Gaza Bromide: “Tweet, Tweet” Is Better Than “War, War”

(Welcome, readers of, a.k.a. Castle Argghhh. If you’re a fan of “Jonah’s military guys,” you might be interested in my October post about that site, “In Praise of Milbloggers, and of the Iraqi Air Force”. And a warm welcome as well to Wired and Mudville Gazette readers.)

In an earlier post (“Israel Turns to Social Media in Fight against Hamas“) I described how the Israeli Consulate in New York is using Twitter in the battle for public opinion regarding the conflict that partisans on both sides seem to be calling the “War on Gaza.”

It turns out there’s some social media savvy on the Palestinian side as well. (warning: if you click around on the site you’ll see gruesome photos) launched January 1. I discovered it at about 5 a.m. January 5 (today), via a link in the tweetstream of Beshr Kayali. I have no idea who he is beyond the fact that his Twitter page says he’s in Damascus, and because I need to wrap this up quickly before a busy workday, I’m not going to research it.

The homepage features the death toll scorecard badge above, along with links to articles, blog posts, pro-Palestinian “Gaza Tweeters” and more.

(Disclosure: I’ve made clear where my own sympathies lie in this conflict. For this post, I’m setting aside my political views to focus on social media.)

If you click on the image below, I think you’ll see a much-larger version of it. (Works on my machine, anyway, but I’m still a newbie blogger and I don’t know if it will work for you. Give it a shot, then come back here to continue the text.)

By using Tweet Grid — one of the many independent sites that have sprung up to leverage Twitter’s tweetstream — I’ve collected the most recent tweets from both Kayali and from Benny Daon. I don’t know anything about him either, but he gives his location as Tel Aviv.

The large screenshot (if you can see it) shows Daon and Kayali parsing the nuances of the conflict in 140-character tweets. Here’s a text version of one exchange:

Beshrkayali: RT @ysalahi: Gaza’s 9/11: 500 dead so far out of 1.5 million in #Gaza. that’s approximately 100,000 americans out of 300 million.

Translation: Kayali is re-tweeting (“RT”) a tweet from someone else (“@ysalahi”) which compares the Gaza death toll with the 9/11 death toll, based on the respective populations of Gaza and the U.S. (If anyone cares about what I think about this argument on a substantive level, please inquire in the comments — I’m staying neutral in the body of the post.)

Daon fires back with a different take:

daonb: @Beshrkayali of the 500 dead in #gaza most are jihadists who got their wish and many others were human shields. In 9/11 just civilians

One last observation, then I’ve gotta wrap this up. Daon and Kayali both press their cases in highly partisan language. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but I think I detect a hint of grudging respect and even camaraderie in this exchange:

daonb: @Beshrkayali watching bbc news now for smart analysis on #gaza. hoping we can have peace after this bloodbath, but very much doubt it

Beshrkayali: @daonb Yeah me too… It appears that Israel won’t stop until ALL Palestinians are dead… That’s what Olmert said… #gaza

The two sides in the Gaza War may not be negotiating, but at least they’re tweeting.

Ford CEO Alan Mulally Enters the Twitterstream

To be precise, Mulally was Tweeting by proxy yesterday, via Scott Monty. It only lasted a few minutes, but it’s still fairly cool. No great revelations on weighty policy matters, but I learned that Mulally makes a point of driving a different auto every day, including competitor models, to stay close to the public experience of driving. Not earthshaking, but humanizing.

It’s notable that Mulally, a former Boeing exec, first started working for an auto company only two years ago. As I’ve written in previous posts, Ford is seeking to differentiate itself from the Big Other Two. It’s working for me.

Photo credit: Ford Motor Company

Autoworkers: “I’m Sticking to the Union… Till the Day I Die”

(Welcome, Corner readers, and thanks to Cornerite Iain Murray for his continuing support. Thanks also to Mickey Kaus for linking, with a permalink no less — sorry about the crack below about the Kausfiles template!)

In an article on Slate, Mickey Kaus explains why the Detroit automakers are in trouble:

There are some obvious culprits: shortsighted American managers, schlocky designers, an insular corporate culture. Here’s another: the very structure of Wagner Act unionism. The problem isn’t so much wages as work rules–internal strictures that make it hard for unionized competitors to constantly adapt and change production processes the way the Japanese do.Now that everyone is criticizing work rules, it’s easy to forget that they don’t represent a perversion of the collective bargaining process–they are the intended result of that process, and were once celebrated as such.

Kaus doesn’t explicitly advocate or oppose bankruptcy in the article. From what I’ve reviewed of his earlier writing, he doesn’t seem to have taken a position one way or another — rather, he has repeatedly pointed out the problems and the flaws with both bankruptcy and a bailout. (That link is to his blog homepage — his archaic “Kausfiles” template has very few permalinks, so you have to just keep scrolling or searching except when he puts up a major article.)

