Deal or No Deal

Let me start by saying that I'm no fan of the US Republican party's policies generally. I was also one of the many that were completely and thoroughly shocked when California's voted Arnold Schwarzenegger as their Governor.

But: if you were a sceptic of his ability to govern and lead, I'd encourage you to checkout the Newsweek article on the failure of the Copenhagen talks on climate change and how sub-national interests are pressing ahead to secure their own futures. In it, the steps California is taking are impressive... but I guess it's not unexpected for a state that, if it were a country, would be able to stand in the G8.

It's an interesting parallel to current Australian politics, with Tony Abbott and the Liberal party muddying the waters around the ETS with climate change skepticism. Don't get me wrong, I welcome healthy political debate over legislation that has the potential to make us both a more expensive place to live (if that's possible) and less competitive in the global economy.

But: I think Tony needs to take his head out of the sand and realise inactivity will cost us more than implementing a less-than-perfect framework that could be adapted over time.


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posted by Lee Gale @ 1:40 AM, ,




Secrecy

I added this book to my Amazon wish-list after having read The Price of Loyalty and being intrigued by the viewpoint:

"When this project officially began in February 2003, I was heartened, though not surprised, to find Paul O'Neill had a striking view of the value of secrecy - that it had almost no value. We both happened to have read Secrecy, a 1998 book by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a friend and mentor to O'Neill, who wrote that twenty years on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence had taught him a single sterling lesson: The threat to our national security is not from secrets revealed, it's from bad analysis."

Daniel Patrick Moynihan (as per wikipedia) was an American politician and sociologist. A member of the Democratic Party, he was first elected to the United States Senate for New York in 1976, and was re-elected three times (in 1982, 1988, and 1994). He declined to run for re-election in 2000. Prior to his years in the Senate, Moynihan was the United States' ambassador to the United Nations and to India, and was a member of four successive presidential administrations, beginning with the administration of John F. Kennedy, and continuing through Gerald Ford.

The books originated when, in the Post–Cold War Era, the 103rd Congress enacted legislation directing an inquiry into the uses of government secrecy. Moynihan chaired the Commission. The Committee studied and made recommendations on the "culture of secrecy" that pervaded the United States government and its intelligence community for 80 years, beginning with the Espionage Act of 1917, and made recommendations on the statutory regulation of classified information.

The Committee's findings and recommendations were presented to the President in 1997. As part of the effort, Moynihan secured release from the Federal Bureau of Investigation of its classified Venona file - the history of which is truly fascinating:
  1. President Truman was not told of the contents of made aware of the contents of these decryptions; and
  2. It's potential impact to have shed much needed light on Alger Hiss, the Rosenbergs and Kim Philby, Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess.

This file documents the FBI's joint counterintelligence investigation, with the United States Signals Intelligence Service, into Soviet espionage within the United States. Much of the information had been collected and classified as secret information for over fifty years.

Mr Moynihan looks at how this culture has impacted decades of American politics, including the Iran-Contra affair and pretty much the entire Nixon administration with it's disastrous culmination in his impeachment.

He also looks at the economic & functional costs of such a culture.

A big part of my interest in this book was how it provided perspective on the Bush II administration and how it can be viewed through the lens of books such as The Price of Loyalty, The One Percent Doctrine and State of Denial. Aside from the Cheney agenda contained within each and it's domination of the administration, all show how a culture of secrecy shaped thinking - even to the point of insane stupidity.

Don't be misled, however: Mr Moynihan wasn't advocating abolishing of secrecy, merely that it shouldn't hidden from scrutiny and that it has a 'shelf life' before it's costs outweigh it's benefits.

Beyond politics, I think many of these lessons can be applied to the workplace. People hoard information as if it is a competitive differentiation for them with their colleagues i.e. people working for the same organisation sharing the same organisational goals. In that context, I was given great advice a long time ago: information isn't power, it's a burden.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 1:27 AM, ,




Government Motors

In an overdue blog on the state of the American auto industry (I've not blogged about things since Carmageddon '09), and in the long running saga that is the auto industry's GFC related woes, GM finally went into bankruptcy as long predicted.

Their bankruptcy, as ranked by total assets, is the fourth-largest in U.S. history, following Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., Washington Mutual and WorldCom Inc.

They are quickly selling off Saab and Hummer as part of the Chapter 11 process, but as you'd expect from an attempt for a rapid Chapter 11 process, there is already concern over flaunting long-standing rules & regulations. Furthermore, American taxpayers should be concerned that in financing the new GM, they may not have saved American jobs as hoped for if plant closures continue in the US whilst investment in China increases.

Recently, GM named Edward Whitacre Jr, a former chairman of the board and chief executive officer of AT&T, as chairman. He is scheduled to take the position when the automaker emerges from bankruptcy proceedings.

Interestingly, Whitacre isn't a "car guy" as Bloomberg reported. To quote:
I don’t know anything about cars,” Whitacre, 67, said yesterday in an interview after his appointment. “A business is a business, and I think I can learn about cars. I’m not that old, and I think the business principles are the same.

