Saturday, 26 March 2011

Ms Couric, Exit Stage Left

Yesterday....the word finally went out.  CBS will say adios to Katie Couric in June.  They will have quietly admitted that the Couric experiment....started on 5 September 2006....was a four-star failure.  They basically locked down their numbers from the first 100 days and never advanced past that point.

I will readily admit that I mostly laughed when I accidentally landed on the CBS nightly news and caught 60 seconds of Katie before I clicked onto another channel (preferring reruns of Baywatch to watching Katie).  She was a Today Show host and nothing more.  She simply wasn't a journalist and her ability to translate events across to people....reminded me of a used-car dealer.  You could have brought up any news topic, and I could have predicted the political slant given by Katie in ten seconds.

What surprises me the most?  CBS came out about twelve months into the Couric experiment and admitted that this wasn't going anywhere.  There was a open discussion in the media that CBS management was examining it's options.  She could have been used for Sixty Minutes but then it'd be a full-time gig, and the other guys there would have been furious at the pay rate Katie got....for a lousy 12-minute piece of production once a week.  They couldn't terminate her.  And the length of the contract really put them into a bad position to do anything else.

What happens to Katie now?  Rumor has it that she is working on a daytime chat show.  Some network idiot somewhere is trying to talking his boss into hiring Katie at an amazing rate....and let her chat for an hour each day.  So far....we don't hear much about the success of this and I suspect that none of the three networks want to discuss this.  Oprah's new channel?  Maybe.  We might even hear Fox discuss matters with her for an afternoon gig.....for a lesser price of course....but she'd have to re-slant her vision of life and I suspect that'd be difficult for Katie.

So an era will have come to an end.  I suspect the entire staff will party hard on the evening of her last production....without her of course, and be happy over a change coming.

The Fall of Detroit

A guy could write a good book on Detroit.....kinda like the fall of the Roman empire.  Once a mighty city, and now a legendary city laying in ruins.  The Census results this week really took a chunk out of the enthusiasm for the city.  They will likely lose out on federal funds unless some political folks jump into the process and just hand them bundles of cash for being Detroit and nothing else (like they would have done anyway).

So I'm about to offer five simple solutions to Detroit....if they wanted to rebuild.

First, ask for a federal three-year program (probably to cost $300 million) to tear down every single house left abandoned in the city and convert these one-acre properties into a forty-year forestry project.  Got a city block with twenty-five houses and eighteen are abandoned....drag them to the ground and plant a dozen pines on each site.  Exempt them from any real estate action for forty years.  Use the $300 million to hire up locals to accomplish the destruction and the reforestation of the city.

Second, bring in fifty investigators and a couple of federal DA's.  Got any corruption to appear....federal charges and you get marched off to jail.  Root out any temptation for corruption in the city.  Any idiot wants to run for office and give favors away.....let them take the risks and face twenty years in prison.  No deals....just jail.

Third, find two or three federal organizations and mandate that they have to open a 2k personnel operation in the heart of Detroit.  Doesn't matter if it's Homeland Security, the VA, or the military.  You need cash flow of a federal nature into the city to help bump them up a notch.

Fourth, create a federal tax credit for businesses which make $5 million a year or guys who make over $100k a year.  You have to set up operation within the city limits.....and for the individual....you have to live  within the city limits.  The first year.....you get nothing on credits.  The second through the fourth.....a thirty percent decrease on all your federal taxes.  The fifth and sixth?  A fifty percent decrease on your federal taxes.  Then it ends.  You are enticing folks to think long-term and demand improvement in the local city.  Naturally, it's a problem to create a Detroit-only rule like this but that's the problem for Washington to work out.

Fifth and final, accept the fact that Latinos will eventually become a power in Detroit politics.  It may take thirty years....but they will eventually control a substantial part of the city political system.  You'd best become a good neighbor on all fronts.....to all ethnic groups.

When A Scenario Fails

This is what we know.  Out in Pottawattamie County, Iowa....they wanted to hold an emergency reaction exercise.  The local county emergency services organization, the firemen, the cops, the ambulance crews, and even some folks from Homeland Security in Iowa....were to be all involved.  Everyone was happy and really peppy over this exercise.  Then, the scenario was laid out.....and things started to fall apart quickly over the exercise.

The scenario?  Well....it was to involve a "anti-immigration” pro-gun kid from a local school.....going nuts....and getting in a racial-spewed episode.  A number of the locals got all upset and then the local school system started to get phone calls to their employees suggesting threats to them or the buildings.

So yesterday, they canceled the exercise.


The Superintendent of the local school system admitted he was as shocked as everybody else when the scenario was finally put out in front of him.  Never once in the entire group of meetings they held....was the scenario ever laid out.  In some ways....he hinted that if it had....it would have been stopped right there on the spot.

The curious thing....at the county level now....is that the political folks are reacting in an amusing manner.  They are simply shocked at how people took this whole scenario thing.  To them....it was just a fictional piece of work and not to represent anything real.  I'm guessing that most will tell you that they see this kind of stuff on ABC or MSNBC all the time.

What remains?  Well....the cops are now busy....checking out all these threats.  I suspect that five or six folks will be arrested and charged with something.  The problem here....once you go into a Iowa court and charge a guy on making a threat against officials....over a fictional scenario....the whole court will erupt in laughter.  The charged guy will say his threats were fictional, and that he was just part of the exercise.  The judge will look at the clock and realize that this is a mess....declare the guy guilty and give him six-months of probation.

I pondered over this mess for a while.  Typically, an exercise has a lousy scenario that is written by some guy with a year or two of college.  Nothing much of a creative nature is written into a scenario.  No one would ever give a scenario writer a Pulitzer Prize for his efforts.

In this particular case....to make this a right-wing nutcase and involve illegals?  You start to strike close to home and give people funny ideas.

My guess is that it'll be two or three years before another exercise is held.  The guy writing the script?  He'll be told to make this threat coming from a North Korean kid who moved to Iowa and hates America....has brought a BB gun into the school and threatening school bus drivers (not school kids), who just happen to be members of some union and all are paid double-time for being held captive (in their contract).  Then, and only then....will the scenario be accepted by the locals.

The Science of Decisions

My organization offered up a class situation and I accepted.  So this week....I attended a two-day lecture on the science of making the right decisions.

There are various tools I've used over my life to look over a problem and come to a decision.  I wouldn't refer to them as science tools....but they tended to work.  This class kinda took things to the next level and laid out various methods that you could improve on your right decision statistics.

In some ways, I probably benefited from this.  At some point....a number of methods came back to methods my dad discussed forty-five years ago and I've used these as compass points in my life.

The emphasis in this instruction method is that you need to involve all the key players in a problem....so that they all feel part of the solution in the end.  There are times that I can agree with this....but frankly, if you ran a division this way and continued to have group meetings on a constant basis to make decisions over problems....you'd start to have too many people arguing over the finer points of their ideas.  In essence, you'd get bogged down.  There is a time and place for group decisions....and beyond that....you'd best listen to the comments made and make a autocratic decision to move the situation along.

What surprise me the most after this seminar episode....is the amount of science and thinking that has been poured into decision making.  There are people now who spend their entire lives studying how situations developed and how people made decisions.  This is something that has just come along in the last generation.  I suspect in twenty years that every single major company in America will have decision-maker analysts.....to advise over what has been said and what ought to be done.

So after two long days.....maybe I'm a little bit smarter on decision making.  Maybe.