COGS/Sales is low because of branding costs. They also have a high SGA/Sales due to advertising.

Recall that Franchising has COGS/Sales 70%

Wendy’s              Owns                    McDonald’s                       Franchising

Asset     100                                      50                          =             50

Sales      100                                      10                          =             60

COGS     70                                                                       =             35 COGS/Sales

Assets/Sales 100%

Industrial Businesses:  2 ,  4

Margin is 2%, they are “price takers/commodities” they have elastic demand. PP&E is very high in this case. The Balance Sheet should be larger than the Income Statement. They have high costs to sales COGS. Remember that balance sheets are snapshots of what I have what I owe.

You might have Ontario Mining Towns: boomtown lands 15 years, high fixed costs, risky business model. They have a lot of debt because they have assets as collateral. Junior mining companies have low equity so creditors are immense. The toughest part: Firm 2 is the mine: assets as collateral.

Upside: Creditor gets interest + principal.Down side: if the firms goes bankrupt you get the collateral. Creditors: unlike holder, creditor get small upside (capped) and a longer share of the downside.

 

 

MedTech Innovations Now and Beyond

Artificial Intelligence Meets Radiology

Artificial Narrow Intelligence is becoming a thing of its own with natural language processing also emerging as tools in healthcare. While IBM Watson is largely a marketing property, other healthcare giants are putting a real stake in AI. And coming up with semi-workable technologies. Note that AI is plateauing at the moment. Some sunspots include a company called Arterys which has developed a deep learning algo for radiology. Knowing folks in the radiology field myself, I would say that this could augment their scale-ability IF they as radiologists embrace and trust the algo to search effective. There will be push back of course, especially if the technology is cumbersome, requires a login, has a poor quality interface, the usual guaranteed problems. The iPad of the 90s WAS the PalmPilot so execution is essential for Arterys.

Cyber Pills Make the Fantastic Voyage

Nanotechnology is allowing for digestable computers to enter the body orally. The US Food and Drug Administration has approved the very first pill of this kind last year. The pill is called Abilify MyCite joining the ranks of pills with totally goofy pharma names. How about Track-O-Matic. Hmmm, maybe not… This pill has sensors that communicate with a wearable patch to confirm that the drug in the pill has been taken. That information is relayed to a smartphone for the forgetful patient or the family or team of clinicians taking care of the patient. In the event of a court order for, say, a man who is required to take medication as part of his or her sentencing, this sensor in a pill might come in handy. 

Medical ChatBots Are A Thing, Sort Of

AI chatbots like in the struggling Kik App are pretty terrible at the moment. In the next 5 years there might be more messaging capability but I would not recommend talking with a chatbot about your feelings just yet. The benefits of an effective chatbot with Artificial Narrow Intelligence is to engage people in need of a human therapist and can direct them accordingly. A company called Ada Health is providing this service in Europe as of 2017. It’s been tested by over 1.75 million people. Meanwhile in the UK, the National Health Service is using a chatbot app for providing medical advice thus drawing down the on call nurses. However, I can tell you that having a conversation with a real nurse over the phone when you’re having an asthma attack is the only way to go because they know which hospital to go to and can give you medically sound advice…expensive but valuable.

Virtual Reality in Health Care

Playing video games is one way to distract people from pain. It’s especially potent if the patient has never played a video game before. Cue the VR helmet and you have a great distraction. Of course, there are elderTech folks developing the sounds and environments of your grandparents youth: dust bowl, anyone? While there are over 100 million sufferers of chronic pain in the US and Oxycondin has terrible side-effects (and is a scourge on society), VR and video games have mild side-effects like the feeling that you want to crash your actual car after playing Grand Theft Auto for 5 hours straight. Look to see this technology applied more widely.

Roche and the Acquisitions of mySugr

mySugr is a diabetes management startup from the Alps (Austrian-side). They have already registered patients from all over the world. The acquisition was around $100 according to TechCrunch. The good news is that mySugr is now embedded in Roche giving that pharmaceutical giant a new competitive edge. Other pharmaceuticals will follow suit. Meanwhile competitors like Livongo and Glooko are likely to be emboldened to cash out at a higher price point. This tactic is a classic in pharma: buy instead of build. It’s not hard to predict that more such acquisitions will happen in 2018.

