Jan 27, 2009

It's not always a first-mover advantage

It was interesting to learn today that Facebook now attracts twice the number of unique monthly users (225million vs 125million) when compared to MySpace.

Lesson Learned #1: The old-media baggage / mindset that corporate owner News Corp is brining to the table is having a toxic effect on its MySpace property.

Lesson Learned #2: The race isn’t always to the first horse out of the gate. The B-schools can stop with that first-mover mantra now.

On the second point: I remember when I first started hearing of this new kid on the block called Google several years back.. My reaction was “does the world really need another search engine given that Yahoo seems to be meeting the market’s need just fine?”

Just goes to show how smart I am, huh?


Jan 26, 2009

The Field Guide to Winning Elections

(2009 revised edition)

Hometown hero Jim ‘Point Guard’ Tedisco has long referred to himself as Mr. Schenectady, champion of the people of his beloved and native Electric City in the NYS Assembly throughout his political career. But he now wants to get promoted, with his eyes on Kirsten Gillibrand’s former seat representing the 20th Congressional District.

There’s only one technicality here: Schenectady is not part of the 20th Congressional District. Instead, he is lifelong resident of the currently configured 21st.

“Not to worry,” might go Assemblyman T’s counter argument. “My new wife still has her name listed as the owner of a home up there in Saratoga -- for now at least -- so that makes it all good.”

The fact that Mr. Tedisco chose not to take a shot at the vacant 21st seat in last November’s election would have seemed the more appropriate contest to enter, of course. But there’s an ‘enrollment’ problem within those boundaries. Simply put: there are too many of those darned Democrats in the 21st District, forcing a Republican such as Point Guard really needing work it if he wants to punch that ticket to DC. The neighboring 20th, however– with its large Republican advantage – should be the easier fish to fry.

Incumbents have long been castigated for their dirty little trick of re-drawing district boundaries in such a way to tilt the deck (i.e., their individual re-election prospects) in their favor; a process called gerrymandering. Tedisco has a better idea: let’s just look at the state map as it now exists and find a race somewhere that I can waltz through.

Let’s think how I might apply this logic to my advantage: my very own hubby is in the not-so-proud possession of a two-week timeshare unit, which gives him (and me, I would hope) access to over 300 temporary living quarters scattered in various communities and resorts all over the world. I guess I need to start researching each one, to see where I can go run for some local office and collect an extra paycheck. Better yet: four or five of them at once! Why not?

H’mmmm: maybe I can be a councilwoman in Vail; a county legislator in Maui; the coroner in Miami Beach (nah; scratch that none); the mayor of Steamboat Springs; the commissioner of deeds in some little town in the Outer Banks ….


Jan 24, 2009

Prediction: Bruno's ghost (and family) will get the last laugh

News of Uncle Joe Bruno's indictment on federal corruption charges suprised very few here in the Capital Region on Friday. But aren't those Feds real party-poopers, timing it on the same day as Kirsten Gillibrand's ascention to the US Senate. Not nice, boys ...

Yes, I read the complete indictment -- and had two reactions:

1) At least five of the six charges seem to make a pretty darn strong case, to this set of amateur eyes, at least.

2) It's kind of scary how many people and companies mentioned in the indictments I actually know! O, SmAlbany!

But I'm going to go out on a limb here and make a rather bizzare set of predictions:

- Mr Bruno will go to trial
- Mr Bruno will be found guilty of most (if not all) six charges
- He will be sentenced to prison and required to forfeit $3million+ in asssets
- But he won't serve a day nor lose a penny

An explanation:

Remember Ken Lay of Enron fame and misfortune? Now recall the result of his trial: Guilty, Guilty, Guilty! But, one-half of the "Smartest Guys in the Room" exercised his legal right to appeal that decision --- and died of heart disease before the appeal was ruled upon.

Shortly thereafter, a judge vacated Lay's conviction on the grounds that the defendant had not enjoyed the opportunity to exhast all remedies offered by the judicial process. Furthermore, a judge ruled that all asset claims were invalid, because "the courts shouldn't be able to punish a dead defendant or his estate." His family is partying-on to this day on old Ken's tainted cash.

Let's do some math, then, on Mr Bruno's situation. Uncle Joe, the stubborn guy that he is, will not take a plea deal but will instead (no doubt) vow to take 'em on in a public court. That will take about three years to happen, the way the system slugs along and the lawyers rack up the billing-chits. The trial itself will take another three months. This will take us to the Spring of 2012.

Assume for the moment that he is found guilty as charged. We all know the drill and what happens about six months later: "Your honor, my client appeals his convition." Papers get shuffled, FAX machine crank (yes: the legal profession still uses FAX machines), the lawyers keep visiting the bank and the calendar now finds itself with a number of 2013 on it. The Appeals court might rule sometime deep into that year. But will Joe be around to hear it?

Joe Bruno is currently 79 years of age. By the time the above scenario reaches its end, he will be either 83 or 84. Bruno has health issues (cancer) and is now faced with a pronlonged period of great personal stress -- and we all know what stress can do to a person's heath, especially an elderly person's health. He's already looking like Hell, as witnessed at his shaky press conference in front of the cameras yesterday.

