Category Archives: Political

Courting Controversy: Gillette & the New Playbook for Social Messaging

In our contentious political and social climate, most brands choose to play it safe and advertise their products without engaging with any issues that may alienate a portion of their consumer base. Not so with Gillette, which recently released an online ad titled We Believe: The Best a Man Can Get that courts controversy by invoking the #MeToo movement, toxic masculinity, and bullying (among other hot-button issues). The ad, which provoked a firestorm of competing editorials and news coverage, has placed Gillette at the center of an ongoing debate about social messaging from brands.

A lot has been published about the ad’s message and the public’s response. What I’d like to examine is the risk vs. the reward of socially-engaged brand content and how brands are creating a new playbook for effective social messaging.
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Drug Addiction & the Opioid Crisis: Facts We Need to Face

While reading a recent article in The New Yorker about Chris Christie and the Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, which he chairs, I was struck by one particular quote. An expert, called upon to testify as to the nature of America’s increasingly dire opioid crisis, informed the Commission that “We can’t incarcerate our way out of the overdose epidemic, which now kills more Americans than car accidents or gun homicide.”
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Leadership & Continuity: The Peaceful Transition of Power

This past Saturday, March 4th, 2017, was the 220th anniversary of the first transition of presidential power in the United States. I first became aware of this historic significance through the email newsletter of Rev. Tom Are, Jr., the pastor at Village Presbyterian Church. Shortly after the conclusion of our long and combative 2016 presidential campaign and election, Tom thoughtfully wrote,

“On March 4, 1797, a remarkable thing occurred in human history. John Adams became the second president of the United States. What was noteworthy on that day was the lack of violence. It was not a coup. It was not a violent overthrow. It was the peaceful transition of power. The peaceful transition of power remains a rare and beautiful thing in this world. It also means that whether grateful or grieving, we do not need to be afraid. Whether you are relieved or grieved, we are in this together. Be grateful for the peaceful transition of power and as always continue living toward God’s promised day.”

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“We are different, we are one.” – A Lesson in Discourse from the Passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

With the passing of Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia this weekend, many mourned the loss of a sharp legal mind that had an immense impact on the United States' most influential court during the past three decades. Others speculated on the political battle a Supreme Court nomination would bring in the coming election year.

However, what was most striking to me were comments from one of Justice Scalia's colleagues on the bench who is considered his polar opposite on ideological views: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I found Justice Ginsburg's comments particularly touching especially where she characterized her relationship with Scalia as a duet titled: “We are different, we are one.”  Please see Justice Ginsburg’s entire statement below.

Their relationship shows despite the vitriol and adversarial language that has permeated American political discourse for a number of years, it is indeed possible to remain respectful and even friendly with those with whom we disagree.

I hope this kind of discourse can make a comeback on a larger scale. I thank Justice Scalia for his years of service to the court and his country. May he rest in peace.

Statement From Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: 

Toward the end of the opera Scalia/Ginsburg, tenor Scalia and soprano Ginsburg sing a duet: “We are different, we are one,” different in our interpretation of written texts, one in our reverence for the Constitution and the institution we serve.

From our years together at the D.C. Circuit, we were best buddies. We disagreed now and then, but when I wrote for the Court and received a Scalia dissent, the opinion ultimately released was notably better than my initial circulation. Justice Scalia nailed all the weak spots—the “applesauce” and “argle bargle”—and gave me just what I needed to strengthen the majority opinion.

He was a jurist of captivating brilliance and wit, with a rare talent to make even the most sober judge laugh. The press referred to his “energetic fervor,” “astringent intellect,” “peppery prose,” “acumen,” and “affability,” all apt descriptions. He was eminently quotable; his pungent opinions so clearly stated that his words never slipped from the reader’s grasp. 

Justice Scalia once described as the peak of his days on the bench an evening at the Opera Ball when he joined two Washington National Opera tenors at the piano for a medley of songs. He called it the famous Three Tenors performance. He was, indeed, a magnificent performer. It was my great good fortune to have known him as working colleague and treasured friend. 

Statements From All Supreme Court Justices on the Death of Justice Antonin Scalia 

A Balance Sheet Recession & What’s Next

Both the New York Times and NPR have covered the story of a "Balance Sheet Recession" using Japan's experience from the 1990s.

Richard Koo, chief economist at the Nomura Research Institute, summarizes the Japanese experience in the 1990s as not a recession, but a Balance Sheet recession. That is, a recession driven by consumers and businesses going about the process of cleaning their individual balance sheets.

In his NPR interview, Koo notes that when the real estate bubble of the 1980s burst, property values plummeted 87 percent from the peak nationwide. Counting the value of real estate and stocks, Japan lost wealth equivalent to three years' worth of gross domestic product. It was "just about the largest loss of wealth in human history in peacetime," Koo says.

Hiroko Tabuchi's NYTimes article points out that, "As recession-wary Americans adapt to a new frugality, Japan offers a peek at how (consumer) thrift can take lasting hold of a consumer society, to a disastrous effect"

Between 2001 and 2007, per capita consumer spending rose only .2 percent.

Japan eventually pulled itself out of the Lost Decade of the 1990s, thanks in part to a boom in exports to the US and China. But that might not be the only engine of recovery.

As suggested, but unstated, in President Obama's Feb. 24 Address to Congress, it seems that the real engine to pull an economy out of a Balance Sheet Recession is exactly what Japan did — intense, consistent public spending.

That's not the solution I was hoping for.

Political Disconnect: Wall Street & Main Street

In the face of a chaotic Wall Street, Members of Congress have begun calling for measures to "insulate Main Street from Wall Street".

How disconnected from reality can anyone be?

The Investment Company Institute reports that more than $17.6 trillion are held in retirement funds and the largest component is the IRA category.

88 million individuals hold mutual funds — including more than half of the 35-64 age group.

There is a sea change on Wall Street and we are all in this one together.