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We hear more about drones as technology and less about their strategic purpose as remote killing machines, and the implications of that rapidly increasing capability.
Rocks and sticks and other sharp objects were the first drones — killing devices controlled by humans at some distance, however modest, from their target. Chinese firesticks, rifles, pistols, cannon then came along, followed by flying manned bombers and missiles.
Reagan tinkered with space-based lasers, but that costly technology wound up on two card tables in the basement of Yerkes Observatory at Geneva Lake, Wisconsin.
Then, to further help avert the need for sending in troops or blowing up large chunks of geography, and to save a few gazillion bucks too, we come to the era of drones, which cannot only kill more precisely, but invade the privacy of anything that can be scanned from the air.
We’re upset about collateral damage — those innocents near a target who get killed, and whose families will forever hate and seek revenge on the monsters responsible. We’re concerned that anyone, including U.S. citizens, can be targeted by drones, with an apparent paucity of checks and balances to be sure they deserve a death sentence from the sky.
What’s next, perhaps lasers carried aloft by drones, which can pin-point a target more closely, and explode the brain of a single person? And what happens when rogues of all kinds — terrorists, nations or even individuals — can target people anywhere with drones? Yes, that’s around the corner, too. Have we unleashed the terror of the end times?
Well, that’s what peoples have thought each step along the way of remote killing. But Instead of gun powder and vast armies moving across the terrain, we have pin pricks of death popping off human targets anywhere at will. At the end of the day, the only saving grace for individuals will be the overwhelming use of power — new powers — by protecting entities.
Like a country, like the U.S., approaching a time with a gun in nearly every home and pocket book, the day of the ubiquitous killing drone is just around the corner. Interesting that our far-seeing government has canned NASA’s human space program. Now, we can just send out our drones to conquer the universe. And so it goes. Sorry for “droning” on.
When Rodney King was dragged from his vehicle and mercilessly beat by south LA police in 1992, he triggered riots that tore apart that area of the city. King will be remembered for his plaintive admonition in the wake of the riots, “Can we all get along?”
One of the few positive things to take away from those horrible riots was the value of proactive community relations, as had been practiced by the minority entrepreneurs who owned the five McDonald’s restaurants in the riot and fire zone, which escaped unscathed, because those franchisees followed Ray Kroc‘s adage to give back to the communities they served, and put regular deposits of goodwill into the “trust bank” of social investing that McDonald’s has long followed.
I was director of corporate communications for McDonald’s in the 80s and 90s, and we told and retold the LA riots survival story to company employees and franchisees around the world. The philosophy survives today, just as those five restaurants did in 1992. Here’s the story:
In the area of South Central LA, a five square miles radius of devastation, the outcome was like a bomb. It resembled Nagasaki. Buildings had been looted and set alight. It was martial law. The streets were dangerous. Many people were killed in the frenzy, either as a statement of opposition between the established powers and the disenfranchised or as a gateway for much deeper held sentiments regarding race, class, poverty, and divisions between the entitled and disentitled.
In the wasted landscape of South Central LA, everything had been destroyed. Everything except for five buildings. In the post-apocalyptic aftermath, surrounded by smoldering ruins and debris, there were five buildings which had been untouched. Not a broken window. Not a slash of spray paint. All flooded in their usual operable fluoro lights.
These five buildings all had one thing in common. They were all McDonalds.
‘When the smoke cleared after the mobs burned through South Central Los Angeles in April, hundreds of businesses, many of them black owned, had been destroyed. Yet not a single McDonald’s restaurant had been torched.’
Edwin M. Reingold, June 29, 1992, TIME
Months later, Sociologists at Stanford University came aross this data. They were also intrigued. They sent teams into the field some time later. They went in to interview many involved in the riots. They went in to discover what the story was here – not why the devastation had taken place, but why they hadn’t taken place at McDonalds.
Now it must be said, these were not the crème de la crème of society. They organized meetings and interviews with those who had pulled people out of cars and beaten them to death. When asked why McDonalds was spared, the answers were unanimous across all the interview centres. The general conversation went something like this.
“They are one of us.”
“What do you mean?”
“They ‘re looking after us.”
‘How could McDonalds ‘be looking after you’?
