Our beloved Brew.

Our beloved Brew.
R.I.P. Big guy.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Free Advice for the Occupy Wall St. Movement

In early August I wrote about how the urgent settling of the debt crisis was anything but a solution and lamented the lack of concern and action evident at the time on the part of America's youth.

I should have known if I waited a month or two America's youth would not disappoint me. In fact, the American people of all stripes (except most of the wealthy) are now rooting for, and in some cases, participating in Occupy Wall St. activity around the nation. If you can't guess, while I do not support all of the points of view of Occupy Wall St., I vigorously applaud the uprising.

The most common criticism I hear about Occupy Wall St comes from the media and political types who suggest that the movement is without a point. Republican candidates for office and the bozos on FOX News contend that the movement is made up largely of poor people, those who are underemployed as a result of their own failings, and idealistic, perhaps radical-minded students. Later, I will offer a summary of what I think the point of the Occupy movement could be. But first, some background.

Back in December of 1991, Sandy, my wife, and I sat watching the news reports about the collapse of the Soviet Union. Sandy isn't particularly interested when it comes to politics or world affairs because her cynicism runs deep and wide. She asked me what I thought the fall of the USSR meant. I replied, "We're next."

It's been a couple of decades, but I believe we have seen the steady decline of American capitalism in the past few years. Admittedly, what we had looked good compared with other options like the Soviet system and various forms of Communism and Socialism. It was made to look more appealing through our Washington leaders and the Media who painted the Soviets and others as enemies bent on our distruction. America's leaders have always understood our passion for wearing the white hat, and how easily we will get behind a cause if we think the other guy is evil.

America has always needed an Evil Empire or foe against which to position itself and distract the populace. Going back before the British, this nation has always set its sights on a threat. Early settlers had Native Americans. There was the Soviet Empire, the Axis of Evil, Al Qaeda, and all sorts of enemies. Make no mistake, there were many legitimate evil doers. Many of them did/do wish harm to us as a people, and have done their best to inflict pain. However, if one did not exist at the time, our leaders planted the seeds of fear nonetheless. Through suspicion and loathing we buttress the system and advance their capitalistic ambitions.

If our government leaders were serious about rooting out the origins Al Qaeda, why did we not use diplomatic, economic or military means to go after Saudi Arabia, the home of nearly all the 911 hijackers? Simply put - oil. If we wanted to bring an end to organized terror why did we not impose penalties on Pakistan such as cutting off billions of dollars of foreign aid? It was long suspected that nation was harboring bin Laden. To this day, Al Qaeda moves freely across Pakistan boarders.

Why did we invade Iraq? Two reason: to control the oil fields and to generate obscene profits for the war machine companies with financial links to our political leaders. Why did we invade Afghanistan? It wasn't to root out Al Qaeda or the Taliban. That part of the world is largely unihabitable except by a relatively small number of goat herders and nomads. The value is in the mountains. Buried beneath them is gold, silver and literally trillions of dollars worth of titanium, exceeding any other spot in the world. Control those mountains, and you control the world's wealth and capitalistic pursuits for generations to come.

Over and over again the critics of Occupy Wall St. contend it is nothing more than the ranting of jealous people who want a handout. They support this view by insisting the movement is without a central or unifying purpose or proposed actions.

As a brand strategist, I offer here my professional assistance to the leaders of Occupy Wall St. - free of charge.

While there are many issues being represented by lots of different people camped out in the parks, on the streets and marching in front of the homes of America's wealthiest citizens, I believe there are three central themes under which all Occupy Wall St. issues fit:

1. Capitalism, which started out as the ability for anyone to maintain a business and derive a profit after recovering their costs has morphed into "Seek limitless profit, without regard for the value you deliver, the impact you create on the lives of others, or the general harm (environmental, medical, social, etc.) done." The obscene salaries, exorbitant profits and manipulation of unfair tax laws by Wall St. cannot be justified simply by saying, "If someone is willing to pay it . . ." The folks that tell you being anti-capitalism is socialism (or worse) may find themselves on the wrong side of the greed scale as they seek to defend the perverted form capitalism has taken. Here's an analogy for you: How much fun is to watch a coach of a football team runs up a score of say, 58-0 simply because he can? Excess is not sucess. However, I contend reasonable profit still has a place.

