Archive for March, 2012

How Would You Sell The Tea Party?

Reading Malcolm Gladwell’s What the Dog Saw, I got to his essay, “True Colors: Hair Dye and the Hidden History of Postwar America.”  He argues that the difference between Clairol’s “Does She or Doesn’t She?” and L’Oreal’s “Because I’m Worth It,” is the difference between 1950s and 1970s feminism.  Moreover, even when the two product’s pitches had essentially merged (Gladwell was writing in 1999), their buyer’s different self-images lingered on.   Smart ad men know they’re selling more than a product, they’re selling an experience, or an image.  Sometimes, that image or dream ties into a larger social change or movement, and that that’s both a reflection and an agent of that change:

This notion of household products as psychological furniture is, when you think about it, a radical idea.  When we give an account of how we got to where we are, we’re inclined to credit the philosophical over the physical, and the products of art over the products of commerce…

“Because I’m worth it,” and “Does she or doesn’t she?” were powerful, then, precisely because they were commercials, for commercials come with products attached, and products offer something that songs and poems and political movements and radical ideologies do not, which is an immediate and affordable means of transformation.

Far from trivializing a political, social, or economic movement, commercialization can help make it personal and accessible, and therefore less threatening and more familiar.

We’ve seen a couple of Tea Party movies, one explicitly so, (Atlas Shrugged), and one implicitly (Robin Hood).  Thus far, I’m aware of only one commercial that implies a Tea Party presence, the Starbucks commercial with the angry old loner who yells at town halls, which would be a bit like L’Oreal selling “Because I’m worth it” using Nurse Ratchet or Gloria Steinem, who quickly became a caricature of herself.

It may be that we have to wait until the Tea Party sees more success, in winning hearts and minds if not yet national elections, before companies are willing to bet their products’ success on its messaging. But just as feminism succeeded in making the political personal (and more destructively, the personal political), and as environmentalism succeeded in making small actions and then products green, the Tea Party might get farther by doing something similar for its own themes.

It’s not wise to choose your political message based on the products it might sell, but certain themes will sell better than others.  We can search forever in the tall grass of social history to discover how much of feminism’s public appeal was based on opportunity, and how much drew from raging against The Patriarchy, but there’s no question that positive sells.  Ilon Specht may have been angry when she wrote, “Because I’m worth it,” but the slogan expresses liberation, not anger.

To be sure, it faces some hurdles in doing this.  If the theme is fiscal responsibility, most families already need to spend less than they make.  If it’s personal liberty, the government’s probably a tougher customer to disobeying rules, tougher than most companies. And to the extent that it dwells on what used to be, rather than what might be, its message is nostalgia, and the only products it will sell are baseball and Coca-Cola.  You want to get people to invite your ideas into their homes, you need to be relevant to how they’re living their lives today, and want to be living them tomorrow.

So, what products do you see as being right for capturing the Tea Party ethos, and allowing people to internalize it?  Which themes are best suited to commercialization?  And what messages should go in their commercials?  How would you write such a commercial?


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Baptism By Firewall?

The Times of Israel is reporting that Mormon leaders are blocking access to the names of Holocaust victims in their genealogical database.  The church has promised not to posthumously baptize these people, and the firewall is an attempt to prevent those church members who might not have gotten the word – or not have gotten it strongly enough – from getting their hands on the names.

The move comes amid criticism that the Salt Lake City-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hasn’t done enough to live up to commitments to stop its members worldwide from performing the baptism ritual on Holocaust victims and other notable Jews.

The new system will immediately block church members’ access should they try to seek out names of Holocaust victims or other notable figures that have been flagged as not suitable for proxy baptisms. The church said the move is aimed at ending the practice.

But critics say it merely serves to block anyone from monitoring whether the posthumous baptisms continue.

The last sentence there indicates a distrust which I think is unfounded, if past experience is any guide.  The Mormon church has a history of altering practice in the face of stiff criticism or legal action, and then sticking to the change.  Banning polygamy and the treatment of blacks are two examples.  Another example, more immediately relevant to Jews, is the Mormon research center is Jerusalem.  It gained permission to open only on condition that it wouldn’t take advantage of the target-rich environment for missionary activities (walk-in business is another matter, of course; Israel remains a free society with freedom of conscience), and there is every evidence that they have strictly kept that promise.

I admit that I’ve never been particularly bothered by the practice in the first place.  In Judaism, there are ways of affecting the soul of loved ones after death; it is believed that a child who recites Kaddish for a parent for a year after the parent’s death, for instance, acts to ameliorate judgment on the parent’s soul.  There are fears of missionaries affecting the behavior of Jews in this world, by encouraging them to convert.  This is to say nothing of those who would hasten the passage of living Jews into posthumousness.

