Tuesday, November 04, 2008

McCain's campaign: A case of bad brand strategy or something else?

John McCain's presidential campaign is being critically analyzed by many professed marketing professionals, pundits and political strategists as an example of unfocused and inept branding. This resounding one-note tune coming from many corners is a pretty clear indication of how easy an opinion it is to adopt. Rather than jump on the bandwagon, maybe everybody should step back and consider what the candidate faced from the outset.

I’m not so sure McCain could have done any better running as the nominee for a party that is as badly fractured and ideologically bereft as the Republican Party today. The irascible candidate's campaign has been universally portrayed as one Hail Mary pass after another, but what were the alternatives?

Not true to his brand? After the primary lesson learned in 2000, he co-sponsored several bipartisan bills that were directly aimed at dirty party politics and the toxic ethics environment on Capital Hill, but to little avail. Once Bush won his second term, McCain took the only path left available to him for the nomination in a thoroughly rigged primary system, he sucked-up to the GOP leadership. So much for Maverick.

Maybe if he’d picked Lieberman as his running mate, he’d still be the Maverick that centrists were looking for. Maybe he could have pulled from both left and right of center. But, he’d have been abhorred by his own party for the choice, and GOP turnout would have flagged on election day. Truth be told, the Palin choice really did energize rank and file conservatives, and probably got him the best possible results.

No, I think the branding story is all Obama’s. He’s the one that broke the Dem leadership’s hold on their equally-rigged primary system. He was the perfect storm of charisma, a well executed brand marketing campaign and a new approach at fund raising and event packing using social media. Of course, he also had lots of help from the new convergence of television programming and the Web, an anti-Clinton party coup by the Kennedy’s, a really unpopular outgoing president and (like I said) an ideologically bereft Republican party.

One thing Obama should keep in mind though, should he win tonight. The election is basically a popularity contest. After the inauguration it will be a different game altogether. Teddy is on his way out. The Clintons aren’t done yet. And social media has proven time and again that there are difficulties translating its massive online energy potential into real world results.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Question: Is it a bailout or bail out?


The pending Wall Street bailout looks like a $700 billion dollar public works program for Wall Street investment bankers and fat cats. For instance, who's going to manage all of the foreclosed property while the government is holding the paper and the situation slowly (ostensibly) works itself out? According to the Paulson plan, the same Wall Street firms that got us into this mess in the first place.

Do you get the picture? Led by a Treasury Secretary who until very recently was one of those Wall Street fat cats, Capital Hill (wonderfully ineffectual institution that they are) is about to risk our tax dollars, and the financial future of generations, and become an angel investor with the same greedy profiteering firms that flushed billions of investor dollars down the toilet with absolutely no qualms (collecting huge fees every step of the way). And it is quite possible that local businesses will get cut out of even doing the scut work in favor of the few merged commercial/investment banks left standing.

Congress is being sold on doing this to create liquidity so that credit will be freed up for the entire economy. But it's clear that the entire economy is being viewed based on the health of Wall Street, i.e. big banks, big funds with big corporate shareholders and big international interests. The effects of this deal will reach down to Main Street alright, but instead of trickle-down benefits, it will be the tendrils of greed. Has there ever been a clearer indication of the status of small business in Washington D.C. and than this?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Wassaap Wall Street?!! ... One year later.


Believe it or not, today (September 19th) is the one year anniversary of the day I finished illustrating this cartoon for my Managing 2 Laugh feature in ValueRich magazine. At the time, Cramer was pitching fits on television for Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke to wake up and smell the impending subprime meltdown. Bernanke was, in a word, "detached" concerning the whole thing and held out for quite some time before he eventually started cutting rates. But after that, continued to cut them with abandon. Today, he's going around saying he's got $800 billion at his disposal if need be to bail out failing Wall Street institutions. Which is, of course, exactly what the third character in my cartoon wants. Back then, the Investment Banks and Funds were mainly lobbying Washington to have their $ billions in profits classified as capital gains rather than income. Now, they have Congress exactly where they want them ... soiling their pants, and are in line for bail outs at our expense.

Ah, life is so full of irony.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

This Just in: Sarah Palin Shoots Lovable Moose!

