Tag Archive: Winston Churchill


“Do I consider myself part of the casino capitalist process by which so few have so much and so many have so little by which Wall Street’s greed and recklessness wrecked this economy? No I don’t.” – Senator Bernie Sanders

Ever wonder why there are so few in the street carrying pitch forks?

Ditto for nocturnal torch-light parades?

Maybe the answer lies in the fact that Wall Street added $3.3 trillion in market capitalization (share prices x number of shares) since November 8. Translated: Investors are more than $3 trillion to the better since the election.

Whatever metric is used, the stock indices are sharply upward to the right: The NASDAQ increased 28 percent since the election, the S&P 500 is up 27 percent, and the Dow advanced 20 percent.According to Gallup, 55 percent of Americans owned individual stocks, stock mutual funds or managed 401(k) portfolios or IRAs in 2016. That figure is understandably down from 65 percent right before the economic crash in 2007, but it has been steadily advancing since then.

Almost DailyBrett will go out on the limb, and will contend the 55 percent number has grown since the historic 2016  election.

Predictably, the Gallup survey revealed that 88 percent of American families making over $75,000 are invested in individual securities, mutual funds and 401(k)s and IRAs. More than half of those (56 percent) making between $30,000 and $75,000 are invested in stocks.

The survey also revealed that 73 percent with bachelor’s degrees own stocks, mutual funds or invest retirement accounts, and 83 percent with master’s degrees or above also are investing in these same U.S. markets.

When one takes a second to ponder that 55 percent of middle-and-upper income Americans are participating in stocks, mutual funds, 401(k) portfolios and IRAs, the conclusion is obvious: America now has an investor class that is growing in numbers and wealth.

What’s the alternative for those investing for their retirement, their children’s education or that dream vacation? Bank interest rates that barely keep up with inflation? Speculative real estate? Stashing gobs of cash under the bedroom mattress?

And yet there was an ill-fated movement to tarnish America’s markets, Occupy Wall Street.

And now there are efforts in a handful of progressive states to impose a 20 percent “privilege tax” on the fees of financial advisors. Hmmm … wonder if this tax will be passed onto investors, the very same people who are trying to fund their retirement or college for their kids?

Attacking The Cash Cow?

“ … You could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the ‘Basket of Deplorables’. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it.” – Hillary Clinton.

“ … There are 47 percent who are with him (Obama), who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it … And so my job is not to worry about those people.” – Mitt Romney.

What do Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton have in common besides being guilty of lambasting literally millions of people in one unwise campaign utterance?

They both lost the presidency.

Winston Churchill once said: “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”

Wall Street will never be perfect. The playing field has never been flat. Having said that, far more win with stocks, mutual funds, 401(k) plans and IRAs than lose. It has been upward to the right on a jagged line since 1929.

Maybe that is the reason why America has a more-than-half of its working age population investing in global markets. And for those investing, the six-plus months since the election has produced a record modern-era, bull market for any new president.

Granted, there will be those in the streets who bode ill for American markets, favor “privilege taxes” to stimulate more compulsory redistribution, and are maybe just a tad nostalgic for the mismanaged Occupy Wall Street debacle.

Do they really want to attack Wall Street and by extension America’s 55 percent and growing, investor class heading into the mid-terms of 2018 and beyond? Are these overheated rhetorical thrusts, smart politics?

If they relish in glorious defeat, they can insult America’s investor class to the content of their bleeding hearts.

They also should consider and ponder that America now has a new quiet majority, who fund their dreams with a simple click of the mouse while watching the tickers on CNBC.

http://www.gallup.com/poll/182816/little-change-percentage-americans-invested-market.aspx

https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/06/01/statement-president-trump-paris-climate-accord

https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/markets/2017/04/26/millennials-and-investing/100559680/

https://www.wsj.com/articles/illinoiss-privilege-tax-proposal-forgets-citizens-right-to-leave-1495834522

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=5922&action=edit

https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/winstonchu101776.html

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/07/20/stuart-varney-trump-has-already-made-america-4-trillion-richer-with-just-six-months-in-office.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“One hundred and forty characters are suitable to expressing an impulse, but not an argument. It is the rhetorical equivalent of a groan, a shriek, a sneer or a burp. If reason and persuasion are what our politics lacks and needs, Twitter is not the answer.” — Nationally Syndicated Columnist Michael Gerson

At 71-years young, Donald John Trump is the oldest to take the presidential oath of office.

One would suspect a man of his age would be next-to-clueless about social media/digital technology — (remember out-of-touch George H.W. Bush and his amazement about the supermarket scanner?) — but one would be wrong.trump-twitter

Just as FDR used the radio-and-its-widespread-network for his fireside chats; Ronald Reagan five decades later repeatedly went before the cameras to go directly to the people and bypass Congress. Why should we be surprised that Trump is using Twitter to go around the media?

Agenda Setting Theory means that elite media (i.e., NYT, WAPO, ABC, CBS, NBC) pose the topics for the grateful masses to think about. Trump’s Twitter posts are usurping this cherished interpretive media role, and the ladies and gents of the Fourth Estate are not amused.

Have the Nixon days of the “nattering nabobs of negativism” returned with a daily war being waged between the elite media and the White House? Is the media appalled or secretly thrilled to have such an adversary to bring crashing to the earth?spicer

Sean Spicer is the present press secretary for the 45th chief executive. How long will he hold this job? Obama had three press secretaries (i.e., Robert Gibbs, Jay Carney, Josh Earnest) during the span of eight years. Almost DailyBrett will take the over on the question of whether this president will have three-or-more press secretaries.

One of the daily problems facing Spicer is pleasing his insatiable boss, while at the same time not getting eaten alive by the piranha covering the White House. Serving as press secretary may ultimately be rewarding in the form of a best-selling, tell-all book, but for now it is most likely the supreme thankless job on the planet.

Digital Is Eternal

“Are you insinuating that I am a purveyor of terminological inexactitudes?” – Winston Churchill

As California Governor George Deukmejian’s press secretary (1987-1989), the author of Almost DailyBrett never worried about whereabouts his my boss (e.g., the governor went home to Gloria, the kids and the beagles). Your author was never concerned about what he was going to say in response to media questions (e.g., The Duke’s political judgment was superb/his message consistency was outstanding), and what he did at night … presumably he slept soundly.

Spicer and the Trump communication team always need to worry about political judgment/discipline, and particularly what the energizer-bunny president is doing at 3 am … namely his love affair with Twitter’s 140-characters.trumptwitterhillary

Are the Trump communicators tempted to program their smart phones to send S-O-S signals every time the boss fires off another tweet? Heck, sleep is way overrated anyway. Think of it this way, when a POTUS tweet is sent from God’s time zone (EST), it is already 8 am in London, 9 am in Berlin and 11 am in Moscow.

For the media on presidential “death watch” (those who must stay up in the White House briefing room as the president ostensibly sleeps), they now have something to do: Monitor the POTUS Twitter account.

Is there any way to mitigate and moderate what The Donald decides to tweet, save being in the president’s living quarters at 3 am (EST)? Would he listen to his communication pros anyway? The hardest part of the job for Trump’s  press secretary may be responding to wire service calls at all hours of the morning to add color to a tweet that he saw at the same time as the reporters.

Some of the 140-missives may make perfect sense and will be consistent with the policies and the programs of the administration. Others … well, they could be about almost anything including inaugural crowd sizes or “alternative facts.”

