They Brand Cattle, Don’t They?

by Walter Brasch

“Branding! We have to make you a brand!”

“I’m not cattle,” I told my sometimes faux foil assistant Marshbaum, who had just burst into my office. “And if you think I’m getting a tattoo,” I replied, “my body isn’t a canvas.”

“It’s sure wide enough,” Marshbaum flippantly replied. Before I could throw sheets of wadded up paper at him, he explained what he meant. “It’s not a fire-iron brand,” he explained. “It’s strategic marketing.”

“I’m a journalist,” I reminded Marshbaum, “I don’t do that kind of thing.”

“You will if you want to stay in business.”

“I’ve been in this business four decades, and I’ve never been branded.”

“That’s why we need you to do TV commercials,” he said.

“I’m a print journalist,” I reminded him.

“Yeah, well, not all of us are pretty enough for TV, but you still have to do a commercial! Just like Jennifer Anniston.”

“As if she needs more money,” I sneered. “She’s got a net worth of something between $100 million and $150 million, depending upon which magazine you believe.”

“You can never have enough,” said Marshbaum.

“Yeah, that and her eight-figure salary for commercials that tell 45-year-old women they can dab junk on their faces and look like ingénues. She’s hawking hair products, beer, and some fragrance Besides, she’s taking money from low-income hard-working actors who do need the bucks.”

“You said that before. And before. And before.”

“It’s the truth,” I said. “A-list actors have branched into TV commercials. Selling everything from eyelash liners to prescription drugs to-”

“Yeah, yeah, like that sorrowful Blythe Danner who’s got some kind of problem that keeps her on stage to break a leg.”

“Exactly!” I replied. “It’s what I’ve been trying to tell you. The rich actors don’t need more money.”

“But they do need exposure. TV and film aren’t enough. The red carpet isn’t enough. Being mentioned in the National Enquirer isn’t enough. They want it all, and to get it all, they need to be a brand. Corporate America loves it!”

“There’s a lot that corporate America loves that just doesn’t matter to the rest of us.”

“But it does matter. When you see Larry the Cable Guy, you think of bad heartburn. When Brooke Shields appears on the screen, you still think of her wearing Calvin Klein jeans with no underwear. And then you run out to your nearest box store and buy whatever they’re selling. Think you’ll do that if you see a commercial with some no-name talent?”

“Some people,” I said, “already think I may be a no-name talent.”

“And that’s why we need to brand you. Tie you to some product. It’d raise your profile, make you a brand, and make money for all of us.”

“All of us?”

“You don’t think I’d be doing all this for free, do you?! I have expenses. Besides, we’d have to pay for makeup, better clothes, a publicist, marketing manager, and a business manager. Then there’s your entourage. TV commercial talent has to have an entourage. That doesn’t come cheap.”

“It comes a lot cheaper if I don’t do it at all.”

“What?! And be responsible for even more unemployment? A whole industry needs you to brand yourself. You get exposure and money. And that will lead to more commercials. And more commercials lead to better recognition. And the advertisers will be ecstatic!”

“Will it get me more readers?”

“Don’t be ridiculous. If you get branded, you won’t need readers. You’ll live off your residuals from commercials.”

“But I’m a journalist,” I again reminded him. “I write stories that give people information they need. Stories that affect people’s lives.”

“TV commercials affect people’s lives. Where would America be if Ellen DeGeneres didn’t promote JCPenney’s or Michael Jordan wasn’t shilling Jockey underwear? Think you’d buy a Lincoln if millionaire Matthew McConaughey wasn’t telling you to do it?”

“If I do this-and I probably won’t-what would I be selling? Cars? Watches?”

“Toilet paper. It goes with your brand. A whole gaggle of conservative readers already say your column is full of-”

“-great insight and sparkling language.”

“Yeah. Sure. Something like that.”

“Look, Marshbaum,” I said a bit testy, “I don’t need to be a brand. I do need to write my column for this week.”

