Something to think about over this Independence Day weekend

This week, the Chinese unveiled the largest sea bridge in the world. It only took them four years to build this at a cost of $2.7 billion dollars. They used Chinese engineers and Chinese labor. No American intellectual capital was sought out as none was needed.

Earlier this week, the New York Times ran a story about how the Chinese were supplying the finished rails to replace aging infrastructure on the Oakland Bay Bridge. It was cheaper to build in China and ship over the Pacific Ocean than to make in the United States. My guess is there was too much pain-in-the-butt-ism on who was going to pay for it, some Congressman railing over rejecting stimulus money for infrastructure projects, stuff like that to make it worthwhile to “make in the USA” before the bridge collapsed on itself.

And this week, Congress spent most of the time on vacation or railing against the president on how he insulted them by “lecturing” to them like the dick he is. And all I could think of when Rand Paul, Mitch McConnell or John Boehner was talking is why the Chinese showed up for work, rolled up their sleeve and built bridges while these guys whined.

Something to think about on our Independence Day weekend. If the Chinese keep up this pace, I wonder how long we will be independent from them.

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What Barack Obama is teaching brands and media about young consumers’ brand loyalty

barack

The news media is all abuzz about explanations as to why Barack Obama voters did not come out to elect Jon Corzine in New Jersey and Creigh Deeds in Virginia. It must be the Obama effect or a referendum on the Obama administration spending, health care, etc. And they seem genuinely surprised!

It’s just not that complicated.

The voters are loyal to Barack Obama, not the DNC brand. Nor are viewers loyal to NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox etc. In fact, the generation of voters is almost brand-blind within categories of products, services and yes, even political candidates. It doesn’t matter to them that someone has an (R) or a (D) after their name. That is so pre-Obama.

They care what the message is. They care if the candidate is speaking to them about issues they are passionate about.

And brands can no longer count on a generation of consumer to buy new products based on their brand reputation. This generation easily mixes iPods and Dell computers, Adidas shirts and Nike shoes, McDonald’s fries with Wendy’s frosties, Big Bang Theory (CBS) with The Hills (MTV).

But, the media continues to roll out the pundits who keep talking until they start believing their own spin. The scarier part is I think Sarah Palin and the GOP understand the issue. Sarah Palin is spinning herself as a product without a big brand label. Watch this for 2012 and see how right I am.

Brand loyalty is dead. Function and style is it.

Dear Minority Leader John Boehner; this I fear more

A few days ago, I saw a video of you saying that Americans most fear the US Federal Government is spending beyond it’s means and that we are leaving a mountain of debt to our kids and grandkids. (I can’t find it right now, but when I do, I’ll post it.)

I think you are wrong.

Here is a short list of things that I fear more than the Federal Government spending getting out of control.

– I fear that my health insurance company, Blue Cross/Blue Shield will send me a letter in March, 2010 stating they no longer want me as a customer because I am getting too old to be in the “sweet spot” of profitability for them. My insurance renews on April 1st of each year which gives me thirty days or less to find an insurance company to take me.

– I fear that I will have a heart attack during the next four years, causing me to spiral into bankruptcy during a time when my daughter most needs me to be able to help her with college tuition.

– I fear that the City of Englewood will assess me an outrageous fee to arbitrarily replace the curbs and water supply infrastructure in front of my house, oblivious to the recession going on around us.

– I fear that I will be diagnosed with a medical condition that my insurance company will not pay to treat.

– I fear that I will get a letter from some tax department in Ohio (county, city, state) claiming I owe a bucket of money to them and they will hang on like a rabid dog because they are running a deficit themselves.

– I fear that some of my right-wing, gun-happy, God-fearing neighbors will become irrationally scared of losing their country to “those who are not like us” that they will do something stupid that will endanger me, my family and my home.

– I fear US Representatives who can afford to live in West Chester, OH and stay tan all year losing touch with their constituency* and start erroneously claiming to know what Americans are most fearful of. I also fear these same Congressmen categorically dismiss and oppose ideas simply because they came from the “other party” with no thought or analysis.