Considering the government’s record of telling the truth has been less than stellar over the decades (e.g., LBJ’s “Credibility Gap” during Vietnam, Nixon’s “I am not a crook,” and Jody Powell’s “Right to Lie” during the Iran hostage crisis), are we surprised an administration is resorting to terminological inexactitudes?

What is breathtaking is the number in the first week alone, but more noticeable is the speed, namely through 140-characters or less Twitter.

How many tweets will POTUS fire off its cyberspace in four years or maybe eight years? Will there be any political-and-editorial discipline imposed?

Don’t count on it.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/why-a-tweeting-president-is-so-bad-for-our-politics/2017/01/26/9a6892a8-e3f0-11e6-a453-19ec4b3d09ba_story.html?utm_term=.06b7a51ec1ce&wpisrc=nl_opinions&wpmm=1

http://uspolitics.about.com/od/presidenc1/tp/List-Of-Obama-Press-Secretaries.htm

http://www.quotationspage.com/quote/33875.html

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2010/11/03/the-right-to-lie/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2016/10/12/the-other-side-of-the-story/

 

 

 

 

Or should we say the Pols are wrong?

The experts backed by polling originally told us: Britain will leave the European Union (EU).

Hold on. Wait … the polls and pols then said there would be no Brexit.

Global markets surged and the pound sterling gained strength against the greenback.

Ahh … the polls and pols were wrong once again. Can’t they get anything right?mobilelandline

Britain is indeed leaving the club. PM David Cameron resigned. The markets tanked along with the pound sterling and the Euro. It’s a mess.

What happened (again) to the “experts”?

Remember the elite pundits told us Donald Trump will flame out when the “Silly Season” turns to the “Serious Season.”

And then … The Donald will never win the Republican nomination. Certainly not.

Certainly, yes.

Why do we pay attention to the polls and listen to the pols?

“Two Nations Separated by Common Language” – Winston Churchill

Before we go much further, Almost DailyBrett will immediately acknowledge the political landscape of one nation does not necessarily equate to the state of affairs of another.

Some including the Daily 202 of the Washington Post are now hyperventilating that Brexit could very well mean that Donald Trump will be the 45th president of the United States.BREXIT ahead: UK leaves the EU

Let that thought permeate for a nanosecond or two.

Consider the contradictory news flashes from this morning:

Washington Post: New Post-ABC News poll finds support for Trump has plunged, giving Clinton a double-digit lead.

Wall Street Journal: Trump weathers stormy month on campaign trail, loses only two points versus Clinton — WSJ/NBC Poll.

What’s it going to be, political experts?

What may be certain in this most uncertain political environment is the electorates on both sides of the pond are anxious, full of angst and may be downright angry … and that makes them increasingly volatile and unpredictable.

The U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) of 2.5 percent for the past seven years, at least one full point under what it should be, is not and should not be accepted as the new normal.

Instead of celebrating globalization, free worldwide trade and technology breakthroughs (e.g., social, mobile and cloud) and having these all serve as symbols of progress, they are increasingly viewed as threats.

How long will it take for the machines to be cheaper than people (e.g., automated check-out, ATMs, robots, driverless cars …)? Each of these gadgets also has the added advantages of never whining, complaining, calling-in sick or demanding a pay raise.

The net effect: Far too many believe they are being left behind, and no one seems to care about them or that is their sense.

The U.S. unemployment rate is 4.7 percent according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And yet only 38,000 new jobs were created in May and labor participation stands at just 62 percent. And how many of these “employed” are underemployed, working less than 30 hours per week for zero benefits?

Something is amiss and it is not just in the new world, but obviously in the old world as well.

Land Line Surveys vs. Internet Polls

“Never in recorded history have so many been so misguided by so few.” – With apologies to the memory of Winston Churchill, if he was still around to sound out his opinion about pollsters and their surveys.berniemichigan

Hillary was supposed to blow out Bernie in the May 8 Michigan primary by 20 points; she lost by nearly two points.

The folks in the UK were increasingly expected to vote to stay in the European Union. Instead, they are leaving.

The polls are particularly wrong this year. What seems to be the problem?

Let’s face it, quantitative analysis has always suffered from the being a snap-shot-in-time syndrome. Polls are scientifically accurate with a 3.5 percent margin of error, 95 percent of the time provided the random sample is large enough … let’s say 1,000 respondents.

The increasingly difficult proposition lies with how one gathers a random scientifically valid critical mass of respondents to participate in a nationwide poll. The traditional way is for polling firms is to call registered voters on their land lines.

There were days when everyone had land lines. Those days have obviously passed, leaving the only folks with land lines to be older, less receptive to mobile technology, but at the same time they have a greater propensity to vote. Translated: These folks need to be surveyed, but they are not representative of a changing electorate.

The alternative is to call mobile numbers of the CPOs (cell-phone onlys) or a combo of mobile dialing and/or internet surveys. The advantage: This is clearly the wave of the future. The disadvantage: the mobile and PC crowd are younger and more educated, but with a lower propensity to vote.

The net effect of this discussion is a changing, volatile electorate that is increasingly difficult to measure with any sense of accuracy.

Can’t anyone get anything right?

Seems like a germane question at this point of time.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/daily-202/2016/06/24/daily-202-stop-underestimating-trump-brexit-vote-shows-why-he-can-win/576c89e9981b92a22d2dd3dc/?wpisrc=nl_daily202&wpmm=1

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2016/05/29/1978-all-over-again/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2016/01/27/why-do-we-listen-to-the-so-called-experts/

http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/03/09/why-were-the-polls-in-michigan-so-far-off/

http://www.wsj.com/articles/donald-trump-weathers-stormy-month-loses-only-2-points-versus-hillary-clinton-1466946000

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/in-new-poll-support-for-trump-plunges-giving-clinton-a-double-digit-lead/2016/06/25/0565bef6-3a31-11e6-a254-2b336e293a3c_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-high_poll-0904am%3Ahomepage%2Fstory

 

 

There is nothing more exhilarating than to be shot at with no result.” – Winston Churchill

There are non-traditional students, and then there are non-traditional students.

Some naturally freak over the stress of an upcoming test or an overdue paper. A precious few shudder at the memory of being shot at by a determined enemy with lethal force.

For the latter – Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine and Coast Guard veterans – the transition from a structured military life (some include actual combat experience) to less orderly college campuses can be incredibly daunting. Throw in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and one really gets the picture.insleeproc

We may all say the right things about supporting our veterans, and salute them for their service. More importantly, do we as a society take the quality time to help them in making the difficult transition back to civilian life — including college — after years of utter boredom interrupted by bouts of sheer terror?

The Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) each year sponsors a Bateman case-study collegiate public relations competition pitting campuses across the fruited plain against each other. It may not be the equivalent in the public’s mind as the Rose Bowl or March Madness, but the work striving for that “One Shining Moment” is just as intense.

This year’s PRSSA-chosen subject is the plight of student veterans. For five dedicated-and-talented public relations majors at Central Washington University, it meant choreographing from scratch an entire earned-and-owned communication platforms campaign, focusing prime-time attention on these student veterans.

Starting In the Future and Working Back to the Present

Central Washington University’s Bateman team met for the first time last fall. The PRSSA’s rules are explicit; there is absolutely no jumping the gun. All campaigns cannot begin before February 15 and the must end by March 15.

Finis. Endo Musico.DSC02459

For CWU Bateman leader Sarah Collins (in blue) and her team from left-to-right, Nicolette Bender, JoAnn Briscoe, Jasmine Randhawa and Travis Isaman, they essentially planned out their own military-style campaign, apropos for the subject of student veterans.

