Saturday, January 31, 2009

Credible Political Communication

The role of a communications director/team for an elected office is to share information with the public on what government is doing to address problems and to build/shape the political brand of the elected official in order to advance his/her political future.

It was well known during the 2008 that John McCain didn't know how to use a computer. He even admitted it in the spring of 2008. I understand the need to use new technologies to improve one's ability to deliver messaging, yet apparently McCain is now personally down with Twitter?

An effective use of Twitter is not to relay a politician's media and diplomatic tea schedule -- BORING! An effective use of Twitter would be for the elected official to build his political brand by relaying unique incite into their thought process or entertaining anecdotes from their lives (as a former communications director for a Los Angeles City Council member I can attest that all elected politicians have plenty of harmless stories that can be shared under 140 characters that followers would find of interest).

This does not entail for an elected official to understand or "get" Twitter -- although that certainly would help. A successful Twitter strategy necessitates an elected official to engage with their staff to ensure original, unique content.

To maintain at least some credibility here the McCain camp should just call the Twitter feed "The Office of Senator John McCain."

Friday, January 30, 2009

Chronicles of Politicians Gone Mad

I could not make this up... per the Independent Institute's blog The Beacon:

Earlier this month, Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) introduced a bill in the House of Representatives that would ban camera phones from having a silent mode when taking a picture.

The Camera Phone Predator Alert Act (H.R. 414) would “require any mobile phone containing a digital camera to sound a tone whenever a photograph is taken.”

You know you have been in office far too long when you introduce crap like this. Leaving aside the issue on whether the government should be regulating the free market in the first place (if consumers wanted the feature a phone company would certainly enable this option -- it's just a simple software update) can anybody -- somebody? -- please explain to me why it is in the public's interest for the government to get involved in something as trivial as this.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Innovate or Die

While Americans remain fearful for the economic future of our nation their is reason for hope (beyond finally having a POTUS that is competent). As reported recently by the Financial Times:

the United States, despite its current economic woes, remains the world’s most innovative economy, with unrivalled business sophistication and competitiveness, according to a new study by INSEAD, the Paris-based business school.

The Global Innovation Index – released in New Delhi on Tuesday – looks far beyond traditional indicators of innovation such as the percentage of gross domestic product spent on research and development, numbers of engineering graduates, and numbers of patents obtained and scientific papers published each year.

Instead, the index seeks to measure an economy’s potential for a broad range of innovation – including social, marketing, and business innovations – by assessing its institutions and policies, infrastructure, and business and market sophistication as well as people’s skills.

The key for America to maintain it's role as the indispensable nation is to ensure our culture, economy and societal institutions continue to adapt to future challenges and opportunities. Although it is disturbing to read reports that our nation's youth score poorly in mathematics and sciences compared to other developed nations, technical knowledge will not in of itself guarantee our nation's preeminent role in global politics, national economic growth or high paying jobs for the next generation. Certainly a fundamental understand of one's field is essential, yet the ability to apply creative, innovating thinking to problems is the crucial element that differentiates talent and establishes power.

So keep the INSEAD report in mind tomorrow when the government announces an expected 5.5 percent drop in GDP for the fourth quarter. Hope is more than a slogan.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

You Run Your House Differently?

If there wasn't enough already on Obama's inbox...

The Wall Street Journal has a must read article online on the U.S./Chinese relationship. Apparently the Chinese government had no idea how exposed it was to Fannie, Freddie and the U.S. financial system until last summer. Needless to say they are not too happy they took a serious financial hit as a result of the collapse of the U.S. financial sector. To make this point to the new administration -- especially after Treasury Secretary Geithner appealed to U.S. politist demand by blaming China for manipulating their currency (perhaps this was necessary for U.S. domestic constituencies, yet I disagree on Geithner's analysis and this clearly angered the Chinese) -- Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao became the first Chinese premier to visit the World Economic Forum. From the WSJ:
Leaders in China, the world’s third-largest economy, have been surprised and upset over how much the problems of the U.S. financial sector have hurt China’s holdings. In response, Beijing is re-examining its U.S. investments, say people familiar with the government’s thinking. …

