Wondering Out Loud

Politics meets NASCAR

UPDATE: A special thanks to Mike Keliher – of the one l variety – for pointing out my misspelling of Margaret Anderson Kelliher – of the two l variety. I shall not make the same mistake again.

Gubernatorial (dontcha just love that word) politics and NASCAR had a meet up on Reusse and Company on AM 1500 KSTP in the Twin Cities yesterday. I’m sure it’s happens all the time during campaign season, but Wednesday’s interview of Margaret Anderson Keliher – Speaker of the House in Minnesota and one of more than a dozen hoping to represent the DFL in November’s election – is one that made me stop what I was doing  so I could listen more closely. What struck me about the exchange came and went as fast as a lap at Daytona, but it got me thinking about how far politicians go to get all their talking points across.

If you’ve ever watched an interview with a NASCAR driver, they are magicians at working sponsor names into their answers. Jeff Gordon can’t go a sentence without mentioning his DuPont Chevrolet. Considering the mega bucks sponsors plop down for the privilege of having their logo speed along at over 100 mph, it makes sense to mention those names as often as possible. Keliher took a page from the NASCAR driver handbook and used the interview to inject all the necessary references to prove her Minnesota creds.

In no particular order she dropped in 4H, hockey, public schools, ice fishing and dairy princess in less than 30 seconds. A truly impressive performance. Now some will call me cynical for thinking Keliher was using well rehearsed talking points, but listen and you’ll hear her back track to clarify that her kids go to public school and, when asked when she last went ice fishing she deftly avoids answering the question. I am cynical, but I’m not drawing any conclusions…yet.

Here’s hoping her handlers haven’t told her she needs to sprinkle ice fishing and hockey references into every interview. If that’s the case, it will be a long campaign season.

February 4, 2010 Posted by | Communications, Marketing, Public Relations | , , | 2 Comments

Terry Moran called for illegal Tweeting

President Obama called Kanye West a jackass. I saw it on Twitter so it must be true. And Politico reported on it here. Considering what he did to Taylor Swift on Sunday night, I agree with the president: Kanye West is a jackass.  But that’s not why we’re here today.

What Terry Moran of ABC News did is inexcusable. He, or one of his staff with access to his Twitter account, sent an off the record comment across the web at light speed as casually as one might lean in to the person next to them and whisper “Psst. The president just called Kanye West a jackass.”  To call this an ethical lapse is an understatement.

This is not the same as the many “open mic” incidents that have occurred over the years with politicians, celebrities and pundits unknowingly giving us a glimpse into their true feelings. Off the record comments are commonplace and credibility is the lifeblood of any journalist. Moran broke a trust with the president and his credibility deserves to suffer for it.

There are still too many people who fail to understand the power of the internet. Who can’t grasp the simple concept that once you’ve sent a message it is A) no longer yours and B) cannot be retrieved. You can usually tell these people by the photos of last weekend’s party posted they posted on Facebook.

If we are going to be trusted to use the tools Web 2.0 has placed at our fingertips, our mindsets and how we think about ourselves in the grand scheme must evolve. With so many people having access to vast amounts of information, it’s human nature to take the occasional “scoop” and run with it before thinking about the consequences. Recent history is replete with examples of news organizations that ran with stories that were ultimately proven to be false. Granted, Moran’s tweet is not false, but it was off the record and it’s not like he revealed it to his mother during a friendly chat. No, he was talking to his 1,066,522 followers. Talk about the power of distribution.

You’ve heard of the Chaos Theory – aka Butterfly Effect? The Internet takes the theory and multiplies the effect by a factor of infinity. There’s a lot of power in those characters, all 140 of them, and Moran, or one of his colleagues, misused it.

September 15, 2009 Posted by | Journalism, Social Media | , , , , | Leave a comment

Is Twitter a danger to democracy

An interesting sidebar story is brewing in Germany following last week’s regional elections. Apparently exit poll data from three states was leaked via Twitter – 90 minutes early – causing some officials to question how such technology might impact future elections. BreitBart reports on the story here

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s team took it on the chin in the elections and the one of the people quoted in the story has the bruises to prove it:

  • The deputy parliamentary head of Merkel’s Christian Union party, Wolfgang Bosbach, said the leaking of the results “damaged        democracy.”
  • “There is a danger that an election could be falsified,” Bosbach told the Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger local daily.

The other quote comes from Roderich Egeler, the federal election commissioner:

  • “It would be a worst-case scenario if the exit poll results were to become known before polling stations closed,”

BreitBart’s story also points out:

  • A similar leak also occurred during the parliamentary vote to re-elect Germany’s President Horst Koehler on May 23. On that occasion, a handful of lawmakers announced Koehler’s re-election before the results were officially published.

