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Posts tagged with Media responsibility

Political Myopia: Piercing through the nonsense and casting your vote

Posted on October 22, 2012 by 2 Comments

It’s “silly season” – so sayeth the politicians.  It’s time to throw every piece of mud at the opposition simply because a lot of people will believe it.  Fox, MSNBC, pundits who claim to know everything but in reality know nothing, and thousands of horrid political ads – it’s all a lot of noise that provides no reliable indicators on which is the best way to vote.

Can we look at some of the realities of the situation and some of the facts?


  • Romney:
    • We don’t know what Romney would or would not do. Unfortunately, he’s changed positions so many times, it’s hard to figure whether he’s conservative or moderate.  The “etch a sketch” metaphor has been mentioned and fair or not, it was created by his own campaign manager.
    • Yes, he did a great job with the Olympics.  He had support and money from the government that he says isn’t working.  It’s unclear how he did as governor of Massachusetts but one would think that if he did a great job, he’d easily win the state this time.  Polls show he’s 15 points down.  You want to tell me that’s meaningless?  Please explain.
    • The only thing Romney has been consistent about is that he is a social conservative.  He’s supported the idea of overturning Roe v. Wade, favors DOMA and won’t take a position on the Lily Ledbetter Act.  If that’s what you want and you’re okay with his other murkiness, you should vote for him.
  • Obama:
    • Four years ago, we were headed toward a full-on depression.  We’re not now.
    • Corporate profits had risen more than with any other president.
    • The stock market has risen 14.7% a year under Obama.
    • Housing values had fallen one-third on average at the end of the Bush administration.  They’re rising again and have recovered much of the loss.

Now that we’re here, who can take us further?


  • The U.S. economy has done better with Democratic presidents than with Republicans.
  • Personal disposable income has grown nearly 6 times more under Democratic presidents.
  • Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has grown 7 times more under Democratic presidents.
  • Corporate profits have grown over 16% more per year under Democratic presidents (they actually declined under Republicans by an average of 4.53%/year).
  • Average annual compound return on the stock market has been 18 times greater under Democratic presidents (If you invested $100k for 40 years of Republican administrations you had $126k at the end, if you invested $100k for 40 years of Democrat administrations you had $3.9M at the end).
  • Republican presidents added 2.5 times more to the national debt than Democratic presidents.
  • The two times the economy steered into the ditch (Great Depression and Great Recession) were during Republican, laissez faire administrations.

Don’t believe me?  Why not read the self-proclaimed “Capitalist Tool”?  The above facts can be found all over the Internet but click here to read this article from Forbes magazine.

Investment managers always point out that there’s no guarantee that past performance is an indicator of the future but given the choice between uncertainty and past negative performance versus a record and past positive performance, logic should say to select the latter.  But when did logic and facts determine a U.S. presidential election?


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Clearing up a myth about politics and business

Posted on October 31, 2010 by Leave a comment

It’s been popularized by the media, pundits and pols (including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce) that business in America does better when Republicans are in office.  It sounds good but rather than accept the platitudes, let’s let the data tell the story.

Since 1930, the average annual growth rate in GDP when Republicans held the White House (39 Years) is 1.82%. When Democrats have held the White House (41 Years), the average growth rate is 4.92%. During the Bush years, the average was 2.1%, Clinton 3.9%, Bush + Reagan 3%, Carter 3.3%, Nixon 2.8%, Kennedy + Johnson 4.9% and so on. While this does not reflect the party controlling Congress or the balance of the two, the data shows that Democratic party control of the White House has been better for GDP growth and consequently for business too. We often look at emotions or subjective arguments when facts tell a completely different story.

But why is just the opposite what so many believe?  There are several reasons, one being the Democrats own fault because they constantly accuse the Republican party of being the party that protects business in the U.S.  Republicans, for their part, like to say that Democrats have done nothing for jobs and that if we only reduce the tax burden placed on businesses, more jobs will be created.  The data, however, tells a different story and it’s hard to dispute facts.  There is another factor which should tell us that Democrats are better for business:  they tend to be protectionists, leaning against global, free trade.  This should translate to more jobs being kept in the U.S.  Republicans, however, can be expected to protect offshoring and outsourcing.  While I’m an ardent free trader, I still find it hard to understand why the myth exists about political parties and business.

There also is a third reason.  Republicans are much better at getting their message out there.  Democrats always seem to be the gang that can’t shoot straight.  The U.S. electorate likes simple messages and stories and Republicans are just better at telling them.

Finally, you might ask why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce hasn’t pointed out the dramatic difference in business growth under different party rule.  The Chamber should be a champion for all businesses in the U.S., not just those that benefit most from tax cuts or free trade.  While difficult for us in many ways, free trade makes a lot of sense and ultimately forces U.S. businesses to do better in order to compete.  But when we’re talking about whether the economy, hence all U.S. businesses, do better under party rule, let’s make sure we know what has actually happened in the past.


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How a disaster can help a country’s image

Posted on September 14, 2010 by Leave a comment

The August 5th mine collapse near Copiapo, Chile seemed like more bad luck for a country already hit by one of the largest earthquakes in history this past February.  Media coverage of the mining disaster has been constant and the way in which the Chilean government and miners have handled the situation has mesmerized millions of people around the world.  In a desperate situation such as this, it’s hard to imagine there could be a silver lining to the story, even providing an advantage in how Chile, as a country and society, is presented to the world.