I sincerely hope that the news that the Holden built Pontiac G8 might survive as Buick, is true. Holden produce a great car and have done some smart things around their business locally as I blogged in Where all think alike, no one thinks very much, so having this car continue in the US would be great for Australian jobs.

Again, I'll leave Jon Stewart to provide you a laugh:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
BiG Mess
thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJason Jones in Iran

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posted by Lee Gale @ 2:07 AM, ,




Marketing lessons from the US election

Following on from my blog on State of Denial and the recent inauguration of President Obama, I think it's worth taking a look at Seth Godin's Marketing lessons from the US election.

In doing some additional research to provide counterpoint for this blog, I Googled "analysis us election 2008" and found 3m+ articles.

Shortly before just closing the browser in an uncharacteristic moment of laziness, :-), my eye fell on the URL http://english.aljazeera.net. This took me to their analysis of battleground states for the election. This goes to show just how programmed by mainstream media I have (had?) become. I see "aljazeera" and think "terrorist news network". After a quick read, their analysis reads just like CNN's or BBC's. In fact, it has more facts and less sound bites. I've subsequently left the site with a reprogrammed view of Aljazeera as an "Arab and Muslim world news network".

But let me leave you on a humorous note... Jon's highlights from the Bush years:

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posted by Lee Gale @ 2:54 AM, ,




Analyzing Obama's Inaugural Speech

Whilst the United States and the world celebrate President Obama's inauguration, I thought it worth sharing this cool use of transcribed flash video by the New York Times.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 3:09 PM, ,




State of Denial

I thought it best to get this book blog in before the inauguration of Barack Obama... sort of like closing one door before opening another.

I picked up State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III by Bob Woodward on the recommendations by numerous people I spoke with, both close friends and friends of friends, at the same time I picked up The Tipping Point. Both books seemed to be Zeitgeist around October 2007.

State of Denial is the third in Woodward's series on the George W. Bush administration and I was quiet interested to get into the book given the illustrious career of Bob Woodward. His style of writing definitely appeals to my appreciation for detail, in fact it is quite similar to Ron Suskind's writing as it is built on interviews and presented in a third-person omniscient narrative. Both The One Percent Doctrine and The Price of Loyalty make excellent supplemental reading to State of Denial. Combined, they provide quiet an interesting, almost 360 degree view on the George W. Bush administration.

What is interesting is that Woodward seems to have come 180 degrees (or at least somewhat off the original course) on his opinion of the administration and I think this makes for a great perspective - it's initially neither sycophantic nor overly critical so you feel like you are on the journey with Bob as makes his discoveries and forms his opinions. For example, Woodward believed the Bush Administration's claims of Iraqi WMDs prior to the war, but during this book the truth unfolds. As a consequence, you get a feel for how the mistakes were made and you can appreciate both sides of the coin, so to speak.

Now, it would be fair to state this book appeals to my world views on George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice & Donald Rumsfeld i.e. I think they have done terribly in executing their responsibilities of office and the results speak for themselves. Having said that, if you want a more balanced view on this book, check out MetaCritic.

Let's continue hoping that President-elect Barack Obama doesn't provide journalists with such material for books of this nature. I'd certainly recommend having a 'feel good' book queued up soon afterwards so you can get over your feelings of extreme frustration and disappointment quickly.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 4:10 PM, ,




Fixing a Flat

Since having blogged about The World is Flat, I came across Thomas Friedman's comments on the Detroit bailout in his NY Times op-ed piece titled Fixing a Flat as well as the follow up titled While Detroit Slept.

It's really interesting to talk to people about the issue of the bailout (I've posted some of my views previously) - it's a really polarising topic. And as with most polarising topics, it's not nearly as simple as everyone wants it to be.

Yes, GM & Chrysler are terribly run businesses and need a kick in the butt more than they need taxpayer's dollars. But I suspect if you do the economic modelling (and I haven't), you'll find the ripple effect on the US economy (and therefore the global economy) would be pretty bad. Even worse would be the impact to confidence - a key underlying driver to the global economy - a point Friedman makes in an article on the GFC.

Another counterpoint (and an argument that also makes more than a little sense) is Jack Welch's article How to Save Detroit.

But rather than debate this more than already done around the world, let's take a look at Ford.

I think Ford and the work Alan Mulally has lead there (and no, I'm not suggesting Alan by himself did all the work) is what we should all be focusing on.

Just Google "ford alan mulally" and you can see some of the highlights:
Ford has renegotiated credit terms in advance of the GFC, started the painful process of downsizing, critically reviewed it's business, taken steps to increase the return on capital and focused on the product pipeline.

Alan himself was bought in from outside the industry to bring a fresh but experienced take on things. This is exactly what GM & Chrysler need to be doing now. I guess it's fair to say that Chrysler have bought in Bob Nardelli to do exactly that... but in my mind, the jury is still out of whether Bob can do that job in the time needed.

I'll end this blog with an interview with Alan on YouTube:

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posted by Lee Gale @ 2:33 AM, ,




Obama & Clinton Sarcasm

It is funny to see the 'before' moments now that Obama has announced Clinton's role in the incoming administration.


