Friday, September 02, 2005


As the various victim's stories make their way through the swirling storm of Katrina media editors, it appears to me we have poked the true soft underbelly of our modern life...we are bombarded by blame.

Only four days in from 'the worst natural disaster in our history' and you'd think there had been dereliction of duty from the red cross, FEMA and, of course, the White House. Why weren;t they 'ready'?

One commentator links the disaster's effects to the FDA's decisions regarding birth control (,16441,1561356,00.html).

The tragic aftermath of Katrina has been blamed on, among other things:

New Orleans gay parade [] (though no evidence it was going to pass through MS or AL),

america's racism (though strange to contemplate that NO is overwhelmingly, um , African American),

abortionists ( and

US involvement in Iraq (

...(and of course, global warming) [].

This hot air proves of course that it would be too simple to blame it on the hurricane. In our modern lives, even a tragedy this massive is like some sort of video game or moive...why should a category 4 hurricane across low lying, ocean front ground prevent aid from appearing like the speed with which we've grown accustomed to news and information appearing in front of us?

Many of us seem prepared to politicize every trauma...from the slightest to the greatest, there are thousands of axes out there, just waiting for the next news-grabbing grindstone. Somewhere in the mess of sparks and smoke, the truth lies...will we like it when it confronts us? The tragedy of poor decisions...of natures unruliness...of victim on victim violence.

And the tragedy of the universally understood, if not universally expressed, sigh of disaster relief. That sigh of relief inherent in humans that, thank God, this disaster did not befall us (does God pick favorites?)...

While some catch our collective breathes, and others take action, I hope we will be able to ride out the storm of shrill voices casting blame...and I wonder how prepared we are for the aftermath of that storm?

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

GM and the collapse of social security

A story on NPR this morning did the usual superficial media story on the impact of GM's announcement that they would reduce the workforce by 25,000. The host and guest discussed the obvious and made the statement "GM cannot solve it's problem without increasing the unit volume against which it can distribute its health care and pension costs."

I'm not an auto industry analyst, but I think that means they need to sell more cars. These health care costs were described as adding $1500 to the cost of each GM vehicle.

Whether that is too much or not enough isn't so important...clearly GM isn;'t selling enough cars...What I found interesting is that GM's decade-long workforce reduction plans have resulted in a state where there are 3 pensioners for every 1 worker. Clearly, the welfare state is found in a microcosm at GM. Perhaps there are instructive lessons to be learned about how such a system functions...or doesn't...right there in good old detroit. And when politicos start dissin' the conversation on Social Security in good old DC, maybe there's a parallel they should study in the heartland.

It's quite simple I think. People like fiction. Leaders are, by definition, people who don;t let fiction drive their decisions. Most people are not leaders...Leaders bring honesty about the consequences of decisions. Leaders are found among every social and economic class. Honesty about social welfare systems goes like this:

If more people in an organization (a company...a social system) are net consumers of resources (financial, intellectual, natural) then over time, people in other organizations (companies...countries) who are net producers will have control over the net consumers' resources.

Producers have the power.

To whom shall we grant the power over of our social system's resources? The people of GM have, unintentionally, granted control of their destiny to everyone but themselves...arguing who is to blame is inconsequential...everyone who is to blame will feel the consequences.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

When you are a hammer...

When you have a hammer, every problem begins to look like a nail.
--Someone famous examines blogs!

An interesting perspective on yet another technology term…

The issue of blogging and the media, as I see it, is that entrenched media interests continue to suffer the delusion that blogging and journalism are the same thing…and that the news establishment’s declining revenues are the result of a never ending amateur hour that recycles black market content. Blogs are a vehicle…like a web page…like email…like a bulletin board…like a mobile phone.

Sure there are blogs run by journalists, but there are also many more blogs that are little more than personal diaries or literary experiments…In either case, the point of blogs is that individuals have control. Individuals can choose to spend their attention with the content they would, both as consumer and producer, as critic and advocate… passive acceptance of what others decide is important is now a matter of individual choice…this trend is not the sole domain of blogs or the youth movement….it’s been underway in force for the last decade online.

What I believe traditional media is learning is that the value of their product is not in line with its price…the blogoshpere’s marketplace of ideas (just another subset of the internet) is correcting this in a way that gets their attention though high profile outings of celebrity new readers. Like any market, there will be mistakes (charlatans, demagogues and professional axe grinders). In that sense, the internet and it’s blogchild are no different than what traditional media has been doing to its audiences for years.