But as a Jew, I don’t believe that posthumous baptisms affect the souls of my dead relatives, the practices of living Jews, or the course of their lives.  (I am particularly baffled by those who would use it as an excuse to vote against Mitt Romney, especially when his opponent, the sitting president, has at least a two-degree of separation distance from characters with far more unsavory relationships to Jews.  Not to mention his close relationship to many Jewish converts to Marxism.)

Being lied to would bother me a lot more, but in this instance, there’s no real reason to think that’s going on, beyond those who have a generalized mistrust of the Mormon Church and Mormons to begin with.

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Daily Glimpse March 6, 2012

Daily Links From Glimpse From a Height

  • A Unified Brand – A Consistent UI
    That’s been my experience.  I know we’re trying to do that at Werner.  And it’s definitely affected how our teams interact. If we can agree that consumers see a brand as having one “voice,” I’d argue that the internal organization’s infrastructure should be set up to reflect that singular voice: no more Web team, separate […]
  • Environmentalism As Religion
    Not the first to make the connection, but he thinks through the parallel more thoroughly than most: There are two basic problems with this. The first is that while the religion template taps in to a deep psychological vein in the human spirit – some have suggested humanity may even carry a so-called “God gene” […]
  • Debt Grows Faster Than Economy for Foreseeable Future
    More invaluable work from the Mercatus Center: Even in the steady-state starting in about 2016.  Which implies that it won’t be so steady-state, after all.
  • Tourists Like To Live To Show Off Their Photos
    Which makes their return to Kashmir significant: India won by sealing the border and flooding the province with soldiers and police. The largely Moslem population of Kashmir eventually got tired of the Islamic terrorism and stopped supporting the Islamic radical groups. With few local recruits, far fewer trained terrorists crossing from Pakistan and growing casualties […]
  • Big(ger)Country?
    Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuno, whom some are pushing as a Republican Vice Presidential nominee, is predicting that the territory will finally vote for statehood this fall.
  • Is Iran Already Nuclear-Capable?
    From Germany, a report that North Korea may already have tested an Iranian bomb back in 2010: But why should North Korea keep the nuclear tests secret? asks Rühle. North Korea proudly advertised its previous nuclear tests. But the North Korean tests of 2006 and 2009 used bombs with a plutonium core. The 2010 tests, […]
  • The New Old Lie
    Why the Left hates Act of Valor, and keeps churning out crap like Rendition and In the Valley of Elah: War, after all, is about competing purposes, competing causes, competing ideals—produced by polities, defined by policymakers, put into action by military professionals, and fought for by average soldiers. War itself does not care about the […]
  • When Predator Becomes Prey
    Looking at the next generation of drones, and drone self-defense counter-measures: Against a well-equipped opponent the U.S. will have to rely more on space satellites (thus the great fear of Chinese attacks up there), higher UAV losses and the use of things like one-use rockets equipped with cameras. Ironically, the smaller UAVs like Raven will […]
  • How Keynes Overwhelmed Hayek
    It’s not just about being right: The truth is that Keynes overwhelmed Hayek, simply by making more interesting and relevant statements. Of course, the roundaboutness of production under capitalism may sometimes lead to waste, but that does not justify government inactivity. Economists have squabbled about many things since the 1930s, including the relative effectiveness of […]
  • Roundup of Reaction to Obama’s AIPAC Speech
    Some good, mostly concerned with what he whitewashed and left out. Robert Satloff of the Washington Institute for Near East Studies: What fell through the cracks One additional item noticeable by its absence was any message to the people of Iran. This was a lost opportunity. At a time when the administration is counting, at […]
  • The South China Sea Follies
    China begins clarifying their claims to the South China Sea.  They might not insist on the whole thing, after all. Nevertheless, even articulation of a large but UNCLOS-compliant claim would offer several advantages in terms of dispute resolution. It would clarify where China’s EEZ claims from islands in the South China Sea overlap with the […]
  • Megan McArdle Takes a Break
    From blogging.  But there will be guest bloggers!
  • Photo Gallery: East Germany’s Transformation
    From Der Speigel.  The before-and-after photos are striking. A couple of years ago, I found myself in a conversation with an old State Department hand who had been stationed in East Germany.  When I commented that the East Germans were better off with the Communists gone and Germany re-united – which, to be honest, I […]
  • Dems Urge CFTC Action:
    Blame Wall Street for gas prices they say aren’t high enough: “It is one of your primary duties — indeed, perhaps your most important — to ensure that the prices Americans pay for gasoline and heating oil are fair, and that the markets in which prices are discovered operate free from fraud, abuse and manipulation,” […]
  • Running Robot
    DARPA’s running Cheetah robot has been all over the Interwebs today:

