Thursday, December 30, 2004

How to ruin a perfectly good "brand" -- America

A survey by the GMI World Poll find growing "anti-American sentiment"
among international consumers, evidently a reflection of result of disdain
for Bush administration foreign policies. This feeling "negatively
impacts U.S. multinational companies closely branded as American."

I doubt that the arrogant central players in the White House took
this backlash into account as they laid their plans for "New! Improved!
Preemptive Strike!"

Here's the story.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Seattle, Washington -- December 27, 2004

American multinational companies will need to mount a valiant effort to
distance themselves from the image of the U.S. federal government and
its unpopular foreign policies in the New Year or risk continued brand
erosion and ongoing boycotting by European and Canadian consumers,
according to independent market research solutions company GMI, Inc.

The GMI World Poll conducted an 8,000 international consumer survey
on America’s image abroad, U.S. foreign policy and American
multinational brands on Dec. 10 through 12 (representative samples of
1,000 consumers in each of eight countries: Canada, China, France,
Germany, Japan, Russia, United Kingdom and United States). The study
found that 1/3 of the 8,000 international consumers stated that
American foreign policy, including the war on terror and the war in Iraq,
most influenced their image of America; only 17% indicated that
American movies and music most influenced their image. Furthermore,
79% of European and Canadian consumers distrust the American
government, 50% distrust American companies, and 39% distrust the
American people.

When European and Canadian consumers were asked to characterize the
American government and President Bush, they were most often
described as arrogant and self-centered; UN Secretary General Kofi
Annan was characterized as conventional and reserved. With this in
mind, when consumers were asked to characterize American
multinational brands, the data revealed select American multinational
company’s - AOL, Exxon Mobil and Starbucks - were viewed very much
like the American government and President Bush: arrogant, intrusive
and self-centered.

According to the study, these multinational American companies were
also among the top brands most likely to be boycotted; in keeping with
polls from the past three months, GMI World Poll found that 20% of
European and Canadian consumers reported that they consciously avoid
American products because of recent American foreign policy and
military action.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Alas, the nation's leaders tend to take much for granted, especially the
amount of good will the USA has around the world. Right now that
"human capital" is running perilously thin.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Today's riddle: How is the U.S. Missile Defense Shield
different from a high school football team?

Answer #1: The shield doesn't operate in the rain.

From Reuters comes the story (about the shield, not the football team):

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The first flight test in nearly two years of a
planned U.S. missile-defense shield has been scrapped two days in a row
this week because of bad weather, the Pentagon said on Friday.

Strong rain squalls over the Kwajalein atoll launch site in the central
Pacific caused the latest postponement, Richard Lehner, a spokesman
for the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency, said shortly after the decision
to scrap the test. A new attempt might be made later in the day, he said.

Answer #2: The football team occasionally intercepts something.

When the skies cleared and the test finally happened, the interceptor failed to launch.

From the New York Times (12/16/04):

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15 - An important test of the United States'
fledgling missile defense system ended in failure early Wednesday as an
interceptor rocket failed to launch on cue from the Marshall Islands, the
Pentagon said.

After a rocket carrying a mock warhead as a target was launched from
Kodiak, Alaska, the interceptor, which was intended to go aloft 16
minutes later and home in on the target 100 miles over the earth,
automatically shut down because of "an unknown anomaly," according
to the Missile Defense Agency of the Defense Department.

Answer #3: The football team recognizes failures and adapts its strategy.

Also from the NY Times story:

But a spokesman for Senator John Kyl, Republican of Arizona, a strong
advocate of the program, said "one bum test" would not alter support for

Indeed, despite a series of delays in testing this year, Congress has
embraced the deployment of a rudimentary system, which is favored by
those who want to field even a limited system sooner rather than later.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Outsourcing the C.E.O.? -- high tech rumor

The following press release has been circulating in Silicon Valley and
other high tech communities. Probably scheduled for 4/1/05 release, it's
here it time for holiday cheer.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Subject: Outsourcing update

Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ)

