Dec 11

RepMan, Sr., vs. RepMan, Jr.: A microcosm of the great American debate 

December 11 Guest Post from Chris "RepMan, Jr." Cody

RepMan and I take pleasure in discussing geopolitical issues with each other. Though we agree on many issues, President Obama’s decision to send an additional 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan has led to the most profound disagreement we’ve had in recent memory. RepMan is staunchly against sending the troops while I am vociferously in favor of it. Though we have amicably agreed to disagree, our debate translates to the wider dispute throughout the nation.  Getting this decision right will directly impact the image and reputation of our country and our president.

RepMan, like many Americans, opposes Obama’s escalation of the war for several valid reasons.  First, he argues that if we couldn't win the war in eight years, why do we think we can now? Why continue to sacrifice young American lives? Second, RepMan points to the difficulty of sustaining attacks across the border into Pakistan. His third argument is that the liberal base will turn against Obama for escalating the war. Finally, perhaps the most convincing reason he cites is that the continuation of the war will drain more money from an already badly damaged American economy.

Rather than attempt to refute this logic, I believe one has to acknowledge it has a degree of validity. Yet when compared to the other end of the spectrum I am firmly in favor of the troop escalation. One must first recognize the war in Afghanistan is a war waged against both those responsible for the 9/11 attacks and their supporting ideology. The Bush administration, however, diverted the resources necessary to succeed away from Afghanistan and toward an irrational invasion and occupation of Iraq. Hence the reason we have not seen success in Afghanistan.  Now, with Iraq beginning to stabilize and a competent American leader finally at the helm, we have the chance to rethink and formulate an approach to successfully wage the war. A pull out would destabilize the region, sink the country into bloody civil war and embolden a highly dangerous Islamic terrorist organization responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans. 

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Jun 08

Was Lincoln the first crackberry addict?

June 8 - blackberry-guy-and-lincoln I'm in the midst of reading a real page-turner, entitled, 'Mr. Lincoln's T-Mails.' It's written by Tom Wheeler and concerns our 16th president's real-time use of an emerging technology to help win the Civil War.

The Civil War is often called the first modern war because of multiple, simultaneous advancements in technology (everything from fast-moving trains to transport troops to the battlefield and ironclad ships to observations balloons and the smooth-bore rifle). In fact, it took generals on both sides most of the war to figure out that new technology had made most previous forms of military strategy basically obsolete. As a result, trench warfare was born.

The telegraph was another novel technology that had a profound, if almost totally, overlooked, impact on the war. It had been invented a few decades earlier but, aside from railroads, had not been adopted for any practical use. Then, along came Lincoln and the Civil War.

It didn't take the Great Emancipator long to build the White House's first telegraph office and have his cot moved in. He literally ran the war from that office. Lincoln would converse with his generals in near real-time (especially the less inept ones). He'd question their decisions, overrule the more absurd ones and literally bang out prototypical 'Dear John' telegraphs relieving incompetent field officers).

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Mar 20

How does ‘RepMan History Month’ sound to you?

I'm pleased to learn that March is ‘Women's History Month.’ How nice. And, how deserving. April2009-calendar1

But, it begs a question: are girls and grandmothers of historical note included in ‘Women's History Month?’ Or, do they have their own 30-day period set aside?

Is there a ‘Men's History Month? ‘Good, bad or ugly, men have made more history than women. Do they get a month? Do boys? Grandfathers? 

Is there a ‘Little People's Month?’ There should be. Ditto for seven-footers. Lots of them have made NBA history. Don't they deserve a month? 

And, what about dogs? Is there a ‘Dog's History Month?’ Lassie and Rin Tin Tin deserve one. How about cats? Mice? Aardvarks?

Who decides when a month is set aside to observe a group's accomplishments? Should they get a month as well? I'd call it the 'Month in History History Maker's Month.' 