Knowing the Ides of March is the stopping point (except for post-campaign evaluation), the Bateman team meticulously planned all the steps along the way that led to a successful week on campus and off, saluting student veterans.

In fact, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee declared the past seven days as “Student Veterans Week” in the Evergreen State.

This gubernatorial recognition did not happen by accident. Here is the list of major events:

Monday, February 29: (Leap Day) Resource Fair for Veterans and their families was featured on campus.

Tuesday, March 1: A five-participant “Experience Panel” was conducted, causing Almost DailyBrett to ponder whether we truly appreciate our veterans, who risked their lives for us.

Wednesday, March 2: Students were encouraged to sign a gigantic “I Support SV” placard at the Student Union and Recreation Center.

Thursday, March 3: The “Unheard Voices” concert was held, commemorating prisoners and war and missing in action.

Friday, March 4: The capstone was the Student Veteran Art Exhibit at the artist/Marine John Ford Clymer Museum, coinciding with Ellensburg’s “First-Friday” art walk. Drawing special attention was Navy vet David Sturgell, artist Kaitlyn Farr and the “subject” for the art, 80-pound bulldog, “Daisy.”DSC02456

Thinking the War Is Over

“You can be supportive or you can be supportive” – Navy veteran David Sturgell

Listening to the vets participating at the “Experience Panel,” one was floored by the stat that only 7 percent of Americans have dawned the uniform, and only 1 percent have experienced combat.

Student Army vet Wesley King lamented that many in our population believe the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are over. Navy veteran David Romero reminded the audience that 15 years after 9/11, we as a nation are still engaged in the troublesome Middle East.

The veterans told stories of shifting from the ultimate regimented society to the largely undirected world of colleges and universities. There is PTSD and fights with Jack Daniels and other intoxicants.

“Some stress over a test,” said King. “At least you are not getting shot at.”

“Sometime, I would just sit in the back of library, just to be alone,” said Army vet Calvin Anderson.

“We (King and Anderson) would drink all day,” said King. “There was no structure in our lives. We finally stopped drinking, when we got a cat.”

The veterans expressed concern about the lack of mental health professionals, but were grateful for the support of fellow students.

Their stories deserve to be told. The Central Washington University Bateman team has done its duty to salute these veterans and tell their stories, and tell them well using as many conventional and digital outlets as they can find.

Let the chips fall where they may …

http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/winstonchu100445.html

http://prssa.prsa.org/scholarships_competitions/bateman/2016timeline.pdf

http://prssa.prsa.org/news/national/news/display/1402

https://www.facebook.com/groups/792093870903952/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2013/12/19/the-courage-to-succeed-as-non-trad-students/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/03/04/launching-a-second-career-2/

http://www.clymermuseum.com/

http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/post-traumatic-stress-disorder

http://www.governor.wa.gov/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ich bin ein Berliner.” – President John F. Kennedy address beside the Brandenburg Gate in 1963

Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” – President Ronald Reagan address in the shadow of the Berlin Wall at the Brandenburg Gate in 1987

Berlin is the testicles of the West. Every time I want to make the West scream, I squeeze Berlin.” – Soviet leader Nikita KhrushchevJFKberlin1

There is no place on earth that is more emblematic of the Cold War than the Brandenburg Gate in the geographic center of Berlin. For almost 30 years, absolutely no one could walk through its arches because of the ugly scar of the Berlin Wall (Die Mauer).

The author of Almost DailyBrett travelled to Germany’s capital nearly 20 years ago to walk through the Brandenburg Gate and to secure his piece of the wall (mein Stück der Mauer). Those mature enough remember exactly where they were when the magic word spread in 1989 that the Wall had come down and East Germany’s (a.k.a. German Democratic Republic) repressed citizens were now free and the end of the Cold War was near.brandenburggate

One of those citizens was the daughter of a Lutheran minister and a Ph.D in quantum chemistry, Angela Merkel. Today, she is the third-longest serving Chancellor of Germany and Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year.” The periodical described her as the “Chancellor of the Free World.”

As the most visible leader of not only Europe’s largest economy, Germany, and the European Union, even Merkel cannot avoid consternation.

One such controversy involved a young American Senator by the name of Barack Obama, running for president in the summer of 2008. His aides suggested a Kennedyesque/Reaganesque campaign speech beside the Brandenburg Gate.

Her response was nein. True to form of American politics, not everyone remembers the dispute that way.

A Little Bid “Odd”?

When Barack heard about this plan, he was incredulous. ‘You think we’re setting expectations a little high? Let’s find another spot.’” – Campaign manager David Axelrod recalling Barack Obama’s reaction to a proposed presidential campaign speech in front of the Brandenburg Gate in his book, Believer

(German Chancellor Angela) Merkel has “little sympathy for the Brandenburg Gate being used for electioneering and has expressed her doubts about the idea.” – Merkel spokesman Thomas Steg in 2008.

Hmmm … the two above quotes contradict each other.

Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year” cover story makes direct reference to Merkel’s government turning down the request of the Obama campaign to burnish the senator’s foreign policy credentials at the Brandenburg Gate on June 24, 2008. Die Kanzerlin believed the gate should be reserved for heads of state (e.g., Kennedy, Reagan, Clinton, Kohl …). Sitting members of Congress did not rise to that level.

In this image provided by Time Magazine, Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is featured as Time's Person of the Year. The magazine praises her leadership on everything from Syrian refugees to the Greek debt crisis. (Time Magazine via AP)

In this image provided by Time Magazine, Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is featured as Time’s Person of the Year. The magazine praises her leadership on everything from Syrian refugees to the Greek debt crisis. (Time Magazine via AP)

The German magazine, Der Spiegel, understood the reason why the Obama campaign wanted the Brandenburg Gate as a backdrop. Very few places project the healing of the East-West divide and speaking at das Brandenburger Tor would project foreign policy gravitas for the young senator. Alas, Merkel’s office found the Obama campaign request to be a tad, “odd.”

Despite this decision, Time concluded the relationship between Obama and Merkel has improved since that time. Having said that, Time’s revisiting this issue brings into question Axelrod’s contention that it was Obama … not Merkel … who made the decision to move the speech two kilometers west of the Brandenburg Gate to the other side of the Tiergarten where the Victory Column (Siegessäule) is located.

A legitimate question posed by Almost DailyBrett is why does this case of faulty memories or worse, revisionist history, matter nearly eight years later? The answer is we are heading into a presidential election year and with it comes the pressures to exaggerate, to amplify and to engage in revisionist history.

Age of Pinocchios

The Washington Post awards Pinocchios for those in public life who utter as Winston Churchill would say, “terminological inexactitudes.” Using that standard, Axelrod (Believer, page 292) may be accorded at least one Pinocchio for this description of how Obama … not Merkel … decided against a campaign speech at the Brandenburg Gate.obamaberlin

As those enthrusted to build and enhance brands, guard reputations and be ready to prevent and respond crisis communications situations, public relations professionals must be on guard for terminological inexactitudes (an euphemism for a direct lie).

Sometimes they start as small, little fibs. Let the young senator in your own mind choose the Victory Column instead of the Brandenburg Gate.

But what happens when fibs escalate into bold unsubstantiated claims of Mexico flooding this country with murderers and rapists? Where’s the beef?

What happens when one candidate charges that ISIS is using another candidate’s speeches for recruitment videos? Where are the videos? They exist of they do not exist.

