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Thursday, March 31, 2022

Not Dead Yet 

NASA continues to reap positive PR from the Hubble space telescope.  Now it is trumpeting Hubble's success in spotting the farthest star ever seen -- 12 billion light years away.  The amazing feat was done with the aid of gravitational lensing but no matter, Hubble did it and can claim another first.  This is not bad for a scope that has ended its useful life and has been replaced by the Webb, which is now undergoing final adjustments.  The Hubble has been a PR bonanza for NASA since its faulty focusing was repaired years ago.  The space agency regularly released astounding images taken by the telescope to the public.  It reaped hosannas of praise from astronomers and the public alike.  The Webb is set to surpass Hubble's record, and that means NASA will have another PR machine for years to come.  


Wednesday, March 30, 2022

No Shame 

Former president Trump has no shame in pursuit of his goals.  He is calling for President Putin of Russia to release any "dirt" on Hunter Biden, President Biden's son.  He is overlooking Putin's invasion of Ukraine and the massive disinformation campaign Putin's people are using to keep Russian citizens uninformed.  Were Trump to take even a moment's reflection, he would realize Putin's information would be suspect because of his hostility to the West.  There is a time for political battle.  This isn't one of them.  Trump has shown no recognition of the evil Putin commits in Russia and outside of the country.  He is focused only on his political gain and overturning the 2020 election, which he lost by three million votes.  The man is stuck in the past and in denial.  One wonders how he became president in the first place.  

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Dumb 

President Biden stepped into controversy with a careless remark over the weekend. He said Putin cannot remain in power.  Then, the White House tried to walk back the statement.  Then, he said yesterday it was an expression of moral outrage and not US policy.  Any way one tries to explain it, the ad lib was dumb.  Russians reacted in anger.  The NATO alliance expressed worry and disapproval.  The president was reminded that Putin has his finger on the nuclear trigger and apparently is not afraid to use it.  Leaders haven't the luxury of personal opinions on the world stage.  Their statements are calibrated against policy and action.  Even if Biden had said during the speech that it was his opinion but not US policy, it wouldn't have sounded good. In diplomacy, words count, and this time they amounted to more than usual.  


Monday, March 28, 2022

Perception 

Volodymyr Zelenskiy of Ukraine is asking if the West is scared of Russia and that is why it is refusing war planes and armor to the country. The answer is yes.  NATO and Europe are scared of what Putin might do, especially since he has put the country's nuclear force on alert.  Putin has fostered and succeeded in building a perception of himself as a madman determined to get what he wants.  His cynicism is deep and his pragmatic ways of warfare -- crush the spirit of Ukraine through indiscriminate shelling and bombing -- are meant to frighten anyone who opposes him.  The West wants a rational enemy willing to negotiate.  It doesn't know how to handle one who violates norms with impunity, other than with sanctions.  Should NATO bolster Ukraine by sending troops, there is a real chance of World War III.  No one wants that and Putin knows it.  Perception is on his side.            


Friday, March 25, 2022

Isolation 

The Biden Administration continues to take steps to isolate Russia from the world economy.   Now, it is reducing dependency on Russian gas.  Biden is determined to bring Russia down until Putin reneges on his invasion of Ukraine or is put out of office through a coup or the electorate rising against him.  Biden is sending a clear message backed by action.  So far, Putin isn't listening.  He keeps doubling down by increasing the threat of nuclear war and sending more troops to the front.  He has secured his reputation as an international bully and he glories in it.  It is likely that even if the war turns into a prolonged siege, he won't give up.  He didn't in Syria.  He has no qualms about killing civilians.  He is out to break the will of Ukrainians and to turn them into vassals of Moscow.  If he succeeds in doing so, it will be outside the world economy in nearly complete isolation.   


