Friday, August 20, 2010

Buhbye until mid-September-ish

Into every cranky life, a little vacation must fall. Like it or lump it.

So I'm outta here for a while. See you the second week, more or less, of September.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What Barack Obama can learn from the experiences of shafted chief marketing officers

Evidently one of the most insecure jobs in the world these days is corporate Chief Marketing Officer.

According to Target Marketing Magazine’s writer Lisa Arthur, who got her information from the Spencer Stewart executive search firm, the poor S.O.B.s who take the marketer-in-chief job typically last less than three years. Well, 34.7 months, to be exact.

Why are they getting canned? And what does this have to do with Barack Obama, his job, and the jobs of the Congressmen and Senators in his party? Plenty.

Suddenly, failed marketers sound like Obama

All you have to do is read the “key risks” (actually key failures) of Chief Marketing Officers, and change a word or two. Suddenly you’re in the Oval Office.

For example?

“Running marketing tactically,” was one chief marketing officer fault. Kind of the way Obama appears to be running legislation. Tactically it was easier to get Obamacare without a single payer option. And tactically it was easier not to give the economy the megadose of stimulus money ir should have had, instead of just a bank and auto bailout. And tactically, let’s fudge those exit dates in Iraq*. And for the sake of continuity, lets leave foxes like Tim Geithner in the henhouse. And on and on.

“Failure to build and unite left brain and right brain organizations,” was another. Think of this as “cooly logical” vs. “emotional.” The President ran for office largely on emotion. Remember? Where did "Yes we can!” that emotional rallying cry go now that we need it? Instead of inspiring the American public to demand his programs, he more or less delivers stumbling lectures. His real modus operandi is, “No we can’t with all those Republicans, so let’s settle for second rate.”

“Forgetting the number one stakeholder: the customer,” was another fatal mistake that Chief Marketing Officers make. Substitute the phrase” “your base” or “the good of the electorate” for “stakeholder” and we have another Obama bummer. The people who supported Obama heard about getting out of Iraq. We heard about a public healthcare option. We heard about immigration reform. And while I’m repeating myself, we heard “Yes, we can!” which was considerably more inspiring than what Hillary seemed to be offering. Now, a great many of us are wondering how bad a mistake we made in not backing Hillary.

Then there was “Being satisfied with the status quo and not pushing to embrace and drive change in emerging channels and technologies.” Let’s talk about those channels and technologies. We were supposed to have a big alternate energy push, remember? We were going to build new American industries based on clean, green technology. Had we had the equivalent of a space program or a Manhattan Project in energy, we’d be on our way to total energy independence, with new industries hiring researchers, building factories and creating new products. (Remember that the space program built industries as varied as microchips and nonstick frying pans, to name just two out of many.) Instead, we got yet another “compromise” — this time in favor of coastal drilling, just in time for the BP oil spill.

Do I hear an objection?

You may be saying, “But, but, all those Republican obstructionists….!”

Yes, I agree Washington is littered with them. Tea Party manipulators. Lobbyists who create corruption by bribing legislators with campaign contributions. Talk shows baloney artists. Liars. Subject changers. Flimflam artists. People who try to take the focus away from preserving Social Security so you’ll get worked up over a Sufi mosque two blocks (instead of what, six blocks?) from Ground Zero. Or changing the subject from the economy to where Michelle Obama takes her vacation. God damn the Republicans! They are doing more than Al Queda ever did to undermine the United States of America and distract our attention while they bomb the economy.

But they can be overcome with one thing. Which brings me to perhaps the most important reason why Chief Marketing Officers are getting fired:

“Forgetting that the ‘Chief’ in CMO means you lead.” That’s what Presidents of the United States are also supposed to do, Mr. Obama. Not compromising with obstructionists for whom no compromise is enough. Not attempting to placate those who refuse to be placated. Lead! Inspire! Build an overwhelming demand among the public for programs that would actually create a sound economy, a future for the young, a fair and sensible tax system, better healthcare, secure retirements and an exit from pointless, useless and wasteful wars.

