What JFK Meant with “Instead, ask what you can do for your country”

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When Rep. Adam Schiff gaveled the impeachment proceedings into recess last Thursday while invoking the late Elijah Cummings, “We’re better than this,” its my humble opinion that plenty of Americans would want a family member to conduct themselves as honorably, in such high pressure moments, as the US diplomatic personnel proved they could.

Many regarded President John F. Kennedy’s election as the second coming of Camelot, a time of exceptional promise. That cold, cold day of his Inauguration in 1961 couldn’t be more clearly juxtaposed to the shameless conduct described in the testimony about the Trump-Ukraine scandal, with tentacles that seem to have ensnared everyone it touched.

Kennedy’s January 16, 1961 speech was 14 minutes long, and that was the only part where he spoke about public service. The rest was primarily international, the Cold War. Vietnam was nowhere near a US problem – the French had that domino held steady, right?

They did their jobs, to the T

And yes, dammit, if the Lt. Colonel respectfully asks to be addressed by his rank, that shouldn’t be a three minute exercise in linguistics. A Ukranian immigrant at the age of four, he happens to have an identical twin, also a Lt. Colonel, who also serves in the White House.

That officer was on the call because of his expertise, including and especially, language. At NO point does that invite negative questioning,  any quibbling about loyalty from those pursuing nefarious political ends.

Should we be more in awe of Dr. Hill for stating that, having grown up poor, her working class accent – what most probably think most Brits sound like – would have limited her options dramatically in the UK, or should we salute her concise flaying of a GOP talking point (Ukraine, not Russian interference in 2016 elections) as repeatedly giving credence to such a false narrative and something Russia loves to hear?

Oh, third one – You do know that her expertise, literally, is because she wrote the book on it, right? “It” being Vladimir Putin. What, they didn’t mention that on FOX?

Powerful a witness as Sondhold became, was the Saturday Night Live! skit even better?

These people knew their words, and having them answer to counsel’s, “Right?” sure wasn’t automatic. As Dr. Hill and Ambassador Taylor stated, they were ‘fact witnesses,’ what they heard or knew about a situation, nothing about guilt regarding impeachment. Even if it was clarification of the timing tag of an e-mail as being sent local or Ukranian time, it was brought into agreement with known facts being discussed before saying, “Correct.”

If David Nolan wasn’t precise in showing how Amb. Sondland held a cell phone away from his ear while Trump was talking EXTRA loudly, is the operative word still, “Get over it?” When *every*single*one* of them takes notes constantly, documents situations with time and attendees, that is what a paper trail that’s meant to be followed looks like.

Oh, State Department has all the notes, because its government property? Sorry Amb. Sondland… Oh, you actually have e-mails that show everyone was in the loop? Good to know. Without taking anything away from Amb. Sondhold’s ability to both nurse a cold cup of coffee and deliver A-B-C, 1-2-3 points about whom “everyone” was, it was legitimate for Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney to note that his markedly different testimony was a third try at better describing things he recalled.

For those who think former NSC advisor John Bolton should  be as courageous as those who already testified, yep.

JFK and a character moment

Kennedy called out to a generation, and despite the tear United States down the middle issue of Vietnam, we – that would be the Boomers, ok – also made major strides in civil rights, and both put people on, and got them back from the moon.

Its not cherry-picking to use that event, it was a biggie.

Maybe ask someone about their time in the Peace Corp. Was there world respect for all those idealistic young Americans, striving to change the world somehow? You betcha. Those kids from Stoneman-Douglas are turning eighteen, ready to vote. Who wants them besides Beto, anti-gun marches and a huge percentage of America agreeing about it?

Yes, for sure, ask a young person what they think about the last three weeks over a fire pit on Thanksgiving. Learn what other people think – question authority (especially if it doesn’t pass the sniff test). Those diplomatic personnel who put their careers on the line, you KNOW you’d want them in the foxhole when doing whatever was necessary and right had to happen.

Some call it heroic,  but you certainly can’t ignore it. Nor should you disparage it.

Consistent content always beats old photos, denials, easily checked lies

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Fourth of  July fireworks are always appreciated (though not by dogs), but the explosions that your clients will face for presenting un-truths will not be a cheerful situation.

Many, perhaps even most, readers will assume the above title is directed at the political struggle being presented daily on TV over the extortion of a democratic ally, Ukraine.  Using vivid and current examples of “content” obviously makes the case well, with the bottom line point being how long term, verifiable information at the personal and corporate level makes a significant difference to the public.