Chinese leaders have felt burned by a series of bad experiences with U.S. investments they had believed were safe, say people familiar with their thinking, including holdings in Morgan Stanley, the collapsed Reserve Primary Fund and mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

….. The Reserve issue “is causing a lot of concern with a lot of financial institutions in China,” said the Chinese official. Some officials expected that the U.S. and its financial institutions would better protect China from loss. “If the U.S. is treating us this way, eventually that will be enough cause for concern in the stability of the [U.S.] system,” the official said.

Around October, a lengthy Chinese-language essay began circulating on the Internet excoriating Mr. Lou and other top CIC officials, along with Zhou Xiaochuan, China’s central bank governor, for being too close to the U.S. and then Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. The diatribe quickly gained wide circulation in Chinese financial circles. One passage charged that Mr. Zhou “colluded with Henry Paulson to buy U.S. bonds, forced [Chinese yuan] appreciation, attached China’s economy to the U.S. and broke China’s economic independence.
Brad Setser, a fellow for Geoeconomics at the Council on Foreign Relations, discusses the article and his role in bringing to light the extent China invested in U.S. agencies and financial institutions in a must read blog post. In his own words:
China’s leaders have a major problem. They have accumulated an enormous quantity of US assets as a result of their efforts to manage China’s exchange rate But they don’t have a mandate to lose money investing the public’s money abroad. China’s losses have generated a public outcry. However, avoiding credit losses means piling into Treasuries and — well — that has risks of its own.
I don't think people realize how delicate political institutions around the world are right now -- especially China. With exports expected to drop off 19 percent and with a GDP growth rate of only 5-6 percent in 2009 (8 percent considered necessary to avoid social unrest), the Chinese people will not be in a forgiving mode as the country loses millions of jobs. As such, the situation in China could deteriote to the point:

1. The current Chinese government resorts to nationalism to stabilize their political power... threatening ties to the United States and Japan;
2. Civil unrest throughout China provokes a massive backlash by the government that has the whole world in an uproar over human rights abuses (think Tieneman, whose 20 year anniversary is this summer, ... yet potentially 25 times bigger; or even
3. A coup within China replaces the current leadership with a nationalistic military regime.

Alright, now this is all very pessimistic. The point is that we must work with the current Chinese leadership to try and stabilize the situation in China as much as possible. Stop the economic populist attacks in China -- your only going to get a response back from China that makes the situation worse!

While I firmly believe China must eventually open up its political system and become a democracy, now is not the time for us to be pushing this agenda. The alternative to the current Chinese leadership is not a constitutional democracy, it is something far nastier that would not only harm the people of China -- it would damage our national security interests and the future growth of the global economy.

Join Sarah 2012

It has begun. Sarah Palin has started a political action committee -- a significant step to running for national office. The thought of this woman running our country and the free world is truly a terrifying thought. If nothing else I hope the Democratic Party and "progressive" interest groups learned their lesson from the years of George W. Bush... namely do not dismiss a political rival as stupid and expect enough Americans to agree with you that the individual is clearly not competent enough to hold the office of POTUS. A 2004 election of Obama vs. Palin would be absolutely entertaining. Not only would Palin fill the national void left by Bush 43 of embarassing comments made by elected officials (although Biden is trying his damnest), a loss worse than McCain's would further damage the credibility of the religious right as a viable ideology for the GOP.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Symbolism of Change

Image of the Naval Observatory (residence of the VPOTUS) found on Google maps prior to January 18, 2009.
Image of the Naval Observatory (residence of the VPOTUS) found on Google maps January 18, 2009.
Not to get to caught up with the symbolism of change and a new commitment to transparency from the office of the President of the United States... Although Obama might secretly be wishing that Biden would spend as much time in undisclosed locations as Cheney did in the role of VPOTUS after events such as this.