“Because we like to play basketball. There’s nothing else to do except get high and shit. McDonald gives us balls.”
It turned out that McDonalds had in fact supplied a number of basketballs to youth groups and basketball centres in these low socio-economic areas. Not thousand of balls. A few hundred.
“And the old men. My old man. They don’t have jobs or nothin. They don’t have nowher eto live. McDonalds gives them free coffee.”
It was true. In that area, McDonalds suppied several hundred free cups of coffee each morning. In terms of its profitability, a piss in the ocean,
In a purely commercial sense, McDonalds gained years over Pizza Hut, Wendy’s, Denny’s, Taco Bell, Burger King, and every other fast food restaurant in the area that was razed to the ground. Each had to undertake major rebuilds and ascertain their strategic direction to decide whether South Central LA would be part of the strategic plan.
Even today, Tesco the supermarket leader of the UK is launching a ‘grocery gap’ stores in the same aea. Most of the old stores have disappeared. Wal-Mart fears to tread due to union barriers. Residents suffer lack of renewed investment.
Emotionally, financially and psychologically, McDonalds’ competitive advantage after the LA iots was vast. Lest we forget. Marketing is not about producing advertisements. It’s the battle for the heart and mind of the consumer.
Just as I recently blogged, and despite the overwhelming worldwide climatic disasters of recent days, weeks and months, and despite a new UN report of new, fresh evidence of long-term climate change, Congress, most especially the GOP, and news media, in my view, are largely ignoring the massive evidence of consequential climate change, and not prioritizing spending and science and public education that could make a positive difference, for this and future generations.
Politico details the new evidence, both of climate change itself and of albatross-like Congressional indifference, in the attached compelling story: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0511/55522.html
Let your representatives in Congress and your favorite news media know how you feel on this critical subject.
McD uses social media to respond to violent video
Chain reaches out to customers on Twitter to condemn attack that an employee filmed and posted online
April 25, 2011 | By Ron Ruggless
McDonald’s Corp. and a Maryland franchise owner used social media channels over the weekend to communicate with customers after an employee-filmed video of a brutal beating in one of the chain’s restaurants went viral online.
The video, which went up on YouTube.com briefly Friday and was picked up by other websites, drew thousands of views during the day. The three-minute clip showed attackers repeatedly grabbing, punching, kicking and pulling the hair of 22-year-old Chrissy Lee Polis at a franchised McDonald’s in Rosedale, Md., while an older female customer and an employee tried to intervene.
After the video went online, McDonald’s posted a message midday Friday to its more than 121,000 Twitter followers saying, “We aware of the incident in Baltimore and are working with local police in their criminal investigation.”
McDonald’s tweeted several more times about the incident over the weekend. By Saturday afternoon, the chain had condemned the assault on Twitter and reported that the employee responsible for the video had been fired.
Read more: http://www.nrn.com/article/mcd-uses-social-media-respond-violent-video?ad=quick-service&utm_source=MagnetMailemail@example.com&utm_content=NRN-News-AssociationAM-04-26-11&utm_campaign=Composting%20no%20longer%20fringe%20activity%20for%20restaurants#ixzz1KeBdI59R
The Japan nuclear crisis should certainly be an urgent reminder of the need for nuclear accident preparedness, on both community and individual family level. I’ve written in this blog twice before about the generally sad and inadequate state of nuclear accident readiness prevalent in our country.
Here’s an article about a recent country-wide exercise in Sweden: http://www.nuclearpowerdaily.com/reports/Sweden_kicks_off_large-scale_nuclear_accident_exercise_999.html.
And here’s an article about what a family or individual can do to prepare and in the immediate aftermath of such a nuclear plant disaster, particularly if they live in the countryside: http://www.co.midland.tx.us/edp/pdf_files/FireHaz/Preparedness%20-%20Radiological%20Accident.pdf
I suppose it’s just coincidence that at 12:30PM today, just as Chinese President Hu Jintao and U.S. President Obama were about to step up to the podiums for their major press conference in D.C., that beginning with CNN and then extending to all news channels, my DirecTV satellite system lost it’s signals. It’s a clear, windless say here in southeastern Wisconsin. Then I went to the computer and set it to CNN — again the signal speed (the high speed computer system runs through land lines) slowed to a crawl, so I could get but an odd word here or there of the live feed news conference now in session. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but it just seemed odd that all this interference occurred right at that moment of this key live news conference. I’m sure there is no relationship with how the Chinese block media signals of content they don’t want their people to hear.
