Sunday, September 8, 2013

Time Warner Cable (@TWC) and CBS (@CBS): Time To Cut The Chord!


"It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.” 
Henry Ford 

Below is the email I received from Time Warner Cable, appeasement if not kudos (because it sure does not sound like an apology) for their more than month long squabble with CBS that led to a number of channels being blacked out for millions of customers, across eight markets that included New York City. 

Subject: CBS/Showtime Channels Return to Time Warner Cable lineup! 
We're pleased to announce that we've reached an agreement with CBS that will return their blacked out channels to our lineup immediately (including Showtime, TMC, Flix, Smithsonian, and the CBS broadcast stations in NY, LA, Dallas, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Denver, and Pittsburgh). 

As in all of our negotiations, our main goal was to hold down costs and retain our ability to deliver a great video experience for our customers. We're pleased that we successfully achieved both. 

We hate that these fights have to happen—and that our customers get caught in the middle—but they do allow us to negotiate deals that provide better outcomes for our customers. We appreciate your patience during this time.

Thank you, 
Time Warner Cable 

Time Warner’s email almost makes it sound like we should all be grateful to them; that we should be rejoicing and jumping up and down with joy for their seemingly valiant effort that to resolve this matter in our best interest. Forgive me, but I am neither grateful and the emotion that is fills me is not joy. They go on to say that their goals were always to hold down costs and to deliver better experiences for their customers - really? Because my experience over this past month, and frankly for a number of years before that, has been nothing short of abysmal. In fact, the only reason I am still a Time Warner Cable customer is purely due to lethargy. And about holding down those costs; I already pay through the nose for basic cable; which includes hundreds of channels I have no desire to and will never watch. Finally, the email mentions that sometimes “customers get caught in the middle.” If you read the entire paragraph, it sounds like Time Warner is not only admitting to willfully and purposefully placing their customers in the middle of their mess but they actually are trying to justify this by saying that it allowed them to negotiate a better outcome (for their customers!). In effect, they are saying they have absolutely no problem with holding us hostage, and inconveniencing us, just to help their own bottom-line. Of course, if I am mistaken about this I expect to see some savings in my next cable bill. Forgive me for not holding my breath.

By no means is CBS blameless in this whole matter. In my book, they are equally to blame. Leaving their loyal viewers to suffer while they negotiated healthier profits for themselves, which will no doubt lead to even bigger bonuses for their executives this year. If you have any doubt about their love for we the customers, who provide the ratings that allow them to charge premiums to advertisers, you need look no further than the first few lines of CBS CEO Les Moonves’ letter to his employees. He talks about the “pain it caused to all of us;” a fact he feels more important to mention ahead of the tremendous inconvenience it caused millions of CBS’s viewers. Viewers who were not able to watch live sports or any other programming for more than four weeks (Read full letter: “CBS and Time Warner Cable kiss and make-up...” - Business Insider).

If a company truly cares about its customers, they always strive to put their customers’ needs ahead of their own. And they go out of their way to ensure that customers are not inconvenienced or harassed, even if it sometimes mean making less money in the process. Quite honestly, this is a decision senior management makes in every company.  About whether they want to focus on their customers or simply pay lip service to them. It is a choice. It is not something driven by circumstance or extraneous situations because even when these situations arise, if you decided your customer is the most important asset, then you proceed and resolve the matter accordingly. Customer service is demonstrated through actions not words. Talk is cheap. CBS and Time Warner could have continued their negotiations without holding their customers hostage. But they realised it was much easier to do that to achieve their means than not.

It is truly amazing that in a world where every company on the planet is clamoring to build deeper relationships with customers, because they have fundamentally understood that brand loyalty comes from trust and delivering great products and services (and not competing on price), CBS and Time Warner seem to be taking bold strides in the opposite direction. Their myopia is even more amazing given that they operate in an industry that is badly in need of a massive transformation in the way they do business. Many of their non-traditional competitors are rapidly decimating the old, top-down and one-way street minded ways of delivering programming and closed-minded ways of doing business. These new companies are re-defining the entertainment model by following one fundamental principle – give customers quality and value, and they will even pay a premium for it. Give them the same old shit and turn a deaf ear to their cries, and face the dire consequences. For now, the sheer size and monopoly that these companies have, along with general consumer apathy, will keep their coffers ticking. But their window for changing their ways is rapidly closing. Just ask the music and publishing industries, which also chose to ignore the prevailing winds; and we all know how well that turned out. 