As we move from the presidential campaign Silly Season, defined by subjective judgments by the political class, to the Serious Season when real voters with real results get into the mix, the pressure will be on to push the envelope in terms of personal credentials or worse, the opposition’s perceived missteps.

A little terminological inexactitude here and a little terminological inexactitude there, pretty soon you are talking about whole boat load of Pinocchios.

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/brandenburg-gate-controversy-obama-reacts-to-debate-in-berlin-a-565080.html

http://www.britannica.com/topic/Brandenburg-Gate

http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/terminological-inexactitude

 

 

 

Well, I’ve got news for the bullies of Wall Street. The presidency is not a crown to be passed back and forth by you between two royal families.” – Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley

Let us wage a moral and political war against the billionaires and corporate leaders, on Wall Street and elsewhere, whose policies and greed are destroying the middle class of America.”Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders

“The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.” – Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill

Are the phrases “economic populism” and “social justice” not-so-clever disguises for a full-fledged War on Wall Street?occupy1

Is this another round of the disorganized/nearly forgotten desultory Occupy Wall Street movement now showered, deodorized and all dressed up to make it seem more palatable to the American public?

As we head into the 2016 presidential cycle, one needs to ask:

Is it sound politics, particularly for a general election, to directly take aim on a system in which 52 percent of Americans build their hard-earned wealth through the investment in stocks, bonds and mutual funds for an active retirement, their children’s college education, a second career or something grand on the “bucket list?”

Granted this slightly more than half figure is down significantly from the 65 percent of Americans owning stocks, bonds and mutual funds in the beginning of 2007, but that year was the beginning of the recession, downturn and economic malaise.

Some are questioning what happened to the middle class, but many are forgetting America’s burgeoning “investor class.” And with 52 percent of the public participating, it obviously applies to far more than just 1 percent of the American population. The more than half of all Americans owning stocks, bonds and mutual funds in 2013 could be even higher now because of the bull market.gender6

These are the people who invest in IRAs mainly with retail brokers in person or online (i.e., Schwab, Scottrade, TD Ameritrade, eTrade, Edward Jones) or designate a percentage of their pre-tax income in 401Ks with a percentage matching from their employer with taxes being deferred until retirement.

According to Gallup, they are for the most part college graduates as 73 percent of those with undergraduate degrees and 83 percent with graduate degrees invest in markets … that would be publicly traded companies on Wall Street.

Money Under the Mattress?

And why would they do that? Consider the alternatives:

How about under the mattress. How about no rate of return?

How about banks? How about 0.02 percent interest rates?

How about real estate? How about the prospect of underwater mortgages?

And you wonder why smart upper, upper-middle and middle class Americans with some disposable income invest in publicly traded American companies listed on the NYSE and NASDAQ, even though people can lose a portion or all of their investment? The answer is that Wall Street is the best game in town, and with knowledge, diversification, perseverance and a cast-iron stomach, literally millions of people build wealth by investing in our markets and our country.

“Unequal sharing of blessings” 

And what is the raison d’etre of these Wall Street companies? According to ERISA or the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, passed by a Democratic Congress, publicly traded corporations are legally and morally mandated to drive the bottom line (doing well) for the benefit of their shareholders.

Guess that means they hire hundreds of thousands of Americans and make the products that people around the world want and need. That even includes the upscale coffee, tablets, earphones, cameras, laptops, mobile phones, social media software and operating systems used by Occupy Wall Street and made by (gasp) companies publicly traded on Wall Street.occupy2

Almost DailyBrett senses a disconnect, but does it matter in a party primary when the empty vessels making the most noise have near zero chance of winning the nomination?

Looking down the road to the fall of 2016 would a presidential nominee really want to be saddled with a platform that takes “issue” with major employers of tens of thousands, providing wonderful products and the prospects of solid rates of return for investors? That doesn’t sound like a winning prescription.

It may make the union bosses happy. It may re-energize those with the need to demonstrate just like they did in 1968, but does it make any political sense to attack, demonize and vilify the proverbial goose that lays the golden egg?

Does Wall Street in the wake of Enron, Arthur Andersen, Bear Stearns, Global Crossing, Martha Stewart, $6,000 shower curtains, “Race Together,” Bernie Madoff, GM and Chrysler bailouts, BP Deepwater Horizon, excessive executive compensation have major real and perceived public relations problems? Does Wall Street need better reputation management? Absolutely.

At the same time, let’s not lose sight of Corporate Social Responsibility (doing good) and the literally thousands of companies that work to protect the environment (e.g., Starbucks and Conservation International), address climate change (e.g., Tesla), help rebuild communities (e.g., Home Depot and Habitat for Humanity), combat cancer (e.g., Nike founder Phil Knight and Oregon Health and Sciences University) assist low-income children with difficult medical conditions (e.g., Southwest Airlines and Ronald McDonald House) … ehh … wouldn’t that be McDonald’s as well?

For those attacking Wall Street indiscriminately under the banner of “economic populism” aren’t they guilty of throwing out the baby with the bath water.

Maybe they should be drinking their own bath water instead.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/hillary-clintons-guilt-by-association/2015/06/04/bd836dc4-0b13-11e5-a7ad-b430fc1d3f5c_story.html?wpisrc=nl_opinions&wpmm=1

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/poll-who-can-get-ahead-in-the-u-s/

http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/b/bernie_sanders.html

http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/winstonchu101776.html

http://www.gallup.com/poll/147206/stock-market-investments-lowest-1999.aspx

http://money.cnn.com/2013/05/09/investing/american-stock-ownership/

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip.” – Winston Churchill

It (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speech) called into question the efficacy of any deal the administration might strike with Iran over its nuclear program; it likely renewed momentum for another round of Iranian sanctions on the Hill; it positioned the GOP politically as the party more worried about Israeli security, and, despite the White House’s best efforts, made the president appear petty and churlish.” – James Oliphant, National Journalbibicongress

To Almost DailyBrett, it appears to be a new dawn of pettiness.

What happened to taking the high road?

How about some Churchillian “tact”?

Seems like all the above is in short supply these days.

Drifting Further Apart

Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one.” – Clint Eastwood as “Dirty Harry”

Let’s face it: There are 7 billion+ inhabiting our planet and everyone has a derriere and an opinion too.

Some we don’t want to hear; there are just as many that we don’t respect.

In the case of President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, the former made it absolutely clear that he tuned out the speech of the latter. Aren’t the U.S. and Israel strategic, democratic “allies”?

The reason for the presidential tune-out? The former (e.g., executive branch) didn’t invite the latter to speak before a joint session of Congress (e.g., legislative branch). They (e.g., Obama and Netanyahu) also don’t like each other … pass the sand shovels and plastic buckets.

Is the White House’s behavior “petty and churlish?” The answer is “yes” according to one major publication and presumably others think so as well.

There is the far more important global issue of Israel’s survival and whether or not the warm-and-fuzzy Mullahs of Iran gets their hands on nuclear bombs.

There is also the mounting inability-to-converse behavior that is being exhibited as we seemingly grow further apart, even as technology is rapidly improving our ability to instantaneously “communicate.”

“Alone Together”

The Economist in its cover story this week, “Planet of the phones,” reported the 2 billion smart phones in circulation right now will grow to 4 billion in just five years-time. The stately British newspaper also projected that 80 percent of adults will have smart phones by 2020 as Moore’s Law holds sway and the number of apps/features doubles each-and-every 18-24 months.