When the White House press secretary said this is what the President wants, as part of their response to the Wikileaks new avalanche of damning secret diplomatic innuendo, I couldn’t help but wonder at the dichotomy between that rhetoric of transparency and honesty compared with the overwhelming condemnation by Administration officials and pundits of Wikileaks and PFC Bradley Manning for poisoning the public air with the truth. If diplomacy is all about relationships, why must the candid reports of that diplomacy need to be hidden from public eyes?
Why must “open government” be conducted in secret? Yes, I know that the real world is complicated, and I understand the concept of understanding things in context and being candid in our sharing of assessments, but I think the kind of unanticipated periodic airing of our diplomatic “dirty laundry” ala vehicles such as Wikileaks may have the salutary effect of helping keep our “diplomatic conversations” more in line with our stated motives and objectives. If we really believe in “responsible, accountable and open government around the world,” as the White House officially claims we do, such an airing of the truth should not produce a scandal, as has this latest round of revelations, but should be an affirmation of that admirable, trust-enducing standard.
See this new analysis from “Mother Jones” magazine: inhttp://motherjones.com/blue-marble/2010/10/spill-commission-report-obama-BP
And by the way, per my earlier blog during the spill, neither the government, BP or the news media ever moved away from using “barrels,” of oil, which is an obsolete term in the industry and not comprehensible to most Americans, in favor of something we could easily relate to like “gallons.” This is gross distortion, just like BP and the U.S. governments estimates during the spill. The real rate of spill was often on the order of one million gallons of oil a day — how often did you hear that?
No wonder people lose faith in government and the news media, not to mention the criminals at BP. No truth. No justice. This nation is being degraded by these ingrates, who dangerously underestimate the populace and undermine their reputation for credibility.
From a Reuters report: “What makes the mistakes even worse, is that BP should have been well placed to mount a world-class crisis PR effort.
“The firm had almost unlimited resources. Its chairman was a media-savvy former telecoms CEO. And its head of public relations, Andrew Gowers, was a former editor of the Financial Times, and one-time Reuters reporter, with recent experience of crisis management: Gowers headed Lehman Brothers PR team during its collapse, although the rapidity and breadth of the banking meltdown was such that no amount of PR could have saved the bank.
“Yet the oil giant had a key shortcoming.
“BP’s British CEO had never held a position in the United States, its Swedish chairman had limited U.S. experience, and Gowers’ only stint working in the United States was his few months with Lehman.
“Hayward exacerbated his lack of U.S. savvy by choosing another Briton, Alan Parker, head of the UK’s largest financial PR agency, Brunswick, as his external PR adviser. It wasn’t until late May before the company appointed a heavy-hitting U.S. PR representative — Dick Cheney’s former spokeswoman, Anne Kolton.
“The lack of local knowledge hurt BP in those first few weeks. U.S. executives say that it is difficult for European executives, especially those who haven’t spent a long time working in the United States, to understand the combatative political landscape there.
“In Europe, the attitude would be much more, ‘the company is the only one who can solve the problem, so what do we need to do to help the company to get it sorted?’” said Patrick Dunleavy, a professor of political science at the London School of Economics.
“The company didn’t adequately gauge how much backlash there would be and how quickly it would be … that was a really bad piece of risk management,” he added.”
I was intrigued as to how McChrystal and Co. were roped into talking with the Rolling Stone. The attached link provides some thoughts. Even if McChrystal wasn’t played, as the piece suggests might be the case, I think it is plausible that his civilian new-media guru thought he could get McChrystal the sort of glamor piece Petraeus got in Vanity Fair. Civilian contractors like SOSi are probably part of the problem, conspiracy or not. I’d like to think that a professional, seasoned military PAO would have been more careful. As someone who’s been personally stung by the Rolling Stone (but not related to the military), I also have disdain for the approach and style of reporting the magazine supports.