Breaking Takes by Al Sikes


Breaking News is the jargon of breathless cable TV network anchors; anything topical is suddenly breaking. Not one to shun a trend I will from time to time do my own version of breaking news, called Breaking Takes (on the news, of course).


This last week featured news on various appointments threatening President Obama’s legacy. The announcement of Scott Pruitt to head the EPA resulted in the most vocal outcry.

Presidents need to understand that legacies are built by aligning all the branches. Edicts through Executive Orders, agency regulations and the like are easily overturned by either the next President or a judicial reversal based on constitutional overreach.

As dissatisfying as it often seems, America proceeds best when some level of bi-partisanship is achieved.

Fake News

Two weeks ago I lamented the state of journalism and especially fake news. In this week’s news it was reported that many brand-name companies support fake news through advertisements (at least inadvertently).

An example from the Wall Street Journal:

“Yoko Ono: ‘I Had An Affair With Hillary Clinton In The ’70s,’” read the headline in World News Daily Report, a website that peddles made-up stories. Next to the story? An ad for the 2017 Ram 1500 truck, made by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV.”

Consumers should use the power of online networking to let advertisers know that this conduct is unacceptable. The brand name companies will say it is all inadvertent and the result of demographic ad-matching done by computer algorithms. They are right, but must begin to insist that algorithmic matching screen out fake news (this can be accomplished).

Savvy Moves

President-elect Trump has been criticized for nominating too many retired Generals to cabinet posts. The last time I looked, the military enjoyed, at 73% by Gallup survey, the most public confidence. Congress, often a springboard to executive appointment, was at 6%.
Warning to Trump: big business, the second most frequent source of appointees, is only 18%.

A Bit of Common Sense

Senator Joe Manchin, when asked about a replacement for the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), said “If I can’t go home and explain it, I can’t vote for it.” Infamously, the Democrat House leader Nancy Pelosi said, in reference to the then pending 2000 plus page legislation: “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.”

My recommendation regarding the Affordable Care Act to the incoming administration: simplify while rationalizing incentives. President-elect Trump and Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, in particular, will find their legacies significantly influenced by what is done in the second re-engineering of approximately 20% of the economy and the 20% that most Americans find the most important.

Smart People

The Designators race to name our Age. Some call it the 4th Industrial Revolution and others the Exponential Age and the names don’t end there.

I would like to see a name that captures both the up and downside of technology driven phenomena while providing a nifty acronym for the wordsmiths.
Many say artificial intelligence guided robots will define our future, the next Age. Let me make a suggestion on how the public dialogue, on what seems like irreversible momentum, might actually be beneficial.

First, we need to confront the disruptive reality. America will not be great again (if we cede the point) because of Carrier-like vignettes that save relatively few jobs. The President-elect, who commands the bully pulpit, should insist that intelligence matters and will define both the potential of America and Americans. What about calling this moment the Age when Real Intelligence Matters or RIM. RIM provides endless narrative possibilities.

And, let me add that I use the word intelligence to encompass what we learn. On a personal level, while our attention is never far from our smart phones we need to be smarter than our phones or suffer the consequences.

Culture Leads Leaders Follow

Without embarrassment I note, my book will make a great holiday gift.

Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books.

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