Saturday, December 21, 2013

Duck Dynasty, Phil Robertson and Ignorance Run Rampant

Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth. - Marcus Aurelius

Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought. - John F. Kennedy

A couple of days ago, I walked into a “well known Canadian coffee chain” wearing a very offensive hat.

Here is a photo of the hat that I was wearing.

20131221_162728

I didn’t think it was terribly offensive.  However, the lady serving me made an observation about my hat that surprised me so much that I tweeted the following:

image

Some people in my place might have stated that they didn’t understand why a woman in a free country still needed to wear a hijab.

Some might have pointed out that if this interaction were taking place in her country of origin, that she could be flogged for speaking to a man in such a manner.

However, I’m mature enough to know the difference between an opinion that doesn’t matter to me versus something worthy of my attention. 

I’m also mature enough to know that this opinion does not represent the majority of people of her belief system.

And finally, I’m mature enough to know that words alone do not represent a threat to my state of physical or mental well being.

Frankly, the expression of opinion is something that we champion as a reason why the western world is allegedly superior – that our right to express an opinion is protected under law .

So when I hear the outrage expressed by people about Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson and his expressions of his beliefs, I can only shake my head and ask these questions:

Is your Life that empty (or completely fulfilled otherwise) that all you have left is to be angered by his beliefs?

Who has appointed you as the Master of Opinions, giving you supreme power to label opinions (not facts) as right or wrong?

If you believe that such beliefs are evil and must be punished, then you might as well fire or jail almost every evangelical leader, every Catholic priest and everyone else who shares the same opinions.  Frankly, whether you agree with his beliefs or not, such beliefs are held by millions of people in America alone.  Should they all be jailed, fined or punished in some way?

If we are going to be offended and punish people whose opinions offend us, then let’s pick a committee and allow them to define what we are not allowed to talk about anymore to avoid any confusion in the future.

Here are some items they might come up with, depending on who sits on the committee:

1. Vegans will have the right to have meat-eaters mulched and used as fertilizer for growing more vegetables.

2. Meat-eaters will have the right to grill vegans (I’ll take mine blue-rare please).

3. Anyone who criticizes a government leader will automatically be assumed to be doing so for racial reasons and should be jailed immediately (although shooting them will keep the prison population down).

4. Adults who don’t praise the book Fifty Shades of Grey as the best book they have ever read will be labeled “sexually repressed” and will be subjected to “sexual abandon” therapy.

5. Specific colors that make people feel bad will be banned.   Some suggestions:

Blue – because it reminds people of depression

Yellow – because it reminds people of cowardice

Red – because a non-Aboriginal person might think that it offends Aboriginals and that they need to defend people who are quite capable of defending themselves

Black – because it is racially loaded

White – see the previous point

6. When someone wishes you Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Happy Holidays, etc., if they inadvertently guess your faith wrong then you will have the right to feel offended and punch them in the mouth in order to protect the sanctity of “the season of peace and goodwill”.

7. Blondes will be forced to change their hair color, since although they are considered to have more fun they will also be discovered to be intellectually inferior and the combination of having more fun while being less intelligent will be considered as a threat to everyone else’s safety.

8. Anyone weighing less than 300 pounds and not up to their eyeballs in credit card debt will be jailed (or shot) since they would be considered anti-consumer and thus anti-capitalistic, thereby representing a threat to our economy and in turn, national security.

9. To settle the dispute over global climate change, we will shoot supporters of the theory during the odd years while shooting the skeptics during the even years.  The last one left standing will be considered to be right and supported by “irrefutable facts”.

Choosing our fights

It’s funny that when the idol of many of our children does this ….

we think it’s entertaining while reserving the right to be horrified if our child grows up and does the same thing in public.

When HBO shows this on TV …

image

we dismiss it as entertainment although if you tried this at home Child Protective Services would kick your door in pretty quickly.

And yet when Robertson expresses an opinion which really has no direct influence on our Life, an opinion which he is legally entitled to regardless of whether you agree with him or not, then all hell breaks loose.

I’m sorry – does my use of the word “hell” offend you?