“I think you just did,” he said smugly.

[Dr. Brasch’s latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania, an in-depth look at the economic, political, health, and environmental effects of high-volume horizontal fracturing. Rosemary R. Brasch, who never once did a TV commercial when she was an actress, assisted on this column.]

Contrived Controversy Fomenting War

A contrived, fake controversy erupted last week when media war mongers attacked President Obama for not using the term “Islamic Extremism” when speaking about ISIS.  These words and the air time devoted to them cause lives.  President Obama held a forum on extremism last week and refused to label ISIS terrorists as “Islamic Extremists.”  For this he was vilified by Fox News.  The discussion also spilled over to the Fox Light Network CNN.  

The President refuses to fall into the right wing media’s trap of making this war one of Christian versus Muslim.  Ever since President George W. Bush’s giant mistake of calling the Iraq War a crusade much of the world has taken that to mean that these have been religious wars.  There have been  countless religious wars over centuries and this should not be one of them.  This is a war against terrorists using ancient forms of torture and terror.  Let’s remember that their use of torture, however barbaric, is being justified by them because of our use of torture against Muslims.  We opened this can of worms.

ISIS is no more Islamic and representative of that faith than the Ku Klux Klan and the Westboro Baptist Church are of Christianity.  Nothing they stand or fight for is justified in the Quoran.  This is not the Muslim faith practiced and observed by a billion people across the globe.  Demonizing all Muslims for the actions of a few fundamentalist extremists is no different than if we condemned all Christians for the KKK.

Stereotyping people is evil and immoral.

Networks beaming footage of pundits calling for religious war is irresponsible war mongering.  People die from such actions.  The President is doing the responsible thing by recognizing ISIS as terrorists and not simply Muslims.  The term “Islamic Extremism” connotes that we, as a Christian nation (which we are not) are at war with Islam.

The result of such madness is that average Americans are targeted simply because of their faith.  Muslim Americans should not be afraid for their safety because reckless “journalists” choose to put them at at risk.  The fact a once respected network like CNN chose to jump on this topic last week on Carol Costello’s program was disheartening.  This is basic war mongering and an attempt to foment hatred not just at ISIS but towards all Muslims.

They Brand Cattle, Don’t They?

by Walter Brasch

     “Branding! We have to make you a brand!”

     “I’m not cattle,” I told my sometimes faux foil assistant Marshbaum, who had just burst into my office. “And if you think I’m getting a tattoo,” I replied, “my body isn’t a canvas.”

     “It’s sure wide enough,” Marshbaum flippantly replied. Before I could throw sheets of wadded up paper at him, he explained what he meant. “It’s not a fire-iron brand,” he explained. “It’s strategic marketing.”

     “I’m a journalist,” I reminded Marshbaum, “I don’t do that kind of thing.”

     “You will if you want to stay in business.”

     “I’ve been in this business four decades, and I’ve never been branded.”

     “That’s why we need you to do TV commercials,” he said.

     “I’m a print journalist,” I reminded him.

     “Yeah, well, not all of us are pretty enough for TV, but you still have to do a commercial! Just like Jennifer Anniston.”

     “As if she needs more money,” I sneered. “She’s got a net worth of something between $100 million and $150 million, depending upon which magazine you believe.”

     “You can never have enough,” said Marshbaum.

     “Yeah, that and her eight-figure salary for commercials that tell 45-year-old women they can dab junk on their faces and look like ingénues. She’s hawking hair products, beer, and some fragrance Besides, she’s taking money from low-income hard-working actors who do need the bucks.”

     “You said that before. And before. And before.”

     “It’s the truth,” I said. “A-list actors have branched into TV commercials. Selling everything from eyelash liners to prescription drugs to-”

     “Yeah, yeah, like that sorrowful Blythe Danner who’s got some kind of problem that keeps her on stage to break a leg.”