The computing/communicating power of these hand-held mobile devices is awesome. What is not so fantabulous is how these devices in far too many ways help us in avoiding each other. M.I.T. Professor Sherry Turkle wrote her latest book: “Alone Together, What We Expect From Technology and Less From Each Other.”turkle

Taking a page from Rene Descartes and moving it to the 21st Century, Turkle told a recent TED Talk Conference (Technology, Entertainment and Design) that the new mantra very well could be: “I connect, therefore I am.”

And while we are digitally connected, we can avoid analog interaction (e.g., actual conversation) with others … and best of all, we conquer our fear of being alone. Yes we are in the presence of our fellow humans, but alas they have their faces buried in their smart-phone screen just as we do.

Is the barista taking too long making your grande no-whip mocha?

Do you feel alone?

Do you feel exposed?

Quick: Pull out your smart phone.

Turkle also said the smart-phone obsessed have a solution for being in the same room with those, who they may not want to know. It’s called the Goldilocks Effect for the Alone Together crowd, all present, but at the same time not there: “Not too close. Not too far. Just right.”

Maybe President Obama could have stopped by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s address to a joint session of Congress, and brought along his Blackberry? He could have texted, surfed golf course websites for tee times, checked his approval ratings etc. He would have been there, and yet not been there at the same time. Perfect.

From a public relations standpoint, his press secretary could proclaim the president while irked by the proceedings and the message was big enough to be there … even though he was mentally elsewhere.

Aren’t there executives who claim to be listening at board meetings, while they are texting at the same time, the ultimate in multi-tasking? Why can’t the über-chief executive do exactly the same thing?

At least the National Journal would not be accusing him of being petty and churlish.

http://www.nationaljournal.com/white-house/netanyahu-delivers-just-what-obama-feared-20150303

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/congress/obama-aide-calls-netanyahu-visit-destructive-to-relations/2015/02/25/1f1d5b0c-bce6-11e4-9dfb-03366e719af8_story.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/netanyahus-churchillian-warning/2015/03/05/60ae7fd4-c366-11e4-9ec2-b418f57a4a99_story.html?wpisrc=nl_opinions&wpmm=1

http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/33365-tact-is-the-ability-to-tell-someone-to-go-to

 

 

 

Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” – Winston Churchill

My maternal grandfather never wanted to go to two places: Hell and Russia.

He lived to the century mark and slightly beyond. I doubt he went anyplace, but heaven. I’m certain he never stepped foot inside Russia.

kevinrussia

The author of Almost DailyBrett visited the USSR in 1981, when Leonid Brezhnev and the Politburo were calling the shots. That was 33 years ago.

Today, the Soviet Union is an unpleasant Cold War memory. Nonetheless, Russia remains a difficult and perplexing nine-time-zone nation on the geopolitical map, stretching from Belarus in the West to Vladivostok on the Pacific … and is just as fascinating as ever.

Putin or no Vladimir Putin, I want to go back and check out the changes before I meet Anastasia (“screamed in vain”) in the after-life.

Honeymoon in Stalingrad?

Even though I married Rachel Weisz’ twin, or at least Jeanne could easily be mistaken as Rachel’s sibling, we are not heading to the banks of the Volga for our belated honeymoon. The castles of Bavaria and the phallic symbols of Tuscany in summer are a smidge more romantic.

This is not to suggest that Enemy at the Gates was not a love story. Heck, you have all the elements of a great Casablanca love triangle: Jude Law (sniper Vassili Zaitzev), Joseph Fiennes (Commissar Danilov) and Weisz (Tania), the rubble of Stalingrad and the Wehrmacht and the Red Army in a battle to the death.lawweisz

Nonetheless Russia is calling, and it is a bucket list kind of summons. Some may want to jump out of airplanes. Others may swim with dolphins or sharks (hard to keep them straight) or march with the penguins in Antarctica.

Yours truly wants to walk across Krásnaya Plóshchaď (Red Square) one more time. The same applies to St. Petersburg (it was Leningrad back in 1981) with the Hermitage Museum (Czar’s Winter Palace) and the Summer Palace.

And of course, this time there must be a visit to the aforementioned Stalingrad, now named Volgagrad. It will never be Volgagrad in my mind; it will always be Stalingrad, the most decisive battle of World War II. Germany was finished after Field Marshal Friedrich Wilhelm Ernst Paulus surrendered his surrounded Sixth Army in January 1943.

Looking down at the Russian steppes 33 years ago from an Aeroflot flight from Moscow to Vilnius, Lithuania, I could imagine the majestic Cossacks, Napoleon’s Grand Armee and Hitler’s Panzers all charging deeper and deeper into Russia.

Reflecting back on the trip, I was repeatedly asked when I was going “in and out” of Russia, not “to and from.”

A Trip Like No Other

“Take me to your daddy’s farm; Let me hear your balalaika’s ringing out; Come and keep your comrade warm; I’m back in the U.S.S.R.; Hey you don’t know how lucky you are boys; Back in the U.S.S.R.” – The Beatles

Living in Eugene, Oregon for four years, I was always amused by the city’s “community” gardens. These are patches of land where like-minded folks under the tender, loving guidance of the City of Eugene plant their sustainable and organic crops (if you don’t believe me, just ask them) and maybe even dream of a communal environment where everyone is truly equal.

Regularly driving past this garden on Amazon Parkway, I would reflect back more than three decades to my trip to the Soviet Union. Certainly, Russia was a “social” society at the time (e.g., prefab apartment blocks, jammed fossil-fuel emitting buses, foreign currency-only outlets, and empty store shelves), but I am not certain about the “justice” part.

There was this problem with the “most equal of the equals.” They were the ones in the fancy limousines being whisked to-and-from the Kremlin in their special lanes. These were the same “simple” folks in the fancy boxes at the Kremlin Hall of the Congresses for the opening night of the Bolshoi Ballet’s Swan Lake. Something tells me that the working Ivan never made it to the intermission buffet of caviar and Moskovskaya vodka.

collective

Coming back closer to home: Do the overly educated of Eugene and other cerebral towns really want to emulate the USSR and its collective farms and communal poverty? What is the attraction? Maybe the author of Almost DailyBrett is not smart enough to comprehend.

When asked if I have ever seen real poverty, I think back to my trip to at best, second-world Russia. As my friend and colleague who made the trip with me said” “They treat their people like (insert your favorite fecal material word here).”

Spending any amount of time in the USSR and contrasting it with 1980s Morning in America completed my own political metamorphosis.

Would I recommend Russia as a vacation destination? It all depends what you want to accomplish for your precious time away from the demands of the workplace? If you are looking for romance and your Corona con limon playa, go elsewhere.

If you are a buff on history, politics, suspense (e.g., LeCarre, Forsyth, DeMille novels) and intrigue, Russia may be just your brand of vodka.

Next time, I will remember to keep my eyes open for my photo in front of the onion domes of St. Basil’s in Moscow.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enemy_at_the_Gates

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Square

http://www.excursions-volgograd.ru/en/excursion/museum_battle_stalingrad_tour

http://listverse.com/2012/09/17/top-10-facts-about-the-battle-of-stalingrad/

http://www.eugene-or.gov/communitygardens

 

“There in the floodlit night, jammed together like sardines, in one massive formation, the little men of Germany, who have made Nazism possible, achieved the highest state of being the Germanic man knows: the shedding of their individual souls and minds – with the personal responsibilities and doubts and problems – until under the mystic lights and at the sound of the magic words of the Austrian they were merged completely in the German herd,” William L. Shirer, The Nightmare Years

williamshirerrome

 “The power which has always started the greatest religious and political avalanches in history rolling has from time immemorial has been the magic power of the spoken word, and that alone. The broad masses of the people can be moved only by the power of speech. All great movements are popular movements, volcanic eruptions of human passions and emotional sentiments, stirred either by the cruel Goddess of Distress or by the firebrand of the word hurled among the masses.” – Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf

It was a disheveled Landsberg Prison inmate who wrote these prophetic words about mass movements egged on by provocative speech and transmitted over recently built networks by newly developed mass-media technology.