Thursday, March 24, 2022

Papal PR 

The pope has engaged in PR with a forthcoming book,  "From the Poor to the Pope, From the Pope to the World."  Despite its unwieldy title, it is a Q and A in which the pontiff answers personal questions without holding back.  The questions were from the poor around the globe.  The pope's responses go far to show he is a regular person with faults like anyone else.  That is the perception he has been trying to build since the day he was elected and went to the Vatican travel office to cancel his flight back to Argentina. He has worked hard to humanize the position and to maintain strong links to the destitute.  It has been good for the Vatican and an example for other leaders.  One wonders what Putin might learn from reading the book -- which he would never do. 


Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Alone 

NASA has announced that thus far 5,000 exoplanets have been observed in the galaxy.  None appear to have life and we are still alone in the universe.  Astronomers will continue to search for more extraterrestrial bodies in hope that one or more has water, lies the right distance from its star and shows signs of activity.  It might be a long endeavor and it emphasizes a truth that too many refuse to accept.  So far, if we do find life, there is no way to travel to it given galactic distances.  The message is stark.  Take care of the world we have.  There is no place else to go.  With wars and threats of nuclear bombs, we are proceeding down a harrowing path for humanity.  It is time to reflect on our solitary nature and to act accordingly.  One wonders if Putin ever thinks of that.  


Tuesday, March 22, 2022

In The Middle 

One place a corporation doesn't want to be is in the middle between two opposing forces.   No matter what a CEO says or does, there are repercussions and PR and marketing outcomes are affected negatively.  This is the spot the Walt Disney Co. finds itself in.  Some of its employees are upset that Disney didn't fight against a Florida anti-gay bill forcefully enough before it was enacted.  Disney, on the other hand, suspended political donations in Florida as a protest against the legislation.  LGTBQ activists are not satisfied.  It's poor PR when your own employees revolt against you and this is what is happening to the company.  Sooner or later, Disney will extricate itself from this mess, but it is in the middle until it does.  


Monday, March 21, 2022

Unpredictable 

There is one thing to be said about Elon Musk.  He is unpredictable.  He tweets constantly and makes statements that are eye-popping and may be even serious.  He gets attention for even frivolous remarks because he has accomplished so much already -- a successful car company and a thriving rocket business.  He seems anxious to keep in public awareness, which is normally a suspect thing.  Celebrity doesn't breed success all of the time nor does it confer a right to act as one wishes.  Still, Musk gets away with a lot and in spite of censure by the SEC, he continues to flack his companies and projects.  Who knows if his prediction for landing people on Mars is accurate or even plausible?  He has been saying for years that he is going to do it.  He is manufacturing a rocket to get the job done.  One would expect him to forge forward.  But, he is Elon Musk.  

Friday, March 18, 2022

Riding the EV Wave 

Porsche, the quintessential sports car company, is going electric in a big way.  One associates the company with powerful gas engines, short 0-to-60 times, precise handling and race track heritage.  The question for the business was how to keep this brand as it changed over to battery power.  So far, whatever the company has done, it has managed to build performance into EVs and it is now moving toward a hybrid 911.  Porsche will go all-electric at some point but without sacrificing its image.  It can point to an electric car designed by Ferdinand Porsche more than 100 years ago before the gas engine supplanted lead-acid batteries.  The challenge for Porsche's engineers now is to find enough distance for its vehicles while maintaining its brand.  They are up to it. 

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Ongoing PR 

This release from NASA is part of a stream of PR messages about the Webb deep-space telescope.  It assures the world's scientific community that everything is on schedule and working well as the scope is fine-tuned for astronomical observations.  There is a note of hype in it as if the instrument already is working at maximum capacity, but the writer does say more tools must be readied, and there are another six weeks of bringing the scope online.  The release is a progress report.  As such, it should have been more conservative in its approach.  There is always a chance one or more of the instruments packages will suddenly fail for no reason, leaving the scope crippled for its lifespan.  There is no way to visit the scope on a repair mission as was done multiple times with Hubble. Everything on Webb must work correctly from the start.  It is a huge pressure on the Webb team's scientists and engineers.  The release should have acknowledged that.  


Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Worst Case Scenario 

 An alleged leaker said China had planned to invade Taiwan in the Fall and had suspended its preparations for the time being because of Ukraine.  One wonders why.  A partial reason is that China depends on exports to survive and a boycott of its goods would put the country into a tail spin.  The worst case scenario, however, would be for both China and Russia to be at war at the same time.  The US couldn't support a two-front battle and would have to abandon either Taiwan or Ukraine just when they needed weaponry.  There is no good positioning of a situation like this.  There are no words to make it right nor to salve concerns.  One hopes the leaker was wrong or making things up.


Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Not Again 

The CEO of Pfizer, the pharmaceutical company, says a fourth shot is necessary to protect individuals from the newest COVID variant, BA.2.  This is an unwelcome message to nearly everyone, just as the omicron variant is diminishing.  Yet, if the new variety is dangerous, it is a warning the public needs to hear.  The White House and the CDC have yet to weigh in, but if they do, citizens will line up again for jabs.  It's wearisome and yet one more delay in returning to a semblance of normal times, if a war in Europe can be considered normal.  Any President would undergo stress in the present conditions, and Biden is nearing 80 years of age.  How does he hang in and project leadership to a worried nation?  It is a major communications challenge.  Is he up to it?

Monday, March 14, 2022

Perception 

President Biden is fighting for -- and losing -- support from the public over inflation and gas prices. Although the cost of a gallon of gas is not the highest it has ever been, it seems that way to drivers at the pump.  He gained a small amount of support after the Ukrainian war started and his backing of the besieged country, but that doesn't make up for pain in the average citizen's wallet.  Biden is a victim of perception. There isn't much he can do to offset the view that he is incompetent in gaining control of the economy.  He didn't create the structural bog in logistics, the pandemic did.  He didn't start the war with Ukraine, the Russians did.  It makes no difference.  He is in charge and he reaps the blame.


Friday, March 11, 2022

False Flag 

Propagating lies is at the heart of propaganda. This is what makes it different from public relations, which uses facts persuasively.  The Russians are masters of propaganda and now are accusing the US of using "military biological weapons" in Ukraine.  Or, so they claim at the United Nations.  It is a classic false flag trick designed to stir anger in their own country among citizens who are not getting accurate information about the war and to justify their own use of such weaponry.  The US has called the charge "preposterous" and "laughable."  Russian citizens are likely to think otherwise as Putin floods the airwaves, print media and internet with lies.  Putin has mobilized his own people if not his troops on the front lines who know what is happening.  That is why propaganda is evil at its core and should not be used by any ethical communicator.  


Thursday, March 10, 2022

Now, A friend?  

The US sent a delegation to Venezuela to talk to President Maduro.  It has been years coming. The country has been living under sanctions since Maduro took over.  It is too early for the US to proclaim Maduro a friend, especially since hundreds of thousands of citizens have fled the country and Maduro has shown no inclination to allow democracy and free and fair voting to take place.  But, Venezuela has oil, plenty of it and no way to get it to market under interdiction.  The US needs petroleum with the new sanctions on Russia cutting off the country's supply.  Should the US reach a d├ętente with Maduro, it will be a slap in the face of Maduro's opponents and hypocrisy.  But, that's the way the world works -- a friend one day, an enemy the next, a friend again when the need arises.  The US can be as amoral as its opponents.   

Wednesday, March 09, 2022

Guesswork  

Armchair military strategists are second-guessing Putin's success and aims in Ukraine.  The fact is that few know what his generals planned and how long they estimated it would take to subdue the country.  That is a military secret.  If perception rules, then Putin is in trouble with his columns of tanks, trucks and troop carriers stalled on the road.  But, the fog of war doesn't tell the facts most of the time and we're left staring into an abyss without clarity.  The conclusion that Putin will double-down rather than back off seems realistic.  He is not a man used to losing or failing to get his way.  That much we know.  How Ukrainians fight the battle for their existence is unknown, although they seem to be doing well in stalling the enemy as of now.  But that might be propaganda.  All the West can do is to arm the Ukrainian fighters, sanction Russia and wait.  