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Daily Glimpse March 5, 2012

Daily Links From Glimpse From a Height

  • The Presidential Race in Historic Context
    From the University of Virginia’s Miller Center.  At the CCU News 21 event on Friday, Jay Ambrose praised Ted White’s “Making of the President” series of books, in large part because of his historical perspective.  So, get some historical perspective.
  • Derivatives and the 2008 Crisis
    Synthetic Assets: Finally, we have the fact that New York Fed jumped on the CDS market after the Bear Stearns bailout – and didn’t allow Lehman to fail until after “centralized settlement among major dealers” for credit derivatives was implemented.  Previous industry commitments with respect to credit derivatives were focused on back office infrastructure issues […]
  • Cooperative Robots
    I think “Flight of the Valkyrie” might have been more appropriate for the formation flying. Let’s hope they also incorporate the Three Laws.
  • Act of Valor
    We went to go see “Act of Valor” last night.  Yes, the technology was out of this world (the miniature recon drone was jaw-dropping), but without the teamwork, it wouldn’t mean anything. The sheer complexity of the operations they enable together boggles the mind.
  • TED: The New Rules of Innovation
    3D Printing and Nanotech make an appearance. So the innovators are the ones who will figure out how to put these tools together the best.
  • Obamacare Cost Rises Again
    And those are just the costs that admit to not knowing anything about: At a congressional hearing Tuesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who is in charge of carrying out the health care law, indicated she was unaware of the changes.  At issue are subsidies that will be provided under the health care […]
  • Registering Disapproval
    Tracking Rassumussen’s Partfy affiliation: From the comments: “Anyone remember the Intrade odds for the D’s keeping the House only 6 months out? It was 56%. We all remember how that played out 6 months later, right?” I can’t verify this, but it does seem as though Intrade is better the closer you get to the event, so […]
  • The Bravest Man In Iran
    Next, we’ll find out he was humming “Hatikvah,” too.
  • Redesigning the Camera
    The Lytro gets a field test. Eventually, this is going to be combined with better low-light optics, and more of the capabilities of an SLR.  And 100 years from now, having one of these will be like having a Kodak Brownie on your collector’s shelf.
  • Lose-Lose
    From the Archbishop of Chicago: If you haven’t already purchased the Archdiocesan Directory for 2012, I would suggest you get one as a souvenir. On page L-3, there is a complete list of Catholic hospitals and health care institutions in Cook and Lake counties. Each entry represents much sacrifice on the part of medical personnel, […]
  • Footnotes to “Footnote”
    A gloss on the Israeli film that lost out to A Separation. The film is a talmudic tragicomedy, a morality play about “the masters of those who know.”  Those who have been sequestered in these cloisters will see the film with a special dose of libidinal gusto, but the fun of the movie allows a […]
  • China: We Love Iran
    Sure, we’ll buy their oil and fill their gasoline gap. More evidence for Robert Kagan’s basic thesis: multipolar world orders are unstable, and stable world orders reflect the nature of the dominant hegemon, whether you – or they – like it or not.
  • Three Percent? Really?
    Actually looking at every day prices tells a different story.  ”According to this index, the prices for everyday items like food, beverages, fuel, power, and prescription drugs have risen 8.1 percent in 2011.”  I’m not an inflation paranoic, but I am an inflation hawk, and an economy that’s growing at barely 3%, with prices rising […]
  • Nanofiber Breakthrough: Medicine And Microprocessors
    “A new method for creating nanofibers made of proteins, developed by researchers at Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly), promises to greatly improve drug delivery methods for the treatment of cancers, heart disorders and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as aid in the regeneration of human tissue, bone and cartilage.” Yet all of this almost […]
  • Have Housing Prices Bottomed?
    Investors may think so: Bottomed, maybe.  But it doesn’t look as though they think they’re headed up any time soon, either.  There’s still a lot of backlog to work off, and still a lot of foreclosures to work through.
  • Gas Prices: Who’s To Blame, And Who Gets Blamed, And Why
    First, who’s to blame: Contrary to what it would now have you believe, choking off production under federal leases was quite clearly a priority of this administration from the start. When gas prices reached $4 per gallon in the summer of 2008, the Bush administration reached a bipartisan agreement to open virtually all of the […]
  • Bruselas, Tenemos Un Problema
    Now, before the EU fiscal agreement is even agreed-upon, Spain needs more time: In effect, this means that in order to meet the agreed deficit target (4.4% of GDP) by the end of the year, Spain needs to find total savings of €44 billion. The new centre-right government slashed some €15 billion of spending last […]