Taking a quick side trip to old photos as content, we’ve seen Prince Andrew and 16-year old environmental activist Greta Thunberg being worth at *least* the proverbial 1,000 words, whether they are “real” or not.

In Thunberg’s case, a child gold-miner’s picture from about 1898 that bears an uncanny facial resemblance to the activist, including a single long braid of hair, has spawned the notion she is a time traveler.

For the Prince, its a weak denial that, relative to convicted (and now deceased) sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein providing under-aged girls to prominent figures, a “sex slave’s” assertion that they were intimate must be false because of his “inability to sweat” as badly as she described. Nobody in the Royal Family thought it was a good idea to even discuss it, let alone do a TV interview that opens the door for the sensationalist UK tabloids.

Clarity and Consistency are Legitimate

Has anyone ever tried to debunk a National Geographic story, which has been published continuously since 1888? How often is the NY Times sued for libel?  The answer is “not often,” because it has well-known and scrupulous standards for getting the facts right.

If your organization’s reputation is as squeaky clean about the material it presents, if or when it puts forth information that raises a question of right or wrong, it will almost always get the benefit of the doubt .

Conversely, the President’s recent unscheduled visit to Walter Reed Hospital, which was called “routine” by the White House, raised a ton of questions about his health, because  eight weeks of the impeachment process – let alone E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondholm’s testimony Wednesday, about a quid pro quo of “guns for dirt” – could make the average person’s head explode.

That White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham recently claimed, “There were ‘You will fail’ notes everywhere from Obama people when Trump came into office” was a glaring lie, even it might have been seen as typical of the current administration. While its a situation she has since retracted, having even one piece of proof might have made a big difference.

To say any organization will get painted with a very broad and negative brush after there is documented proof against assertions like that is an inescapable fact. Trump’s first press secretary *never* escaped the scorn of the national press after asserting that his Inauguration crowd was “the biggest ever,” because it was demonstrably false.

Only a small percentage of Americans believe much of anything that comes out of the White House as a result of the President’s 12,000-plus documented lies or serial misinformation. The changing rationale for many administration decisions, like betraying Kurdish fighters by moving U.S. troops to allow Turkish troops to attack them, is something that will be remembered for a very, very long time.

How long would it take anyone to check the assertion by highly regarded Levine Children’s Hospital (in Charlotte), or even the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, to be blasted for saying they cure 96.5% of their patients?  They get praised for the quality of their efforts, not specifically their numbers.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Having recently been a blogger for a CBD oil manufacturer, and a user of products that have absolutely ‘fixed’ some physical problems, writing that it *cured* anything wasn’t allowed. There was plenty of documentation across many online resources and studies, but technically, helpful as it was to a range of ailments like anxiety, inflammation, and sleeping disorders, “cure” wasn’t a step we could state.

When it comes to corporate information, writing or otherwise projecting something that can be proven otherwise will never help.

Ask the tobacco industry how denying the link between smoking and cancer, or how major league baseball owners wound up paying a huge judgment regarding collusion in not bidding on free agents worked out. There are so many avenues to check information, doing anything but keeping to the facts is always going to be the best route.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taylor-Kent Ukraine testimony was content that counted, worthy of attention by all

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While all the heavy digging at the top of the street won’t look like a police station for quite a while, what we heard and saw from two diplomats yesterday became an unimpeachably important first step.

Understanding that mega-reams of copy have already been generated throughout the U.S., Ukraine, and rest of the world, over six hours yesterday, two U.S. diplomats presented precisely the sort of content many, many people were tingling with anticipation to know. If their testimony was the elementary start to a long campaign, those who hoped putting faces to specific and negative information (for some) would make a difference, were rewarded.

Compared to repetitive commercials or ‘witch hunt’ comments about a topic that many have almost given up listening to – and its NOT a four year old investigation, its the start of *another,* necessary one – those straight ahead, well-respected professionals held our attention most of the day.

While having an element of ‘homer’ cheering for the Charlotte Panthers after an intense loss against the Green Bay Packers Sunday was legitimate, over three hours of watching this first public session of impeachment hearings only disappointed because I’d missed a LOT of points being scored during the earlier hours.

The Prez said he didn’t watch any of it, so hopefully someone recorded it, because while everyone knows he won’t read even important stuff, yesterday was about content well worth hearing.

A sports analogy

The Minnesota Golden Gophers football team had lost 43 games in a row to Penn State up to last weekend, a string of negatives that seems unbearable, and many Americans felt this country had endured a similar series of thumpings under Trump.