At a time when more and more people are looking to cut the (cable) chord, Time Warner and CBS just gave us another great reason to shake our apathy and go ahead…

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Why We Must Say No to Anthony Weiner

“Shame on us…”
Andrew Cuomo,

Those were Governor Cuomo’s words when asked about the possibility of Anthony Weiner being elected Mayor of New York City. I completely agree with Mr. Cuomo because it will be a sad reflection on how low our standards have dropped (even when it comes to a politician) more than it will say about Weiner’s shamelessness to run in the first place.

Many argue that in instances of personal indiscretions it should be left to the spouse to determine the fate of the transgressor, and not for constituents to judge or condemn. Some people further argue that having extra-marital sex has little to do with one’s abilities to govern. I say BULLSHIT because ultimately one’s behaviour and actions determine one’s character and integrity. 

Just because you put on a business suit does not mean you become a different person. 

Let’s start with a fact that cheating on your spouse is a conscious decision one makes. It is not something that happens unconsciously when one consumes a lot of alcohol or uncontrollably because a woman is repeatedly throwing herself at a man. Think about it this way: if the same man who cheats on his wife were offered an opportunity to sleep with the most desirable woman in the world, but told that he had to jump off the top of the Empire State Building right after – would he still do it; even if he was inebriated? 

Men cheat because they believe they can get away with it. Most of the time they are drunk on power and feel invincible and believe that if they get caught they will grovel, beg and get their wives and constituents to forgive, and these days most of them do. 

Everyone has opportunities to cheat and everyone can make a mistake, but men who have a pattern of cheating do so knowing full well they are doing wrong and still go ahead with it. What it boils down to once you clear away all the psychobabble excuses about personal issues, childhood experiences and personality types, is quite simply the difference between men with ethics, morals and depth of character, and those without.

In Mr. Weiner’s case, it is true that he did not sleep with anyone and there was no physical relationship. He was caught sexting and tweeting lewd messages and naked photos of himself to college girls and porn stars. At the time the allegations surfaced he had been married less than a year and his wife was three months pregnant. 

Frankly, for the most part his actions were in line with that of just about every other male politician today, who is drunk on power, self-obsessed and blind to the rules of social decorum that the rest of us mortals abide by. Without a doubt his behaviour was inexcusable. In my book, it shows poor judgement and a complete lack of character.  But even if we were to forgive his lewd tweets for a minute, the fundamental issue remains that when the story first broke, he went on a media blitz denying everything. He had the gall to actually look us all in the eye and claim that his account was hacked, that he had been pranked and was the victim in this whole affair. He lied to us.


See Weiner’s interview with Nightline:



Mr. Weiner decided that saving his job was more important than being honest with the people who elected him. Furthermore, he only came clean when it became abundantly clear that the blogger, who originally broke the story, had far more incriminating photographic evidence; including statements from women who had been Mr. Weiner’s victims. 

Mr. Weiner waited till he had absolutely no other way out, cornered by the media and under pressure from his party leadership. It would be one thing if his first instinct had had been to come clean; to admit the facts, apologise and be ready to face the full consequences of his actions. While I would still have expected him to resign, at least he would have won my respect for the fact that he faced the fire for his own foolhardiness. But his only instinct was to lie; to obfuscate the truth and deny all responsibility for his actions. This goes directly to the character and integrity of the man, and he is clearly lacking both.

Fundamentally, this is what it boils down to for me; it is not about whether his extra-marital affairs can be separated from good governance as a public servant or if one has any bearing on the other but that when trouble comes, how does one react? 

Do you lie and save yourself or face the fire and suffer the consequences for your actions, no matter how harsh or career-ending they may be. That is what defines the true character of a person. 

On this front Mr. Weiner failed miserably. So the bottom line, for me, is not if he broke any laws or if his wife forgave him, but the simple fact that he lied to protect himself. We put our trust and faith in Mr. Weiner to make important decisions about our daily lives and future and he broke that trust. He not only demonstrated extremely poor judgment but also showed weakness of character and therefore he is no longer fit to represent us again. 

This is the message we need to send to Mr. Weiner this September. If we do then we will put all politicians on notice; letting them know that we are going to hold them to a higher standard. And perhaps, over time we will we be able to attract people of stronger character and greater integrity.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Snowden and The American Tragedy


“The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.” 
Patrick Henry 

Snowden has become a big embarrassment for America. It is not so much his information leaks about America’s post 9/11 spying mechanisms that have been awkward, but the US’s increasingly humiliating global chase to capture this one man. 

There was a time when the world and almost every country within it shook with trepidation or at the very least publicly showed a great deal of respect, when America roared about anything at all. Today, the picture we are seeing is vastly different. Forget respect. Country after country is also showing no fear, even when being threatened. And we are not talking about Iran or Venezuela here, but places like Hong Kong, with whom the US has great relations, strong diplomatic ties and even an extradition treaty. Russia, with whom the US shares a love-hate relationship, usually ends up co-operating in such matters, but not today. Even tiny countries like Ecuador and Iceland are showing the US the middle finger by entertaining Snowden’s asylum request and refusing to kow tow to US demands and threats of withdrawing trade benefits.