2. Our political system has been seized by special interest groups and lobbyists. Politicians are owned lock, stock and barrel by these manipulators on behalf of business and organizational interests.  Healthcare, education, employment, social security, public safety, transportation and a host of other issues are all way too expensive or unattainable to many because of these people who live in the shadows of government control the system to the benefit of their special interests. We must completely dismantle the influence of these people who make a living advancing the causes of their clients. This is will be a far harder fight than any the people of this country have ever undertaken.

3. The Founding Fathers never intended that public office should be a lifelong career. Today, people running for office not only seek to stay in office for the lucrative salaries, benefits and life of privilege not afforded average Americans, but also to capitalize on their positions with sweetheart side benefits and perks, secret investments and cushy deals after they leave office. The quickest way to get extremely wealthy in this country is to play professional sports or get elected to public office. It's time our system is overhauled with term limits for every office, stricter limits on what a public servant can do after service, and most importantly, revised standards that see to it that the benefits of public office do not exceed that of average Americans. If we have to live within the contraints of the modest rate of return on our investments, Social Security, private healthcare, and shrinking retirement packages, so to should our elected officials - ALL OF THEM. Public service is a privilege not an anointment or heirloom to be handed to family members. To all those people who say if you make it less attractive to serve, good people won't run, I say, let's find out. At present, most office holders are white men over the age of 35. That means we are represented by a segment that makes up about 6% of the population.

There you have it, Occupy Wall St. - three good focal points:
1. The distortion and excess of profit at the expense of others;
2. The control of our entire way of life by self-serving, third-party influences;
3. The excesses of public office holders.

Here's an added tip: The powers that be are counting on, and the American public is expecting that cold weather will bring an end to what to this point has been seen at best as somewhat annoying behavior toward the richest. I urge you to take a lesson from the Viet Cong and other military victors. Begin planning your spring offensive right now while your organizational structure is at its strongest, your supporters are most enthused, your lead time to marshall resources is greatest and your opposition is most uncertain of what you are capable of doing next.

You're welcome.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Now That the Debt "Crisis" Has Passed and America's Youth Yawn On

Two items related to this budget debacle:
1. Other than averting default, this act in Washington accomplished very little. A national balanced budget is the worst idea to come out of this politcal charade they called a crisis. You and I should live within our household means, but a government is not a household. To move the economy the government needs the ability to borrow. Had there been a balanced budget act during WWII we would have lost the war.

Yes, spending has to come down so we can apply cash to debt and get it more in line, but not wiped away. This is Keynesianism 101.

 2. Where is the American youth voice on matters of national importance such as this, the wars we are in, and the environment? No one takes to the streets anymore and outrage is outdated. America's youth has been medicated, mollified and texted into submissiveness.

Change on an order of magnitude unseen since the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War is needed in this country and it won't come until our young people claim the cause. My generation and the one before me are too locked into our ways to put forth the courage or the creativity needed but there are individuals among all generations who will take up the cause when young people rally. Get informed, get mad, then make it right.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Of Casey Anthony, One Juror and Another Mom

Step aside Lady Justice, there's a new babe (and I do mean babe) in town and the scales are clearly tilting toward the one of "hot bod" contest fame. Lady, you may be blind, but the rest of us got a month's view of a whole new take on the pursuit of liberty.

If there's a person reading this that does not know the details of the Casey Anthony trial then stop reading. I have no interest in recounting the trial, the massive misdirection attempted by both sides, and successful only by the defense, or the brutality done to the child, Caylee Anthony, which led up to it.

Let's get right to the heart of the matter. Are you trying to tell me there wasn't a SINGLE person on that jury that believed she killed her own child, most likely in a torturous manner, and then threw the body in a festering swamp to be consumed into nature? Seriously? I heard an alternate juror suggest that evidence wasn't presented to convict, but that doesn't mean they considered Casey Anthony innocent. Nice copout. If just ONE of them had held out there would have been a hung jury and the prosecution would get a second bite at the apple. Instead, society now has another psychopath back on the streets and running around the bars during ladies night. Really? Not one of you figured out that this woman does not belong in society and by simply sticking to common sense we could keep her locked up until the State figured out how to convict her on the appropriate charges?