Soon he would emerge from his jail cell to take full advantage of a perfect storm of never-before-assembled circumstances to unleash upon the world a gathering storm of fury with profound implications for society then and now.

To many the Perfect Storm is a novel and a movie about the crew of the fishing boat Andrea Gail from Gloucester, Massachusetts, lost at sea during severe conditions while longline fishing for swordfish 575 miles out in the Atlantic.[1]

In this case, the “Perfect Storm” can be seen as a unique confluence of political, economic, philosophical and technological events that produced the backdrop that led to the Gathering Storm of 1930s Nazi Germany. This essay evades discussions about the impacts of the Industrial Revolution, the Rise of Bismarck, the Bolshevik Revolution, Germany’s loss in World War I, the hatred of the Versailles Treaty, the fragility of the Weimar Republic, the Great Depression and the many other macro political and economic events that contributed to or constituted the discontinuous model of history of 20th Century Germany.

The key point for this survey is that all of these historical epochs, coupled with startling new advancements in mass culture technologies and networks, culminated in a unique climate that was fully exploited by Hitler and his disciples, in particular Nazi Germany’s Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels (1897-1945).[2]

Political pros, including the late presidential campaign strategist Lee Atwater (1951-1991), have preached the virtues of “message, candidate, campaign” in this particular order to captivate the masses or an electorate in a democratic setting. In the case of totalitarian Nazi Germany’s use of mass culture for political purposes it must be asked: What were the origins of the message? (There is obviously no need to inquire about who was the “candidate.”) And how was the campaign conducted with frightening results?

This discussion assumes the reader’s more-than-adequate knowledge of the macro political/economic influences that contributed to die Weltanchauung of Nazi Germany. This focus instead touches upon Germany’s philosophical underpinnings that contributed to the message. There is also the need to adequately, but not exhaustively, weigh the impact (at the time) of new mass media technology — most notably radio, cinema, recorded sound and telephony – all of which made their collective power known for the first time in the 1930s/1940s. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill used these tools to inspire. Hitler had other designs for these new breakthroughs in mass media.

FDRmedia

It is no mistake that the majority of these advancements occurred in the mid-to-late 19th Century, basically coinciding with the Industrial Revolution. Samuel Morse invented the telegraph in 1837; Alexander Graham Bell, the telephone in 1875; Thomas Edison, the phonograph in 1877; Louis Lumiere, the motion picture camera in 1895 and Guglielmo Marconi, the radio also in 1895.

As important as these inventions were, there still needed to be time for related communications networks to be built and expanded to the masses on a global scale. The true, cumulative impact of Bell’s telephone, Marconi’s radio, Lumiere’s cinema camera were not truly felt until the early decades of the 20th Century or about the time that Hitler and his Brownshirts were agitating and fighting in the streets of München and eventually spreading their sinister Nazi web over Germany.

Borrowing from Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan’s (1911-1980) “The Medium is the Message,” University of California Professor of Sociology Manuel Castells Olivan[3] coined his own version of this concept, “The Network is the Message.” Castells’ contention (even though he was writing about the Internet) is that the network is more important than the message, and without the former the latter is essentially of no consequence. (“If a tree falls in a forest…).

Goebbels would have gladly not argued; simply combining the two – message and network – to completely hold sway over the thinking of the German public.

Most of all, it was how the National Socialists took full advantage of these developments to wage a mass-culture campaign never before seen in the modern world that revolutionized the use of propaganda. It was no mistake that one of the first actions undertaken by the Nazis upon assuming power in 1933 was to secure immediate control of the means to influence and subjugate the masses.

Goebbels and his ministry took supreme control of what French philosopher Louis Althusser (1918-1990) labeled as the Ideological State Apparatuses or ISAs. In his Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses essay, Althusser included religion, education, family, legal, political, trade-unions as ISAs. For this discussion, we are focusing on two of Althusser’s ISAs: Communications (e.g. press, radio…) and cultural (e.g. literature, the arts, sports etc.).

Althusser distinguished ISAs from what he called “Repressive State Apparatus” (e.g. government, administration, the army, the police, the courts, the prisons), which he said “functions by violence.” He said that ISAs “must not be confused with Repressive State Apparatus.” With all due respect to Althusser, the Nazis skillfully used both the tools of repression (e.g., violence) and the new means of ideological persuasion, particularly the spoken word, to physically and mentally dominate the German public and eventually the majority of the populations that they subsequently conquered and enslaved.

“It is interesting that the only developed ‘mass’ use of radio was in Nazi Germany, where under Goebbels’ orders the Party organized compulsory listening groups and the receivers were in the streets,” Welsh academic Raymond Williams (1921-1988)[4] wrote in Technology and Cultural Form. “There has been some imitation of this by similar regimes, and Goebbels was deeply interested in television for the same kind of use.”

“…As the years went by, Dr. Goebbels proved himself right, in that the radio became by far the regime’s most effective means of propaganda, doing more than any other single instrument of communication to shape the German people to Hitler’s ends,” wrote William L. Shirer (1904-1993), in his Pulitzer Prize winning The Rise and the Fall of the Third Reich. He was the Universal News Service and CBS correspondent out of Berlin, who obviously understood the power of radio.

goebbels

German-Jewish, philosopher-sociologists Theodor Adorno (1903-1969)[5] and Max Horkheimer (1895-1973), both of the “Frankfurt School,” were compelled to take flight from Germany when Hitler and Nazis claimed power and with it, put in motion what would become the Holocaust. The two exiles introduced the notion of The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception. They correctly concluded that the Hitler/Goebbels propaganda machine seized control of this “industry” to make the regime sound more reasonable than it was in reality.

“Society is full of desperate people and therefore prey to rackets,” they wrote. “… The attitude of the individual to the racket, business, profession or party, before or after admission, the Führer’s gesticulations before the masses, or the suitor’s before his sweetheart, assume specifically masochistic traits.” They added that life in the late capitalist era is a constant initiation rite in which everyone must show identification with the power that is “belaboring him (or her?).”

And what were the messages emanating from Hitler’s version of the Culture Industry that constituted required listening im Vaterland?

Several philosophers and prominent German thinkers in the late 19th Century and the early 20th Century contributed to the notion of a strong nation state, the rise of militarism and the glory of modern-day warfare…all of which were wholeheartedly embraced by Hitler and his followers.

German historian Wilhelm Dilthey (1833-1911)[6] provided a glimpse into this way of thinking in his Formation of the Historical World essay. “The goals of war permeated all parts of (early German) life. They asserted themselves in the relationship of the family to the military order…The military ethos also produced the system of devoted followers that was so important for military and political development.”

Dilthey said that we must add the “individuality of national spirit” to this commentary. “The life-value of the individual person is shifted to his martial qualities.” And what is the highest value and enjoyment of existence? “This characteristic, which finds its highest expression in the joy of battle, influenced the entire development of our political institutions and our spiritual life.”

