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They say reputation is everything. The March 23 edition of Fortune Magazine names McDonald’s among the top 10 overall of the World’s Most-Admired Companies, among 1,400 major U.S. and International companies rated by 4,100 industry experts. McDonald’s rated #1 in 3 of 9 categories: Effectiveness in conducting its business globally; Quality of Management; and, Wise use of corporate assets. McDonald’s also rated #1 in the Food Services category.

Back in the 1990’s, when I was corporate communications officer of McDonald’s, I worked with Fortune for over a year to develop a category within which McDonald’s could be considered for ranking in their “Most-Admired” search. From a simple hamburger stand created by Dick and Mac McDonald, to a corporation and a brand nurtured by Ray Kroc and generations of leaders, McDonald’s is now known and admired around the world. McDonald’s has come a long way.

For more information, go to this Fortune website: http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/mostadmired/2011/index.html

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President Obama’s Libya strategy is sketchy, to say the least, when it comes to the question of what comes after the UN, and NATO’s and America’s “humanitarian intervention.”

One of the best and most succinct discussions I’ve seen on this question to date is in this NPR article — http://www.npr.org/2011/03/28/134920431/foreign-policy-what-happens-if-libyas-rebels-win
— in which Lisa Anderson, President of the American University in Cairo, says, “Any military and political intervention that will bring an end to the Gaddafi regime should be accompanied, from the beginning, by mobilization of the resources of political reconstruction.”

I see that the U.S. is dispatching a senior diplomat to meet with the opposition, whoever they are, in Libya, and that the Brits have such meetings scheduled in London. Will these early efforts bear fruit and lead to any realistic reconstruction, if total civil war can be avoided in the interim? Big question. We’ve blown efforts to deliver practical help towards reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan. Do we even begin to understand the tribal dynamics in Libya? Do we understand the role of their military, and the basis of political power through Libya? I don’t think so.

Now that the air war has been brought under control and Gaddafi’s tanks have been knocked out in the East, and the opposition forces, if we can call them that, have been stopped by armed civilians in Gaddafi-controlled towns. Is this the beginning of a civil war, in which “humanitarian intervention” becomes more and more difficult to achieve, as civilians become the combatants and victims, on both sides?

Is this the dawning of tribal war and revolution? Will the U.S. be on the winning side of such a conflict? Will tribes previously loyal to Gaddafi switch sides to the opposition? Will an opposition coalition of tribes, towns and forces be formed, with a recognizable leadership widely supported by the population?

Will a new generation of terrorists, who hate the West, and one another, be spawned? Well, that’s probably already a given.

Will we regret the day we entered into “humanitarian intervention” in Libya? Or will we celebrate the victory of successfully imposing our U.S./Western ethos on another African/Middle Eastern culture? In what year, or decade, or century, will that “political reconstruction” be celebrated? And by whom?

One last comment: I fear that Obama has again, ala Afghanistan, been romanced by the military into believing that a limited armed intervention will likely produce successful political results.

The Village Board at Williams Bay on the shores of Geneva Lake, Wisconsin, a few days ago approved a perpetual land protection agreement with the Geneva Lake Conservancy. This conservation easement will guarantee the natural habitat at the Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy, a beautiful 230 acre piece of land with native wetlands, forest, streams and miles of walking trails. The Kishwauketoe (which means clear waters) area was dedicated to “The Children of Tomorrow” when the village, in its wisdom, purchased the land from developers in 1989. Now it is protected for future generations to enjoy. What better way to celebrate Earth Day! See http://www.kishwauketoe.org. Kishwauketoe is at the inner curve of the first deep bay on left (N) of lake in photo.

Some friends have asked why I hadn’t yet addressed the situation around Gov. Walker and the union protests here in Wisconsin. OK, I will. But I mentioned one key side issue on Feb. 21 in my blog entry titled ” Unions Have a Big PR Problem.” Unions still do. The sub-text that caught the nation’s attention during the massive demonstrations in Madison was that Gov. Walker seemed to be pulling the rug out of pocket book economics for the little people — teachers in particular — right after he had created new tax benefits for business capitalists in the state. He seemed to be robbing the little guys to help the fat cats. He was declaring his hard right belief in trickle-down economics, and union members were paying the price: giving up their collective bargaining rights as state employees.

The unions did a good job of turning out their members and their supporters, organizing crowds of peaceful demonstrators topping 100,000 supporters in and around Wisconsin’s Capitol building. But as I said before, even those well-behaved crowds of supporters were interpreted by the right and much of the press as a specter of the danger of empowered unions. Unions have represented state workers in Wisconsin for more than 50 years, and have seemed to do so fairly well, looking back. But since Detroit collapsed a few years ago, and unions were portrayed as the bad guys who had negotiated exorbitant compensation and retirement plans for auto workers, unions have had a bad PR reputation in America. Of course, the failure of Detroit capitalists to design and build the cars Americans had wanted for more than a generation, defaulting to the more responsive Japanese, South Koreans and Germans, was played down.