CRISPR and Gene-Editing Is Not a Fad

In 2016, experiments were conducted to demonstrate how to treat mice with muscular dystrophy using CRISPR techniques. Genome editing is a thing and probably is a path to curing cancer in my opinion. MIT is leading the way. Could this technology be used to manage potential mutations of fatal blood disorders through something called base editing? Yep. Meanwhile, China is also pushing forward on human testing with this technology in part due to less ethical approach to science. How do you feel about that?

Insurance companies want to give you better rates for wearing fitness wearables

Qualcomm and Xiaomi + other smartphone providers are signing up participants with a price of $1000 if the user meets their daily walking goals. Imagine being paid to be healthy? I wonder if there is a business model there? Certainly, I would like a tax deduction for my gym membership and a free pizza to balance the health benefits while I’m at it (kidding;-P) But seriously, instead of Stickk.com where you punish yourself for not meeting your target, how about a pool of funds to pay out to citizens who meet their person targets? Make the target hard to game of course. Insurance companies are all over this predictably, largely because, it’s not that interesting outside of the financial team in these firms. Make insurance marketing the greatest it always wasn’t:-)

 

China and Mobile Payments from the Wall Street Journal

The WeChat App is the one app that rules all interactions in China with Alipay increasingly falling behind. North Americans are afraid of bundled information. Everyone in China is purchasing with their information bundled for commercial interest and as well as the State. What is clear is that China is ahead of the Western world in mobile technology but then again so is Africa….

Why We Aren’t Getting Super HD on Netflix

Netflix Logo Not PixelatedNetflix video resolution can sometimes be really pixelated & low quality compared to Hulu so I wanted to find out exactly why. With your big screen TVs in homes everywhere, you might be watching House of Cards season 2 but it may not be as crisp as you had hoped. You might find yourself thinking: “Why does Netflix look so bad on my TV?”. Even when the show is supposed to be in “SuperHD” (which equals 1080p) you may be staring at standard quality. And if you are trying to watch old episodes of say…..StarTrek Next Generation then you are likely going to see pixelated faces as well. So how do we get Super HD on Netflix and higher quality resolution on retro TV shows of yesteryear?

Kevin Spacey Pixelated Images

The SHORT answer is you CAN’T do much to fix this pixelation problem other then wait for Netflix to boost its delivery quality over time. Millions of people share this network problem but don’t have an avenue to complain to Netflix OR are too used to low quality streaming via the black market of online streaming to really care. Old-school business thinking would say that if customers aren’t complaining there isn’t a problem but Netflix knows its unique selling proposition is tied to delivery & quality. So, apparently you can’t get top quality because Netflix is structured to deliver bandwidth through it’s network based on demand for a given show AND based on the amount of viewers that are using the Netflix network. In other words, because there are about 1000+ watching the same episode of Star Trek, Netflix does not allocate that much definition to ensuring the quality of a low-demand show is high.

Deanna Troi Pixelate Images

Netflix would much rather allocate definition HD to their high demand shows first and then trickle down through their inventory of shows. The problem for top demand shows is that Netflix starts streaming sooner than top quality can be played because the company wants to be fast and deliver images at a reasonably high level as quickly as possible so that impatient users don’t get upset with the user experience. Then coupled with this quick delivery, the bandwidth (demand within the Netflix network) gets crowded by too many users and so full-resolution streaming is not possible. So if you’re staying in on a Saturday night, you’ve picked the wrong time to watch Netflix because so is everyone else and that means lower quality HD.

Netflix Network TreeIn sum, the most important factor to EXPLAIN WHY YOU CAN’T GET WHAT YOU WANT IS:

1) the time of day that you are using Netflix and whether that time of day is peak or prime for a high volume of viewers. When you are watching a show at peak hours you are sharing with a giant network that is ‘rationing’ bandwidth. In other words, Netflix is a net neutral system where everyone has equal access. Netflix is charging the same rate across the board and delivering a rationed system to the masses, so much for capitalism. On top of this network, Netflix is playing a game where they are trying to get the highest quality services across the network. Netflix is responsible for around 33% of all internet traffic in the US and Canada for hard-wired Internet connections, so their system is robust to say the least.

2)  your device or television is only a minor factor in quality (assuming your have a decent TV or computer built in the last 3 years). Folks online have written about A/B testing the quality of their 2 modern TVs side by side to determine MegaBitsPerSecond averages which range from 40 to 60. So the devices themselves aren’t really the significant factor in the quality of images on your TV screen.