In the last week, I have received numerous e-mails from friends, and friends of friends about Sarah Palin. Some of them are hysteria and some of them hysterical.

They have brought to my attention: a forwarded letter written by a fellow Wasilla Alaskan who knows Palin, a list of books Palin wanted to ban from the Wasilla library and various compromising photos. A quick check of Snopes.com, and apparently the only e-mail out of the bunch that wasn’t faked, was the one with the letter from her fellow Wasillian. In fact, Sarah Palin is currently the number one focus of Internet urban legends on Snopes.com. Obama need not worry though, he is number two.

I’m not personally a fan of Palin. But all these thoughtless chain e-mails are beginning to annoy me. Thoughtless? Yes. Aside from the simple fact that I am being spammed by my own address book contacts, it seems like the amount of critical thinking and responsible discourse disseminated on the Web is reaching an all time low, and it bothers me.

Magazines and newspapers are falling on hard times as ad dollars migrate to the Web. Television news programs have become just as polarized politically as the two parties. So, many of us are turning increasingly to the Internet as a source for information.

But why not focus on the Photoshop fakers and disinformationists as the problem rather than Internet users? Simply because ubiquitous software allows almost anyone to easily create fantasy from reality, today. It would be virtually impossible to stop the flow.

Why would we want to curtail humor and parody anyway? Some really great humor and commentary is being generated with Photoshop and and creative video and music mash-ups. It’s an emerging phenomenon that has the potential for helping to bring about that ground-up change Senator Obama has been talking about. Politicians can disdain the media, but they better not disdain the masses.

For some really great insight into this, go to a recent blog entitled Photoshop for Democracy by Henry Jenkins, the Director of the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program. He has included some funny examples collected from this election. By the way, I highly recommend his book Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. An updated paperback edition is due out October 1. It's a fun read that will really get you thinking about the new world we live in.

O.K., so I'm asking everyone to use their bullshit detectors and exercise good judgment about spreading fraudmail. But what is the fine line between parody and a fraud? Take this photo of Palin for instance. It’s a Photoshopped fake. Many people would think it's pretty funny if they saw it on The Onion Web site or in MAD magazine. Context is important, however. Passed around and published out of context, this photo looks like an entirely believable image. Given a new context in an e-mail message, it could easily be turned into a smear. We can’t and shouldn’t stop the creative videos, images and writing. But we can, and must, be skeptical of them in every context except parody.

The great promise of our culture is that everyone can creatively exercise their right to free speech. But we need to realize that there is no such thing as passive audience anymore. We are participants. Therefore, all of us must begin thinking a little like journalists — do some fact checking and clearly label and attribute doctored images and fictitious writing as such if we pass them along.

To put it more simply: If you're the type of person who would normally spread false rumors about people you don't like, then go ahead and send any kind of e-mail you want. It's your prerogative. But if you wouldn't normally behave that way in real life, why do it with an e-mail?

If we all work together, we can take our inboxes and search engines back.

Good Web sites for fact checking:
Feel free to leave additional Web resources for fact checking in comments.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Democrats: it's time to channel Howard Beale

It's the dawn of the third day of the Democratic National Convention, and so far we've seen a parade of Washington politicians patting themselves on the back while saying, "vote for Obama."

Where's the CHANGE in this inside-the-beltway perspective? Where's the HOPE in this self-indulgent display? Is Barack Obama receiving a show of respect and admiration from the rank and file of his party when the speech writers and candidates endorsing him seem more concerned with allaying what they imagine are the fears of borderline bigots and voters mired in status quo thinking than taking on the opposition, or the issues?

My advice to Obama ... Start channeling Howard Beale. Imagine this scene happening today, with Obama's social networking, e-mail, mobile text and blogging connections added to the network coverage at the convention.

Do you want to win the election Obama? Right now, John McCain is doing a better job of saying, "Washington is broken" than you are. It's time to stop gazing off at some vision of grandeur in the distance and presenting CHANGE and HOPE as platitudes.

