Thursday, October 30, 2008


People in the Middle

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Who is dragging down whom?

In a column on her website today, Arianna Huffington notes that 'Republicans are increasingly worried that McCain is losing in a way that "threatens to take the entire Republican Party down with him."'

I'm a fan of Huffington, although she is well to my left politically. And even if she doesn't say so, I think she understands that John McCain is not the problem. In fact, the original independent-minded McCain was probably the Republican who would have had the best shot at keeping the White House out of Democratic hands. No, it is the maverick McCain who has been dragged down by the knee-jerk, business-as-usual GOP establishment. You know, that guy who rejected all forms of torture and disagreed with tax cuts for the wealthy. Remember him?

If Obama wins, as everyone expects, the fear-mongering, negativity and dirty politics that have been so successful for George W. Bush will have defeated John McCain once again. The sad part is, McCain went along with it this time.

By the way, Democrats need to take a break from chicken-counting and take better care of the eggs. This is not yet a done deal, and premature triumphalism is a good way to let it all out of the bag. (There, did I mix enough metaphors to be considered a pundit?)

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Friday, October 24, 2008


Whose GOP is it, anyway?

This week the Huffington Post has dueling op-eds from the Goldwater family. First, granddaughter CC Goldwater weighed in with why her grandfather, an old-fashioned libertarian-style conservative, would be unlikely to vote for Republican John McCain this year.

Then, today, Barry Goldwater, Jr. (CC's uncle) had his say in a piece titled "Why Barry Goldwater Couldn't Support Obama." I was going to post a comment on the Huffington Post site, but they keep losing my login. So here is what I think, based on the two Goldwater columns:

If Barry Goldwater, Sr., was alive today, I would like to think that he would be among the people who had been keeping the GOP from becoming the hyper-partisan, religious right, borrow and spend smear machine that it has become in the past twenty years. I would like to think that the small government ideals espoused by Ron Paul would still get respect from the mainstream of the party. I would like to think that John McCain would have been elected president eight years ago, retaining his own deeply held views on personal freedom and national defense, instead of being forced into this total sell-out that he has gone through in the last four years.

Goldwater, Jr. with John McCain

This year it has been tough to remember, but I started out as a Republican myself. Actually, my first registration was as a Socialist Worker but that was because there were some really attractive men in the SWP. We all have sins to answer for in our youth.

I was never a Democrat, and I'm still not. As far as I know, being a Republican does not mean I'm required to vote for whatever people or policies that the current party bigwigs choose to impose. I think that was what CC Goldwater was trying to say. If I order a green shirt on the internet and they send me a black one, I'll send it back for a refund. That doesn't mean I'm rejecting the color green. If I am in favor of small government and personal privacy and my GOP government sends me bedroom monitors and the Patriot Act, I'm not picking up that tab either.

I was interested to see what CC's uncle had to say about the current GOP candidates and why we should choose them over Obama and Biden. As far as I could tell, he was telling me to wear the black shirt in support of party unity. Party unity? They threw people like me out years ago. Meanwhile, the Democratic store over there is selling some pretty nice green clothes.

Conservative Icon Barry Goldwater, Sr.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008


I'm sorry. What I mean to say is, I feel terrible about what happened even though it had nothing to do with me.

Why does saying I'm sorry mean you are accepting blame and responsibility? How do you say "I'm sorry," to mean just I'm sorry as in I'm sympathetic to your situation. I always say I'm sorry when someone tells me their tale of woe; death, loss of job, leaky roof etc and then the response is often, it's not your fault. I never thought it was my fault-but I'm still sorry. Just wondering...

I work with kids. Fairly often, they make each other cry. As adults on playground duty or whatever our role happens to be, we almost always make the other child apologize to the one who is crying. Most of the time the child who has to offer the apology has not done anything deliberately to hurt the other.

The conversation usually goes something like this:

"The ball you threw hit Marika in the arm. Tell her you are sorry," or "Eli thinks you were laughing at him. Tell him you are sorry"

"But I didn't mean to hit Marika with the ball," or "I wasn't laughing at Eli."

"Are you happy that Marika (or Eli) is so sad? No? Then say you're sorry and maybe she'll (or he'll) feel better."

Sometimes they point out some factual extenuation, like "I didn't throw it, Laura did!" or "He's a big baby who cries about everything!" The fact is, though, children don't really have a problem saying they are sorry as long as it doesn't mean they are in trouble for doing something to the other child.

A lot of the apologizing that we require these days has nothing to do with assuming blame for anything. If we are sad that somebody feels badly, it should be okay to say so without implying that it is our fault.

There is a difference between expressing sympathy for another's distress, and admitting that you caused that distress. Adults often have trouble telling the difference. It is adults, after all, who have perfected the mean-spirited, insult-to-injury apology. You know it: "I'm sorry that you are such a thin-skinned, humorless jerk who can't take a joke," or "I'm sorry that you stood directly in my path like an idiot so I ran into you."