Why do we overlook insects when we designate months of observation? According to what I've read, insects were here before we arrived and will be here long after we're gone. Shouldn't there be a 'Cockroach History Month?’ I'd tie it to peak infestation periods. August, perhaps? (And get this: The UK has a National Insect Week.)

I think this month thing has, like everything else, gotten completely out of control. There are so many special interest groups lobbying for their own, 'long overdue' recognition that I wouldn't be surprised to see Congress double or even triple the number of months in the year.  If they did, we could set aside the new, 36th month as 'The Congress Who Tripled the Size of the Calendar Month' and honor those historic legislators.

Carefully planned, launching a week or month to bring awareness to something can be a powerful way to get a message across and bring people together to discuss an issue.  However, I think we can all agree that it becomes a crutch when it's proposed without any thought behind it.  And that's how we've ended up with a month for any and every cause and group you can think of.

By the way. I've just decided to designate April as 'RepMan History Month.’ I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on the best way to observe it.

Nov 06

The Close Relationship Between the UK and the US also Applies to the Media

How did the British view our election?  Today's blog by Sarah Wallace and Chris Cody provides a purely Brit view intertwined with that of an American in London.

So after months and months of anticipation, a new America is finally here!

The British public and the press have followed the race to the White House almost as intently as the Americans, and with good cause, as one British political commentator (I forget which one) remarked, “even though we don’t have a vote, it affects us all.”

Obama is heading for the White House. And it would appear the majority of the World, including the UK, is happy about this prospect.080727_obama_brown

It was of great interest to see, after the intense coverage this election has received over the past few months, what percentage of the media’s reporting would be dedicated to the result and it didn’t disappoint. 

On election day the newspapers and television were full of headlines, most of them referencing key words such as "historic" and "change" and of course the ever important by-line "America’s first black President".  Stories covered every possible angle from the initial reporting of the polls – African Americans and young people are finally getting out there and voting – to the challenges Barack will face when he is finally sworn in.  One article even covered what type of rug he will pick in the Oval office (apparently Bush’s rug cost $61,000!).

It seems that the UK public cannot get enough of this landmark election and our media is feeding this appetite. The British public have always had a good grasp of American politics, granted, the American President is the leader of the "free world" and America is the last remaining global superpower, so it benefits everyone to be up to date on his or her American politics, but there has always been a “special” relationship between these two countries, and this has been reinforced by the importance of this election and its ongoing coverage.

Most newspapers and websites have provided in-depth state-by-state breakdowns and analysis highlighting the early results right through to the final outcome.  Unsurprising, given that the UK has more than two million Americans currently residing here, most of whom are ardent proponents of British news coverage and would admit, often disdainfully, to changing the channel from ABC’s purported “world news” to the BBC’s legitimate world news, which provides astute political commentary and unbiased representations of both Republican and Democratic platforms.

The British press is well known across the World for its impartial and well researched reporting and just to reassert its credentials, The Times even went so far as to take out a full page advertisement, just to make sure that the British public are aware that since 1849 it has had a correspondent based in America.

It is clear that for months to come the British media will continue with this coverage and it will be of great interest to see whether this President-elect can really bring America back to what it once was: a country worthy of its status as a world leader.

Oct 07

Would We Have Survived the Great Depression if the 24×7 News Cycle Had Existed Then?

For the beast that is the 24×7 news cycle, these are the good, old days. The pundits, empty suits and talking heads have more doom and gloom content than they know what to do with.

They just ADORE issuing news alerts as the market once again tanks. They ADORE leading their morning newscasts with stories such as the one today about a California financial planner who killed his family members before turning the gun on himself. And, they’ll occasionally “balance” their hysterics with oh-so-obvious tips from money management experts.