Too bad.

And so I asked my gay friends what they thought.

The vast majority shrugged it off as not affecting them, their families or their Life.  They are used to opinions that don’t align with their lifestyle but they are too busy creating a Life and contributing to society to worry about someone else’s opinion.

Their response raises an interesting point:

If we choose to be offended by everything, pretty soon our Life will be consumed with defending it instead of living it.

Personally, I’m offended with people who don’t care about others, especially the downtrodden, the homeless, the hungry, the war-stricken, the abused and the many who suffer in silence.

I’m offended by greedy, selfish, self-centered people.

And truthfully, I’m offended by people who are constantly offended.

But what’s more ignorant – telling someone that their opinion is ignorant or telling them that they are not entitled to have an opinion?

Because telling people that their opinion is not allowed is a slippery slope, feeling just fine until one day you find out that some belief that you cherish cannot be expressed publicly anymore because someone else is offended by it.

Bottom Line:

If we choose to focus on fighting those who offend us, then we will spend all of our time doing that instead of focusing on doing what we can to create a better world, especially true given that there is no shortage of things to be offended by if we allow it.

I think focusing on creating a better world matters more.

What do you think?

By the way, it’s ok to disagree with me. 

After all, this is just my opinion - but just between you and me, we both know that your opinion is wrong :-).

Rumi once noted:

If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished?

How well are you polishing your “mirror” today?

Are you sure?

How do you know?

In service and servanthood,

Harry

Addendum

GLAAD, the gay and lesbian anti-defamation group that led the charge against Phil Robertson, promotes a pro-gay agenda under the auspices that everyone should be accepting of everyone else’s lifestyle.

When one demands acceptance of a particular lifestyle while condemning another, one has to be careful about the inconsistent message that this sends and the potentially unwelcome attention that it attracts.

Addendum 2 – December 22, 2013

While the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store originally pulled many of the Duck Dynasty products in protest of Mr. Robertson’s comments, they reversed that decision today.

image

Whatever the reason, I think it was the right decision and congratulate Cracker Barrel on making it.

What do you think?

Closing Thoughts – December 28, 2013

A little over a week later and everything is back to the way it was.  Phil Robertson is back on the program and A&E has backed off on its original intentions.

More than likely the thought of losing the “golden goose” that Duck Dynasty has become for A&E was the major reason for A&E reversing its original decision (probably true for Cracker Barrel also).

However, it is a reminder that when one is preparing to take bold action that it is extremely important to understand the potential impact of such a decision before actually moving forward.

Not everyone gets the opportunity to have a “do-over” as happened here.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Target and Credit Card Theft–If Ignorance Is Bliss ….

Leadership is about taking responsibility, not making excuses. - Mitt Romney

News of the compromise of 40 million debit and credit cards at Target in the US seems to have shocked a lot of consumers this morning and I have no idea why.

Once consumers get it into their mind that pins and chips don’t protect their plastic assets, maybe then they will stop being surprised to hear they have been compromised yet again and instead will demand better of the institutions that issue the cards and the organizations that accept them for transactions.

Even those of us inside the system have had our share of compromises.  I have had my personal and banking information given away three times by bank employees on the take – twice in the US and once in Canada.

You have to trust the system but when the system’s weakest link is human greed, there is not much standing between you and financial complexity.

My favorite incident, if you can call it that, occurred about 10 years ago when one of my credit cards was compromised.  When I called customer support to ask why a transaction had just been blocked, I was told that there was suspicious activity on the card.

Upon subsequent exploration, the card had allegedly been used in person (not online) in Germany, Brazil and the US over the course of about 4 hours on the previous day.

The customer support person asked me if the card was still in my possession to which I answered yes.  When I indicated that I had never been to Germany and Brazil in my Life, she suggested that maybe I had traveled there but just didn’t remember.  I assured her that my short term memory was working just fine.

In the discussion that ensued where she was trying to prove to her own satisfaction that I wasn’t in all three nations within a 4-hour window, I finally asked her this question.

“Do you know how I can prove that I wasn’t physically in Germany, Brazil and the US within a 4 hour window yesterday?”