What we can expect is that honest, personally relevant human communication will always have an audience, whatever transmission vehicle it takes. This will not happen with one-size fits all messaging from inhuman corporate entities. To the degree we are able to help our clients connect more intimately with their audience, they should be successful. But like every other product or service hitched to technology’s efficiency machine, professional communication service pricing power will be under pressure to conform to a vastly expanded number of providers.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Power to the people

Goodbye Dan! Today is Dan Rather's last day on the CBS Nightly News. Rather made his mark by being aggressive in his pursuit of his truth...talking 'truth' to power as he said. So on this inauspicious occassion, we witness again the inevitable cycle of the hunter becoming the hunted, the famous transformed to the infamous...the self confident youth transformed to dottering old fool.

It seems that, like so many people, time has passed Dan by. In the midst of a great technological revolution, he failed to see that his ego had placed himself in the awkward position of being in power by having questioned power. And so as he and his truth-creating staff attempted to play king maker in the 04 presidential elections, they found themselves confronted with the truth of their wasn;t the establishment media that did him in, but rather the little people...the powerless masses for whom he proclaimed his life-s work...and the little people, creating a news network of individual blogs, emails and bulletin boards spoke the truth to Rather's self-important power and it swept him away.

Time will tell if Rather's career is remembered for its start, its end, or for little more than the dates it spanned...but one thing is certain...time brings us all full circle...those who use their time to pursue a greater truth subordinated to their personal beleifs, will always wonder what happened when others bring them face to face with the truth as it is...power to the people.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Responsibility for the eons

I see an article in Science ( ( that challenges the prevailing concensus on Dinosaur extinction...not a meteorite to blame, but rather global warming! Challenging the prevailing doomsday-from-outer-space scenario points out two things to me:

1. The recorded history of the planet [climate or otherwise] has no meaningful relationship to the records [climate or otherwise] of humans...human records represent so little, that they are incapable of being used to reach longer term using 1 minute of a 2-year-olds life to try and determine whether that child will be admitted to Harvard (or even that they would want to go to such a place!). In other words, it requires quite a bit of data to draw conclusions about things that can only be imagined.

2. Having the freedom to think something doesn;t mean that the thinker is free of responsibility for the consequences of their thoughts...hypothesizing what it would be like to kill your neighbor, and then telling them what you thought about, does not mean you won't be held under a restraining order, for instance. In other words, sticks and stones may break my bones, but words CAN hurt you.

So here's a thought...

Say global warming is real.

Further, say the combution of fossil fuels is responsible for global warming.

Do, then, the people whose words and images in the 1970s created an unreasonable fear of nuclear catastrophe--a China Syndrome in every town--now bear some responsibility for the rise in CO2 levels since then?

Arguably, as the % of electrical demand supplied by nuclear energy in the US lags below 19%, it's replacement by fossil fuels (particularly coal) has contributed to the assumed impact on global warming. Where are they who stopped nuclear energy? Where is Greenpeace, Jane Fonda and the multitudes of others? And when will they step forward to admit--with the mercy that reflection provides--that they made a mistake or two?

Then again, maybe Global Warming is the mistake.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

The politics of action

A book I read so long ago told me that one can pursue the path of knowledge or the path of life...but that the two seldom cross. As I've meandered along the dusty 4-lane of my own, I've noticed that there are those who seem to overthink and underthink...the overthinkers are slow to act (even when it may seem to be in their interest to do something quickly). The underthinkers, with little reflection, seem quick to do something...anything...even when it may seem to be in their interests to do nothing. The thinkers, nourishing themselves from the tree of knowledge, the underthinkers choosing the action of life. And so from these broad-based, bifurcated, media-friendly stereotypes, I set the context for something very individual and personal...6th-grade girls basketball.

You see, my own 6th grade daughter plays on a travelling basketball team. When we signed up for the team, we thought it would be a good way for her to develop some of her physical abilities around another sport. She'd get to do it with a slightly different mix of acquaintances and friends than her soccer team...and she'd be part of a program that emphasized competitiveness a tad more than the recreational league our park district runs. Oh how naive we were...the competition on the court it seems, is nothing like the competition in the stands.

I'm sure it occurs to every middle age person to question whether their life is exactly how they envisioned it would be when they were younger. Some people respond with a 'What me worry?' attitude that probably contributed to where they, in fact, find themselves at this moment. Others, perhaps, decide to do work harder, to be more assert control over their world in ways that probably contributed to where they, in fact, find themselves. And when this question gets answered by thinking or doing something through your offspring, well, that's like lighting a match in an oxygen tent.

Some of the team parents can be vicious...spending their time at the games--and after--talking to the other parents about the little the coach knows, how ineffective he runs the team, that type of thing.

So as the season enters its last 6 weeks, some parents continue to whisper among themselves with smug superiority at how much better things would be if someone else were coaching these 11 and 12-year olds. Meanwhile, the girls continue to play basketball and improve. The coach continues to coach to the best of his ability...and the whisperers keep wishing that what they think ought to be will somehow come true if only someone...anyone...would step up and take action...