The bottom line is that there is a reasonably-likely chance that Mr Bruno might not survive (i.e., 'die') before that appeal is ruled upon, way out there in future years. Go ask an insurance company actuary for verification on this matter.

Now, I'm certainly not trying to predict the death-date of a living human being: that job is already taken by somone much better qualified. I am just painting a possible picture here.

But look at that picture closely. Joe Bruno gets convicted; he appeals; he dies before the appeal is ruled upon. Conviction vacated; all assets in question (that $3million+ that was gained as a result of the corrupt activities in question) are returned to his estate. It's party time in Brunswick! Now wouldn't that be a kick?

They better start looking right now for a giant photo of Joe Bruno that shows him grinning from ear to ear. There's a good chance they will need it to place above his coffin in the funeral home someday.



Jan 21, 2009

A Tale of Two Nations

To many of us -- most of us, I would even surmise -- yesterday felt like a long fog finally being lifted from our midst.

But beware of the fact that among us are those who bask in that previous darkness and will continue to test our resolve and will.

For while millions of one-fingered salutes were waved at televsion sets as The Idiot Prince was lited away from the Capitol grounds, bear in mind what occured but a few hours later:

"The now-former President was welcomed by an enthusiastic and cheering throng of 20,000 on his return to Texas."

This struggle is far from over.


Jan 6, 2009

Paterson's Excedrin Headache

How'd you like to be in Governor Paterson's shoes when it comes to the need to fill Senator Clinton's soon-to-be vacant seat?

You've got three political dynasties (I use that term very loosely) --- named Kennnedy, Cuomo and Clinton -- all hounding you to go with their recommended pick 'from the family'. I'm surprised the Bush twins aren't part of the mix. Yeah: a two-for-one sale!

Here's to hoping he takes the better route and comes up with a choice that is not among that media-dream short list.

Maybe Tom Suozzi?

Heck, the Guv might be doing himself a big favor with that one by eliminating a potential challenger to his own re-election bid. Wouldn't that be a nice chess move?


Jan 5, 2009

The King of Comedy


Politics is really show business. How else can we explain a Dutch Reagan, Sonny Bono, Ah-nold; Jesse Ventura and what looks to be our newest US Senator, Al Franken?

Any showman looking for his or her next gig carries always a demo reel; a video montage that encapsulates the highlights of that person's past performances.

So as we begin to wax nostalgic during these last days of the reign of the Idiot Prince, it's time for a sneak preview of Dubya's demo reel:

With talent like this, he should't have a problem landing his next role.

Broadcast news: the domain of the blue hairs

Sitting in a bagel shop the other day, I overheard a couple of elderly women sharing opinions on a matter that was obviously of great importance to them. Apparenty, one of the local television outlets terminated the services of its lead news anchor -- an act that had these two senior citizens determined to play their Neilsen card by shifting their allegiances to one of the competing stations on the dial as a direct protest.

Sure enough, a subsequent Google search confimed my eavesdroppiong: the popular Lydia Kulbidia was dropped by her employer, WNYT, several weeks ago. Breadcrumb comments related to this issue also reveal that several other long-time talking heads have recenly met similar fates in the Capital Region media market.

Now, I'm one that prides himself on being an informed citizen on issues both local and faraway. So, I should be surprised that this one slipped by my radar screen; right?

Not really. Broadcast news -- whether it be a major network or one of its local affiliates -- continues to slip firther and further into the 'irrelevant' category for many of us, especially the net-centric / digerati class. But there are no tears here, that's for sure.

Brodcast news has become a cheap commodity. Cheap, as in anti-intellectual, un-infomative and appealing to the lowest common denominators among us. It's all about the weather, isnt it?

"Tonight's lead story: a huge snowstorm is on its way; thousands are doomed. Details after this report on the huge holiday shopping traffic at Crossgates. Erin, how many happy faces are you seeing out there?"

All of this deliverd by a person that can: a) read; and b)is pleasantly attractive, in the non-threatening sort of way. But even the dynamics of that long established formula are showing signs of shifting, as some networks and outlets are following the European model of substituting that "pleasantly attractive' with 'young & hot'. Tune in to CNBC or Fox for proof.

But there are plenty of attactive young faces out there; just another commodity. And if it's a commodity, then by definition a buyer doesn't need to pay a heavy price to own it. So as Lydia, Liz and Tracey and the other vets get a bit long in the tooth; their six-figure salaries are hard to justify when an attractive 25yo can be plucked from a smaller market or right out of Syracuse U for $50K. As long as they can read, that is.

Meanwhile, try this little experiment: ask the next five people who have a Blackberry if they've heard about the big 'Lydia' news; and if so: do they really care?. then repeat the same experiment with the next five people you run across under the age of 30.

I bet you get a different reaction than the two blue hairs in the bagel shop.


Truth in Advertising

Walking by two retail shops on my coffee-run this morning:

A big sign in the Eddie Bauer window announces that an ULTIMATE SALE is going on -- right now! But a look at the fine print states: this is actually a twice-a-year event. Not so ultimate, I guess.

Two doors down, a jeweler has a small sign that reads 'Buy American' plopped among its shiny display of rings and necklaces. When were hordes of diamond mines uncovered in the US? Or did I miss the memo on our annexing of South Africa?