On Saturday, Minnesota kept its unbeaten season (9-0) going, and rose to #8 in the polls with a 31-26 victory, with Gopher QB Tanner Morgan going 18/20 (90%) for *339 yards*, three touchdowns and no interceptions. His top receiver, Rashod Bateman, had seven catches for 203 yards and a TD, Penn State’s QB had three interceptions, and that’s really all you need to know for a righteous analogy.

To cop GOP interrogator Steve Caster’s best line during the impeachment hearings:

“It’s not as outlandish as it could be.”

That he tried to get more than simple agreement from Ambassador Taylor on “not as outlandish” brought a smile and head shake that spoke volumes.

There’s an old sports line that goes, “We knew they’d beat us at some point, I just never expected to be around when that happened.” Both Penn State boosters, who were campaigning for a spot in the year-end NCAA Final Four, and Trump’s enablers in Congress now have the remainder of this Fall (and 2020) to contemplate the pop in the chops that always comes as a huge surprise from an underdog.

Talking about “What happens if…” those Nittany Lions end the season with just one loss, much like LSU beating arch-rival Alabama, will be the subject of much scrutiny. No matter who else they beat, their aura of being too powerful has been trashed by teams that decided enough was enough of losing.

Of course, that was only the first day of these hearings, and if there were two surprising “plays” along the way, one was Ambassador Bill Taylor, Jr. stating that on July 26th, a staffer (David Holmes, counselor for political affairs in Kiev embassy) overheard a phone conversation between European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland – on an unprotected cell phone, while at dinner in a restaurant – and Trump.

How many regular people KNOW that’s the worst kind of exposure?

Call it an interception, but Trump apparently talked so loudly about “investigations” that Holmes will now be deposed behind closed doors on Friday.

Possibly the most incredible part of Day One was the recognition by many that the Democrats, like Minnesota, remained disciplined and did nothing to harm themselves all day long.  For the jaded among us, the Dems not forming a circular firing squad with the wealth of information they already had is worth mentioning.

Congratulations and sincere thanks to those dedicated public servants who stood straight and tall at a dark point in our current political history. Your country appreciates it, possibly even as much as those many others whose service and deaths we remembered on Veterans Day.

 

Almost-Great finale in Green Bay sets the flag for rest of Panthers season

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Can the Panthers O-line keep McCaffrey rolling and the Falcon rush off Allen better than Saints did for Brees? Will the defense get off the field instead of giving up chunks of yardage?

Here’s betting that Greg VanRoten attempting to sling McCaffrey across the goal-line, swirling snow and frozen tundra overtones to the max, becomes a tee shirt that sells millions. ‘Almost-Great’ in a 24-16 loss kind of covers it, moral victories don’t move the possibility needle on getting into the playoffs.

Kyle Allen earned his spurs (28/43, 307 yds., TD/INT), slinging it as much as necessary, including that 18-yard throw to Olsen in the snowstorm. That counts for experience, especially knowing Cam won’t be back this year.

One pick and his fumble aside, Allen’s distribution is still what the Norv Turner offense is supposed to look like. Color commentator Troy Aikman said that was the focus 25 years ago when he was at the controls in Dallas, its still the standard for Allen. Yes, that’s the DJ Moore that is becoming a difference maker (9 catches/120 yds.) from anywhere on the field, and does anybody else frown when announcers in other games state, “He’s the best running back in the league right now,” and it’s not Cee Mack juking someone bad?

The naysayers will see a 5-4 record for the Panthers,  Rivera will still go with playing them one at a time, even if he admits they got great effort from everyone. Yes, after missing an earlier two-point conversion, the Panthers needed to get that last yard from McCaffrey AND a two-pointer to even tie and go to overtime.  He’s going to get more chances, so will the Panthers. There’s still room on the wagon for believers.

The offensive line continues to be interchangeable and effective, both in pass blocking and giving McCaffrey seams to work through. They’ve given up 20 sacks (seven against 49ers), but Allen doesn’t seem fazed by three against the Packers. He’s an NFL starting QB, he knows what a top-flight pass rush looks like, but we’ve seen him throw well with people all around him. He looks ready to come out of the “game managing” category.

Nobody is saying the Panthers offensive or defensive lines blinked at Green Bay’s power. Gerald McCoy busting through that last play of the first half with the Packers a yard from scoring at the end of a LONG drive, that was a character stand. Yes, some gashing up to that point, but zero points in the clutch, it wasn’t a mistake. That Panthers pushed it 82 and 88 yards on last two drives, that’s not just luck.

Okay, Troy Aikman kept reminding everyone that, except for the pass rush, the Panthers defense has been getting gashed by *everyone* this year.