Go ahead Barack, let us know it's O.K. to be mad as hell. Tell your D.C. cohorts on the floor that their constituents are not going to take it anymore. That once you're sworn in, THEY'LL be the ones changing. That they can forget partying with glamorous celebrities, junkets in corporate jets and clubish glad-handing in the cloak rooms while legislation remains gridlocked by partisan floor fights. Tell them to cease patronage up and down the ranks of the parties and open the way for new blood. Tell them we're tired of gerrymandered primary elections and that they can give up on any ideas of future political dynasties until what's broken with energy, social security, health care, foreign policy, taxes, trade, etc., etc, is fixed. What are they going to do, take the nomination back?

Tell them you're the new CEO of "Mad as Hell." If you do this, you'll win the general election in a landslide.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The News: It's cheaper to cover Britney

Alisa Miller is head of Public Radio International. Last March she gave a brief talk at the TED conference about how and why the US news media is reporting less information than ever about the world around us. The scene she paints is pretty shocking. But those of us who are journalists, know how much worse things have become in just the few months since this talk was given.

Monday, July 14, 2008

007: I'm So Happy

Unfortunately, this widget does not have the trailer on it. You'll have to click through to the Web site to see it ... but it is worth it.

James Bond finally kicks ass again. Roger Moore is just a bad memory, and all is right with the world.

Friday, July 11, 2008

WALL•E: One short roll for a robot, one giant leap for animation

Take a few minutes to play with this widget (especially the videos). It's very cool.

I went to see WALL•E with my niece recently and loved it.

Once again, PIXAR has moved the bar higher for feature animation. But even though WALL•E is currently doing well at the box office, I have questions about whether or not it will enjoy the same kind of blockbuster box office success as Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, the Toy Story movies and Monsters, Inc. The reason? The basic plot of the movie and its experimental nature might narrow its audience appeal.

The plot? Humans have vacated the Earth, which is in a toxic, uninhabitable state, and left behind Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-class (WALL•E) robots to clean it up. Seven hundred years have passed, and the Earth is still in terrible shape. Only one single WALL•E remains active, but the little guy has developed an inquisitive, childlike personality that makes him a special survivor.

Meanwhile, the errant human race is vacationing on a super-luxury space-liner where robots wait on them hand and foot. Everyone has become obese and indolent — and they have forgotten all about the Earth.

The original builders pre-programmed the space-liner to send a periodic Earth probe to look for plant life, indicating that humans could return. The probe, EVE, arrives on Earth and lonely little WALL•E falls lenses-over-treads in love with her. But EVE finds a living plant and must return to the mother ship. WALL•E stows away and, well... I shouldn't say much more except that he is a catalyst that changes everything.

Outside of the little robot's love story, the plot is conceptually based on extrapolations of the extreme ultimate consequences from pollution, global warming and a consumerist society. Don't expect kids under nine or ten years of age to fully comprehend. Also, the only dialog spoken during the first half of the film consists off two words, "WALL•E" and "EVE." This could prove attention challenging for some.

On the other hand, the little WALL•E robot is the strongest character PIXAR has developed to date, and highly entertaining to watch. As a result, the movie is a hilarious visual romp. The hour and 37 minute film is very, very innovative — experimental even — in structure and execution and demonstrates PIXAR's absolute mastery and leadership in animated features.

The first half of WALL•E is essentially a silent movie. The characters owe more to Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and Tom and Jerry than any modern influences. The Sound Effects division has an unprecedented responsibility to carry the plot forward along with the character animators. This was an incredible creative risk that ultimately paid off from a purely artistic standpoint. The film is chocked full of slapstick humor and amazing imagery. One feels totally immersed in the fantastical settings of a decrepit earth and fully-robotic luxury space-liner.

WALL•E and the other robots are cute and funny. The animated humans are even cute in a creepy kind of way. There are lots of pratfalls that will make you laugh out loud. So, I could be wrong about narrower audience appeal. I hope so. I'd hate to see PIXAR's creative minds fettered in any way because of a disappointing box office.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Rain's Unbound Reality

This Duo Corde Lisse act, entitled This Unbound Reality was performed by Rain Willson and Erin Carey at the New England Center For Circus Arts, as a part of their 2008 Professional Track Training Program. Rain (with the lighter hair) is my daughter.