We, the former Obama base, are not getting that from Barack Obama. CMOs who don’t deliver last less than three years. The Obama Presidency ought to have his four years and no more. It’s time for a Democratic primary challenger to enter the party’s primaries and for the Democrats to replace Obama.

Because if we don’t, the Republicans will.

*NOTE: A day after this post appeared, the exit from Iraqof the last of American combat troops was announced. Well hallelujah! Maybe Mr. Obama is trying to keep his promises after all. Or maybe it's pressure from people like me, calling attention to the way he has failed his base, that has moved him. Or maybe it's just the coming elections. Whatever the case, we're still leaving behind noncombat troops and oodles of "private contractors." Why I am suspicious?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

“Take this job and shove it” — a man, his meltdown, and yet another lesson about the evils of government deregulation

I can’t help but grudgingly admire Steven Slater, the JetBlue flight attendant who on Monday had just about damn enough.

Evidently, some self-entitled passenger got up and started taking his luggage out of the overhead compartment of a just-landed plane at Kennedy Airport in New York—before being told it was safe to do so. The bag fell from overhead. It bopped Slater. (In TV footage this morning Slater appeared to be sporting a raw-looking bruise on his forehead.)

A gorgeous rage—and a grand gesture

Irked so badly that it sounds like “pissed off beyond repair” to me, Slater got on the intercom and evidently chewed out the passenger in profane language. Then, possibly realizing that he had just blown his career anyway, he opened the emergency escape chute, grabbed a can of beer (some reports say two cans), and slid down the chute. Once on the Tarmac, he made his way to the parking lot and drove home. It's the best heroic flight story since Hemingway, if I remember correctly, slashed his way out of the jungle from a planewreck with a machete in one hand and a bottle of gin in the other.

Yes, yes, I know Slater's behavior was very dangerous to passengers as well as Slater. Yes, yes, it no doubt slowed returns home and takeoffs for uninvolved passengers on JetBlue and other airlines. Yes, yes, according to the news reports what Slater did was a crime. Yes, yes, he wildly overreacted.

And yes, yes, having flown a number of airlines, Jet Blue among them, I consider that airline among the best of a really and truly bad lot, which is about as backhanded as I can make that compliment.

All the same, Good for you, Steven Slater.

As New York Times reporters Andy Newman and Ray Rivera said in their lede this morning:

It has been a long time since flight attendant was a glamorous job title. The hours are long. Passengers with feelings of entitlement bump up against new no-frills policies. Babies scream. Security precautions grate but must be enforced. Airlines demand lightning-quick turnarounds, so attendants herd passengers and collect trash with the grim speed of an Indy pit crew. Everyone, it seems, is in a bad mood.

It’s been a long time, too, since flying was a glamorous way to travel, and for the same reasons. And this was so even before terrorism made simply getting aboard the plane such as hassle. Allowed to “compete” to the death (RIP Eastern Airlines, PanAm, TWA and others) the airline companies now compete to see who can more profitably treat passengers like dead sardines.

We weren’t all treated like cargo when the U.S. Government was regulating ticket prices, schedules, routes and other matters that have fallen aside in the name of a “free market.” In those days, flying was truly a glamorous way to travel (people used to get dressed up, not dressed down to do it.)

The so called free market (along with Ronald Reagan’s control tower union busting) has managed to make life miserable and more dangerous for everyone—pilots, cabin crew, probably ground crew, certainly passengers and of course any stockholders who are still reckless enough to buy an airline stock. Or who got stuck owning some.

The moral

Certain things are too important to be left to a bunch of guys who are out to put a buck in their own pockets. Among those — along with healthcare, military intelligence, your Social Security account, military security and probably fifty other matters — is the business of climbing into an aluminum tube and smooshing yourself into a tiny seat while the tube hurtles through the sky at 500 or 600 miles an hour.