So, even though Gov. Walker had the political clout to kill state employee unions, he clearly hit a nerve when he seemed to trample the little guys, at a time when the economy was already doing that to them, while he supported the capitalists. Any reasonable person might have seen a compromise in which the unions agreed to back off on economic pressure for a year or two, but Walker would have none of that. Yes, the unions have a PR problem. They are not appreciated as being responsible champions of the little guy. If unions are to survive, they’re in need of a lot of good PR, and they had better earn it. Meanwhile, autocrats like Gov. Walker will keep eating their lunch.

The Super Bowl champ Green Bay Packers are one of the most legendary teams in all of professional sports, I think most Americans would agree. And they are owned by what amounts to a community trust — shareholders who can’t sell their shares or their home team. I inherited my shares from my grandfather, a Green Bay businessman who in the 1920s invested to save the team, expecting no return other than keeping the Packers alive, and promoting his beloved Green Bay community throughout the state and nation. Could other professional sports teams and their wealthy owners, who sometimes treat their loyal regional fans not so well, learn something about community loyalty and positive community relations from the Packers? They sure could.

Packer’s PR Director for the past 22 years, Jeff Blumb, has resigned (http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/article/20110321/PKR01/110321061/1231/gpg0202/Blumb-resigns-Packers-PR-director?odyssey=nav%7Chead), and I think the guy deserves a big trophy and the thanks of sports fans (especially Packer fans) everywhere, for successfully managing the fine reputation of that great team over more than a generation. I can relate — I spent 22 years managing public relations for another great brand, McDonald’s, and while it was an honor to be involved with so many terrific people, it was often a demanding burden. I retired early to take a break. Jeff deserves the same opportunity to take a break, with laurels. Here’s a pic of myself in the midst of a winter snowstorm at Lambeau Field. Go Pack!

The invasion of Libya by the West has been coming for a long time. Since well before Lockerbie. Perhaps since the 7th century. What a bad idea it is now is yet to fully unfold, but if it proves to be a step forward, I will eat my shirt. The chances of it being successful militarily, for the West are slim in the short run, and non-existant in the long run. In the U.S., the American people remain almost wholly uninvested in the decision to invade — less than 1% of Americans are involved with the military (see my blog on how bringing back the draft could save our democracy), and therefore our Congress is uninvested and broadly uninterested in the unilateral decision by the White House and Pentagon to go to war. Historians will one day say that there were wise people in America and the West in these times, but that they were naive and impotent, and could not resist the military cravings of their society for revenge and domination in Africa and the Middle East.

We should have stayed out of Libya. We should have learned more about what makes their tribal society work, because we’re not engaging a country, but tribes. Should we have learned those lessons in Iraq and Afghanistan? Of course. Did we? Of course, not. As we continue these invasions, we are creating the terrorists and despots of the future, and no one seems to know or care. Though our weapons are louder, we are as dumb and arrogant, and doomed, as were the Crusaders, and when the Libyans, and the Muslim community and the Russians call us and our “coalition” that, they are correct.

I’ve been a supporter of Obama. But his lack of vision regarding Libya and his entrapment by the insane aggression of our military establishment is lamentable. We should unravel ourselves on Libya, which will likely doom Obama, which is too too bad, but seems increasingly inevitable.

Imagine that a far right or far left or other faction in the U.S. were to actively attack their own government (for example, if the union protests in Madison had gotten out of hand and escalated in violence, resulting in a crazed governor ordering State Police and State Reserve forces to push back protestors, with injuries and some deaths). Then, China sits down and decides this is unacceptable, and drafts a U.N. order that commands the “allies,” in this case the military of China, Cuba and Libya to respond by enforcing a no-fly zone in Southern Wisconsin to prevent the government from further attacking and suppressing its protesting citizens. How would we, the people, feel about these violent assaults by foreign nations against the sovereign U.S. government, even if our government was wrong and had made big mistakes (what’s new)?

A crazy and totally inappropriate analogy, you say. It could never happen. Sure. But put your shoe on the other foot.

But how would you, as an American citizen loyal to your government, feel about such bombing and strafing of U.S. forces by China, Cuba and Libya? Of course, as Americans living in the real world, we are well prepared to determine how Libya should be organized and led politically, and we are more than willing to send our sons and daughters to die to make Libya conform to our vision. Right?

See my previous blog post, “Leave Libya alone.” I hope upcoming events prove me to be wrong in my cynical view of our foreign policy decisions regarding Libya, but our U.S. track record in such things is not very strong. P.S. I served in Vietnam.

I visited the new modern wing of Chicago’s Art Institute for the first time this winter, and I must say that a lot of so-called modern art leaves me cold. But this picture had a warm appeal, and sorry, I don’t recall the title or artist, do you?

The 136 foot yacht ACANIA, built in 1930 for a supposedly secret owner — rumored to be legendary Chicago mobster Al Capone, is alive and kicking and now under restoration. The steel vessel, advanced for it’s era, is in remarkably original condition, and included odd accoutrements like piping leading nowhere (possibly to contain alcohol?), hidden cabinets and a secret bar. While the boat was built for a Wall Street tycoon, a duplicate, the Acania II, was built for an unidentified buyer. The boat has a long history of ownership, is now headed into the charter trade. It now has its own website: http://www.acania.net.

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

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