On this week following Father's Day, I find myself thinking about how much my kids inspire me. When they were young, it was easy to subscribe to the idea that they should take their cues from me and follow my example. Boy, am I glad that they were both too independent for that. I'll confess that, all too often, I've forsaken my best ideas and dreams as an artist for the most expedient path ... the best "logical" career move. My kids on the other hand are both heading full-tilt toward making their dreams a reality. I'll write about my son some other time, but let me tell you why Rain is such an inspiration to me.

Rain started in theater at the age of nine. She was in Equity performances of The Sound of Music and Will Rogers Follies at the Jupiter Theater (formerly the Burt Reynolds Jupiter Theater). Later, she auditioned and was accepted to the Palm Beach County School of the Arts, where she spent her middle and high school years. She spent the summer vacation of her junior year studying at the Circle in the Square Theater on Broadway.

There were many instances where she would audition for a play, or to attend a special program and she was not selected. In fact, she was not originally accepted for the theater program of the School of the Arts, but made it into the choral program. She had to audition again the following year, and succeeded. Acting is probably the most discouraging career anyone can imagine. Through it all, Rain has maintained an "anything is possible" attitude. "No" is not a deterrent. If anything, rejection just makes her more determined and creative in how she achieves her goal.

After graduating high school, Rain attended the College of Santa Fe in the performing arts school. When she came home for her first Christmas holiday, she told us she was disappointed in her courses. Unfortunately, Rain
felt like she wasn't progressing because her high school training had been of such high quality. But then the A&E cable network ran non-stop Cirque du Soleil performances on New Year's Eve. Rain was captivated by the aerial performers. She told us that she was going to become an aerialist.

Rain is a beautiful singer and graceful dancer, but she was never an athlete. I had watched a behind-the-scenes documentary on Cirque du Soleil that showed how excruciatingly difficult the training was, and how heavy the competition was among the best circus acrobats and performers in the world for a part in one of their shows. Many of these people came from circus families and had been training since they could barely walk. Rain wanted to start at age 19. I wanted to try and dissuade her from what I thought was a futile and Quixotic dream, but kept my comments to a minimum. I've come to learn that whatever Rain sets her mind to, she does.

In just a few years, Rain has built her strength and stamina to an amazing degree. She has worked and paid her own way to study at first rate circus schools in Bristol, England and
Brattleboro, Vermont. The above video is a performance from the later.

Most aerialists don't have voice and acting training, and so Rain is getting some recognition for the added dimension she can bring to a part. She is also showing a great deal of choreographic ingenuity with her own routines.

But best of all, she dreams big and then makes it happen, no matter what the obstacles. Go Rain.

To view the entire full length act from the video above and others please visit Rain's website.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Once More Into the Breech

Find more photos like this on FOLIO: MediaPRO

Well, I've done it again ... joined another work-related social network. They are an awful lot of work for the small amount of business I get out of them. Hopefully someday it will all add up to a great big network effect.

In all fairness, MediaPRO looks to have potential. It's sponsored by FOLIO, which is a stalwart association in the publishing industry, and it's growing fast. If you're involved in publishing at all you should check it out. At least come take a look at some of the stuff on my profile page.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Mac vs. PC Ads Don’t Benefit Apple

I’m a marketing and advertising designer by profession. Now, I certainly don’t travel in the rarefied circles of Apple’s longtime advertising agency TBWA Chiat/Day. My clients have always been small businesses and regional corporations. But I still think I have a right to offer constructive criticism about the Mac vs. PC commercials. I’ve spent more than half of my career working on Macs and have a deep affinity for the Apple brand. Heck, I’m a stockholder.

The problem is that ever since Vista was launched almost two years ago, Apple’s Mac vs. PC spots have mainly been about how bad Vista is. With only a couple of exceptions, Apple technology and software have been ignored, and the advantages of using a Mac have only been implied by the PC guy’s pratfalls, goofy schemes, afflictions and general trials and tribulations with Vista.

Wake up Chiat/Day. Americans love underdogs.