Georg Wilhelm Hegel (1770-1837)[7] is most commonly known for his dialectrics, which inspired Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin and the founding of Communism. In the case of the Nazis, who violently opposed Marxism, they preferred to gain strength from Hegel’s celebration of the supreme power of the state. The state, he wrote in his Philosophy of History, “has the supreme right against the individual, whose supreme duty is to be a member of the state…for the right of the world spirit is above all special privileges.” And what about the individual’s pursuit of happiness? To Hegel this notion needs to be subordinated, if not outright crushed.

“World history is not an empire of happiness,” Hegel wrote. “The periods of happiness are the empty pages of history because they are periods of agreement, without conflict.” Taking it a step further, Hegel said that war makes for “the ethical health of peoples corrupted by a long peace, as the blowing of the wind preserves the sea from the foulness which could be the result of a prolonged calm.”

Dueling Hegel when it comes to the glorification of the state was nationalist political historian Heinrich von Treitschke (1834-1896)[8], who bluntly stated to the individual: “It does not matter what you think, so long as you obey.”

He said that martial glory is the basis of all political virtues, rivaling the “masterpieces of our poets and thinkers.”

“The concept of the state implies the concept of war, for the essence of the State is power,” von Treitschke wrote. “That war should ever be banished from the world is a hope not only absurd, but profoundly immoral.”

Books paying homage to authoritarian disciplines, the magnificence of the state, the subordination of the individual and the glory of martial conflict were not the only ones sitting on the night stands of the Fascists (literally Mussolini’s bedside) during the first-half of the 20th Century. Reportedly, Hitler’s “Mein Kampf”[9] drew heavily on the propaganda techniques of French social psychologist Gustave Le Bon’s (1841-1931) [10] The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind.

“The great events of history have been brought about by obscure believers, who have had little beyond their faith in the favor,” LeBon wrote in 1895. “It is not be the aid of the learned or of philosophers, and still less of skeptics, that have been built up the great religions which have swayed the world, or the vast empires which have spread from one hemisphere to the other.” LeBon was obviously referring to St. Paul, Christopher Columbus and others (Hitler no doubt would have liked to mentally associate himself with this elite company).

LeBon said that the leaders of crowds wield a very despotic authority, and whether they are intelligent or narrow-minded is of no real importance because the world belongs to these popular leaders. They persist by demonstrating a force of will that LeBon said was both immensely rare and powerful, “nothing resists it; neither nature, gods, nor man.”

LeBon refers to the tactics of another European conqueror, Napoleon Bonaparte, who said that there is “only one figure in rhetoric of serious importance, namely repetition.”

“The opinions and beliefs of crowds are specially propagated by contagion, but never by reasoning,” wrote LeBon. “The conceptions at present rife among working classes have been acquired at the public-house as the result of affirmation, repetition and contagion.” Wonder if there were any public houses in 1930s-era Germany?

Shirer saw as much each day and night in 1934 as thirty thousand jammed into Nürnberg’s Luitpold Hall, packed the city’s narrow streets or participated in a mass rally of a half million strong at the Zeppelin Meadow.

nazirally

“You have to go through one of these to understand Hitler’s hold on the people, to feel the dynamism in the movement he’s unleashed and the sheer, disciplined strength the Germans possess,” Shirer wrote in his Berlin Diary.[11] “And now – as Hitler told the correspondents yesterday – the half-million men and women who’ve been here during the week will go back to their towns and villages and preach the new faith with new fanaticism.”

In his Revolt of the Masses, Spanish liberal philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset (1883-1955)[12] prescribes how skillful propagandists (he was absolutely no fan of Fascism) exploit the masses going about their daily business. He said the majority of men have no opinions of their own, so these have to come from external forces, “like lubricants into machinery.”

“Hence it is necessary that some mind or other should hold and exercise authority, so that people without opinions – the majority – can start having opinions,” he wrote. “For without these, the common life of humanity would be chaos, a historic void, lacking in any organic structure. Consequently without a spiritual power, without someone to command, (author’s emphasis) and in proportion as this is lacking, chaos reigns over mankind.”

LeBon takes up this mantle to introduce the notion that prestige is an essential ingredient in order to influence the crowds and control the masses. “The great leaders of crowds, such as Buddha, Jesus, Mahomet, Joan of Art and Napoleon, have possessed this form of prestige to a high degree…The special characteristic of prestige is to prevent us seeing things as they are and to entirely paralyze our judgment. Crowds always, and individuals as a rule, stand in need of ready-made opinions on all subjects. The popularity of these opinions is independent of the measure of truth and error they contain, and is solely regulated by their prestige.”

Shirer saw first-hand how Hitler’s oratorical skills held his German audiences spellbound. Der Führer developed a special rapport with the crowds that “it did not matter so much what he said but how he said it…I would pause in my own mind to exclaim: ‘What utter rubbish! What brazen lies!’ Then I would look around at the audience. His German listeners were lapping up every word as the utter truth.”

“No one who has not lived for years in a totalitarian land can possibly conceive how difficult it is to escape the dread consequences of a regime’s calculated and incessant propaganda,” Shirer wrote. And if someone dared to doubt the message of Goebbels’ propaganda machine?  “…One was met with such a state of incredulity, such a shock of silence, as if one has blasphemed the Almighty, that one realized how useless is was even to try to make contact with a mind which had become warped and for whom the facts of life had become what Hitler and Goebbels, with their cynical disregard for truth, said they were.”

Ortega y Gasset grouped Syndicalism and Fascism together is his 1932 book (one year before the ascension of Hitler) and said that Europeans are inflicted with a strangeness” for “elements of novelty.”

“Under the species of Fascism there appears for the first time in Europe a type of man who does not want to give reasons or to be right, but simply shows himself resolved to impose his opinions,” he wrote. “This is the new thing: the right not to reasonable, the ‘reason of unreason.’”

The reason for this exercise is not to merely recount how the Perfect Storm of history, macro-economic factors, technology and sinister intent led to the most efficient propaganda machine the world had ever seen. Many before have written extensively about what Winston Churchill called The Gathering Storm.[13] This voice will not be added to that chorus.

Instead, present-day society and future generations must be mindful of this history and then ask whether a similar repository of elements and events could ever again form the nucleus of a propaganda machine that has even scarier implications for civilization in this era of terrorism and nuclear proliferation?

Shirer and other observers before, during and after what the German’s refer to as the NS-Zeit have questioned how a nation that produced “some of the most elevated minds and spirits of the Western World” (e.g., Kant, Humboldt, Goethe, Schiller, Bach, Beethoven…) could fall completely under the sway of an Austrian corporal.

We have already answered the question of whether this kind of repressive control of the vehicles and networks of mass culture coupled with the spread of incessant propaganda can occur in the 21st Century. One only needs to look north of the 38th parallel on the Korean Peninsula for the answer. But in all due respect, did the rural and backward hermit kingdom of what now constitutes North Korea ever produce the thinkers and the civilization even remotely equivalent to the major countries (e.g., Germany) of the industrialized world?

Theoretically anything is possible, but Goebbels would have quickly confronted what the People’s Republic of China is combating today: the global impact of a vast network of PCs and servers, guided by ever more powerful microprocessors, governed by clever software operating systems and tied together with a worldwide web of cyberspace.

Wonder what would be the popular reaction to vivid Google Earth satellite photos of Auschwitz downloaded onto millions of computers, replayed repeatedly on YouTube, written into encyclopedic script on Wikipedia.org and served as the subject of blogs, Tweets, LinkedIn and Facebook entries?  How would Hitler, Goering, Himmler, Goebbels et al. explain satellite transmissions of concentration camps or mobilized infantry/armor/Luftwaffe in the face of a digitally informed global population?

moore2

The greatest threat to modern-era propaganda makers, even though he certainly did not know this in 1965, was most likely Gordon Moore.[14] One of the three founders of Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) postulated that year that the number of transistors on a given piece of silicon real estate doubles every 18 months.