News Flash: PALO ALTO. Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) today
announced that the Office ofPresident, CEO and Chairman will be
outsourced as of December 31, the end of the fiscal year. The move is
being made to save $45 million in annual salary and benefits. Further
savings in air travel are expected to add to HP's bottom line. "At the end
of the day, the cost savings will be quite significant" says HP board
member, Executive Vice President, and CFO Rob Highwayman, who,
with the aid of HP's outsourcing arm, HP Services, has studied
outsourcing extensively. "We simply can no longer afford this inefficiency
and remain competitive in the world stage," Highwayman said. Sanji
Gurvinder Singh, 23, of Indus Teleservices, Mumbai, India, will be
assuming the Office of President, Chairman and CEO as of November 1.
He will receive a salary of $320 USD a month with proportionate
benefits. Mr. Singh will maintain his office in India andwill be working
primarily at night, due to the time difference between the US and India.
"I am excited to serve in this position," Mr. Singh stated in an exclusive
interview. "I always knew that my career at the HP call center would lead
to great things."

An HP spokesperson noted that Mr. Singh has extensive
experience inpublic speaking and has been given Ms. Fiorina's script tree
to enable him to answer any question without having to understand the
issue.Ms. Fiorina, 49, has announced that she will join the faculty of
theStanford School of Business, specializing in medieval business and the
related subject of employee motivation. No one at the Stanford School of
Business was available for comment.

The Hewlett-Packard board continues to explore other
outsourcing possibilities including HP's more than 1,200 vice
presidents. In an unrelated news item it was learned that HP was selling
five corporate jets complete with passengers thought to be board
members and HP executives. While the value of the content was not
thought to be significant it is believed that their accumulated air-miles
could be used to facilitate additional outsourcing initiatives.

Monday, December 06, 2004

St. Lawrence Cement named to prestigious "Dirty Dozen" list

It's always good to see a local company gain recognition for
the work they do. Here's the story from the Berkshire Eagle.

6 December 2004

Proposed N.Y. cement plant makes Dirty Dozen' roster

WALTHAM -- Citing health hazards to New England states from what
would be one of the nation's largest coal-fired cement plants, the New
England-based environmental group Toxics Action Center has presented
Holcim Ltd.'s U.S. headquarters with a 2004 Dirty Dozen Award.
The Switzerland-based Holcim is one of the world's leading cement
producers. Its subsidiary, St. Lawrence Cement, is seeking to build a
massive cement plant in Greenport, N.Y., less than 16 miles west of the
Massachusetts border. The plant would burn an estimated 500 million
pounds of coal annually.

"A polluting plant of this size could not obtain permits in Holcim's
home country of Switzerland," said Sam Pratt, executive director of
Friends of Hudson, a 4,000-member organization in New York that is
opposed to the project, in a press release. "Why should a Holcim
subsidiary be allowed to threaten our health here in New England?"
More than 35 other groups and agencies, from the Berkshire Regional
Planning Commission to the American Lung Association, have expressed
strong concerns about the coal-fired facility. Former Maine Gov. Angus
King and Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal have
expressed firm opposition to the proposal.

"The track record of St. Lawrence Cement and its parent company,
Holcim, is suspect, at best," said state Sen. Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr.,
D-Pittsfield. "The proposed St. Lawrence Cement Plant, just over the
border in New York, could have significant impacts to our environment
and quality of life in Western Massachusetts."

Prevailing winds and the height of the plant's proposed stack -- some
36 stories tall, sited on a small mountain -- would send pollutants
such as lead, arsenic, mercury, carbon monoxide, greenhouse gases and
fine particulates eastward to New England, say opponents, as well as
nitrogen oxide emissions, responsible for soot and smog.

"If all that pollution heads our way, it will wipe out a lot of the
gains New Englanders have made in air-quality improvements," said
Eleanor Tillinghast, president of Green Berkshires Inc., an
environmental group.

Nathaniel W. Karns, executive director of the Berkshire Regional
Planning Commission, added, "The Berkshire Regional Planning
Commission remains very concerned about the considerable increase in
air pollution we would experience from a much larger St. Lawrence
Cement Plant. ...

