Thursday, November 20, 2014


Having spent time recently in another country, it is easy to understand how news coverage shifts to the biases of the reading public.  But this is an extreme.  Through control of the media, Russians are being told what to believe and how.  There is no diversity of viewpoint.  Russian TV follows the orders of Putin and provides the images that Putin wants to convince citizens that he is in the right.  As the article states, he is playing an emotional game and appealing to the base instincts of Russians to convince them that there were no soldiers or tanks in Eastern Ukraine, that Crimea belonged to the Russians from the beginning, that Putin is guiding the state with a firm hand.  It is "trust me" writ large over the country's many time zones.  Putin may be a master diplomatist but he also can make mistakes if he lets his arrogance get ahead of him.  It would not be surprising if in the future he invades another country re-create the Soviet empire. As long as the West talks but does not act, he can get away with it too.  If you want to understand propaganda and how it works, look at Russia today.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Despite efforts to protect free speech in a democracy, there are those who believe they can control it.  Consider this fellow.   He believes that by digging dirt on journalists he can control what they write.  His arrogance is astounding but understandable.  He comes out of a business environment where control is everything, and he believes he can direct the media to report as he wishes.  Those who don't he will seek to destroy.  That is the mind of a dictator.  There is no place for such arrogance in a free-speech society, and the criticism that cascaded on him was warranted.  He should lose his job as well, but he won't.  It is a measure of the company for which he works that he can survive and continue in it.  At least he should be muzzled and kept away from the media.  There is no need to hear this dog barking.  And, if that affects his free speech rights, so be it. In a company, one doesn't get to say what he thinks without retribution.  One voluntarily restricts speech to continue to work.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Mind Of A Terrorist 

It is instructive to put oneself in the mind of a terrorist who decapitates victims and boasts about it. He is engaged in an act of negatived publicity, of inculcating fear in the minds of many.  By ignoring the conventions of war and of democratic countries, the terrorist pursues victory in any way he can, no matter how brutal.  The response of the US to the beheading was right.  The US won't be intimidated and will double-down in its efforts to wipe terrorists from the earth.  The terrorists have a distorted vision of power.  They know what they know and nothing will come in their way of pursuing power to effect their vision of what a Muslim state should be.  For that, they are more dangerous than other opponents of a democratic way of life.  They also infect the vision of the West against peaceful Muslims and create unwarranted suspicions, a burden the religious group must carry for the time being.  There is a lesson here.  One unbound by moral and civil conventions descends below the level of beasts.

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Positive Raid 

The federal government conducted surprise inspections of the National Football League medical staff on Sunday to see if doctors were carrying illegal prescriptions with them.  Contrary to what one might think, if the physicians were clean, the PR from the raid would be positive, and it would bolster the NFL's contention that it is hewing to the law.  This, however, doesn't apply to the players themselves and what they might be taking privately.  Football is a brutal sport measured in injuries large and small.  Tape and padding cannot protect ribs, knees and ankles from mangling blows.  This is why the federal government has reason to suspect drugs are given to players to get them back into games when they should be benched.  One would hope that the raids are regular lest any doctors bow to pressure from team owners and staff to get star players back onto the field. The doctors themselves must understand that there are long-term repercussions for short-term decisions,and they are influencing the health of the players for the rest of their lives. 

Friday, October 31, 2014


This blog will be taking time off from Nov. 1 through Nov. 16.  

Spin And A Plague 

Hysteria over the arrival of Ebola in the US has pushed states to impose quarantines on anyone who has worked in health care in West Africa.  At least one quarantined nurse is protesting and openly defying the ban on her movement.  Commentators have noted that states have a right to quarantine in order to protect their citizens and they have done so since their beginning.  Others have noted, however, that a state must have evidence that a quarantine is necessary -- and this is what the nurse is protesting.  She has no symptoms of Ebola although she is checking her temperature twice a day to be sure.  She says the state has no right to hold her in her house.  The state disagrees.  It is over-reacting to calm the concern of its citizens.  Call it medical "spin".  "See what we're doing to guard your health."  It takes courage on the part of politicians to work within the limits of science and medicine.  They would rather go the easy way and put a ban on anyone who has been near the source of infection.  There is less to worry about, and upsetting one citizen is easier than panicking the majority.  But, it is narrow-minded and wrong.  Yes, there is a chance of Ebola spreading in the US, but it is a vanishingly small one.  Other diseases take a greater toll each year -- cancer and heart failure, enteroviruses, etc.  Government should be communicating the necessity to remain calm and collected rather than quarantining.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Strange Diplomacy 

When you call an ally, "chickenshit", you are engaged in strange diplomacy. That was what an American government official called the Israeli prime minister.  Gutter language is not a part of diplomacy, even if one hates the opposition.  One must always leave a door open for talks and for peacemaking.  It is a fact that the Israeli government pounded the Palestinians in the latest outbreak between the two countries.  America advised against it, but Netanyahu went ahead.  So too, the decision to build new housing in Jerusalem territory claimed by Palestinians.  Bad and self-interested behavior is a norm in diplomacy.  One should hardly be offended by it.  Countries and their leaders think of their own security first.  That is as it should be.  It takes unusual circumstances and a leader with courage to put a country into potential jeopardy in order to seek peace.  In Netanyahu's defense, Palestinians haven't merited much outreach with their continuous effort to rocket and mortar Israel.  One would think the American official would understand that.  At least to the point where he would not have called Netanyahu poultry manure.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Long-term PR Problem 

Just as the Exxon Valdez caused multi-decade problems for Alaska, BP's Deepwater Horizon well in the Caribbean has left a wide bed of gunk on the ocean floor.  The damage might not be visible but it is there on the seabed where marine creatures can ingest it to what effect is unknown.  This means that for decades, BP will be defending itself in the court of public opinion.  Every time a new study comes out, the image of the burning, tilting platform will recur along with black lakes tarring the shores of multiple states.  There isn't much BP can do about it.  The damage is done and whether it is permanent or not is a question that will keep scientists busy for years.  How does a company come back from such a devastating accident.  BP in advertising has tried to rejoin the Gulf Coast community with testimony from its workers, but it also has lashed back at those who would take advantage of its restitution money.  The company has adopted a "moving on" stance that seems hollow given the damage, but what choice does it have?  It does the company and the public no good to continue wallowing in the accident and its aftermath.

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