That’s the set up. Now I’m going to weigh in.

A leak…in politics…whoda thunk it?

I realize people involved in politics, are genetically coded to speak in hyperbole, but claiming the leaks  – and by association Twitter- are capable of damaging democracy is ridiculous on its face.

Information, as they say, is power. But information has only the power that we assign to it. Those who shrugged off the early exit poll data and continued to the polls gave the reports no power at all. Others heard the same information and gave it the power to inform their decisions. My bottom line, anyone who did not vote Germany based on exit polls reported too early have only themselves to blame.

We went through a similar incident in 2000 when the networks called Florida for Gore, then took it back, then gave it to Bush, and took it back again. Republicans cried “foul” because the original call was made before the polls in the Florida Panhandle closed. They claimed Bush lost thousands of votes because disheartened supporters didn’t bother casting their vote on the belief it was irrelevant.

At home the networks were rightly embarrassed and changed their processes. In Germany the leakers could face criminal prosecution.

With all the information swirling around the web, and the ability for anybody with a computer and internet connection to add to the chaos, we need to be more vigilant than ever when assessing what we hear, see and read. We need to be mindful of the source and what, if any, agenda they have.

Information is power, but if we are educated and responsible consumers of information, we decide what power has.

September 1, 2009 Posted by | Journalism, Social Media | , , , , | Leave a comment

Personal v. Professional with Albert Maruggi

 A couple of months ago I saw a Twitter message from the owner of a consulting firm announcing the release of a new survey on the success of ERP implementations. A few minutes later the same individual used Twitter to take a hard line on the health care debate. In my opinion, the guy took quite a risk in mixing his professional and personal lives in a forum like Twitter where following someone is not the same as knowing them.

How many were offended by his opinion on health care reform we can’t know. Nor can we know how many will no longer consider doing business with him. But there is a number that fall into both categories.

Social media requires openness and transparency, but how much is too much? To discuss this, and other questions, I called my friend and former colleague Albert Maruggi of Provident Partners and The Marketing Edge Podcast. The outcome is the first ever Wondering Out Loud Podcast.

During out conversation we talk about the risks of mixing the professional with the personal, about the danger of “blurting” in 140 characters or less, and about how we are quick to label and categorize others. As always, Albert is thoughtful, serious and funny.


Mark Palony speaks with Albert Maruggi about the risks of mixing the professional with the personal in social media.

August 26, 2009 Posted by | Marketing, Public Relations, Social Media | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Is the MSM MIA in reporting of healthcare town hall meetings

Unless you’ve been in a coma lately, you’ve seen, read, or heard at least one of the thousands of reports about the heath care town hall meetings being held across the country. More specifically, the ones at which protesters have made their presence known. I have no doubt you’ve also been exposed to the reaction of politicians and activists on both sides of the issue. The MSM has done a good job of reporting the goings on. That said, however, I believe there is one area in which the MSM has gone MIA, and in doing so has added more dents to its already damaged reputation.

While the raucous behavior and responses are well established, the MSM is missing an opportunity to provide a compare and contrast between the heathcare town hall uprisings and those that followed W for much of his time in office.

Before people get up in arms about posters portraying President Obama as Adolf Hitler – a ridiculous comparison for him or any POTUS, repeat any, POTUS – this is not the first time this tactic has been rolled out. Here is page one of a Google image search of Bushitler.

In a USA Today commentary, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D California) told us that “drowning out opposing views is simplu un-American”. But we all know is a well-worn tactic of the Left to shout down conservative lecturers on the nation’s college campuses. In many cases lectures have been cut short due to violence perpetrated by some of Speaker Pelosi’s ideological soul-mates. 

What I see unfolding is right-of-center people have an issue that is driving them to take up the tactics of those who stand in polar opposition, those who’ve made a science of organizing and protesting, and they are not happy to have their playbook co-opted. One of the great ironies is the protesters are targeting the policies of a president who has on his resume the title of “Community Organizer”.

There is a very interesting story to be told here, I hope someone in the media will figure it out and take it up.

August 11, 2009 Posted by | Journalism | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Social media: The great mixing pot

Social media is obviously a melting pot, but I’ve been thinking more about how it’s a mixing pot. Social Media, if what I see on Twitter is any indication, has become the place where people are comfortable mixing their personal and professionals lives. But many don’t stop there. More frequently I am finding messages through Twitter, FaceBook, and LinkedIn that openly stake out strong and passionate positions on any number of issues. And I, for one, am surprised that people would take the risk of turning away people they hardly know for the sake of expressing an opinion.