Rodgers was 17/29 for 233 yards and no touchdowns. How many defensive coordinators would take that line against Green Bay? Despite his 7/118 yard game receiving, DeVonte Adams didn’t score either. When we keep seeing the sort of runs that make long drives possible, like Aaron Jones 13/93 and 3 TDS, and Adams seemingly going wherever he wanted to, that is some cause for Panther concern. The Falcons have some pass catchers this coming week, and Drew Brees, despite a sub-par return game, has some personnel in New Orleans to throw to after that.

There were an awful lot of single tackle stats from the front seven, even Luke Kuechly, to say anyone should think things are okay though. Alvin Kamara is waiting in the Superdome, getting him on the ground will be an important factor. Reid has been good about coming up to make tackles from safety, Ross Cockrell and Tre Boston are steady, Donte Jackson has make up speed, and he’s needed it more than he should in catching people.

This is what being a fan is about, right?

Even with the knowledge Cam’s season is over after being put on injured reserve, there is more than just a good attitude among the Panther faithful after this game. The team was 6-2 this time last year, and of course, there was that seven game skid after the Steelers debacle. While McCaffrey had a statistically great year, going from 11-5 to 7-9 tested everyone’s concern.

Without being a Homer in cheering for losses, the next two weeks will be division games against the Falcons and Saints. Matt Ryan isn’t usually the QB who beats you running around (last year, oh my!), so lets see how tough the Panthers pass rush is at home. Games in the Superdome with Brees are always tough, but half the division games are at the other guys place.  Panthers lost to Saints three times last year, its time to do better.

For those watching the 1,000/1,000 stats on McCaffrey, its 165 carries for 881 yards and 10 TDs rushing.  For all the checkdown passes he caught last year (107 overall), its possible that Allen finding receivers downfield – Olsen was 8/98 yards, Curtis Samuel 4/35 and a TD, Jarius Wright, 1/21 yards – are probably affecting his total of 48/396 yards, three touchdowns in 2019.

We all got to watch a game that was worth talking about at work today. Right now, take the loss – and very definitely the experience – and move on.

Content collaboration as a successful business model – Pierogi Dinner Study

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Men on a mission: 1200 kolacky cookies.

In the overall success of the internet, the ability of not-in-the-same-place talents to be immediately and easily incorporated into the creative flow ranks high, especially for those who are participating in the booming sector called ‘Remote work.’

Beyond the 24/7 foundering and obfuscation on display in Washington, communication should never be lacking with real world clients. Cell phones, laptops, Skype, time-task tracking software, of course, texting, are the norm and eminently useful.

Time zones? Pssshhh! California is always going to be three hours difference.  You signed up for that when you responded to the online Looking For.

Bringing resources together

With content creation, there’s always “The SEO People” who drill managers in must-have markers in getting material created. There’s always a director, a corporate or personal ‘voice’ is determined, ideation becomes a product through a process of submissions from sources tasked to websites, blogging, and media-click counts.

There isn’t a room full of Mad Men-style creatives down the hall any more. Whole operations are dedicated to the proposition of lots of people doing pieces, with a use ’em and lose ’em financial philosophy.

Pirogi Dinner Study

Anyway, the Pirogi Dinner Study. A community group I work with does several primarily eating events a year that maximizes our manpower. We also have an annual Christmas Tree Sale that starts the day after Thanksgiving. There are about 85-90 active members, across wide age groups, with most having a significant amount of professional expertise of one kind or another.

Last year, a member originally from Cleveland (Stephen Fogg), suggested a pierogi dinner as a late-January replacement for a less-well attended spaghetti dinner. His pitch was, “Every church in Cleveland does pierogi dinners in Lent, same with Pennsylvania, even New York. It’s relatively cheap, great family event, week before Super Bowl.”

Without any track history in Charlotte, NC on this particular Polish culinary item – a shredded cheese and potato-filled ravioli is the common description – the original goal was 450 paying customers. On the bottom line, it was an exceptional success; people started coming down the steps and into the cafeteria at 5:01, and it was 2 1/2 hours slamming time for our workers.

We served about 800, and not an unhappy camper in the lot. The planned dancing area wound up taking ten more tables instead. We have established a terrific foothold in a dynamic niche market. Our biggest problem might be handling any Year Two increase, a subject for another day perhaps.

The time logistic

The time logistic, from original idea presentation to a client (the club officers) to killer event as a scheduled, documented success was four months. The analogy of how its similar, and possibly even easier, to gain consensus with remote workers on any  creative projects is where I’m going. It’s the software, baby!