“How?”, she asked.

“Because the laws of physics don’t allow it”, I replied.

She didn’t understand my sense of humor.

Here’s the best part.

She indicated that my current card was now cancelled (which was cool), a new card would be issued immediately(arriving in two days), would need to be activated, blah blah blah blah.

The next day, I was contacted by the bank and told that when the new card arrived, I was to destroy it and wait for another card.  Why? Because the new card had already been compromised, activated and used from somewhere within the credit card facility before I even had a chance to touch it and activate it.  Customer support had no official explanation of how this could happen.

Someone knows though.

Once again the weakest link being human greed had reigned supreme over “checks and balances”.

Better systems exist to protect our security

Biometrics and other security techniques exist and despite industry claims that they are in their infancy, some of my clients have been using them for decades.

Do you know what the real problem is with implementing such technology?

1. A lot of consumers would need to be trained to use new security technology.

2. We will need to pay a little extra for devices that ensure security, either at home or in the form of fees to cover technology implemented by others.

3. Many institutions will have to pay a lot of money to implement such systems.

It all comes down to how badly we want something, doesn’t it?

And there’s the rub.  Every time you get ripped off, the institutions pay you back and get reimbursed themselves.  They even get to write off any costs absorbed in processing compromises so there’s no downside to them.

It’s all offloaded onto the consumer who may live with the ramifications for a long time, depending on the nature of the compromise.

However, to create a new system requires a major outlay of capital on the part of the institutions, some of which would be passed on to the consumer in fees to cover the implementation.

And as long as we (the royal we) refuse to suck it up and pay for the technology that will provide the financial and personal identity security that we demand, then we need to stop acting surprised every time something like this happens.

Of course, having been compromised three times by employees of national banks, I can assure you that there will always be a weakest link.

But at least there will be a lot fewer of them.

In service and servanthood,

Harry

Friday, December 13, 2013

Democracy–Lousy Training For Leadership

The tendency to whining and complaining may be taken as the surest sign symptom of little souls and inferior intellects. - Lord Jeffrey

Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain - and most fools do. - Benjamin Franklin

As I watch the NDP collapse in my home province of Newfoundland and Labrador, it occurs to me that being in any opposition party in a democracy has to provide the worst training possible for leadership wannabes.

The NDP in Newfoundland have travelled from obscurity and being a political joke in the province to being way out front in the polls.  Once they got there, their infighting and internal implosions have reduced them back to being a political joke before they could sample the power that they seemed destined to embrace and now polls have them back in last place.

Their leader, Lorraine Michael, is learning that it is easy to sit on the opposite side of a legislature or in front of the press as she fills the air with incessant complaining, gripes and rallying cries for the government to do better.

However, once the NDP moved from last place to first, a painful reality also surfaced for them:

Nobody wants to hear them complain about the party in power any more.  They want to hear the NDP’s vision for the future since they are (were) likely to be the next party in power.

If you’ve spent a lifetime complaining about everyone else and their supposedly incompetent plans, it’s unlikely that you’ve spent sufficient time crafting plans for yourself and for your vision of the future.

Unfortunately, when you have successfully managed to climb to the top in any endeavor, others will demand to see your vision of the future.  If the vision is not present or coherent, they will seek out a new leader – whether it be in politics, in business or in Life.

Ms. Michael’s “leadership” has cost the NDP a significant opportunity in the Newfoundland political arena and should serve as a lesson for any leader wannabe.

Do you possess and project a personal and professional vision that speaks to what you stand for (not just what you stand against) and why others should support you?

Are you sure?

How do you know?

In service and servanthood,

Harry

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Is Calgary Doomed To Collapse?

The doom of a nation can be averted only by a storm of flowing passion, but only those who are passionate themselves can arouse passion in others. - Adolf Hitler

You can calm down now.  I like the quote because it speaks many truths even though the person to whom the quote is attributed to was a monster.

When Joe Arvai (@DecisionLab) suggested in a Globe and Mail piece that data points to the possibility that Calgary could follow the path of Detroit into oblivion, he upset a lot of people also.