Why is it that the PC guy, played by actor John Hodgman, gets to chew the scenery and create a lovable character while the Mac guy, played by actor Justin Long, has had little to do but stand around with his hands in his pockets? O.K., we get it. Vista sucks. But I remember when the Mac guy was smart and hip because he could do the most amazing things with complete aplomb. Do you realize what an indolent prig you’ve turned him into? He’s representing the Apple brand! Not good.

I suggest that you take a look at some of your earlier spots when the Mac guy actually had some nifty lines and business. You barely covered the waterfront of Apple computing benefits before you got off track. While you’ve been preoccupied with dissing Vista, Mac OS X, the iPhone, iTunes, the iPod and AppleTV have matured into a new universe of digital lifestyle connectivity. It’s not like the Mac guy has a lack of cool things he can do.

Just a little advice from a street-level design guy.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Politics: Barack's Mother's Day Wish


It's been interesting watching Hillary Clinton's relationship with Barack Obama as the Democratic Primaries evolved. Do you remember how she acted like she was the only adult in the room during the first debate? That didn't stop his meteoric rise though.

So next she got kind of weepy and played the martyr with the press, complaining about how she always seemed to get the first question. Still, even though she got a little traction in Massachusetts, New York and Tennessee, he pulled ahead again.

So she decided to open a can of whup-ass on him and call his values and friends into question. But still to no avail.

I know it's just politics: trying to find something that resonates with a group of voters. But darned if there aren't some definite similarities to how mothers often cope with their children growing from helpless infant to willful tot, rebellious teenager to self-assured adult. And it brought to mind this cartoon for Mothers Day.

Considering Hillary's latest tactics, if Obama had a Mother's Day wish for her, it would probably be this.

Friday, May 09, 2008

The word for the day: PEHDTSCKJMBA

What with all the non-stop politics, Disney Lolitas, heartless juntas, etc. we're bombarded with these days, we have to cherish our whimsy when we can get it. A Tom Waits summer tour? I had to share this. You can get the tour dates here.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Finance: Palm Beach Mansions, Get 'Em While They're Hot

Click Image to Enlarge

Recently, there has been an interesting confluence of stories in my community that caught my attention and prompted me to do this cartoon for the Palm Beach Daily News. I’d been hearing rumblings that lenders were beginning to foreclose on various people after extended periods of non-payment with little or no repercussions.

Last week, the Palm Beach Post, ran a front-page story stating that the number of foreclosures in March had nearly quadrupled over the previous year. Almost on cue, I began seeing reports on CNBC of hedge funds that were buying blocks of financially distressed property at 20 or 30 cents on the dollar.

Meanwhile on the island of Palm Beach — that enclave of the rich and famous where billionaires regularly buy and sell mansions in the $40 to $ 75 million range — the real estate market has never been better. In fact, it’s booming. It’s not unusual to see several announced sales in this price range per month. Most recently, former Goldman Sachs partner John Thornton purchased an oceanfront mansion built by billionaire businessman Sidney Kimmel for a reported $81.5 million. The house had only been listed for a short time, and Kimmel got his asking price.

All this got me to thinking: Hmmmm, Fed steps in to back hedge funds and investment banks … and foreclosed properties mean write-offs galore for mortgage issuers. How low do they have to go before they can reasonably get out from under their position? And flush funds can’t wait to buy at bottom feeder prices. Could this be what’s prompting a flood of new foreclosures?

My grandfather had a Palm Beach construction company during the Great Depression. They were kept quite busy building houses on the island at the time. But wages were so low that he would cook a big pot of fish chowder on the site for his crew every day. For most of them, it was the only hot meal they got.

You know the old saying, “The rich get richer” … and we pay for it with inflation and taxes.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Politics: Magic Realism and Presidential Politics


How about this? Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are both saying that the popular vote should determine the Democratic presidential nominee. How weird is that? The idea is certainly not in the rules as laid out by the DNC, or in the laws on the books in fifty states, or in the constitution of the United States.