The fact that the commonwealth of Massachusetts was not allowed to
participate in the New York environmental review of this project only
heightens our level of concern."

The eighth annual Dirty Dozen Awards spotlight 12 of New England's top
polluters as selected from a set of nominations by a 15-member panel of
environmental and public health professionals.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

TV journalists revolt, refuse to parrot government line!
(but only in the Ukraine)

Imagine what would happen if this spread to the United States?

From the B.B.C., "Ukraine state TV in revolt" --

Journalists on Ukraine's state-owned channel - which had previously
given unswerving support to Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych - have
joined the opposition, saying they have had enough of "telling the
government's lies".

Journalists on another strongly pro-government TV station have also
promised an end to the bias in their reporting. The turnaround in news
coverage, after years of toeing the government line, is a big setback for
Mr Yanukovych.

Journalists in Ukraine seem to have responded to the call by opposition
leader Viktor Yushchenko for them to reject government censorship.

A correspondent on the state channel, UT1, announced live on the
evening bulletin that the entire news team was going to join the protests
in Independence Square. She said their message to the protesters was:
"We are not lying anymore".

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Does the atrocity of 9/11 justify endless atrocities in response?

The Lancet study (noted here previously) estimates there have been
100,000 Iraqi casualties since the beginning of the war in Iraq. While
the exact figures are debatable, the experts in public health who
conducted the research seem to be on solid ground. When I ask college
students and ordinary American folks about this slaughter, including the
recent leveling of Falluja, some are sickened or outraged. But a
surprising number of people say something like this: “After what they
did to us on 9/11, America can’t be criticized for hitting back!”

Of course the “they” in emphatics sentences of this kind is most peculiar.
Evidently, any brown skinned Muslim can be counted in this category.
Oh, please don’t bother us with the details. We don’t need to know the
names of the women and children or even the numbers of those killed.
America’s lapdog press, including the New York Times and Washington
Post, helps out here by suggesting that all civilians killed in Iraq are
“insurgents” and not mentioning anyone else. If you’re dead, you were an
insurgent. The logic here is stunning and its moral implications
deadening to heart and soul. Now the war comes home (as it always
does) and begins to infect our national character. The idea that the
violence is
“over there" and not "right here at home" is badly mistaken,
a lesson that will take decades to unfold.

Two recent pieces are well worth anyone’s reading. One is a brief essay
by Jeffrey Sachs, professor of economics at Columbia University, “Iraq's
civilian dead get no hearing in the United States.” As Sachs observes,

“The U.S. is killing massive numbers of Iraqi civilians, embittering the
population and many in the Islamic world, and laying the ground for
escalating violence and death. No number of slaughtered Iraqis will
bring peace. The American fantasy of a final battle, in Fallujah or
elsewhere, or the capture of some terrorist mastermind, perpetuates a
cycle of bloodletting that puts the world in peril.

Worse still, American public opinion, media, and the recent election
victory of the Bush administration have left the world's most powerful
military without practical restraint.”

At an even deeper level of reflection is Chris Hedges piece in the New
York Review of books. Hedges is a former war correspondent whose
book, War is a Force that Gives Life Meaning, describes the hideous
attractions of war and their implications for any society, including the
U.S.A., that embraces war as central to its a way of life. (See Chalmer
Johnson’s The Sorrows of Empire for further details). Hedges writes:

“Those who cover war dine out on the myth about war and the myth
about themselves as war correspondents. Yes, they say, it is horrible, and
dirty and ugly; for many of them it is also glamorous and exciting and
empowering. They look out from the windows of Humvees for a few
seconds at Iraqi families, cowering in fear, and only rarely see the effects
of the firepower. When they are forced to examine what bullets,
grenades, and shells do to human bodies they turn away in disgust or
resort to black humor to dehumanize the corpses. They cannot stay long,
in any event, since they must leave the depressing scene behind for the
next mission. The tragedy is replaced, as it is for us at home who watch it
on television screens, by a light moment or another story. It becomes
easier to forget that another human life has been ruined beyond repair,
that what is unfolding is not only tragic for tens of thousands of Iraqis but
for the United States.”