I agree they should be upset but not in the revengeful, caustic way some of them have been towards him.

It’s because his data should be a wakeup call, a call to use data to either prove him wrong OR to prove him right, the latter being followed by a strategic plan to create a stronger future.

It’s like getting upset with your car because the brake light has come on.  The sensors are merely using the data available to suggest that there may be a problem if corrective action is not taken and a warning light comes on as a result.  Yelling at the light itself serves no valuable purpose whatsoever.

We live in a curious world where realities and rationalized myths compete for our attention.

Politicians, diplomats and corporate leaders sell us the mantra that the world continues to get better and better and that anyone who would say anything to the contrary is a pessimist. 

I posit that many pessimists are in fact realists who acknowledge that the world is a beautiful place but who also recognize that such beauty could be interrupted or lost if we don’t choose to fix things that threaten it.

They are optimistic realists (or realistic optimists).

Consider these items ….

1. Airline security keeps the amateur from doing something stupid to us.  However, there are plenty of opportunities for the professional terrorist (or idiot) to take down a plane or gain access to the “impenetrable cockpit”.  We know that acknowledging this will severely hamper the aviation industry (and thus the economy overall) and so we don’t talk about it.

2. As long as nuclear and bio weapons exist in the world, there is the potential for us to wipe ourselves out either accidentally, purposefully or through the acts of a third party (e.g. a cyber attack that deploys the weapons).  We invent useless things like duck-and-cover to help people feel safe in the meantime.

3. Our national and international infrastructure (including the distribution of food, water, energy and other critical services) is at high risk  for compromise for a number of reasons.  Talking about it makes people too nervous … and so we don’t.

4. We cannot protect ourselves from terrorist attacks (including on a large scale) unless we are prepared to give up 100% of our freedom.  We insist on having both our freedom and our safety, a mutual exclusivity that is impossible to create and so the results are predictable.  However, we reserve the right to act surprised / affronted when an event occurs.

5. Wall St. and our government financial models remain a ticking time bomb, filled with unsustainable practices that benefit the minority while punishing the majority when the occasional hiccup (artificial, accidental or intentional) occurs.  Sooner or later, the hiccup will be really big but we dismiss such talk as gloom and doom – we are told to be grateful to “live for today”.

6. Built-in obsolescence, while driving our economy quite nicely, is ultimately unsustainable for the economy or the planet.  We do a little recycling to show how this small act has somehow saved the planet.

7. There is no emergency preparedness plan for the masses should a large-scale emergency take place.  There are many ideas that will be tested during an event and there will be political rhetoric during and after an event about “how we rose to the occasion” but so far we have been lucky. A Life built entirely around luck eventually encounters a patch of bad luck.

8. 80+% of the IT systems being built today are garbage, being overcomplicated by over zealous architects, being little understood by developers who rely more on their tools than their brains, are too lightly tested “because we’re in a hurry”, etc.  People who refute such suggestions point to the great frameworks, architecture and processes they embrace while being silent about how their projects run way over budget, extend well past their implementation deadlines, are largely untested, are routinely compromised, etc.  Since much of our society runs on these systems, this also a fundamental problem that we choose not to talk about.

Examples such as these aren’t examples of pessimism.  They are examples of reality.

There is also no irony lost in the fact that people who bring these things up with the intention of making the nation stronger end up on the same watch lists as those who would seek to tear our nation down. 

Paranoia under the guise of preparedness doesn’t discriminate. :-)

We can choose to ignore examples such as these, knowing that statistics, stupidity, greed or Murphy’s Law will eventually catch up to us.  We can also label people who discuss such things as pessimists like those who criticized Prime Minister Chamberlain’s famous “Peace for our time” quote only to be proven right a year later when World War 2 erupted.

Voltaire noted the problem of ignoring reality when he said:

Everything's fine today, that is our illusion.

When someone appears with data that suggests that something needs to be fixed, it is ok to get passionate about such warnings.