Obviously, they have their reasons. Obama is most likely worried about the recent hue and cry that, even though he is a mathematical shoe-in for the nomination, he “can’t close the deal.” Should the superdelegates buy this argument and fall back to more familiar territory — two decades of Clinton party leadership — he’ll point to his lead in the popular vote and say they shouldn’t cheat the voters. Hillary on the other hand, really only has one chance at making a case to the superdelegates to be the nominee; if she casts the primary vote totals in the framework of a national election. Even this doesn’t supply her with a supportable position unless Florida and even Michigan's popular vote totals are included. To heck with the fact that both states' delegates were declared null and void by the DNC.

The television landscape is even more bizarre. Cable anchors periodically explain that the nomination is based on the delegate count. They'd be remiss not to mention it. But then they'll spend the next two hours interviewing dozens of talking heads about every possible scenario of which candidate is ahead of the other based on popular vote, exit polls, demographic groups, uncounted superdelegates, endorsements and whether the candidate is elite, effete, female, black, bitter, truth challenged, yada, yada, yada. CNN has actually trotted out three specious popular vote scenarios, all with different results.

Focus Pocus

The definition of Magic Realism according to Encyclopedia Britanica is “a … literary phenomenon characterized by the matter-of-fact incorporation of fantastic or mythical elements into otherwise realistic fiction.” Yep. That pretty much describes the way the Democratic primary process is being foisted on us.

Let’s see if we can get on the same page here. For the first hundred years or so of our history, the political parties in each state selected their delegates and representatives at party caucuses. Primary elections are a relatively new innovation, introduced (ironically) by Florida in 1904. As originally conceived, primary elections bind party delegates to vote along the same lines of the results. But in the last thirty years, the national Democrat and Republican parties have made significant changes in their processes to better insure control over the outcomes of the primaries. With gerrymandered districts, select early primary states, superdelegates, delegate apportionment and a host of increasingly arcane party rules, the road to the conventions are an unholy mess. Small wonder that it's blown up in the Democrat's face this year.

Jefferson's Genius

Thomas Jefferson said,“A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.” As a key framer of the Constitution, he firmly believed that each state should have a sovereign and self-determining government and that the federal government should be limited in scope to matters pertaining to trade and national security. The Federal government was devised as a caucus of state congressional and senate delegates, administrated by the executive branch.

In my mind, there is no more compelling an argument for Jefferson’s rectitude than what we have witnessed over the last year. As we have watched the Democratic and Republican primaries unfold, each state has had a very distinct personality, with its own priorities and issues. What better way for these candidates for our highest national office to get a first-hand education about the people of America? Unfortunately, unless they are being disingenuous, these lessons seem to have gone over the Democratic candidates' heads. If you suplant nomination by delegate with nomination by popular vote as they are now both suggesting, the primaries become a national election and you marginalize each state’s political primary process and weaken each state's party influence on the national committees.

We are used to the Clintons saying whatever is expedient to suit their purpose. But it’s most definitely a strange assertion for Mr. “Bottom-up Change” Obama to make.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Politics: Obama’s Rocket In Your Pocket

If you mainly follow the primaries on TV, you probably were mystified and amazed by Barak Obama’s overnight meteoric rise to frontrunner status in February. After all, he was only duking it out with Edwards for number two in the January primaries — a position that in past elections might mean you’d be a contender in four more years but would only amount to “also ran” for the nomination. The next thing we new, he all but swept Super Tuesday and had almost delivered the “coup de grace” to Clinton’s campaign before the month was out.

The most hallowed political pundits were caught scratching their talking heads. They stammered and shuffled their papers in confusion as they tried to wrap their party-position debates around the fact that 4,000 rabid supporters were showing up for stadium-held Obama rallies while a few hundred were showing up for Hillary in a civic center — or the fact that Obama was out-fundraising Hillary ten to one — or that large chunks of the Clinton’s much vaunted political base were falling into Obama’s camp.

Even if you were Web savvy, you still might have been wondering if it all couldn't just be chalked up to Obama’s charisma and speaking ability. But if you are one of the many who have recently welcomed social networking and mobile convergence into your day-to-day life, you recognized immediately what Obama’s secret weapon was. Those huge Obama rallies were really Obama flash mobs.