Legacy of the 1935 Wagner Act

But to me, his current article explains vividly why bankruptcy is the only solution for Detroit. He quotes from another writer’s 1983 article:

Under the Wagner Act, management manages. What the union does is complain, and negotiate for a rule limiting management’s right to do what the union doesn’t like. A worker protests that his job should be classified as “drilling special and heavy” instead of “drilling general.” The parties butt heads, a decision is reached, and a new rule is deposited like another layer of sediment. At some GM plants, distinct job categories evolved for each spot on the assembly line (e.g., “headlining installer”). In Japanese auto plants, where they spend their time building cars instead of creating job categories, there is only one nonsupervisory job classification: “production.”

Note that the above was written 25 years ago — the problem already was clear, and now the “layers of sediment” have had another quarter-century to accumulate. Kaus continues, describing the situation today:

Yes, faced with successful Japanese rivals, Detroit and its union have been trying to reduce the number of work rules–but the process has been slow, like pulling teeth, especially because the UAW defers to its locals.

Confessions of a Union Man

I’ve been professionally aligned with “management” for the past quarter century, but before that I briefly was an unpaid, elected union official. (It was the Newspaper Guild, an anemic junior varsity union in a dying industry, but still. I was the head of a roughly 40-person unit at The Home News, a small New Jersey daily. It’s now Home News Tribune Courier News, and the Guild unit didn’t survive the mergers.)

My point, and I do have one, is that I’ve seen enough of the behavior of highly paid top union officials to understand that their focus is not on the best interests of their members. Their focus is on protecting their lucrative jobs, and the only way they know to do that is to be perceived by the members as being willing to fight to the bitter end to protect existing contracts.

But in bankruptcy court, the contracts (theoretically, at least) can be voided. And that’s the level of change that will be required to put the U.S. auto industry on solid competitive footing with foreign automakers.

A Shout-Out to #TCOT

In the past few days, my humble blog has had a welcome flurry of attention because of a post I wrote describing the interaction between Ford’s head of social media, Scott Monty, and a new virtual organization called Top Conservatives on Twitter (TCOT). (What is Twitter, you ask? Here is a primer.) Having voted for Clinton twice I’m still not used to thinking of myself as a conservative, but I’m currently the 655th top conservative on Twitter, according to the group’s list.

I’ve been moving up the ranks as more people sign on to follow my “Tweets” because of the publicity. [Are YOU following me on Twitter?] The original post got linked to from The Corner, sending hundreds of visitors my way and spawning other threads in the conservative blogosphere. I later did a followup post expressing admiration for Monty’s grace under pressure.

The Ford Story

My BFF Scott Monty is working hard to get the public to understand that the auto bailout defeated last week in Congress was not a “Big 3” bailout. As I said in an earlier post,

Interestingly, Ford is not seeking bailout money at this time, but supports the bailout “to address the near-term liquidity issues of GM and Chrysler, as our industry is highly interdependent and a failure of one of our competitors could affect us all.”

Monty argues, convincingly to my mind, that under CEO Alan Mulally — a former Boeing exec who never worked for a car company before two years ago — Ford has gone much further than GM and Chrysler toward adjusting its business model to the emerging realities. TCOT is racing to try to reinforce that story — dozens of volunteers (including, to some degree, me) have mobilized over the weekend for Operation Ford Motor, an effort to help differentiate Ford from the others, while striking a blow for capitalism and the principles of market discipline.

The proposed purpose of Operation Ford Motor is based on the following concepts:

– To recognize Ford Motor Company’s efforts at avoiding accepting government bailout money.

– To provide input to Ford Motor Company on why it is important to remain free-market focused, and not accept government loans.

– Partner with Ford in making its example of a market-based approach the standard for American business without relying on taxpayer dollars.

– Lay the groundwork for a market-based approach to turning around the auto industry, and the economy at large.

This nascent potential partnership is fragile on both sides. Monty has been unfailingly polite, but has cautioned that he can make no commitment on behalf of Ford. He also pointed out, in comments on a blog I just can’t find right now, that the company cannot become too closely aligned with any particular ideology. And TCOT may well bail out of this project if members come to disapprove of Ford’s actions.

I admire Monty and hope he and his company are successful in telling The Ford Story and differentiating Ford from the Big Other Two. Ford has already won some concessions from the UAW, and has refocused its business and avoided a cash crunch — it’s by far the healthiest of the three. But let’s say Chrysler and GM go bankrupt and shrink dramatically, while Ford avoids bankruptcy. Ford could end up at a competitive disadvantage because the other companies are able to put more pressure on the union.

As I said at the beginning of this adventure, way back on Friday morning: “I don’t know what if anything will come of this, but it’s fascinating.”

More Eavesdropping on Ford’s Social Media Guy

(Saturday morning update at the bottom.)

Whatever Ford is paying Scott Monty, they oughta pay him more. He’s been Tweeting all day.

Earlier today I described how Scott, the head of social media for Ford Motor Company, had his feet held to the fire by a recently formed virtual organization called Top Conservatives on Twitter. His day actually started well before the exchange I posted then. Around 9 a.m. he started trying to correct the “Big 3 Bailout” meme by pointing out that Ford, comparatively healthy, was not included in the failed bailout legislation. A Tweeter named 64 had quipped, “Can’t believe Daily News missed chance to run DC TO FORD: DROP DEAD this morning.” Scott replied, “@64 Ford wasn’t part of the proposed bill. See”. Then he was off to the races, and well into the evening he’s still Tweeting — he’s posted more than 140 Tweets today, all while serving as the public face of Ford Motor Company in the Tweetstream.