Unless they learn it from an adult, kids don't have the impulse to try and make someone feel worse. That impulse can be learned, especially by children who are used to being blamed and punished for things that really are accidents.

This is not to say that, as adults or as voters, we want to put people in a position to hurt others even inadvertently. I'm not going to hand a knife to a child who has shown a lack of self-control with a whiffle ball. There are issues of competence at stake, but I've found that most people really don't want to make the other kids feel badly.

Sometimes the words "It's not your fault" are necessary. Sometimes it's just a way of accepting the expression of sympathy. At times, it implies "It's not your fault but just wait until I catch the person whose fault it is!"

Last week there was a story out of Omaha about a man who was trying to sue God. Nebraska State Senator Ernie Chambers "had sued God in September 2007, seeking a permanent injunction to prevent God from committing acts of violence such as earthquakes and tornadoes."

There's a certain logic to Chambers' actions. At the very least, we all deserve an apology.

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Thursday, October 09, 2008


At least they're not boring.

Bill O'Reilly: The end of civilization as we know it? Really?

Ed Siegel has a good column in today's Boston Globe. It is called Watching Fox News: Don't Have a Cow, Man. Here is a sample of what Siegel has to say:

"....What do all these [Fox Entertainment & FX] shows have in common with Fox News? One word - attitude.

Fox heroes and antiheroes all exist outside of the establishment, repulsed by conformity, cover-ups, and cowering. Fox News casts itself in the same light with its stable of commentators. And just as Fox Entertainment often shoots various television shows more imaginatively than the networks, Fox News is formalistically different from the rest of the pack, with more energetic graphics, starker close-ups, etc.

And I have to admit that I get a kick out of Bill O'Reilly. I always enjoyed jousting with him when I was a television critic and he was host of a Channel 7 afternoon series, a Channel 5 commentator, and host of "Inside Edition," a syndicated tabloid show. In the Boston days, his former colleagues at Channel 5 laughed at him for his hubris. They would chortle - and I along with them - about his boasting that he would someday replace Chet Curtis as anchor at Channel 5 and, later, Peter Jennings after ABC hired him.
Tom Brokaw: Not as much fun as O'Reilly.
Who's laughing now? Well, I am, the same way I laugh at the Labrador puppy who just relentlessly comes at my 2-year-old dog until she gives up and starts wrestling with him. It's a little bit like watching O'Reilly call Barney Frank a coward until Frank starts to "play" by calling him boorish and saying, "This is why your stupidity gets in the way of a rational discussion."

Great political discourse? No. Entertaining? Very.

Plus, why not have someone who treats politics differently than Tom Brokaw, Jim Lehrer, et al? Without O'Reilly, would Keith Olbermann and Stephen Colbert have their shows?..."

Ed Siegel: The man has a point.

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Monday, October 06, 2008


Do these people never learn?

On the day the news was announcing the failure of Washington Mutual, I got a "pre-approved" credit application from them in the mail. Then I went out of town for a couple of days.

On Saturday, October 4th, we received a highly misleading offer to refinance our mortgage. It was worded like it came from our present mortgage holder, with the disclaimer in tiny print at the bottom; it was worded to make us think we would lose our loan if we didn't refi with them. We've probably gotten these before but usually I throw them out without opening them. I was curious this time because of the timing.This one was dated September 30th.

On another (related) subject, Jon Greer writes an insightful column on for public relations professionals:

Ding-Dong! NYSE Needs Bell Ringers

By Jon Greer

October 3rd, 2008 @ 10:35 am

The New York Stock Exchange has long stood as the ultimate symbol of American capitalism. So the act of ringing the bell on the platform above the floor has long been a cherished PR photo op for CEOs, visiting dignitaries, celebrities, and other attention-seekers. The unmistakable message these bell ringers were sending: I’m a big fan of American capitalism!

So, in another symbolic sign of the times, the Big Board is having a bit harder time recruiting bell ringers, reports the New York Times:

“Right now, it can be a little bit like being asked to blow the foghorn on the Titanic,” said Jim Haggerty, chief executive of the PR Consulting Group, which advises companies on communications strategies.

For its part, the NYSE denies that it’s having a problem finding ringers:

“There is huge demand to ring the N.Y.S.E. opening and closing bells, and those people and organizations who participate are respectful of both the global recognition in doing so and prevailing market conditions,” said Richard Adamonis, a spokesman for the exchange.

Nevertheless, even the fact that this story is being reported is proof-positive of the mood change that is rocketing through society, with major repercussions on PR and marketing messaging and strategies.

In fact, I’ve been surprised to see continued financial services ads on TV touting the same message as before The Meltdown. I doubt that these messages are having much of an effect, beyond sending the “pulse” message (we still have a pulse). Over time, I expect these messages and strategies to change, though how, I’m not sure, since this crisis is far from over.

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