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Daily Glimpse March 4, 2012

Daily Links From Glimpse From a Height

  • Consequences of the Decline of the Dollar
    Even the Indians are noticing.  We got away with abusing our position as the world’s reserve currency in the late 60s and 70s, mostly because there weren’t any alternatives.  Our GDP was then, as it is now, about 25% of the world’s output.  But despite a challenge from Japan, the Yen was never going to […]
  • Another Look At Shale Subsidies
    Drawing some different conclusions: Indeed, once we acknowledge the shale gas case as a government success, not a failure, it offers a powerful basis for reforming present clean energy investments and subsidies. Federal subsidies for shale gas came to an end, and so should federal wind and solar subsidies, at least as blanket subsidies for […]
  • U.Va. Wins One
    Sadly, not on the court, but in court: Virginia’s Supreme Court ruled Friday that the University of Virginia cannot be compelled to provide information in investigations under the state’s Fraud Against Taxpayers Act because the university and other state agencies are not considered “persons” under the act. The ruling ended Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s high-profile […]

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Daily Glimpse March 3, 2012

Daily Links From Glimpse From a Height

  • Cancelling Those Oil “Subsidies”
    From Heritage: For instance, the unfair tax break that makes up nearly half of what Obama calls “subsidies” is the manufacturing tax credit. All manufacturers except the oil and gas industry get to deduct 9 percent of their revenues before calculating their tax bills. (It’s worth noting that “manufacturing” is so broadly defined that it […]
  • Everybody Loves Andrew
    Patrician Heaton remembers Andrew Breitbart. I think a lot of conservative bloggers are going to discover their Inner Breitbart, now that he’s not around to be Breitbart for them.
  • AIPAC and Iran and Israel and Obama
    The annual AIPAC Policy Conference is the first part of next week, and things with Iran may be coming to head around the same time.  Purim has never seemed so timely.  So a roundup of articles on the subject: Times of Israel: Netanyahu Warns International Community of Iran Trap The New Republic: Can Israel Trust the […]
  • NLRB Add-On Challenge Fails
    Rules the DC District Court: Jackson faulted the plaintiffs for trying to “shoehorn” the recess appointment into a case about an NLRB rule. … The NFIB and other groups had asked the court to consider appointments as part of a legal challenge to an NLRB rule requiring employers to display a poster explaining workers’ rights […]
  • Muslims For The NYPD
    Rally planned for Monday in support of NYPD: On Monday, March 5, Muslim activist M.Zuhdi Jasser will lead a coalition of American Muslims and their supporters at One Police Plaza in New York as they demonstrate their support of the NYPD against accusations by such organizations as CAIR, The New York Times, and radical Islamic groups that they […]
  • Don’t Let Iran Squeeze The Straits
    Says the appropriately-named Pincher, Tory MP: If this is a blinking Contest the international community, committed to free trade and opposed to nuclear proliferation, must face Iran with its eyes wide open. Any lack of resolve at the Strait of Hormuz will send a message to every ambitious state at every international choke point in the world […]
  • Ethanol, Unplugged
    Not doing so well w/o government subsidies.   “Since the subsidy ended Dec. 31, ethanol profit margins have declined sharply, even slipping into negative territory. Experts see no quick turnaround in sight.”  Looks as though even requiring purchases isn’t enough to keep their heads above water.  Of course, to some, this will just be evidence […]
  • A Mormon Senator Who Tried To Save Anne Frank’s Life
    Same religion, people: William H. King concluded his Senate service in 1941 and returned to Utah having failed to open America’s doors to European Jewish refugees — but not for lack of trying. His state had few Jewish voters, and his party was largely against more immigration, but King was driven by his Mormon faith […]
  • Yes, Higher Gas Problems Are A Problem
    No matter what you’re heard.
  • Philanthropy and Democracy
    The connection between the two.
  • The ECB’s European Reflation
    A cash binge that’s not quite doing what was hoped: Two extremely disconcerting features undermine the effectiveness of such an approach, however. Firstly, the ECB needs banks to reduce their leverage positions so as to reduce the impact of sovereign defaults on financial markets over the next several years. The current liquidity operations have forestalled […]
  • Japan Wary Over North Korea
    Well, they’re a lot closer than we are: Japan has similarly welcomed the North’s pledged moratorium, but has taken a more critical tone than the Obama administration. Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba stressed that while the gesture is welcome the “goal remains completely the same – we want Pyongyang to suspend all of its nuclear […]
  • Low Voltage
    GM Volt sales still slow: According to sales figures released today, GM is still far short of the pace needed to sell its previously stated goal of 30,000 Chevrolet Volt’s this year. GM delivered 1,023 Volts in February, up from 603 sold in January, and just 281 a year ago; but this is still short […]

