Thursday, 24 February 2011

Up in Smoke

Somewhere in the midst of all the news for yesterday....the Justice Department came up in the midst of something fairly unusual.  They admitted (they actually disclosed it but who knows the difference between admit and disclose anyway).....that they want to require the tobacco industry to admit in public that smoking causes a multitude of medical problems and kills over a thousand Americans each and everyday.

I sat and pondered over this.  They stood in front of a federal judge and asked him to order companies to say these words in advertisements.

For the past twenty-odd years....I've come to notice when I did hang out with smokers.....they'd open a pack of smokes....and you could see that advertisement on the side....."smoking causes cancer".  I'd stand with the guy under the shaded area or tree.....watching him pull out a cigarette and light up.  The advertising didn't really make any difference.  You could have put a diseased liver or kidney on the side of the pack.....and he'd have still smoked.

The truth is....this whole idea of bringing "truth" to the public....doesn't sell.  It doesn't change the guy's desire to smoke at all.  This game by the Administration to push these guys in TV advertising?  It's just to put more money into the hands of TV media....and nothing much else.  It accomplishes nothing.

So I'm going to offer a billion dollar moment of advice to the administration and the anti-smoking lobby.  You want to have an effect?  Go and require all tobacco sold in America to be all-natural and chemical-free.  That's it.  Simple dried tobacco and nothing else.  No additives.  No coloring.  Nothing but natural tobacco.  People would start to go through a withdrawal process in the first twenty-four hours alone.  They'd attempt to smoke more tobacco to get the perceived chemicals....but after a week....it wouldn't matter.

That's it.  Go all-natural and you could bring this entire game to an end.  But the truth is....you really don't want that part of the game to end.  You just want money to pour into another pot, so you can use in some magical method that you'd dreamed up, and sell folks on some ideas that you have.

That's the reality of my advice.

An Update

I blogged recently about the Birmingham affair where 160-odd folks were to be sent to Anchorage, Alaska...compliments of the city council...to attend a national community meeting.

So now, an update.  The city council finally decided that the $360k was just too much....and getting too much press....so they cut back to 28 folks.  They haven't decided on the method of transportation but I kinda doubt it will be a charter airline.

As for how the 28 folks are chosen?  Well, this might be the next fight.  There are 130-odd folks now hostile and angry that they will be left off this dream trip to Alaska (every guy from Birmingham has dreamed of Alaska in the summertime, if you didn't know).   There will be hostile feelings about this to linger for months and years.  There will be the identification of you being the Alaska-traveler and how you got to the glorious Motel Six in Anchorage by promising something to somebody.

The good thing here?  Well....from the other 300 communities in Bama.....I'm guessing that they might be lucky to afford five folks total.  Thank God that Birmingham has funding laying around to support events like this.

Lets Get Psychological

This blog concerns a very controversial story that you won't hear much about today.....straight from Rolling Stone magazine (I actually haven't read a single copy since the late 1980s, which might say something if you think about it).  In this case, the story was picked up by a couple of other news sites.

Here's the facts.  The US Army in Afghanistan....ordered a team of highly trained soldiers who specialized in psychological operations.....to manipulate visiting American senators.  Yes, Rolling Stone lays out this fantastic story.  The reason for this manipulation?  The Army wanted more troops, more guns, more funding, more jeeps, more butter, more non-alcoholic beer, more California almonds, more waffles, more flags, and more desert boots (my list, not Rolling Stones).

Then, as this magnificent plan unfolded....one officer suddenly came to grasp this operation and tried to stop it....then got "railroaded" (this is a term from the 1980s....the current Army would have different terms....but the Rolling Stones crowd burned out their last real braincells back in the 1980s so this is the best you get).

The targeted crowd?  Senators John McCain, Joe Lieberman, Jack Reed, Al Franken and Carl Levin.  Then you had Represenatives Steve Israel of the House Appropriations Committee.  Add onto this...Admiral Mike Mullen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  I could mention that the Czech ambassador to Afghanistan and a German interior minister was on the list, but it'd just make you ask questions why you'd want to bedazzle a Czech ambassador.

I sat and pondered over this.  Typically, when a Senator or Representative is traveling in such an environment....they have a PR guy traveling with them and taking video of such visits for their future campaigns.  They are using sound-bytes during the visit for the video taken.....to show them in the best possible light.

They always meet some lowly private in a chow hall area....who really didn't want to eat dinner with a bunch of political dopes who don't care much for him or her anyway.  Plus the political dopes keep asking (while the camera rolls) if the Army isn't feeding you enough or if you have a good cot to sleep upon.  Then they always come to let you know that folks back in Iowa, Arizona or Wisconsin miss you and applaud your efforts.  The private never wants to mention that he hated Iowa or Arizona and couldn't wait to sign up and leave the damn state.

I sat there and kinda wondered if Rolling Stone realized that civilian versions of the psychological operations crew exist, and work for various media outlets....like CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, ABC, NBC, CBS, the Finance Channel, the Golf Channel, ESPN, and a host of other networks.

I kinda wondered if Rolling Stone realized that civilian versions of the psychological operations crew existed at Time, Newsweek, the Today Show, the View, New York Times, and even Hustler Magazine.

I kinda wondered if Rolling Stone realized that civilian versions of the psychological operations crew worked for virtually every single Senator and Representative in the US government....plus the White House folks as well.

I kinda wondered if Rolling Stones reporters realized that even within their own magazine...that they had the civilian versions of the psychological operations crew working for them.

Lets cut to the bottom line.  If you were going to look for real news and count Rolling Stone as one of your sources of news....be aware that most of the Rolling Stone prospective died out somewhere in the late 1980s....when Debbie Gibson, Tiffany, and Bangles were hot music.  Luckily for Rolling Stone magazine, most of the dopey-headed dentists of a bygone era still subscribe to the magazine and keep it for patients to read.

Quote of the Day

"This is a scheduling issue. The president will meet with Secretary of State Clinton this afternoon. We will have something to say out of that meeting. If possible, the President will speak this afternoon or tomorrow."

- New White House press secretary Jay Carney, speaking on the Presidents lack of response to the crisis in Libya.

I sat and paused over this commentary today.  Nine days without any Presidential response since this Libya mess has started.

Then it hit....there's likely a calendar for the President and he can only respond to events in the world like this except the 2nd Tuesday or the 4th Thursday in each month.  The rest of the month is spread out with other important observation dates circled (NFL comment day, medical care comment day, Egypt day, eat low fat food day, pumpkin day, Ford F-150 day, aggravation day).

It's hard to be President and continually come up with brilliant or witty comments.  I'm guessing three guys are hired on and spend most of the day watching TV (Jeopardy, X-Files, and Animal Planet)....hoping to find witty things to perk people up and give them enthusiasm over the administration.

I don't think we should knock this method.  There are three hundred events each week that occur, and you just can't expect the President to have something to say over stuff like this.  In the old days...when Taft or Hoover were around....you were lucky to get eight comments a month....so with modern technology....you need to appreciate what you get today.