In this case, I wish that instead of giving Steven Slater a rap sheet, someone would give him a medal for having—consciously or not—struck one of the rare authentic blows against deregulation.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

The curse of John Mitchell: How a middle of the road guy like me became a raving leftist—without changing any of my political opinions

Back in my Mid-20th-Century college days I was a centrist Democrat. I supported the tax structure as it was (I seem to remember that the maximum rate for the really, really well-fixed was up around 70 percent for part of their incomes. They grumbled, but I don't recall anybody publicly declaring it was "socialism." And by the way, the economy boomed under higher taxes.)

I, and all Democrats, and nearly all Republicans were for Social Security. At least that's even what most of the Republicans said. They didn't dare say otherwise or their constituents would have voted them out of office.

I hadn't heard the subject of Medicare come up yet, but I would have been for it. Years later, a more-or-less centrist Democrat named Lyndon Johnson came out for it. And got it. I approved.

I believed in a stronger national defense than we have today. There was a thing called the draft. I hated dealing with it, and I hated my days at Fort Dix, but I was for the draft.

(Vietnam shook my support for the draft some, but only because of Vietnam. In retrospect, the rising tide of anger among young people that they might lose their lives for what turned out to be a fantasy, and even the sympathetic anger of some of their parents, probably helped bring the war to a close sooner.)

Yesterday' centrist is
today's left winger

I still favor almost exactly the same things today. So how come I'm suddenly considered a raving leftist in my dotage?

I haven't found support for this during a quick dive into Google, but I distinctly remember John N. Mitchell, who was Nixon's attorney general, venomously telling a TV interviewer, "This country is going to far to the right you're not going to believe it." I'm pretty sure I'm not imagining that I saw the old sourpuss says this, some time before he did time for his participation in the Watergate scandal.

Well, the vindictive SOB was right. We moved so far to the right that we're even to the right of John N. Mitchell, who while a New York State official tried to borrow money in defiance of the voters with something called "moral obligation bonds."

Mitchell's dead. But his
evil curse lives on.

What's happened is, a huge chunk of Americans have gone so far to the right that they're now voting to destroy themselves.

They didn't object to national debt under George W. Bush, but now they're objecting to any debt that could turn the economy around, bring up the value of their homes, and get everybody working again.

In Mid-20th Century America, most middle class Americans didn't object to higher taxes on a small part of the income of the richest Americans, but now we object—even though it's the lack of taxation that will eventually destroy our national defense, our economy, and our own lives.

Most middle-of-the-road Americans lived with the draft — hated as it was — from WWI through Viet Nam. Say two good things for the draft:

1) The draft gave us a real national defense, for which we've now substituted a bunch of video games (like "Drone the Wedding" and "Blow Up Some Building in Bagdad") and a ragtag bunch of over-used, overwhelmed, exhausted and too-old soldiers who get shot and exploded to pieces without the nation troubling itself much about them.

2)The draft kept us out of some wars and shortened others. Had drafted Americans been dying in Bagdad while George Bush shrugged, mobs of enraged Americans would have taken apart the White House, brick by brick. The Congress is alert enough to its own interests to know they would be next, and not to repeat the civilian unrest brought on by a draft-fed Viet Nam.

Where do you
stand today?

What is now "centrist"—like Barack Obama—used to be considered conservative Republicans. What are now right wing Republicans used to be considered batshit crazy lunatics. And today's batshit crazy lunatics like the "Tea Party" party-goers, Michelle Bachmann, Sharron Angle, and Mitch McConnell, and John Boehner, and this week's version of John McCain would have been locked up in mental institutions because they're a danger to themselves and others.

So I'm a Mid-20th-Century Centrist, and if you think I'm a leftist, you're so far right that even John Mitchell wouldn't believe you and it's time for you to check yourself in at the funny farm.