Tuesday, March 08, 2022

Betting His Career 

The National Football League has suspended a player for a year for betting on games even though he wasn't playing at the time.  The NFL is trying as hard as possible to protect the game from perceptions of gamblers' influence on results.  Now that sports betting is available to nearly everyone, the temptation to finagle is ever present, and there will be more players who will bet their careers by taking chances.  In that regard, the NFL might be fighting a losing battle, especially when professional gamblers get involved.  It's a serious problem for the integrity of the game and the punishment of the player reflects the league's concern. 


Monday, March 07, 2022

Straddling The Middle 

The pope has not condemned Russia for its invasion of Ukraine but he has called for humanitarian assistance, a cease-fire and return to negotiations.  Local bishops aren't waiting for him to raise his voice.  They have named Putin and laid the blame on him. Why silence?  The Vatican prefers to work as a mediator quietly but in so doing its stance puts it in a communications bind.  It looks as if the pope is not faulting Russia for its invasion, and perception is important.  This puts Francis in an untenable position on the world stage.  Who is going to listen to him?  Putin certainly isn't and the allies will ignore him for being neutral.  Sometimes one must declare a position and this is one.   


Friday, March 04, 2022

Regret 

The Sackler family has issued a statement of "regret" over Purdue Pharma's role in fostering opioid addiction across the US.  It was hardly an apology.  The statement says, "the families acted lawfully in all respects" and the role of Oxycontin was an "unexpected" one.  This is a lawyer's document that seeks to hold the family harmless.  It won't be of much use when civil lawsuits are brought to court.  Still, the family will pay 40 percent more than in the previous agreement, which was thrown out.  One wonders how the Sacklers can claim innocence when doling out $6 billion.  The PR will look at the settlement and ignore the press release.  The facts speak for themselves whether the family is sorry or not.  

Thursday, March 03, 2022

Symbolic Or Real? 

A host of international companies are pulling back or ending their operations in Russia.  One wonders if this is symbolic action or a real effort to punish Putin. Capitalism is politically neutral.  It works where there is money to be made.  Ending presence in a country tends to be an image-enhancing move with tendrils remaining in place for a return.  Russia is too large of a country to ignore, and odds are that some of the corporations pulling back now will return quietly in the near future.  Their boycott has a time limit.  Once Ukraine falls from the headlines, they will restart and forge ahead as long as there are rubles to earn.  The only barrier is the financial condition of the country.  If sanctions are successful, there won't be currency available and no reason to return.  Only time will tell.  


Wednesday, March 02, 2022

Fog Of War 

With the advent of satellites, mobile phones and social media, the fog of war has been lessened to a degree but not vanquished.  There is still a lack of transparency at the front lines where opponents meet and battle it out.  Hence, the use of experts. Russia, for example, is not going to back down in its efforts to subdue Ukraine, and it will shell the cities until they are rubble if that's what it takes.  What no one knows is the heart of the Ukrainian fighter.  Will he stay committed when shells and bombs are falling?  So far, so good but it is early in this conflict.  Modern communications are keeping the plight of Ukraine front and center to the world and to the condemnation of Putin.  Still, there is much we don't know and won't know for days or weeks to come.  


Tuesday, March 01, 2022

Some Good News 

Amid the sour news dominating the world about Ukraine, there has been a glimmer of good news.  NASA has finished another step in the alignment of mirrors on the Webb deep-space telescope.   The agency is ahead of schedule in getting the instrument tuned, and it is a reminder that some things still go right in the world.  Although the announcement barely made waves amid the invasion,  it was enough that astronomers saw it and rejoiced.  NASA continues its tradition of great PR.


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