Some of the conversations might try the patience of a lesser man. Here he explains and defends his practice for handling “DMs” — direct messages, which unlike normal Tweets are private communications between two Tweeple:

Scott (I call him Scott ’cause he’s my BFF, we follow each other on Twitter) has attracted a lot of attention for his pioneering efforts in representing Ford in the world of social media. Just the other day, blogger Noah Mallin at Reprise Media described how Scott defused a mini-controversy:

Ford today sent fansite (dedicated to lovers of their small pick-up trucks) a lawyer’s letter over copyright violations. This sent the dozens of other Ford fan sites, many of which use Ford branded names, into a tizzy over fears that they too would be asked to stop using Ford names in their URL’s and site materials. By the time the story surfaced on major car blogs like Jalopnik and Autoblog the story had been boiled down to Ford’s lawyers asking for $5,000 or the site gets shut down.

It sounds like a clueless corporation alienating its fans, but the reality is more complicated. It turns out the site was offering counterfeit Ford paraphernalia for sale, and that (not the URL) was the reason for the lawyer letter. Scott sent the site owner a polite message of explanation, which is now proudly posted on the site’s forum.

If you’re still craving more information about my BFF Scott Monty, here’s a recent post on his personal blog about his work, which he likens to “fighting a forest fire with a squirt gun.”

Meanwhile, TCOT is gearing up for Operation Ford Motor, along with other Action Projects. Watch this space for more updates in the days ahead.

Update (Saturday, noonish): I notified Scott by DM when I posted the above last night, and joked that I’m trying to get him a raise. He has given me permission to print his DM back to me:

ScottMonty Thanks. But no raises in 2009. Search for “merit pay” on

He points out that the announcement of no merit pay in the release he links is from Nov. 7, before there was any widespread discussion of an auto bailout.

In re-reading this and my other post from yesterday, I don’t think think I’ve made it clear enough why Scott Monty’s efforts are such a big deal. I spent nearly 20 years working in PR/communications for huge companies, either as an employee or a consultant. Huge companies are risk-averse by nature, and communications pros at big companies tend to be even MORE risk-averse — having had their heads handed to them multiple times for small or imaginary gaffes.

Scott is a breath of fresh air — and a braver man than I. After I posted last night saying he had Tweeted 140 times that day, he came back on with 20 more Tweets after midnight, and he’s made another 50 this (Saturday) morning. Virtually all of his messages are in response to individuals, some of whom are unfriendly — but what he says is out there for anyone to see. I’m amazed not so much by the sheer volume as by the fact that he clearly has a corporate mandate to fly solo. More than 200 Tweets in the last 28 hours — ain’t no way he’s running them by the Legal department, Government Relations, two EVPs, etc.

Lobbying in Plain Sight: The Auto Bailout on Twitter

Welcome, Twitterers, Diggers, Cornerites, readers from Social Media Today, Dalton’s Briefs, Northwest Indiana Politics, Kicking Over My Traces and others. If you enjoy this post, I hope you’ll take a look around the site. In addition to the auto bailout, I post a lot about the adventures of a red voter in a blue state, and on Iraq, the financial crisis, capitalism and more. Original post follows, more updates at the bottom.


I don’t know what if anything will come of this, but it’s fascinating — beginning at about 10:30 a.m. today, Scott Monty, the head of social media for Ford (yes, there is such a function now), began a Twitter conversation with Michael P. Leahy, head of a new Twitter-powered conservative group called Top Conservatives on Twitter (#TCOT).

Even if you don’t have a Twitter account, I believe you should be able to follow this search link, which currently shows the “Tweet” below as the first result:

If you click “Show Conversation” at the bottom of the Tweet, you’ll get a screen that looks in part like this:

Leahy has appointed a #TCOT Project Servant-Leader (defined here) to review what Monty described as Ford’s “well thought-out plan” for the future of Ford in the American auto industry. Since all of this is happening in Internet time, Leahy promises to finish the review today, and report back, “then u and i talk with CEO.” Monty says he can’t promise the CEO will take advice from #TCOT — “We have a board.”

Interestingly, Ford is not seeking bailout money at this time, but supports the bailout “to address the near-term liquidity issues of GM and Chrysler, as our industry is highly interdependent and a failure of one of our competitors could affect us all.”

As I said, I’m not sure anything will come of it, but I’ll report back when I know more. For now it looks like the bailout is dead in Congress, but the Bush administration is looking at repurposing some of the $700 billion financial bailout for the auto industry.

Update: Operation Ford Motor now has its own hash tag, #OFM, if you want to follow the action today.

1:50 pm – The Corner post was the traffic champ until a few minutes ago, sending about five readers per minute. Now all of a sudden Digg has taken control. Scott Monty, good sport that he is, asked his followers to Diggit.

Saturday: Follow-up post is here