Seeing the world react this way, most Americans will be quick to blame Obama for being a weak leader who has been soft on Iran, Syria and on terror. They will claim that he has made America look feeble. Perhaps it is true that he has tried to show a softer side of America in order to counteract the shoot from the hip years of Bush-Cheney. His words might have done this, but if you look purely at his actions around his national security decisions, they tell a different story. Consider his vastly expanded use of drones, a unilateral raid on the soil of a sovereign democratic nation (to kill Bin Laden) and his expansion of the NSA domestic spying program; all show him to be as hawkish as his predecessors. But it is too easy to put the blame squarely on Obama’s shoulders, even though he does share part of the blame for America’s growing impotence in the world today.

The reality is that America’s response and particularly her actions in the years following the attacks on 9/11 are entirely responsible for her lack of standing and respect today. On the 11th of September 2001, the majority of the world shared in America’s pain and stood shoulder to shoulder with her. There was unanimous global support for American retaliation in going after the Taliban regime in Afghanistan for providing safe haven to Al Qaeda. Nobody questioned the justification for this war; in fact most nations supported it, and it was sanctioned by the UN barely a few months after the first American and British boots were on the ground. But it was Cheney and Bush’s obsession with Saddam and their subsequent unilateral actions for their War on Terror, many in violation of International Law and the Geneva Convention, that led to America losing the moral high ground and respect it had earned for more than a century. Under Bush’s leadership the world witnessed a great superpower turn into a powerful bully that turned a deaf ear to everyone, including steadfast and lifelong allies. Now, a little over a decade later, America is witnessing the realities and outcomes that have resulted from Cheney’s knee-jerk reactions and secret government decisions made in those fear filled months and fear-mongering years after 9/11.

If I were to describe a country that operated a detention center that is located on foreign soil, simply to allow it to be outside the jurisdiction of their courts and legal processes. A place where anyone can be held indefinitely and without charges filed against them. A country that allowed warrantless wiretapping on its own citizens. One that set up detention centers across the globe for the purposes of using torture and other interrogation techniques, like water boarding. A country that believes it can use drones to hunt down and kill anyone, on any sovereign soil, without burden of proof. A country that passed opaque and far reaching laws that allow secret courts to make secret decisions that will never see light of democratic process. A country that was willing to allow its domestic surveillance programs to collect unlimited amounts of communication data on its own people, without any probable cause; and one that claimed to do all this in the name of protecting its citizens - what country would come to your mind? Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, Syria, Burma, China, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen…

Only through a combination of press leaks, public outrage, some congressional oversight and whistleblowers have we been able to piece together the extent of the secret decisions and frightening overreach made by our government in the name of security, in the years after 9/11. Snowden’s disclosures about the NSA’s massive domestic spying program are just the latest revelation to come to light. It is now abundantly clear that the vast majority of the decisions our government has made do not uphold America’s ideals, beliefs and democratic principles. The most distressing part is that each new disclosure serves to further weaken and erode America’s already diminished moral standing in the world, because her actions continue to be consistently incongruous with her stated character and ideals. I think someone once said that we see a person’s true character in times of adversity. This is not cause for celebration or an opportunity to point fingers; in fact quite the opposite. America for all her bad has been a responsible global citizen, and the most compassionate superpower in history, doing more to help the world than any other nation. Nobody is perfect but in the grand scheme of things America has always overwhelmingly stood for good, for democracy, for transparency and for rule of law and helped promote this cause across the globe. Today, it is hard for America to claim that China and Russia are thwarting the rule of law when lawyers in the White House have spent years writing-up legal arguments to defend US invasions of foreign lands, without any threat or provocation or UN backing. Creating new legal frameworks to justify drone strikes in any country, against anyone that the US deems a terrorist and without the burden of proof. Even justifying the murder of their citizens without any due process.

The America that Bush and Cheney created and Obama has failed to dismantle has clearly lost its way. Bush and Cheney’s America trembled and succumbed to fear in the face of great adversity; taking the easier and more slippery path to safeguarding national interests. They chose the path travelled by nations that feign democracy and do undemocratic things to protect their people and beliefs, justifying it in the name of greater good. The America I knew and have respected was made of sterner stuff. She would have resolved to defeat terrorism by further upholding liberty and justice, while protecting her fierce democratic ideals and freedoms, above all else. By choosing this path Bush, Cheney and Obama have achieved the opposite. They have weakened America and thereby made an already dangerous world a far less safe place.