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Daily Glimpse March 2, 2012

Daily Links From Glimpse From a Height

  • The President Attacks Charitable Deductions
    Again. How far would Obama’s proposal cause total itemized contributions to fall? Experts predict up to $5.6 billion each year. This is only a small percentage of total annual charitable donations, but it is more than the annual operating budgets of the Ameri­can Cancer Society, World Vision, St. Jude Chil­dren’s Research Hospital, Habitat for Humanity, and the […]
  • 13 Charts To A Better Economy
    The case against Obamanomics.  I still think this is the best one:
  • Trucking Prices Set To Rise
    By 3-5%. This has a lot to do with capacity tightening, and the article doesn’t seem to address gas prices at all.  Carriers have been loath to expand their fleets, which is going to lead to spot shortages.  Capacity also isn’t being helped by those new driver rules, which even the drivers don’t like. In […]
  • Capabilities, Not Intentions
    China’s asymmetric warfare: By combining the ability to knock down American military satellites, while at the same time launching Internet based attacks at American military, government and commercial Internet activities, China believes it could make up for a lot of current American military superiority. There’s no reason to think that war with China is inevitable, […]
  • So You Want To Be An Architecture Critic?
    Ada Louise Huxtable’s, “Sometime We Do It Right” as a model: But this judgment of the curtain wall is only a fraction of what she has to say — she’s rewritten her assignment on the fly, because the new building is the least of her concerns. In fact, Huxtable never says the building is good […]
  • NPR To Be “Fair To The Truth”
    So say their guidelines: NPR’s guidelines promise an end to “he said, she said” journalism that tries to be fair to both sides of an issue. From now on, the network will ask its reporters to be fair to the truth: “In all our stories, especially matters of controversy, we strive to consider the strongest arguments […]
  • Long-Term Unemployment Still a Problem
    Given the large jump in unemployment, and the very slow recovery of jobs, long-term unemployment is still a large problem for the economy. A couple of other charts, also from the same BLS data:
  • UNESCO Discovers Israel’s Science
    After having pretended nothing happened from 2005-2010: At issue is the agency’s latest five-year Science Report, which lists the world’s major scientific contributions from 2005 to 2010. Among Israel’s many achievements in medicine, physics, chemistry, and other sciences during that period, was the Nobel Prize in Chemistry awarded to Yonath for her work on ribosome structure. That distinction did not […]
  • Gaming the Academic System
    Citation fraud: …editors frequently and deliberately force researchers to quote articles that originally have not been considered relevant by them. Usually the editors them them to refer to articles which were published in the very same journal the authors submitted their work to. Wouldn’t be the first time.
  • Quantum Entanglement
    Is there anything it can’t do? This experiment consists of a laser beam shaped into an image, such as the letter A. This laser then hits a non-linear crystal, generating entangled pairs of photons that retain this image shape. The set up is such that these photons are then detected, not by conventional detectors, but […]
  • Iran’s Not The Only EMP Threat
    One-in-eight chance of catastrophic solar megastorm by 2020. Such an extreme event is considered to be relatively rare. The last gigantic solar storm, known as the Carrington Event, occurred more than 150 years ago and was the most powerful such event in recorded history. That a rival to this event might have a greater than […]
  • The Great Gravity Showdown
    You wouldn’t think that a 6th-decimal-place discrepancy in Planck’s Constant would be that big a deal.  Unless you were trying to standardize the kilogram so you didn’t need to rely on an actual physical object, that is.
  • Climate Change Devastating Everest?
    So, is global warming making Everest more dangerous to climb? Or not? Or maybe the sherpas are trying to push through a rate increase.
  • 3D Printing-palooza
    The Smithsonian will be digitizing a certain amount of their collection, for 3D printing, in much the same way that a fair portion of the Library of Congress has done for images in its American Memory online archive or prints, photographs, maps, etc. And as the printers become more advanced, able to print things that […]

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