The director’s ideation was transmitted to the necessary work group months in advance of the post-Christmas event by an obvious product evaluation: he made the dinner, including slivered sauteed onions, kielbasa, and sauerkraut.  BIG success, everyone buys into the project, its recognized as comfort food from many of their early years.

Sound like where you’d want a project to be on the enthusiasm meter? Right, and the KPI people will be tracking enthusiasm.

The simplest idea became a driving force in the success. The project director’s knowledge and previous expertise (“every church in Cleveland”) was an A-1 asset, the group history in scaling up became an ‘all you can eat’ invitation in area church bulletins, and as noted, huge success on that communication front.

The product itself was exceptional, including 1200 kolacky (jelly filled-folded) cookies. The notion of “too many chefs” in a creative kitchen as a negative still translates, you can only follow one strategy. It’s still a fact, however many workers it takes, the product has to be there when scheduled-necessary.

The empirical A/B  more-most effective way

There was a test-firing of the process a week prior to the event dinner, from outside cookers to grilling and adding trimmings, making the cookie dough with four mixers, the empirical A/B  more-most effective way to get desired outcomes deal techies always go on about.

The steering committee understood how kitchen and service roles needed to be handled, including the facility prep, launch (5:01) and overall capabilities of volunteers, and the addition of secondary support people (middle/high school students doing service hours) ensured downstream reaction and course correction were highly linked.

Our community projects are considered “good duty” service hours by students, fun and fulfilling, a good rep to have.

Its easy to see challenges like garbage removal from tables in any production directly in front of you. The point is that elements of a project are all within a couple clicks and keystrokes of any content coordinating person.

Today’s online collaboration possibilities simplify a project director’s ability to see any and all associated materials, to know what they want changed, and connect with specific vendors about content.

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Few things are more satisfying than a project done well, with all the parts contributing as expected. Pierogis were hard core “content creation.”

 

Trump’s ‘Do us a favor though’ is a memorable line, but (obviously) not great writing

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It’s a wall at Charlotte Ballet instead of Lady Liberty, how many consider that okay, not worth calling wrong?
  • “Four score and seven years ago…” Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address
  • “I have a dream…” Dr. Martin Luther King at the Lincoln Memorial
  • “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
  • “One small step for (a) man…” Neil Armstrong, just about to walk on the moon
  • “Play it again, Sam” and “Here’s looking at you, kid.” Humphrey Bogart, Casablanca
  • “You must be talkin’ to me, I’m the only one here.” Robert DeNiro as Travis Bick in Taxi Driver.
  • “Charlie, here comes the deuce, and when you speak of me, speak well.” Kevin Costner as Crash Davis in Bull Durham.

In the history of lines from movies, literature, sports, and politics, there are always going to be ones you remember clearly, but its safe to say Trump’s is one you’re going to hear ad nauseum the next couple months.

Just a suggestion, but juuuust maybe he should have gotten more pro forma help with some president-to-president talking points vs. freelancing.

I can almost guarantee a couple million tee shirts will immortalize it, and if you’re going to watch any of the impeachment hearings, using it in a drinking game is begging for trouble.

Content creation, and then there’s the Constitution

“I do” started a life together, “I did” should be a final affirmation” captured the idea of pre-need for a funeral home client, and there’s no problem tapping the Easy Apply button to send my LinkedIn profile to represent me, but that’s neither a one-liner or Shakespeare.

No matter what kind of a deadline I’m facing though, there would never be a moment that I’d consider rewriting (and bastardizing) the Statue of Liberty’s, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” with acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli’s, “who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.”

As a content creation professional, writing something that hits exactly the right chord still gives me a thrill. Michael Anthony Hall gives himself a little punch in the arm after writing a bite me! essay for the group in Breakfast Club – sort of like that.

  • “Ask not what your country can do for you…” John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address
  • “You can’t handle the truth!” Jack Nicholson as Col. Jessup, A Few Good Men
  • “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” Muhammed Ali
  • “Leave the gun, take the cannoli.” Al Pacino getting directions, The Godfather
  • “Thou shalt not…” (I guess) Moses gets the writing credit.
  • “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” (Wily Coyote?)

As for Trump and the Constitution, I’m recalling what I believe was a Dodge commercial from the early 70’s. It featured the arch-typical Southern sheriff, standing next to the drivers open window: “You in-a heap of trouble boy.”

Yep. The Constitution was written in long hand a loooong time ago, and yet the Founding Fathers managed to include a process called impeachment for *exactly* what came through in that call to the president of the Ukraine.  We may not be at another  Lindsey Graham moment yet, but that’s not a one-liner either.