The situation could change at any time but three recent articles provide an interesting lesson.  On September 1st, The Wall Street Journal published a story Chile Mining Minister Is Resourceful in Rescue (download highlighted version here) in which writer Matt Mofffett wrote about the response from the Chilean government, dominated by former business executives.  Centered around Mining Minister Laurence Golborne, a former retail executive, the story traces Golborne’s early missteps in the crisis to gaining the confidence of the miners and their families.  The story comments on Golborne’s communication skills in dealing “with people from lots of different social strata” and goes on to cite the oft repeated catchphrase for the current government, “Chile Inc.”

That phrase caught the attention of New York Times writer, Ben Schott, who eight days later wrote an entry (titled “Chile Inc.”) in his popular vocabulary blog and reprinted the Journal’s positive comment about Golborne’s handling of the crisis.

Then, on September 10th, an article appeared in Universal Knowledge@Wharton, the newsletter of the esteemed Wharton School of Business, titled, “Lessons on Leadership and Teamwork – from 700 Meters Below the Earth’s Surface” (download highlighted version here).  The article is an interview with Francisco Javier Garrido, a professor of strategy at various MBA programs in Europe and the Americas.  Garrido makes a few comments on the consistency of the government but talks glowingly of the miners and their leadership skills.

He details their skills in situation analysis, overcoming elementary responses, viewing efforts as a function of goals, teamwork, ethical coherence and integrity and communication skills.  These 33 miners, he notes have taught “the business world that you need to act with flexibility when it comes to achieving your goals.” He further points out, “There are lessons here that transcend the world of business instruction when it comes to [defining] such expressions as “decision making,” “leadership” and “teamwork.”

All three stories have now been frequently quoted in the print and digital media and particularly the ever-growing blogosphere.  Reading them, we’re compelled to ask whether we would respond in a similar fashion.  It is a difficult situation that has positive lessons for us all and causes us to admire the miners, the government and to ask whether Chileans possess some traits that we all might want to emulate.

The question then comes up of whether it’s ethical to use such a story to profile or position a business in Chile or would it be seen as being crassly opportunistic.  If used in a tactical way, it seems inappropriate to promote such a story as saying something positive about a company, sector or country.  To those who read the media coverage, the lessons are clear enough for us to see.  However, it seems acceptable to talk about the miners’ plight the same way these three stories have treated it thus far.  It illustrates how governments can respond to crises and victims can teach us about behaviors and values we can admire.  Finally, it shows us how leadership can operate in the midst of crisis and media can respond positively to not overreact as so often takes place (and we are seeing repeatedly in the U.S.), but to manage for what we all hope will ultimately become a positive outcome.


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Media Myopia

Posted on September 10, 2010 by Leave a comment

By now, there have been hundreds of media reportings and opinions expressed regarding the nut-case pastor in Florida who plans to burn the Quran this weekend.  I don’t recall his name.  It isn’t worth knowing.  Everybody from the local police chief to the President of the United States has given their version of a pleading for this man to put a halt to his plans and he, like any extreme, narcissistic person is soaking it up and playing it and us for all it’s worth.

On MSNBC-TV’s “Morning Joe” show today, former Newsweek editor, Jon Meacham softly told the Florida terrorist (and that’s what he has become) about the teachings of the new testament, advertising mogul, Donny Deutsch called him names and ranted while Pat Buchanan mused about Nixon being right to withhold the tapes and that Presidents sometimes have to violate the constitution.  It all made me nauseous.

If a man was standing on the top of the Empire State Building threatening to jump off, would these same well-known pundits jump into the fray?  Would it get the attention of the President and members of his cabinet?  Of course not.  Medical professionals would hopefully talk him down, see that he gets care and have him institutionalized if needed.  It’s no different here.  This man is ill and he needs help, not media attention.  He’s also very smart for he has used the media and the government to get his 15 minutes of global infamy and all those who are paying attention to him are rubes in his game.

Of course, there’s Fox News and their wing-nut associates in the media whose end-game is to bring down our current government.  How it’s done and who is hurt is hardly their concern.  Their ends justify their means.  So they take a non-event and put it in lights.  Their pundits express stern opinions and then their “journalists” report those opinions as news.  The sheep are enraptured by the urgency expressed and they respond with rage just as they’re told to do.

Both the main-stream and left-leaning media see the eyeballs that Fox and their friends are attracting, so they rush to give their side of the story too. They don’t want to lose viewers which they’re sure will cost them advertising revenues.  And the story quickly gets ratcheted up until the world is aflame with anger.

It’s just one sick man and a few dozen loser-followers who started this.  Who’s responsible?  It’s not the crazies in Florida.  They can’t help themselves.  If we had larger psychiatric hospitals, they’d be living there.

The media has a responsibility that it has been avoiding for years.  Journalists, both good and bad, are reporting opinion as fact, small events as big, crazy people as if they’re statesmen.  It’s all for the gain of more viewers and readers or to carry out their own bizarre political agendas.  It’s time for them to see the big picture and to recognize what they already know but have refused to acknowledge and act out – that we live in a world that is more closely connected than ever and that needs journalists and leaders to consider the common good for us all.  It’s not a case of someone is going to get hurt.  We already have and they need to bear some responsibility.

If they had acted responsibly, this guy would have burned his Qurans and nobody would have noticed.  We can only dream.


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