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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Why? 

Why does China continue to support North Korea when it is widely known that the country is one of the most corrupt and repressive nations on earth?  The answer that China wishes to preserve communism hardly suffices because even Chinese communists learned that repression doesn't work well and ultimately, ruins a country.  North Korea is a nightmare.  It doesn't listen to its people whom it starves and imprisons on whims.  It deifies its rulers and forces the public to celebrate them.  It uses the propaganda techniques that George Orwell satirized 70 years ago.  Surely the Chinese understand this.  Yet they persist in upholding the country's leadership.  It wouldn't be long for North Korea to survive if China closed its border and stopped all trading.  China could be looked upon as a hero to North Koreans if it took over the country and opened its economy as it has done at home.  Yet, it doesn't.  There is political inertia at work that makes no sense and North Koreans are left to suffer.  

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Inertia 

Sometimes a public will suffer from inertia and will not act when it is clearly in its interest to do so.  Venezuela is a basket case of hyper inflation and lack of goods, but the people have not rebelled yet against the current leader, Nicolas Maduro.  They have put in a parliament of opposition legislators whom Maduro has said he will ignore.  As for Maduro himself, he has no understanding of the mechanics of governance and his intransigence has ruined the country.  Why does the public not rise up as one and depose him?  That's an unanswerable question.  To an outsider, it would seem obvious a regime change is what is needed.  To an insider and Maduro loyalist, the havoc is the result of conspiracy.  As long as Maduro maintains some kind of political base and the backing of the army, he can remain in power, but as the economy continues to plummet, he has to worry about erosion and revolt. Inertia can last for a long time as it did in the Soviet Union and still continues today in North Korea, but once the public acts, matters can change swiftly as they did at the teardown of the Berlin wall.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Past Due 

Some technologies don't sit well with consumers.  They are always the next "big" thing in the marketplace but they never quite take off.  Consider 3D television or, for that matter 3D movies.  Some producers and directors have used it but most don't.  There doesn't appear to be a good reason why except the public apparently doesn't like wearing glasses.  3D has been the next technology since the 1950s and it still isn't here.  When major TV makers abandon work on them, it is clear it won't be for some time yet.  There is little in the way of publicity one can do to stimulate demand.  The content isn't there and because of the lack of content, the public demand to view programs in 3D isn't there either.  A similar technology that has taken decades and has never established itself is the video phone.  Yes, the public uses mobile phones to video chat but the home phone application never took off.  That didn't prevent AT&T from featuring video phones since the early 1960s as the next "big" thing.  The lesson here is that one cannot lead the public where it doesn't want to go.  Technologists face limits to their inventions.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Unwanted Publicity 

It is bad enough that one sponsors a race in which contestants stop and gorge on a dozen sugary donuts half-way through, but to have a runner drop dead in the middle of the challenge is unwanted publicity.  This is what happened at the annual Krispy Kreme challenge in North Carolina, a race that benefits the North Carolina Children's Hospital.  It is odd enough that runners have to ingest high-calorie donuts then run again but a Krispy Kreme donut is the antithesis of a healthy snack, which might be the reason race organizers originally chose it.  The gimmick backfired this time even though the runner apparently did not reach the point where he was forced to eat before continuing. There is a lesson here, which is to be careful of how you set up fund raising events.  They might seem worthwhile and fun at the beginning but as they carry on year after year, there is a chance the event can turn on one, much like it did with this race.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Difficult Persuasion 

In California, heavy rains and a deep snowpack in the high Sierras would seem to have ended the long drought in the state.  Everyone can go back to watering lawns and filling swimming pools.  But, they can't.  The drought isn't over according to the State Water Resources Control Board.  This is a difficult message and more difficult persuasion that the regulators have undertaken.  They are telling citizens who have experienced the downpours that one year of wet winter weather is not enough.  Will the populace listen and will water delivery agencies continue to hunt down wasters and fine them?  Only time will tell. If the state's dams refill to their former capacity and water releases become mandatory, it will be a tough job to keep citizens in line.  Next year will reveal whether the drought is really over or not.  If the state gets a suitable rainfall and snowpack two years in a row, the Control Board could consider lifting some restrictions.  Will Californians wait that long?

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Smart PR 

Because public relations is what you do and not what you say, this is smart PR.  You take photos of your room, send them to the company via an app on your phone and get back a visual redesign of the space you can use at once.  The advantage is that it all happens within the app and there is no other software required.  The company is still in test on the system but it will come out of beta soon enough and already looks to be successful.  The only persons who will be dismayed are interior designers.  But, some of them might find employment with the company.  The benefit of the program is that it makes something complicated look and work easily.  That is intelligent and effective PR.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

The Pain Of Not Knowing 

There is a special worry when one knows a certain crisis can erupt at any time, and one can't stop it.  Consider Chipotle and E.coli poisoning.  The outbreak hit the company hard across the US, but in spite of efforts to identify the source, the cause is unknown.  That means Chipotle is set up for further E.coli outbreaks and is powerless to defend against them.  The company has strengthened food buying and handling procedures, but those are no guarantee the bacteria will be controlled because Chipotle has no idea what caused the problem.  The most the company can do is to maintain a fast reaction force should the bacteria erupt again in one of its restaurants.  That would mean shutting down the restaurant quickly, testing for sources and hopefully neutralizing the problem.  In spite of scientific progress, there are still mysteries and the pain of not knowing is real.

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