Tag Archives: america

Political Rhetoric and Speechwriter ‘Tricks’

How the art of political rhetoric is regarded differently in Britain and America:

In the US, the act of speechwriting has gained an almost mythical status. As keepers of the president’s words, the speechwriters are at the centre of government and are objects of fascination. It is a little different in Westminster. There are no “speechwriting offices”. There is no official Downing Street speechwriting team. […] There is none of the collaboration and, as a result, little of the powerful effect. […]

Today, says [historian Simon Schama], it is “highly allergic in our British culture to be extravagantly rhetorical”. To turn a fine phrase suggests duplicity.

As the article later states, when it was discovered that Gordon Brown employed the services of speechwriters for an address to Congress in 2009:

The money – indeed, the very existence of such a service – appeared to come as a shock to us in Britain. It exposed the stark differences between the two countries’ oratorical cultures. In Washington, speechwriting is a professional undertaking; the speechwriter is a known quantity. Here, the idea that time or money has been spent crafting a politician’s presentation arouses suspicion. The realisation that the words are not his own only adds to the sense that they are false.

The article suggests there are three speeches worth remembering in contemporary British politics (Robin Cook’s 2003 Cabinet resignation on the eve of the Iraq war, Tony Blair’s 1999 speech on humanitarian intervention and David Cameron’s 2005 Conservative Party leadership pitch) and begins with some succinct speechwriting ‘tricks’:

Verbal tricks that make a speech fly: contradictions (Blair: “September 11 was not an isolated event, but a tragic prologue”), opposites (Napoleon: “Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is for ever”), phrase reversals (Obama: “There is not a liberal America and a conservative America – there is the United States of America”).

Business Schools Failing American Manufacturing

America’s deterioration as a leader in the engineering and manufacturing fields can be attributed largely to the failings of the elite business schools, suggests Noam Scheiber, Rhodes Scholar and senior editor at The New Republic.

Business school graduates are now educated toward high paid financial services jobs, leading gradually to an “era of management by the numbers”. Executives are now more adept at buying and selling assets than running industrial companies, and this preoccupation with ROR has resulted in “a [reluctance] to invest heavily in the development of new manufacturing processes”.

Since 1965, the percentage of graduates of highly-ranked business schools who go into consulting and financial services has doubled, from about one-third to about two-thirds. And while some of these consultants and financiers end up in the manufacturing sector, in some respects that’s the problem. Harvard business professor Rakesh Khurana, with whom I discussed these questions at length, observes that most of GM’s top executives in recent decades hailed from a finance rather than an operations background. […] These executives were frequently numb to the sorts of innovations that enable high-quality production at low cost.

[…] In their landmark Harvard Business Review article from 1980, “Managing Our Way to Economic Decline,” Robert Hayes and William Abernathy pointed out that the conglomerate structure forced managers to think of their firms as a collection of financial assets, where the goal was to allocate capital efficiently, rather than as makers of specific products, where the goal was to maximize quality and long-term market share.

via Arts and Letters Daily

The Health Care Debate To Date

For the health care debate that has been raging in America of late, I have subscribed to the same philosophy as Ben Casnocha:

I’ve decided I’m just going to read it about once it’s resolved.

You can’t keep up with everything. Rather than lightly follow along and skim articles and pretend to be informed, I’m consciously opting out. I rarely do this when it comes to current affairs — I’m kind of a junkie — but I must say, this time around, it feels liberating.

The debate was also covered widely here in the UK and coverage has, at last, died down. As such I decided it was time to start reading about the progress to date, and came across David Goldhill’s extensive and penetrating piece in The Atlantic that, as Alex J Mann rightly says, contains “everything you need to or should know [about the health care debate]”.

The piece begins with this admission;

I’m a businessman, and in no sense a health-care expert. But the persistence of bad industry practices—from long lines at the doctor’s office to ever-rising prices to astonishing numbers of preventable deaths—seems beyond all normal logic, and must have an underlying cause. There needs to be a business reason why an industry, year in and year out, would be able to get away with poor customer service, unaffordable prices, and uneven results—a reason my father and so many others are unnecessarily killed.

and continues with the following statement that really won me over:

So before exploring alternative policies, let’s reexamine our basic assumptions about health care—what it actually is, how it’s financed, its accountability to patients, and finally its relationship to the eternal laws of supply and demand.

Inauguration Roundup

The Internet is bustling with news of yesterday’s inauguration of President Obama (it feels strange writing that) and I feel somewhat guilty adding to the overabundance of news. As a compromise I’m going to limit myself to this single roundup post.

Welcome, President Obama.