– I fear the loss of rational thought and civil discourse.

– I fear the decline of the quality and breadth of education available to our younger generations that will further doom them to become less competitive in an increasingly global marketplace.

– I fear the increasing selfishness and short-sightedness of parents who teach their kids that the President of the United States of America is not worthy of their attention or respect.

– I fear a society that believes it to be permissible behavior that a Congressman disrespect a sitting US President in public. On TV.

There are many more things, but this list is probably long enough.

Mr. Boehner, I fear a lot of things more than I fear the US Federal Government putting us in debt. If you had to live in the day-to-day world that your actions in Congress create, you may possibly also share these fears.

Please, Mr. Boehner, please think before you talk in hyperbolic terms. Please think about what consequences your words have. Please think that possibly things like fear, hatred, distrust and violence may be a worse legacy to leave to our kids and grandkids than debt.

——

*I know, Mike Turner is my rep, but he never gets the microphone and doesn’t ever read my blog nor return phone calls.

Kill the beast! The public option in health care reform

The title of this post is taken from the lyrics of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and explains what the right is doing with the so-called public option of health care reform. Love or hate him, Robert Reich explains the public option clearly, at least to us who laugh at the notion of “competition” with insurance plans. In Ohio, there really is none and opening up competition across state lines would do little to change that.

We don’t like what we don’t understand and in fact it scares us, and this monster is mysterious at least.
Bring your guns, bring your knives, save children and and your wives, so save our village and our lives!
LET’S KILL THE BEAST!

Professor Gates’ case is not about race, it’s about power

Here’s the story as printed by the Boston Globe on July 20, 2009. Here’s what I think really went on.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. From his Harvard University staff page
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. From his Harvard University staff page

Gates got home in the middle of the afternoon, the key got jammed in his door locking him out of his home. This was probably the last straw of a stressful, very long trip from China. He may have let out a loud string of curses that a neighbor heard. She called the police, thinking two men (him and his driver) were breaking into Gates’ home. When the police arrived, Gates had already gotten into his house. The officer (Sgt. Crowley) probably then asked to see some identification to make sure Gates was who he said he was. THAT may have been the very last straw and Gates started yelling at the Crowley, probably saying some very challenging things. We then had two alpha males, squaring off at each other. Only one had a badge, and he used it to win the battle.

Gates had all the rights of due process afforded him with the Fourth, Fifth and Fourteen Amendments of the US Constitution. But, at that place and time, Crowley had the power to arrest and detain him on nothing more than his judgment that Gates was acting “loud and tumultuous … in a public space.”

But Crowley is white; Gates is black. It is now a race issue. CNN rolled out every person of color they had on their staff, drummed up some others as pundits and ran with the race card. Lou Dobbs had an entire show last night on this, asking one inane question after another just to stoke up controversy (or run out the clock.)

But it should be a power issue. It should be an issue of why persons in the United States of America, white or black, feel that they are about to become victims at any moment in time of local authorities. Small business owners become victims of tax offices who send letters saying “you owe” a certain amount. Parents become victims of child protection agencies because someone saw them spank their child in public and cried “child abuse.” Teachers become victims of the students they seek to teach when they show a kindness with a hug, especially male teachers. Homeowners become victims of city managers who use the power of eminent domain to put walkways across their property.

I don’t fear a letter from the IRS as much as I fear a letter from the tax people from the City of Vandalia or the code compliance officer driving around Englewood in his little blue truck. For the IRS, it is never personal; it is simply a business calculation. Here is what you paid, here is what we think you owe, either defend it or pay up. With the local tax or government office, it always becomes personal. When you challenge the claim, you challenge the integrity and intelligence of the local official who decided you owe the money or the fine. If, you square off, they will use the entire resources of their office to bend you to their will. As Gates knew he should have, we bend to the will of power, pay our homage and live to fight another day. You let the small authorities win the battles so you can ultimately win the war.

But Gates had had enough of paying homage. He unwisely thought he could win the battle. He was wrong. Had he kept his mouth shut and cooperated with Crowley, he would not have been arrested and spent four hours in jail. This probably works the same with any Cambridge police officer, black or white.