It’s non-stop and it’s almost universally negative. Which got me wondering: how would FDR have dealt with the 24×7 media beast in the depths of The Great Depression? Would his first 100 days of legislation have been second guessed? Would CNN have criticized his “alphabet” solution of public works programs aimed at Fdr_fireside_chat_march_1933putting Americans back to work, describing it as nothing more than a “band-aid” approach? Would Fox have slammed his creation of the FDIC as the “wrong remedy at the wrong time?” Would CNBC have aired endless cell phone videos of stockbrokers jumping to their deaths? And, would People Magazine have capped it all off by running a cover photo of a wheelchair-bound president entitled, “A Crippled President for a Crippled Economy’?

The mind shudders at what might have been. I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to say we might never have climbed out of the Depression if cable news had been around at the time.

I firmly believe the media helped exacerbate today’s dilemma. Sure, they didn’t cause the mortgage crisis or credit crunch but, man, do they love to fan the flames.

Let’s be thankful the 24×7 media beast didn’t exist during The Great Depression. If it had, FDR might have said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself (and continuous and irresponsible news coverage).”

Oct 06

Did the Name Prompt the Blame?

Thanks to Zara Gibb for the idea.

The BBC’s Web site ran a fascinating article about the unintended implications of the word "bailout." As detailed in the text, the oft-maligned George W. Bush actually isn’t at fault for this particular, oral blunder.

As the fiscal crisis escalated, W called on Congress for a "recovery" or a "rescue."_45075194_bailout_416 Somehow, though, the word "bailout" became the popular substitute. And, all hell broke loose as Democrats blamed Bush and his Republican cronies for the mess on Wall Street while the GOP refused to endorse a $700 billion package that they say rewarded the evildoers.

More importantly, as the "B" word was bandied about and the original bill stalled, Americans panicked and European and Asian markets tanked.

A revised bill was finally passed on Friday, but pundits are already saying it may be too little, too late. One wonders if lawmakers and the media had followed W’s lead and used words like rescue or recovery, would the package have passed sooner and would today’s mess be a little less bleak? As W would say, "I’ll leave that for future historians to decide."

Oct 03

You Betcha!

Let me preface this blog by saying I’m a Barack Obama supporter. That said, I’m absolutely amazed to see and read all the glowing reviews of Sarah Palin’s performance in last night’s debate.

Simply because Sarah didn’t have a brain freeze or ramble on and on in nonsensical non sequiturs, pundits and consumers alike seem to think she did amazingly well.

Not me. Her "You betcha!" and "Say it ain’t so, Joe!" quips didn’t resonate with me. And, she’s done absolutely nothing to convince me she has the depth of intellect or character to manage the myriad crises facing the next administration. Francesfargo

When I see Sarah Palin, I see Frances McDormand’s "Sheriff Marge" character in the movie Fargo. I see this quirky, down-home, part-time wife and part-time small town
sheriff trying to deal with a grisly murder. While Sheriff Marge rose to the occasion in the movie, I don’t see Candidate Sarah following suit. In fact, I see her as nothing more than an empty suit.

Did anything Sarah say or do last night change my thinking at all? Nope. Am I still voting for Obama? You betcha!

Oct 01

In Need of Life Support

What must others think of the U.S. in light of our economic meltdown and inability to fix it? Carl Foster and Zara Gibb, two senior members of Peppercom’s UK office, offer their thoughts…

The "Special Relationship" doesn’t just mean Britain following America into Iraq, or the TV screens of Middle England being filled with the best of HBO, it seems you guys can’t even have a financial meltdown without us jumping on the bandwagon.

The UK actually had the first major headline in this saga – last year’s nationalisation of Northern Rock, a major UK bank. Then along came Bear Stearns and our problems began to look miniscule in comparison, and all that was before Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

9/11 made the world look at America differently – compassionately. Since then America’s reputation seems to have been in freefall. Regardless of our own debt-fueled decade of conspicuous consumption, all fingers point to the US when it comes to laying blame for the current global economic crisis. The attitude is: "America created this problem and so America needs to fix it." The front pages here lead with the surprise rejection of the bailout, many of them feature a gloomy photo of the Capital building.