In fact, getting passionate about them is often a good thing as long as we use our passion to objectively verify the existence of the problem, validate a solution if necessary and take action where appropriate instead of engaging in a game of “shoot the messenger” just because the messenger’s data has created a sense of unease that we would rather turn our back on.

Data offered in theory requires data to challenge it.

Only then will we know if the person who proposed the original theory is wrong, insane or an absolute pessimist or if that person is a realist who is merely trying to save us.

When the “brake light of society” comes on, we must have experts examine the data that illuminated it to determine if it is merely a “faulty sensor” or if something actually needs to be corrected.

Because merely yelling at the warning light doesn’t solve anything and could produce a result that, while potentially fatal, could or should have been prevented.

In service and servanthood,

Harry

Addendum – December 10, 2013

Edmund Burke once said:

Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.

Hegel more pragmatically / critically said (roughly translated):

History teaches us that history teaches us nothing.

I’d like to add my own variation:

History teaches us that we choose to learn nothing until forced to and then we relive history. Unfortunately, relearning history is like the pendulum in "The Pit and the Pendulum"- every swing gets a little lower and a little closer to producing finality.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmas–Sharing Our Blessings

The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much it is whether we provide enough for those who have little. - Franklin D. Roosevelt

Life in abundance comes only through great love. - Elbert Hubbard

Your most precious, valued possessions and your greatest powers are invisible and intangible. No one can take them. You, and you alone, can give them. You will receive abundance for your giving. - W. Clement Stone

Sharing this story has become an annual tradition for me at this time of year and so, by popular demand, I share it once again.
----------------------
Some years ago when Harry Jr. was very young, I had pulled into a Toys R Us parking lot in New Jersey on Christmas Eve to buy him more "stuff".  Even though my son had so much stuff that he rivalled Toys R Us in inventory, it still didn't seem enough for some reason.

Just before I stepped out of my vehicle, a story came on my favorite National Public Radio station (WNYC in New York) and something about it caught my ear.

For the next 10 minutes, I sat in silence and listened to the story.  When the story was over, I started my truck and drove out of the parking lot in silence. 

I had received an important message about Christmas when I needed to hear it.  The “teacher” always appears when the student is ready and my Christmases have never been the same since.

Of the many traditions I have at Christmas, there are two that I find to be important.

1. I always listen to that story at least once.

2. I always share it with others and encourage them to listen to it.

The story I am referring to can be found here and in the video below.

 

 

When I think about my family, my friends and Life itself, I consider myself to be extremely blessed.

With that, I thank YOU for what you do - for the light and love you bring to so many.

In an uncertain world, every day we are alive is still an incredible gift.
In a world that experiences difficult moments, there are still miracles being created.

In a world that experiences war and hostility, there are still many examples of love and generosity.

In a world that experiences adversity and challenge, there exists unlimited opportunity and potential.

In a world that may seem to embrace greed, there are examples of incredible generosity.

Despite the many challenges we face, we have many reminders that we still live in a beautiful world.  Sometimes the reminders are obvious while at other times we need to dig deep to find them.  We are also reminded that there are times when the beauty of Life must be vigorously defended against those who try to convince us that such beauty is forever lost or not worth defending.

Sometimes we need the help of others to help us find the “breathing room” to rediscover the beauty that Life represents.

And many times, other people need our help.

As you celebrate this Holiday Season, please remember those who are not as fortunate.  There is more than enough love to go around – we just need to make the effort to share it unconditionally.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, Happy EID or Merry Yule. 

However you celebrate these days, cherish them. 

And help others find a way to cherish them as well.

In service and servanthood, love and gratitude.  Create a great holiday experience for yourself and others, because merely having one is too passive an experience.

Harry

For those who can’t find the links on the NPR website to hear the story, they can be found here:

Windows Media Player

Real Media Player

Addendum - December 9, 2013

While I usually don't promote "corporate stuff", I thought that this video published by WestJet (the airline I fly exclusively in Canada) is pretty cool.  What do you think?

Friday, December 6, 2013

Nelson Mandela–Terrorist or Freedom Fighter

"I was made, by the law, a criminal, not because of what I had done, but because of what I stood for, because of what I thought, because of my conscience.” – Nelson Mandela - Statement during trial, 1962.

