Published on: March 7, 2008
The timing was particularly good for the IRI Summit this week, since two of the scheduled speakers on Wednesday were political analysts and sometime advisors James Carville and Mary Matalin, who have somehow managed to stay happily married despite their divergent political opinions. The night before, Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) won enough delegates to make him the GOP candidate for the presidency this year, and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-New York) upset Sen. Barack Obama (D-Illinois) in three out of four primaries. While Clinton was unable to make much of a dent in Obama’s delegate count lead, but her showing certainly stopped most of the calls for her to get out of the race.
The interesting thing about Carville’s presentation wasn't the fact that he’d only gotten an hour or two of sleep and clearly was relieved that the candidate he was backing had lived to fight another day; on “Meet the Press” last Sunday, he didn’t seem very confident. Rather, it was his concession that at age 63, after decades of political consulting, he now was convinced that virtually all his preconceptions about voters were incorrect, and that all bets are off – orthodox politics simply aren’t appropriate for understanding presidential politics in 2008, he said, and it is almost impossible to know where things will end up.
It sort of reminded me of something that screenwriter William Goldman (“Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid,” “Marathon Man”) once said about Hollywood:
“Nobody knows anything.”
In a special series of sessions later in the afternoon focusing on the subjects of convenience stores and convenient shopping – which are not necessarily the same thing – IRI’s Thom Blishock followed the same theme. In a panel discussion talking about the economy, exploring how the recession might affect how people define convenience and rank it in terms of their shopping priorities, Blishock said that if we talk about the nation going to recession, we are making a mistake…because the nation, in fact, is entering a kind of economic transition from which it will not recover. Gas will never go down to under three bucks a gallon, he suggested. Heating oil and electricity and virtually every kind of energy will continue to increase in price, just as food prices may never again be the kinds of bargains that US consumers were used to. Blishock even predicted that getting a Thanksgiving turkey next November may be both difficult and expensive, since many of them are raised on corn, which is in short supply these days because of ethanol. (Though in my family, not having to eat turkey on Thanksgiving will be seen as a blessing.)
I think Thom Blishock and James Carville are right. I think that we’re entering a world in which all conventional wisdom is going to seem either obsolete or misguided, and that we’re all going to have to figure things out on the fly. From a business perspective, I think the next few months and years will be fraught with peril…and that there will be both unexpected victories and defeats … not to mention a lot of head-shaking and hair pulling when perfectly well conceived plans don't work out, and when accidents and gamble suddenly blossom into real opportunities.
Speaking personally, I suspect that a lot of consumers…especially aging baby boomers…may begin to think differently about how and where they are going to spend their sixties, seventies and eighties. Because many of the assumptions – political, economic, cultural, social, environmental, maybe even spiritual - that a lot of us have been working under probably are going to vanish, or at least be revised.
I’m not sure that this is entirely a bad thing. If we actually deal with the many issues that confront us – seeking long-term solutions rather than short-term fixes – then maybe we can survive the transformation Blishock talks about.
But if we don’t … if we seek gratification rather than solutions … then I’m not so sure.
Have you read about the two idiots who were taunting the rhinos at the San Francisco Zoo the other day?
Apparently, these guys are too stupid to have read about the guys who were mauled two months earlier by a tiger that they allegedly taunted.
Well, it looks like at least one of the guys is going to be fined, but this strikes me as a case in which the punishment does not suit the crime.
What they really ought to do is take these clowns and explain to them that they are going to each get to spend 10 minutes in the rhino cage. Just them and the rhinos.
Because it seems to me that it might be entertaining – and appropriate – to let the rhinos taunt them.
As a Mets fan, I have to admit that I am waiting for the inevitable announcement that Johan Santana has rotator cuff problems and is out for the year.
There’s a terrific USA Network television series that was on last summer, but that I’m only now catching up with. It’s called “Burn Notice,” and it is about a spy who has been unfairly disavowed by the CIA and finds himself living in Miami trying to reconstruct his life and figure out who “burned” him – and why. The series is cleverly written, looks great (it’s shot entirely on location), and has a trio of highly charismatic stars – Jeffrey Donovan as the outcast spy, Michael Westen, the gorgeous Gabrielle Anwar as his pistol toting former girlfriend, and the great Bruce Campbell as an overaged, overweight former spy now making a living as an over-sexed Lothario. “Burn Notice” is very smart about its genre…and even transcends it from time to time. You can catch up with the first season on iTunes; the second season is scheduled for USA this summer.
Two wines this week I’d like to recommend:
• the 2005 Banfi Chianti Classico, which is fabulous with Italian food.
• the 2006 Cloudline Pinot Noir, which is just great for sipping.
That’s it for this week. Have a good weekend, and I’ll see you Monday.