Instead, juries like this one go into deliberations to talk each other into something. It becomes an exercise in focus group strongman personalities. That in a nutshell is the fundamental problem (besides scumbag lawyers - I know that's redundant) plaguing our legal system. All it took was one person to do the right thing.

Until the court case was being broadcast live on TV, I had little knowledge of it, and had not formed an opinion about guilt or suspects. At times throughout the trial I watched live TV coverage and in some cases, cable news coverage of the days' events in late night reports. To spare the suspense, let me go on record as saying I firmly believe Casey Anthony is guilty of murder. Remember, what the twit alternate told us, being acquitted is not the same as being found innocent.

Perhap, like me, at times, you viewed the trial in the "how does this relate to me" mode. Throughout the proceedings I couldn't help but think of another young mother I met a few months ago. At the ripe old age of 21 she is the single mother of a bouncy two year old. We met through my daughter over the Christmas Holiday and I could not help but be impressed by this young woman we'll call Susan.

Susan had a child with her longtime boyfriend who then went overseas to study. Susan was left to finish her college education, work part time, and care for her son with the substantial help of her family. She loaded up on credits during her pregnancy and beyond so she could graduate early and get on with providing for and raising her son. The father of the boy has since returned to the States but he is more interested in pursuing his business career and playing at part time daddy than being a real man and claiming his responsibilities to his child and the mother. Through it all, Susan has remained upbeat, positive, nonjudgmental, and completely focused on her responsibilities and the love of her life - her little boy. When I met Susan, I instantly formed a deep admiration toward her for the commitment she shows to her child and her intent to better herself to provide for both of their futures. She has a spirit, sense of responsibility and a work ethic you won't find in many people in their early 20's. That brings us back to deadbeat, high school dropout, bimbo and waste of flesh that is Casey Anthony.

It shocks me to see the majority of American people dismayed about the outcome of the verdict. Our legal system was never intended to arrive at truth and justice. It is designed to pursue proof. Without proof one cannot be convicted. Casey Anthony will forever be acquitted of the murder of Caylee Anthony. End of case.

Our legal system has as much to do with pursuit of justice as our health and medical systems have to do with delivering care to everyone who suffers from any affliction, condition, disease, or tummy ache. Our health system is designed to provide services to those who can afford to pay and those who pose the greatest risk to the general population, be it through contagion, financial cost, social or civic burden. It is not meant to address everyone's health related needs. Similarly, our medical system is designed to provide products and services to those who can afford it at various levels. Pharmaceutical companies are not interested in curing disease, only in selling drugs to manage it. Doctors do not practice medicine as a hobby. Those who can pay more, get more. Those who can't, get less or do without. There is medical school, summer homes, and the latest model Mercedes Benz to pay off, not to mention first wives.

I find those who lament the lack of justice for Caylee Anthony in the trial to be pathetic. The only justice that child could get was never to have been born to that mother. Nothing spared her the suffering or can bring her back. Short of those things, the concept of justice is perverted.

There you have it. A child's life is snuffed out. Oops, so sorry. Casey Anthony goes on to live a life of fame and infamy, and Susan and her little boy live quiet, honorable but publicly unacknowledged lives of dignity. And life goes on while CNN and Nancy Grace seek the next headline.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Long Time Away

I haven't blogged in a while. Not motivated. Nothing of interest to say. No desire to speak to a topic. That isn't to say I haven't been busy or that life hasn't been interesting. So, I've decided to add a few snippets on a variety of topics that crossed my mind but didn't warrant going through signing in and drafting a full post on their own merit.

It seems everyone is claiming to be an entrepreneur or pursuing their "entrepreneurial spirit" these days. Being "between opportunities" or motivated by one's dissatisfaction with their employment situation is not the same as being an entrepreneur. To me, the most disturbing use of the word is when someone uses it simply to describe their self-employment. Owning one’s own business is not the same as being an entrepreneur. Businesses can be inherited, purchased, and started from scratch, but being an entrepreneur is about launching a business, product or service to solve problems other people have not been able to, with every intention of doing it again to solve another problem, maybe even before the first concern is fully up and running. Because you've owned the local Dairy Queen for the past five years after an unfulfilling career as an account, or your father finally named you president of the family roofing business does not qualify.