We all have opinions, but is the Internet the right place for your to express them?

On Friday of this week I have the pleasure of recording a podcast with Albert Maruggi of Provident Partners and The Marketing Edge Podcast ,and a Senior Fellow with the Society for New Communications Research. Together we’ll explore how people are mixing their personal and professional lives in ways we could not have imagined just a few years ago. We’ll talk about the right and wrong ways to go about it and the inherent risks of doing it at all.

If there are any questions you would like me to ask Albert about the mixing pot throw them in the comments section of this post and I’ll be sure to cover it with him.

The recording will find it’s way here sometime next week.

August 5, 2009 Posted by | Social Media | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Drudge vs. Obama

There’s a dust up is in the works between The Drudge Report and the Obama Administration. It stems from a Breitbart.tv report – picked up by Drudge – that shows a pre-presidential Obama advocating government funded universal health care.

If you watch the video you’ll come to the same conclusion as I; it’s nothing more than typical opposition politics being played out in the new arena of the Internet. What’s not typical, but is becoming so under Obama, is the Administration’s response as reported by Politico’s Mike Allen.

Linda Douglass – who’s managing health care communications  for POTUS – provided a video response admonishing us to not believe everything we see. After all video can be edited and, therefore, deceiving.  

True enough, but what Douglass doesn’t do is provide a rebuttal. Other than showing two clips of President Obama promising we will be able to keep 0ur private insurance, there is nothing to prove the earlier statements Breitbart exposed are inaccurate or doctored. There’s not even an attempt to claim that Obama’s views on the subject of universal medicine have changed over time.

Adding to the problem, Douglass blames the video on people with too much time on their hands. It’s reminiscent of Dan Rather portrayal of Memogate bloggers as sitting in their basements in their pajamas. Being dismissive and condescending towards ones critics, not taking them seriously, is a tactical mistake.

One of the first rules of social media is transparency; being open and honest. If you’re going to call your critics misleading, you’d better set the record straight. The Administration’s response in this case is a complete failure.

Social media played a major role in putting Obama in the Oval Office and they’ve continued to use the tools Web 2.o has to offer, but this is a very weak attempt to bat back the opposition. This may only be a stumble, even the best do so occasionally, but it might be an illustration of how difficult is to govern using the same tactics that put you in office.

August 4, 2009 Posted by | Communications, Leadership, Public Relations, Social Media | , , , , , | Leave a comment

McCain & Obama: DC and debate or bust

OK, I’ve had a chance to hear both McCain’s and Obama’s statements regarding the pending monetary meltdown. McCain wants both suspend their campaigns, postpone Friday’s debate and head back to DC to find a way out of this mess.

Obama’s plan is to continue the campaign, keep his date with the debate – because the American People want to see the two of them duking it out – and will head back to DC if his presence is needed.

Personally, I think either tactic – and let’s face it their decisions are tactical – is perfectly fine and both stated their cases well, but both also blew an opportunity to show real leadership. You decide for yourself who blew it worst.

First McCain:His call to return to DC is noble on the surface. The US and, by extension, the world are facing a potential financial disaster and leadership is needed.  It only makes sense that the two men hoping to be the next president should be in DC with the bailout plan floundering as it is. After all, in less than 4 months one of these guy is going to be at the helm and the problems we’re facing damn sure won’t be over. Under the surface it is a brilliant tactical move. Not long ago he took an unpopular stance in favor of the surge in Iraq saying he would rather lose and election in order to win a war. This is the economic equivalent.  He is apparently willing to lose the debate and potentially the election in order to do what he can to shore up the economy and prevent a catastrophe the likes of which haven’t been seen since the Great Depression.  This is all well and good, but he blew it when he called for a postponement of the debate.  We, the people, have been waiting for this debate and he and Obama can certainly take time out to debate as planned. I think he overplayed the leadership hand here. I don’t believe, like many of the Obama supporters I’ve been following, that it’s a sign of weakness or a lack of confidence. That kind of talk is partisan nonsense. But it did open the door for Obama to take a shot at McCain saying a president has to be able to manage multiple crisis at one time – how true that is.