     “Exactly!” I replied. “It’s what I’ve been trying to tell you. The rich actors don’t need more money.”

     “But they do need exposure. TV and film aren’t enough. The red carpet isn’t enough. Being mentioned in the National Enquirer isn’t enough. They want it all, and to get it all, they need to be a brand. Corporate America loves it!”

     “There’s a lot that corporate America loves that just doesn’t matter to the rest of us.”

     “But it does matter. When you see Larry the Cable Guy, you think of bad heartburn. When Brooke Shields appears on the screen, you still think of her wearing Calvin Klein jeans with no underwear. And then you run out to your nearest box store and buy whatever they’re selling. Think you’ll do that if you see a commercial with some no-name talent?”

     “Some people,” I said, “already think I may be a no-name talent.”

     “And that’s why we need to brand you. Tie you to some product. It’d raise your profile, make you a brand, and make money for all of us.”

     “All of us?”

     “You don’t think I’d be doing all this for free, do you?! I have expenses. Besides, we’d have to pay for makeup, better clothes, a publicist, marketing manager, and a business manager. Then there’s your entourage. TV commercial talent has to have an entourage. That doesn’t come cheap.”

     “It comes a lot cheaper if I don’t do it at all.”

     “What?! And be responsible for even more unemployment? A whole industry needs you to brand yourself. You get exposure and money. And that will lead to more commercials. And more commercials lead to better recognition. And the advertisers will be ecstatic!”

     “Will it get me more readers?”

     “Don’t be ridiculous. If you get branded, you won’t need readers. You’ll live off your residuals from commercials.”

     “But I’m a journalist,” I again reminded him. “I write stories that give people information they need. Stories that affect people’s lives.”

     “TV commercials affect people’s lives. Where would America be if Ellen DeGeneres didn’t promote JCPenny’s or Michael Jordan wasn’t shilling Jockey underwear? Think you’d buy a Lincoln if millionaire Matthew McConaughey wasn’t telling you to do it?”

     “If I do this-and I probably won’t-what would I be selling? Cars? Watches?”

     “Toilet paper. It goes with your brand. A whole gaggle of conservative readers already say your column is full of-”

     “-great insight and sparkling language.”

     “Yeah. Sure. Something like that.”

     “Look, Marshbaum,” I said a bit testy, “I don’t need to be a brand. I do need to write my column for this week.”

     “I think you just did,” he said smugly.

     [Dr. Brasch’s latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania, an in-depth look at the economic, political, health, and environmental effects of high-volume horizontal fracturing. Rosemary R. Brasch didn’t want to share the byline; she says she doesn’t like associating with Marshbaum.]

 

Soapblox Incompetence

The blog went down yesterday because of a billing dispute with my host company Soapblox.  They continually overbill me and I must check every invoice for errors.  While rehabilitating my torn Achilles I fell behind and made a payment to them which they never credited to my account.  Because of their incompetence they blocked my site.  Never do business with Warecorp (which now owns Soapblox).

Progressive Summit Sells Out

Keystone Progress held its sixth annual Progressive Summit Friday and Saturday and this year they sold it out.  800 people gathered at the Harrisburg Hilton for two days of speakers, workshops and parties.   The highlight on Friday was a speech by Cecile Richards of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.  She brought down the house by reminding the audience that although the Koch Brothers want to spend close to a billion dollars in the 2016 elections progressives can counter that with millions of people.

Cecile Richards:

 photo DSCN4020_zpsuqdjhx7s.jpg

The Koch Brothers were also the object of a speech Saturday morning by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.  The Independent socialist empowered the full house in a talk about the dangers of income inequality, how we got into the mess and how the Koch Brothers want to make things far worse.  Jim Dean of Democracy For America, based in Vermont, introduced the Senator.