“Moore’s Law” has not only been 100 percent accurate since its inception, it may even be judged to be conservative. The net result is an explosion of mass communication access devices (e.g., PCs, tablets, digital readers, cell phones) that are smaller, faster, better and consume less power.

In his Parisian lecture this past September, New York University Journalism Professor Jay Rosen[15] wrote about the disintegration of the atomized “mass” audience. He asked what if society turned away from the television tube en masse, similar to crazed television newsman Howard Beale in the 1976 film Network.

“Immediately people who happened to be watching would alert their followers on Twitter,” Rosen wrote in his The Journalists Formerly Known as the Media: My Advice to the Next Generation. “Someone would post a clip the same day on YouTube. The social networks would light up before the incident was over. Bloggers would be commenting on it well before professional critics had their chance. The media world today is a shifted space. People are connected horizontally to one another as effectively as they are connected up to Big Media; and they have the powers of production in their hands.”

Bottom-line conscious global businesses are moving away from top-down control where everything is designed, manufactured and sold under one roof and instead concentrating on their bread-and-butter raison d’etre and outsourcing the rest. Rosen said a similar worldwide shift from vertical-to-horizontal is occurring in how the public receives news and information (North Korea and few others are exceptions).

There still are some very famous media brand names, but the number of “journalists” harnessing digital ones-and-zeroes to self-publish is growing with every passing day. The vehicles of choice are not just wireline or wireless networked servers and PCs, but a growing variety of mobile communications devices.

tiananmen

The most populous nation on the planet, authoritarian China is struggling against the massive weight of sheer math and the tyranny of numbers: 1.5 billion people, millions of mobile devices, millions of PCs, millions of television sets, thousands of servers, thousands of miles of fiber-optic cable and a vast worldwide web to tie them all together. No one should underestimate the lengths the regime will go to protect its hegemony (e.g., Tiananmen Square in 1989), but nonetheless Moore’s Law continues unabated.

Does anyone want to take a wager that Moore’s Law will outlast the Communist Party of China (CPC) or other despots who try to use mass media to wage a stifling propaganda campaign with chilling impacts for not only the subjugated but for their neighbors as well?

Even though there are no guarantees in life, it can be argued that rapid advancements in innovation and humanity’s insatiable demand for the marketplace of ideas will severely curtail, if not put an end, to systemic, one-sided propaganda efforts such as the one unleashed and waged by Goebbels. The impact of today’s information technology (and the killer apps still to come) will digitally expose the lies and deception behind Goebbels-like modern day messages. It was another form of technology, the cyanide capsule, that put an end to Goebbels’ life in a deep bunker underneath a bombed out city, not far from the remains of what was once his grandiose Propaganda Ministry.

Soon thereafter his loud speakers finally went silent.

  1. [1]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Perfect_Storm
  1. [2]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Goebbels

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manuel_Castells

[4]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raymond_Williams

[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodor_W._Adorno

[6] http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/dilthey/

[7] http://www.historyguide.org/intellect/hegel.html

[8] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heinrich_von_Treitschke

[9] http://www.hitler.org/writings/Mein_Kampf/

[10] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gustave_Le_Bon

[11] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_L._Shirer

[12] http://www.historyguide.org/europe/gasset.html

[13] http://www.rosettabooks.com/title.php?id=82

[14] http://www.intel.com/technology/mooreslaw/

[15] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jay_Rosen

 

“The way in which information is exchanged so quickly has forever changed the way in which people want to consume information. They demand that things be condensed into 20-second sound bites. With complex problems, this is exceedingly difficult, but to be an effective communicator and leader you need to be able to condense complex items down to the core and be able to do this quickly.” – Tony Blair, former UK Prime Minister.

The Values behind Market Capitalism - Tony Blair

They say hard work never killed anybody, but I say, why take chances?” – President Ronald Reagan

The grumbling in Strategic Management class was hard to ignore.

We were being asked to synthesize our market assessments, proposed recommendations and projected timetables for major company executive management into no more than two pages. But how can complex issues with so many variables be reduced to a couple of pages? Actually it can be rendered in one page.

During the course of my career, I have witnessed on-camera media training sessions for both loggers and PhDs. Guess which one was smoother?

The problem with intelligent people is that they have to remind everyone that they are so friggin smart. And how do they do that? With a literal Blitzkrieg of facts, data, commentary and analysis with absolutely no or very little consideration for the poor sap who has to listen to their blather.

What do Ronald Reagan, Winston Churchill and Dwight D. Eisenhower all have in common besides being the chief executives of their respective countries? One answer is that they insisted on one-page decision-making memos.

“Reagan began a practice in Sacramento, which he carried with him to the White House, that he called ‘round-tabling,’” wrote Steven Hayward of the American Enterprise Institute. “Reagan liked to hash out different points of view on an issue with his advisers. Reagan relied on a controversial managerial device to drive this process: the one-page memo.

“Reagan required officials and staff to boil down an issue into a one-page format with the following four elements: the issue, the facts, reasoning and recommendations. His cabinet secretary, William P. Clark Jr., helped develop the routine. ‘It has been found,’ Clark said, ‘that almost any issue can be reduced to a single page.’”

“Ronald Reagan was famous for asking for one-page summaries and today many executives follow that example,” leadership consultant John Baldoni wrote in Harvard Business Review. “It is good practice because it challenges the petitioner to reduce his idea to its barest essentials as a means of ensuring understanding as well as developing a platform for advocacy. This methodology is something that I have coached executives to ask for as well as to develop for themselves.”

Hmmm…the issue, the facts, reasoning and the recommendations. Interesting.

Let me pose this question: What is more effective? Presenting an exhaustive 70-page memo to an overly stressed executive which will be at best skimmed or a one or two pager that will be read, and maybe read two or more times?

When you are writing memos for incredibly bright, talented and supremely busy people, such as a governor or a chief executive officer, do you think they appreciate if you reduce the issue to manageable proportions and spare them the ancillary details? Will they ask questions? Of course and it doesn’t matter if you presented the issue in one or two pages or 70 pages. My recommendation is present the issue completely and succinctly in a couple of pages and be prepared to respond to the inevitable questions.

Prime Minister Blair in his quote acknowledges the obvious issues with the reduction of complex issues to 20-second sound bites and one-page memos, but that quite simply is the world that we live in.

Baldoni is justifiably concerned that this practice reduces salient issues down to bullet points, sacrificing critical points that should be considered for the sake of brevity. And didn’t your mother tell you that “Haste makes waste?” Yes she did, but really concentrating on what is legitimately important and purging trivial details is not hasty, it is efficient.

A suggestion offered by Baldoni is to consider preparing pro argument one-pager and a separate con argument one-pager. Does that mean that two pages are better than one? Maybe.

The point is that in our interactive information overloaded world, we are forced to really concentrate on what is truly important — the need-to-know as opposed to the nice-to-know – This practice, whether it be one-or-two page memos or getting to the point quickly verbally, I humbly submit is absolutely critical to being successful in the cabinet room or the board room. We as PR counselors want a seat at the table. We do not want the chief executive to stop listening before we stop talking.

http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2010/04/avoid_over-simplifying_your_on.html

http://www.aei.org/article/20661

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