Now Obama:Obama is correct that the debate should go on, to miss this opportunity to go before the American people is unwise. Others have reminded us that, before Obama claimed the nomination last summer, McCain offered, and Obama accepted, a plan to do 10 town hall meetings. Had Obama not backed out, we would have seen quite a bit of the two by now. That said, Obama blew it when he said during his press conference that he would be available to go to DC if he is needed. Bad move. I know he’s not supposed to agree with McCain on anything, but here is an opportunity to step to the fore and show America, and the world, his capacity to lead. He swung and missed at this one. Following McCain’s lead and going back to DC is a no-brainer. He’ll get more TV face-time – one on one – than he will on the stump and he’ll be able to claim he was part of the fix. Instead, while McCain is in DC doing the heavy lifting, Obama will be on the road, consulting with his advisers and Secretary Paulson, and waiting for the Obamaphone to ring. With the bailout leading every newscast, The action is in DC and his decision to stay on the road is not a sound one.

My take:Leaving the stump is a good idea – strategically speaking – but it’s not necessary to completely suspend the campaigns. Obama and McCain each have surrogates – not to mention VP candidates – who can continue to travel the country ginning up votes. Obama should take heed and go back to DC. Although with Obama’s VPC, Biden, being a Senator as well, that could be problematic. Going back to DC to be part of the discussion and negotiation is a winning move for both. Unfortunately in politics that won’t work because the two have to be in constant conflict, or so they think. The debate has got to go on. If McCain doesn’t show it’ll be a sign of weakness. I personally think he’d clean Obama’s clock on foreign policy, the theme of Friday’s showdown, but that doesn’t matter. It’ll be spun as weakness and weakness it’ll be. McCain, get thee to Mississippi.

The bottom line: McCain wins this round, but if he doesn’t show up in Mississippi on Friday night, he could lose a lot more than he won.

September 25, 2008 Posted by | Miscellaneous | , , | 1 Comment

I am officially cynical

Full disclosure: I’m voting for McCain/Palin based on ideology. Warts and all, he’s my guy in 2008. I am a conservative – don’t know that I’d stipulate to being a Republican anymore.

Let me state at the outset: I love Twitter. I launch TweetDeck every morning and, when the spirit moves me, add to the conversations or start my own. But following the conversations surrounding the presidential campaign is enough to make me want to ask for a complete and total Twitter shut down until after election day.

Having followed the Twitter streams for several weeks, I’ve come to the conclusion that we, each and every one of us, the entirety of the voting public are rubes, bumpkins, blind-as-bat, I’ll-follow-my-guy-to-the-ends-of-the-earth fools. C’mon people, divorce yourself from your ideology and you’ll see it clear as day. Y

You, me, we, have all been duped. 

First I’ll stipulate to the obvious: There is a tremendous difference in ideology between McCain and Obama.  But the elephant, or donkey, in the room that nobody wants to address, or admit is that both McCain and Obama are politicians.  And, as politicians, their only goal is to win (don’t care what McCain said in the past he wants this bad).

Accepting this as fact, I ask you why we spend so much time denigrating the opposition while ignoring our own candidates shortcomings?  Why do we pretend our guy is pure and the other is dirty, even evil?

I’m done being an apologist for my candidate. If he or she lies, so be it.  If they eat small children for breakfast, oh well. I’m driven by ideology and nothing else. 

SIDEBAR: I was fortunate to watch Kirby Puckett play his entire career for my hometown Minnesota Twins. He played the game the way it should be played.  He gave back to the community through his foundation and when he could have signed with another team for a lot more money, he decided to stay in the Twin Cities. Great guy.

Glaucoma forced him to retire early and, shortly after, the facade began to crack.  The stories womanizing were followed by a divorce, allegations of abuse (never proved), an allegation of sexual assaults (he was acquitted). He fell from grace, hard.

I decided then and there that all athletes were amoral. All that matters is how they play the game.

The same now goes for politicians. Every politician will do whatever it takes to win an election or get their legislation passed. The are all dirty, slimy, backstabbing, and in the pocket of special interests – oil, pharmaceuticals, teachers and labor unions, trial lawyers.

I don’t care who they “fight for” or how, the bottom line is all of them answer to a power higher than the citizens.  They answer to the ones who line their campaign coffers with cash.

Period, end of sentence.

Damn, but that was liberating.

Obama voters, won’t you join me? It’s OK, you can do it. 

Admit that Barack Obama is more than casual neighbors with Bill Ayers – Terrorist Extraordinaire.

Tell the world, “I don’t care of Obama tried to kill the “Born Alive Infant Protection Act.”

Shout out, “I know Obama is part of the Chicago Machine, but it doesn’t matter because I agree with his ideology.”

Put it on the table, get it in the open. I promise you’ll feel better.

Let’s agree that both guys are daemons so we can stop demonizing them and start debating the issues.

Obama and McCain, McCain and Obama – Ideology aside – both are as dirty as pigs in mud.

Man, I haven’t felt this good in years.

September 24, 2008 Posted by | Miscellaneous | , , , , | Leave a comment


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