Last week, the BBC’s business editor said of the bailout: “After leading us up the hill, it would be disastrous for American’s reputation if it failed to pass the measure.” In the words of John McFall, chairman of the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee, U.S. politicians "turned off the life support system for the economy."

People in the UK (at least for these RepMan followers) are left perplexed by the shock refusal of Congress to agree to the bailout. Understood, hard-working taxpayers shouldn’t be left to carry the bill for the failures of the fat cats, and the finance giants themselves should sort this mess out – but that just ain’t going to happen.

So, the political wrangling that has taken place in America has left banking experts warning a complete "failure of the financial system." Now we’re not City whiz kids, but that doesn’t sound good. With many Republicans ideologically in favour of free markets, no bailouts for losers and winner takes all – we’re left wondering who the winner will be.

Sep 05

Mick Cody’s Mad as Hell and Not Going to Take it Anymore

Mick Cody is one angry dog. The five-year-old pit bull is incensed over Governor Sarah Palin’s recent comments at the Republican National Convention: "You know what they say the difference is between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick."

Cody, who is co-founder and managing partner of the National Pit Bull Awareness Association (NPAA), says Palin’s negative remarks perpetuate misleading stereotypes. "We’ve worked tirelessly to change people’s misconceptions about pit bulls. If treated decently, we’re warm, compassionate and caring creatures, unlike a certain Alaskan politician."

Mick was reached for comment in Ohio, where he’d been addressing a local NPAA chapter. "The major parties and media are totally overlooking a powerful (and, I do mean powerful) voting block. Palin’s comments not only antagonize pit bulls, but they anger the 50 million dogs currently residing in America. And, critically, many of my fellow canines are of voting age (editor’s note: that would be three years old or older)."

Cody says the NPAA has offered speaking opportunities to both parties, but has been turned down cold: "Not so much as a whimper from either camp," he snarled.

As a result, Mick says he’s taking matters into his own paws and, along with his new eight-week-old little brother, Rooney, making a run for the presidency. "It’s time canines had a chance to run things. Sure, our life expectancies may not enable us to last for a full two terms, but we’d do a better job than the current occupants," he howled.

When questioned about his youthful running mate’s qualifications for the VP slot, Mick snapped: "Rooney’s been around for three months. That’s almost a full year in human terms. How much more experience does the hockey mom have?" Mick added that the only thing Rooney hasn’t mastered yet is field dressing a moose. "But, give the little guy some time," he chuckled.

The Mick/Rooney ticket hopes to hold a quick convention in the Cody backyard ("Our mom’s promised to clean it up first with a pooper scooper," noted Rooney.). They’ve also developed a campaign theme they say "….runs rings" around the others: "Paws for a change."

Mick says the double entendre will resonate with humans, canines and the all-important undecided Feline vote.

"Pit Bulls specifically, and dogs in general, are mad as hell with negative stereotypes. It’s time to muzzle Palin and her breed once and for all," concluded Cody.

Sep 04

Triple-tasking on the Train

I’ll bet three-quarters of my fellow NJ Transit riders are doing exactly what I’m doing: reading a book or newspaper, listening to tunes on their iPod and periodically scanning their blackberries.

We’re an A.D.D.-addled society that seems to absolutely revel in the fact. We’ve not only adapted to more information and less time, we seem to take perverse delight in it. Is that because we’re so self-centered we couldn’t possibly imagine the world getting by without us being aware of, if not opining on, the various issues of the day?

Various studies have shown the average American’s attention span is now condensed to something in the order of three seconds. We literally can’t focus on one assignment without immediately multi-tasking to a second, or third. Mmedia

I think multitasking is a significant contributor to the physical and mental health problems besieging our country. I think it’s also a factor in our waning global competitiveness (by paying attention to so many other countries, we’ve managed to neglect our own).

I’d posit other thoughts, but I need to fire up UB-40 on the iPod, scan the various sections of the Times and Journal, and finish reading an outrageous mountaineering book called Dead Lucky……all before I reach Penn Station.

Talk to you later, blogosphere.