- Thanks for pointing this out to me Kaner.

First Break with the New Administration

So apparently Obama is routing for Pittsburgh to win the Super Bowl. Makes since as Pennsylvania is far more important electorally than Arizona and Pittsburgh's owner, Dan Rooney, switched sides to support Obama in the general.

As a Cowboy fan I simply cannot route for a team that threatens to pull one Super Bowl championship ahead of us for the NFL franchise lead in Vince Lombardi trophies. Although Kurt Warner absolutely killed me in the championship game of one of my fantasy football leagues I hope he has one more outstanding game left in him.

Least Politically Astute Comment of the Month

"Frankly, we're spending like crazy so there's no concern about the deficit for the next two or three years. That's one of the good news is that we can do health care now because we have to grow the economy. We must do it. That's a good thing."
Emphasis added. Question for Bill Clinton.... when do we NOT have to grow the economy?

Although their are a myriad of reasons why we must reform how Americans receive health care, I highly doubt any effort to reform health care in America is going to substantially aid the economy in the short term. This is not China where many save up to 40 percent of their incomes to ensure they have the resources to pay for a catastrophic medical event.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Obama Reaches Out to Muslim World

Who would of guessed that the first television news network to score a personal interview with President Obama would be Al-Arabiya? The Saudi Arabian cable news network with an audience of 23 million in the Gulf region landed a huge get today with a wide-ranging interview discussing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Al-Qaeda and America's relationship with the Muslim world.

Although Obama is not going to magically repair lingering distrust, hatred and suspicions Muslims have toward the West, today's interview was certainly a positive first step. It is nice to actually watch an interview our President provides to a foreign news outlet and not cringe knowing he is the face of America to the world.

More Change I Can Believe In

I'm pleased to read one of Obama's first acts in office was to sign an Executive Order requiring the closure of Girmo within one year. Much to my pleasant surprise Obama went further than expected by declaring:
The Order also prohibits reliance on any Department of Justice or other legal advice concerning interrogation that was issued between September 11, 2001 and January 20, 2009.
A solid first step by Obama to demonstrate his committment to civil liberties and the constitution.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Demise of the Printed Daily Newspaper

It is no secret that the traditional model of the daily newspaper is no longer functional. The "golden" age of print journalism -- when printed daily newspapers held a monopoly on the ability to deliver information to the consumer of news whenever the consumer wanted to access the information -- is over. While the news consumer could and did access information from the radio or television, nothing compared with the convenience of reading the newspaper when one wanted and without being at the whim of what order a radio/television news producer arranged news pieces.

This monopoly on accessing the attention of consumers enabled printed daily newspapers to charge very lucrative fees to other firms/organizations/individuals who wished to rent a part of the printed daily newspaper deliver mechanism to market to consumers.

The printed daily newspapers (PDN) has faced challenges to its monopoly of delivering information before (radio, television). While in the past the PDN was able to adapt and even grow stronger by eliminating evening editions and further consolidation it has never faced a challenger that attacks its core strength -- the ability to deliver information to the consumer on demand.

Yes, the fact that the Internet can deliver news to the consumer faster and cheaper certainly is a major factor in the demise of the PDN. However, radio delivers information to the consumer faster and cheaper and the newspaper has been able to survive -- and thrive -- in spite of this competition. The reason the Internet is destroying the PDN business model is because it does what radio cannot -- provide information to the consumer in a manner that empowers the consumer to decide what and when they access information/entertainment.


How soon will the PDN last? My not so bold prediction: at most four newspapers print seven days a week by the end of Obama's first term.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Brief Take on Latest Middle East Conflict

I totally disagree with the EU that the invasion is not justified. If a neighboring political entity is firing rockets to kill your people and cause financial harm you are totally justified to retaliate.

The bigger and more relevant question is whether is was the most effective response in the larger scheme of things. That is still to be determined, and it looks increasingly likely that this retaliation was not the wisest of policy actions.