Netflix Crappy Options

The Long-Term Reality>>>> Netflix didn’t have the ability to stream into homes until the mid-2000s so we can expect the resolution to gradually improve as the technology to deliver and received that data accelerates. Open Connect is their current solution to this data bandwidth conundrum. Open Connect would allow Internet Service Providers (ISP) to directly divert traffic through other infrastructure provided by competing ISPs in order to get data from A to B to C. This system allows users to view decent quality rather quickly. However, this Open Connect system is not being applied very much by the existing ISP providers who really don’t want to help each-other out that much except with price setting OR sharing cellphone towers for coverage. So given that networks are sharing some information, you can expect more ISPs to join Open Connect should customer demand push for it. As Netflix delivers UltraHD in 2014, expectations will continue to grow amongst consumers and Netflix will try to avoid lagging behind for fear that Apple or other competitors will swoop in and take some of their impressive market-share.

How the Stock Market Works | The Cartoon


The stock of a corporation is partitioned into shares, the total of which are stated at the time of business formation. Additional shares may subsequently be authorized by the existing shareholders and issued by the company. In some jurisdictions, each share of stock has a certain declared par value, which is a nominal accounting value used to represent the equity on the balance sheet of the corporation. In other jurisdictions, however, shares of stock may be issued without associated par value.

Shares represent a fraction of ownership in a business. A business may declare different types (classes) of shares, each having distinctive ownership rules, privileges, or share values. Ownership of shares may be documented by issuance of a stock certificate. A stock certificate is a legal document that specifies the amount of shares owned by the shareholder, and other specifics of the shares, such as the par value, if any, or the class of the shares.

In the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, South Africa, and Australia, stock can also refer to completely different financial instruments such as government bonds or, less commonly, to all kinds of marketable securities.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stock

In finance, investment is the purchase of an asset or item with the hope that it will generate income or appreciate in the future and be sold at the higher price. It generally does not include deposits with a bank or similar institution. The term investment is usually used when referring to a long-term outlook. This is the opposite of trading or speculation, which are short-term practices involving a much higher degree of risk. Financial assets take many forms and can range from the ultra safe low return government bonds to much higher risk higher reward international stocks. A good investment strategy will diversify the portfolio according to the specified needs. The most famous and successful investor of all time is Warren Buffett. In March 2013 Forbes magazine had Warren Buffett ranked as number 2 in their Forbes 400 list. Buffett has advised in numerous articles and interviews that a good investment strategy is long term and choosing the right assets to invest in requires due diligence. Edward O. Thorp was a very successful hedge fund manager in the 1970s and 1980s that spoke of a similar approach. Another thing they both have in common is a similar approach to managing investment money. No matter how successful the fundamental pick is, without a proper money management strategy, full potential of the asset can’t be reached. Both investors have been shown to use principles from the Kelly criterion for money management. Numerous interactive calculators which use the kelly criterion can be found online.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Investment

A stockbroker is a regulated professional individual, usually associated with a brokerage firm or broker-dealer, who buys and sells stocks and other securities for both retail and institutional clients, through a stock exchange or over the counter, in return for a fee or commission. Stockbrokers are known by numerous professional designations, depending on the license they hold, the type of securities they sell, or the services they provide. In the United States, a stockbroker must pass both the Series 7 and Series 63 and or Series 66 exams in order to be licensed. In most English speaking venues, the two word term stock broker, like stock brokerage, normally applies to the brokerage firm, rather than to the individual.

While the term “stockbroker” is still in use, more common terms are “broker”, “financial advisor”, “registered rep.” or simply “rep.” — the latter being abbreviations of the official Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) designation “Registered Representative,” obtained by passing the FINRA General Securities Representative Exam (also known as the “Series 7 exam”) and being employed (“associated with”) a registered broker-dealer, also called a brokerage firm or (in the case of some larger money center broker/dealers) a “wirehouse”, typically a FINRA member firm.[7] Other FINRA licenses or series exams exist. Although individuals holding some of those licenses, such as the “Series 6”, cannot be called stockbrokers since they are prohibited from selling stock and are not trained or licensed in the full array of capabilities of a Series 7 stockbroker (see list of securities examinations). Selling variable products such as a variable annuity contract or variable universal life insurance policy typically require the broker to also have one or another state insurance department licenses.