Yes folks, it’s not about the black candidate or the female candidate. Nor is it looking like it’s about the most experienced candidate either. It’s about whether or not you tweet. A tweet is what users of Twitter do. Twitter is a social network for cell phone texting where members can subscribe to receive brief mass text messages from each other. And yes, Obama has a Twitter profile with lots of subscribers. Every time he tweets that he’ll be speaking somewhere, thousands of his subscribers get the message. When they tweet that they are going to attend, thousands more get it.

Twitter is only part of the huge, interconnected Web 2.0 infrastructure though. Obama’s campaign is participating in all of the large communities, many of which have their own texting applications. Plus, he also operates his own text message subscription list on his campaign Web site. My.barackobama.com also offers virtual cell phone banks where volunteers can help get the message out. For the Pennsylvania primary, you can volunteer to put in some time calling as a representative of Women for Barack Obama and Veterans for Barack Obama. A similar virtual bank was responsible for 5,000 calls in Spanish prior to the Virginia primary, where Obama got over 50 percent of the Hispanic vote — a shocker for Hillary and those pundits, again.

And, as we continue to watch the election on TV — commentary after punditry, segment after breaking news story — it’s obvious that broadcast journalism still only barely understands the implications. They still don’t get it. But Obama does.

Drue Kataoka of the Valley Zen blog caught an excellent video where Barack Obama himself was discussing some of the strategy behind it. Watch and listen …

Did he say something about social networking having implications in government? Hmmmm ... stay tuned for more astonishment.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Subprime programming is now our reality show

Click image to enlarge

As editor of ValueRich magazine, I did a full-page cartoon series called Managing 2 Laugh. A recurring character in the series was Jonesy the Insult Wall Street Bull, a send up of Robert Smigel’s Triumph the Insult Comic Dog from the Conan O’Brien Show (I’m a big fan). Jonsey’s job was to basically point out the myriad insulting ways Wall Street, the financial media and government typically stiff-arm small business.

The most recent Jonesy episode was illustrated in August of 2007, when most of us were just beginning to get a whiff of how serious the subprime mortgage fiasco could get. CNBC and many other financial media outlets were still shining a rose-colored light on the whole thing, with the exception of Jim Cramer who famously exploded in Erin Burnett’s face over inactivity from Fed Chairman, Ben Bernanke and comments made by St. Louis Fed president William Poole. “He has no idea how bad it is out there!”

You could see all the sides lining up to play it to the hilt. Cramer, who claims to be on the side of small investors, was spitting and screaming for an investment bank bailout. Of course, as he actually said on the air, a big reason for this is that he was “getting calls” from buddies within the big hedge funds and banks.

These are the same hedge funds and investment banks who provided a speculative market so that mortgage companies and commercial banks could easily absolve themselves of application vetting risks by reselling the loans. They were already lobbying hard in Washington to keep tax breaks on their incredible profits. All they had to do was call their lobbyists and tell them to quickly change the pitch to “save our homes.”

Poor Ben Bernanke, who had just taken over from former Fed Pope Alan Greenspan, was caught in the middle. Being new to the position and anxious to establish his own gravitas, he probably figured he’d push back against cries for action from these large special interests, but as we now know, that wouldn’t last long.

Believe me I’m no market expert. But human nature being what it is, I saw the train coming down the track … hence this cartoon.

It’s interesting to look at the cartoon now and see where we are today … The once reticent Fed has now pumped so much money into the economy that we might as well call the dollar the peso … Bear Sterns is being acquired for cents on the dollar with government backing … former Fed Pope Greenspan crying, “It wasn’t me.” The repercussions keep a poppin’ every day.

And where does this leave us middle class small investors? Who knows? If I had to bet, my wager would run counter to what they’re saying on CNBC right now, that the market is bouncing off the bottom and we’ll be making a comeback sometime within the next year. My bet would be that, right after the election is over in November, all the Fed’s unaffordable propping up is going to go away and the bottom is going to drop further than ever. Think about it. What incentive will there be to keep it going? Wall Street’s positions will certainly be covered by then. We’ll have a new regime in Washington who can’t be blamed … human nature.

What do you think?

I think it’s time to blow the C harp and sing the blues. Xcuse me while I whip this out:
We saw this train a comin,’

Comin’ down the track.

Now that it’s done got here,

It’s hard to push it back…