Cecile Richards with Kate Michelman:

 photo DSCN4027_zpsgaftx7kd.jpg

Michael Morrill, Executive Director of Keystone Progress, reminded the progressives that we have to be the conscience of the Commonwealth and hold our elected officials accountable for their corruption even when they are on our side (or so we thought).  That comment only got sparse applause but I salute Mike’s courage in saying it.  It was something, in light of the Rob McCord case, which needed to be said.

44 workshops filled much of Saturday and topics ranged the entire spectrum of progressive issues.  Sen. Daylin Leach hosted a party Friday evening and Manan Trivedi hosted a karaoke party into the wee hours.

Jim Dean’s introduction of Sen. Bernie Sanders:

Sen. Bernie Sanders:

‘Made in America’ Just a Political Slogan to Conservatives

by Walter Brasch

Conservatives in Congress have once again proven they are un-American and unpatriotic. This time, it’s because of their fierce approval for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

The pipeline, being built and run by TransCanada, will bring tar sands oil from Alberta to the Gulf Coast. All the oil will be exported. Major beneficiaries, including House Speaker John Boehner, are those who invest in a Canadian company.

Opponents see the 1,179-mile pipeline as environmentally destructive. They cite innumerable leaks and spills in gas pipelines, and correctly argue that the tar sands oil is far more caustic and destructive than any of the crude oil being mined in the United States. They point out the pipeline would add about 240 billion tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. They also argue that the use of eminent domain by a foreign corporation, in this case a Canadian one, to seize private property goes against the intent of the use of eminent domain. Eminent domain seizure, they also correctly argue, should be used only to benefit the people and not private corporations.

Proponents claim it will bring jobs to Americans. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce claims the pipeline would create up to 250,000 jobs. However, the Department of State concludes that completion of the pipeline would create only 35 permanent jobs.

The Republican-led House has voted nine times to force the President to approve completion of the pipeline. In January, with Republicans now in control of the Senate, a bill to support construction of the pipeline passed, 62-36. Congressional actions appear to be nothing more than political gesturing. The decision to approve or reject the pipeline is that of a recommendation by the Department of State and, finally, that of the President.

However, the conservatives’ hatred of American workers became apparent in an amendment to the Senate bill. That amendment, submitted by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) would require, if the pipeline was approved, all iron, steel, and other materials used must be made in America by American companies. That would, at least, give some work to Americans. That amendment should have had widespread approval in the Senate, especially from the conservative wing that thrusts out its chests and daily proclaim themselves to be patriots of the highest order.

But when the votes were counted, the Senate, by a 53-46 vote, rejected that amendment. Voting for “Made in America” were 44 Democrats, one independent, and one Republican. Voting against the amendment were 53 Republicans.

The Republicans’ rejection of the amendment was expected. America’s corporate business leaders, most of them conservatives and registered Republicans, have freely downsized their workforce, outsourced jobs overseas, and proudly proclaimed their actions helped raise profits. Profits, of course, are not usually shared with the workers who make the product and then were terminated so American companies could use and exploit foreign labor, while the executives enjoy seven- and eight-figure salaries, benefits, and “golden parachute” retirement clauses not available to those whose labor built the companies and their profits.

Corporations have also figured out how to best send their profits to banks outside the United States and, thus, avoid paying their fair share of taxes. Several Fortune 500 corporations, with billions of dollars in assets, pay no federal taxes. For money they keep in U.S. financial institutions, corporations have figured out numerous ways to use loopholes to bring their tax burden to a percentage lower than what the average worker might pay each year.

Congress is a willing co-conspirator because it has numerous times refused to close loopholes that allow millionaires and the corporations to easily drive through those loopholes, while penalizing lower- and middle-class Americans.

By their own actions-in business and, most certainly, in how they dealt with the Keystone XL amendment-the nation’s conservatives have proven that “Made in America” and “American Pride” are nothing more than just popular slogans.

[Dr. Brasch, an award-winning journalist and proud member of several unions, is the author of 20 books. The latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania, an in-depth look at the economic, political, environmental, and health effects of horizontal fracturing in the United States.]