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posted by Lee Gale @ 6:01 PM, ,




End Times Countdown - Bush Exit Interviews

Will Jon be able to continue once Bush leaves office? I'm sure he'll keep being handed material in this current climate and the shine comes off the Obama yet-to-be administration.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 5:26 PM, ,




Team America

Funny! Jon takes a look at Obama's bogey men. Not sure if there is much 'change' from politics as usual.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 2:17 PM, ,




Jedi mind trick

Let me take you on a quick flashback to March 2008 with the Jon Stewart's "Broken Arrow" clip. I love the "Jedi mind trick" comment at the very end. Riot.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 10:36 PM, ,




The One Percent Doctrine


I first read about this book in either The Economist or Diplomat magazines and a great quote from author Ron Suskind drew me in where he was talking about the Bush/Cheney staff view that they were defining the new reality in which the rest of us live.

Scary.

Following on from The Price of Loyalty, The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America's Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11 continues to investigate the key themes of the Bush administration: facts and reality give way to Cheney’s management of Bush and the formulation of policy without transparency and educated debate.

Central to the title is the "one percent doctrine": threats with even a 1% likelihood must be treated as certainties. Which in turn results in "the severing of fact-based analysis from forceful response".

In The One Percent Doctrine, we join CIA chief George Tenet as he bends his beliefs as he attempts to remain loyal to Bush, with the end result the mess in the middle east we have today. This drive might have largely been generated through Bush supporting Tenet in the post-9/11 world (the book starts on September 12th, 2001), but I can't say at any point in reading the book I would have made the same choices Tenet made in walking that tight-rope - between staying in the game and making a difference or telling the boss what you want to say.

I think the author has a bright future ahead - I'll certainly be reading whatever he publishes! What I particularly enjoy is that he doesn't tell us what he thinks, rather, he simply presents the thoughts of the individual(s) he is writing about. Having said that, I'm sure any Republican will suggest he is twisting and manipulating words to sell books. I think their response makes me like the book & author better. :-)

You can checkout more details of the book on the author's site: http://www.ronsuskind.com/theonepercentdoctrine/ or on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_One_Percent_Doctrine

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posted by Lee Gale @ 2:34 PM, ,




The Price of Loyalty

Inside "The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill", author Ron Suskind collaborates with former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill to document his two years as part of the George W. Bush White House.

The book is incredibly factual and detailed, primarily due to O'Neill providing extensive documentation to Suskind, including schedules with 7,630 entries and a set of 19,000 documents that featured memoranda to the President, thank-you notes, meeting minutes, and voluminous reports.

Now, you'd have to wonder why one of Bush's most senior staff members would offer this view on events. These people have long memories and would make the remainder of your life tougher than it needed to be. Well, aside from O'Neill being well off financially, a quick excerpt from the author's note I think underscores why O'Neill provided his account:
"When this project officially began in February 2003, I was heartened, though not surprised, to find Paul O'Neill had a striking view of the value of secrecy - that it had almost no value. We both happened to have read Secrecy, a 1998 book by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a friend and mentor to O'Neill, who wrote that twenty years on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence had taught him a single sterling lesson: The threat to our national security is not from secrets revealed, it's from bad analysis."

I loved O'Neill analysis, debates and always “doing the right thing” approach as painted by the author.

Throughout the book, we are treated to the debate of: what is the difference between philosophy and ideology? The conclusion, that I agree with, he makes is, to quote, "Ideology is a lot easier, because you don't have to know anything or search for anything. You already know the answer to everything. It's not penetrable by facts. It's absolutism".

This reminds me on the comments George Soros, international financier and billionaire investor, made in the 2004 elections: "When I hear Bush say 'You're either with us or against us,' it reminds me of the Nazi's," he told the Post. Bush made his "with us or against us" comments during a post-Sept. 11, 2001, speech in which he admonished the nations of the world to join the U.S. in its battle against global terrorism, which affects many countries and has killed scores of people worldwide. But regardless of the context, absolutism doesn't belong in the White House.

The real bombshell this book delivered was the claims that the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was not a reaction to the attacks of September 11, but was instead a campaign in the planning stages ever since Bush took office. Documentation provided that supports this is a February 1, 2001, NSC meeting agenda which clearly tables "Political-Military Plan for Post-Saddam Iraq Crisis". I guess the horse has bolted on us doing anything about that now, aside from ensuring members of the Bush White House never hold positions of public office again.

I have to say, this being the third book I've read that reviews members of the George W. Bush White House (the others being "The One Percent Doctrine" and Bob Woodward's "State of Denial"), I can't say I've got a single positive word to say about the current presidency. Not a single one.

You can obviously learn more by buying & reading the book, but I'd also recommend reading more about Ron Suskind on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ron_Suskind and on his own website: http://www.ronsuskind.com/

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posted by Lee Gale @ 6:48 PM, ,




Riot! Tina Fey as Sarah Palin

This just keeps getting funnier every time I watch it !

This was the 34th season premiere episode, aired September 13, 2008, Tina Fey is in the role of Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin, alongside Amy Poehler as Hillary Clinton.



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posted by Lee Gale @ 2:00 PM, ,