President Obama knew this nuance, but he is black. And in the media, a black man can only think with his blackness. But, being a smarter man than the media, he bowed in homage to their pettiness. “Yes, you were right, it was stupid of me to say the police ‘acted stupidly*’ when Gates did as well. Mea culpa. Let’s all drink beer!”

By running with the race card instead of the local power abuse card, the media just gave up on what was the real story. The race card was easy to see, easy to frame, easy to produce. People on television are clearly white or not. It is easy to put up a black pundit against a white pundit, throw in a stupid host (yes, I said stupid) like Dobbs, tell him to stoke up the fire regardless of the discussion and that makes for great TV. Playing the race card is safer than exploring the abuse of local power because abuse of local power is too close to where we all live. We are all allowed to live safely under the US Constitution at the pleasure of the local City Council and local police. If you doubt this, get more than three people together with signs and go assert your First Amendment rights of assembly and speech in front of your local city offices. Let me know how that turns out for you.

We need the Gates’ of this world to challenge local authority, but we also need the media to recognize a situation for what it is, not the easy explanation they can spin just for the sake of a story the public can understand in seven words or less. Some people would disagree — some very loudly — but in many areas of this country, we have moved beyond race. But, we have not moved beyond power. We are still pitting the educated against the non-educated, rich against the poor, men against women, artists against businessmen, liberals against conservatives, the insured against the uninsured, employed against the unemployed, renter against homeowners, Christians against everyone else and dogs against cats. If there is a cage-match we can create for the sake of a news story, the media will create it.

But they won’t get too close to the truth. And the truth is, in America, regardless of what rights you think you have, it is always about how much power you can wield in the heat of battle. You really are on your own out there.

*The full quote is “…the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in in their own home.” Quite different in full context than just saying the “police acted stupidly.”

Sometimes a dog is just a dog

The New York Post issued a statement about the infamous chimp cartoon published Wednesday. (Here if you need to see it.) At the end they stated “Sometimes a cartoon is just a cartoon – even as the opportunists seek to make it something else.”

First, let me remind everyone that this is the New York Post we are talking about.

Now, a little bit of history about chimps and Obama. Just last summer.

I’m sure if the editors at the New York Post need access to YouTube, their IT people would probably relax the firewalls a bit. In the interest of credible journalism. Well at least in the interest of making up good apology statements anyway.

Once again, let me remind everyone that this is the New York Post we are talking about.

Sometimes a dog is just a dog.

It is not about the weather, people

President Obama walked about DC without a coat.. or hat or mittens.
President Obama walked about DC without a coat.. or hat or mittens.
Barack Obama made one comment about schools closing because of a little bit of snow. According to the Washington Post, he said:

My children’s school was canceled today… Because of what? Some ice? . . . We’re going to have to apply some flinty Chicago toughness to this town.

And he wasn’t really talking about the weather. What he meant to say was.

We’ve got an economic and cultural storm brewing and you all just better tougher up, quit your whining and work together to get this country back on track.

At least that is what I heard with my super-sharp canine ears. Schools may have been closed here in Ohio as well, but we still did our three walks that day. If dogs can do it…

I’m just saying.

People need hard times and oppression to develop psychic muscles. – Emily Dickinson

Annoying little kids at the New York Times

Yo-Yo Ma Photo by: Ron Edmonds/Associated Press
By: Ron Edmonds/Associated Press
Today, the New York Times is “the annoying kid at the magic show shouting, ‘I know how you did that trick!'”

Why did you have to spoil the illusion? Did we really need to know this? Why couldn’t you just let the magic happen instead of stirring a pot nobody needed to watch?

There are facts and then there is truth. The beauty of the music, the feelings of change, the togetherness of the moment is the truth. And you ruined it all with the facts.

Thank you. Thanks a lot. If you want to come over and kick me in the ribs, I’m sure that would make for a full day and you may be able to die happy, knowing you have kicked the crap out of everything beautiful.