A client of mine, who is both an entrepreneur and a gifted writer, is urging me to write a book on brand strategy. He's even offered to coauthor the book with me since through his business he has acquired some degree of knowledge on the subject. He contends I am the best person in the world at explaining what branding really is, how it differs from marketing and how it relates to business planning. I take this as a supreme compliment because he has access to some of the most advanced senior management, brand management, and marketing minds on the planet.

The problem is, I just don't feel motivated to educate anyone (other than paying clients) or share my thinking beyond my current circles of influence (including this blog). His argument that I could be recognized as a leading authority in the world, and expand my business tenfold again are not compelling to me. For the record, In's & Out's, my business, was never intended to be a conventional business. It's a way to make a personal living. Unlike most conventional businesses, I have no desire to have employees, multiple offices flung around the globe, or lots of people replicating my work so that I can take a cut of the action or create a legacy that my children can inherit. It is enough for me to practice my craft. As I tried to explain it, I liken it to a piano player who gets joy out of banging the keys in the saloons of his own choosing every night. Recording and selling music, going on concert tours, giving lessons to students and posting recitals on YouTube might widen the audience and even generate greater revenue, but it doesn't satisfy the person who just loves to play the piano in a live setting. I don't require a wider audience, and the current level of rewards and recognition meet my needs.

I can one day die a contented man who didn't feel the need to leave an indelible business mark like some latter day Leo Burnett, David Ogilvy, Stephen Covey or Ray Kroc.

How does one explain waking up one morning and realizing a lifelong passion is no more? After taking a self-imposed, extended break from soccer, I went through some sort of detox. It's true. It happened to me a few months ago when it dawned on me that if I never attended another soccer game, or coached again, it was OK with me. I haven't missed the sport and I'm now in the process of giving away all the equipment that has cluttered my garage and basement family room and storage area for all these years. At the same time, this awakening has provided a sense of uncluttering in my life as well. The sport that has defined me in so many ways for so long is no longer relevant or meaningful to me, and now, like the vast majority of Americans, I am free to ignore it.

For those of you who follow this blog, you know I am no fan of Father Pflager, the Catholic priest who has never seen a TV camera, microphone or mirror he can pass. Seems he upset Cardinal George in Chicago by not agreeing to leave his parish post of 30 years in a reassignment that would have him running the local high school. As is his practice, he ran to the media to plead his case and wound up getting himself suspended for expressing something akin to “If the Catholic Church can't support his business model any longer, he'll find another parent company.” I understand he was considering a merger with his close friend, Louis Farrakhan at the Nation of Islam, or possibly GE, or Starbucks. After all, it's all about distribution and media attention to Pflager. The Cardinal, who reminds me very much of Homer's boss on The Simpsons, buckled and reinstated Pflager temporarily. The lesson: Pflager's true colors emerged. He believes the parish he represents is his little cottage industry and his alone. The Cardinal, on the other hand demonstrated once again that the Catholic Church is all about spinning its wheels in meaningless shows of order and strength while sweeping stuff under the rug.

Can't do it.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Every Room You Enter

A dear friend, former colleague and former Marine fighter pilot sent me a copy of the eulogy given at Colonel Don Conroy's funeral by his son Pat. Pat is also the author of The Great Santini which was later made into a movie about his father's career as the most famous Marine that ever lived. To read the full eulogy, go to http://www.daveenglish.com/

The eulogy is a touching and fitting piece about a giant among men, written as only a son could write it. Following the funeral, Pat wrote a thank you to many people who sent their condolences. In that note was a simple line that struck me. " . . . and there was never a room he entered that he left without making his mark."

That is the exact sentiment with which I have tried to live my life - not in an egotistical way, but rather in a contributing, purposeful way. If I'm going to be any where, I choose to be truly present and to make that presence felt.

Reading that line, said about a man who lived as did Col. Conroy, The Great Santini, reminds me I have to strive each day apply myself even more.

How is your presence felt each time you enter a room?