“Difficulties break some men but make others.” – Nelson Mandela - From a letter to wife, Winnie Mandela, from Robben Island, February 1975)

“When people are determined they can overcome anything.” – Nelson Mandela - Johannesburg, South Africa, Nov. 14, 2006

Accolades and tributes continue to flow as the world honors the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela, a man who spent 27 of his 95 years in prison for crimes against his government before throwing off the shackles of oppression and leading his nation into new directions of racial equality.

In his early years he was, at least in the eyes of his government, a terrorist for daring to stand up for what he believed in – that a better world could be created but which had to be seized and not merely requested.

And yet today he is remembered for his bold actions in demanding racial equality and becoming the epitome of what many believe to be the ideal freedom fighter – a person who dares to overcome all odds including savage physical and mental attacks to change something they believe is wrong.

He wasn’t perfect nor were his results,  crime-wise or economically, and he had many enemies right up to his death.

Anyone who stands up against injustice, indifference or incompetence is guaranteed to make enemies, as noted by Winston Churchill when he said:

You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life.

In the poem Desiderata, there is a line that says:

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story

While the dull and ignorant may have their story, Nelson Mandela knew that they didn’t define his story.

He also knew that sometimes the only way to overcome the dull and the ignorant is to speak one’s truth loudly and to demonstrate it with actions that speak louder than words.

And that is perhaps his greatest legacy that we need to learn from.

While we can quote him and other people who fought for freedom, they didn’t live (and die) so that we could merely quote them incessantly.

They did so in the hope that we would continue to follow in their footsteps.

Freedom, equality and a better life for all aren’t things that are won once and then go on forever without additional effort and sacrifice – a perpetually free gift that we should take for granted.

They have to be fought for daily.

And while many of us believe that we must wait for ourselves and our situations to become perfect before we can champion what is important to us, we must remember that many who have gone before us weren’t perfect.

In fact they were far from it.

But as Mandela, Gandhi and others knew, if we don’t follow where our hearts lead us, the story of the dull and ignorant will become our story.

Is that what you want?

I didn’t think so.

The world is waiting for you.

What are you waiting for?

In service and servanthood,

Harry

PS I remember a song that came out in the 1980’s during some challenging times in my Life.  The chorus struck me then and I have never forgotten the song or when I first heard it.

“And when the night is cold and dark
You can see, you can see light
No one can take away your right
To fight and to never surrender
To never surrender” – Corey Hart – Never Surrender

We each have a song, a story, a quote or an event that inspires us.  Inspiration when felt within doesn’t mean much unless that inspiration creates action that touches others.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Alberta–Substituting Sex For Strikes

Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it. - Mark Twain

I was intrigued recently to see the Alberta Government table Bill 45, a law that will make it illegal for public service unions to discuss or plan strikes or even to suggest that one may be required or imminent.

Now in some ways the Government’s intentions are warranted, especially after illegal strikes such as the Alberta jail guard strike last year.

But is banning the mere mention of a strike an acceptable part of what we consider freedom of expression, something that we in the Western world are always trumpeting as that which sets us apart from other cultures?

Consider these excerpts from the Bill.

4(4) No person shall counsel a person to contravene subsection (1) or (2) or impede or prevent a person from refusing to contravene subsection (1) or (2).

18(1)(d) in the case of a person to whom or an organization to which none of clauses (a), (b) or (c) applies, to a fine of $500 for each day or partial day on which the offence occurs or continues.

Now consider this definition of providing counsel:

“Describes a person who, while not actually performing a criminal act, induced its performance or contributed to it.”

This appears to me to be a potentially perfect storm of legal complexity should anyone (MLA, reporter, person-at-large, etc.) make a broad statement regarding a strike which is then followed by an illegal strike itself.  If the person suggesting the strike has sufficient public “clout”, could that person be held liable for the event?

Maybe I’m seeing too much in this legislation.  Perhaps it is merely an intentional make-work project for all of those underemployed Charter lawyers who haven’t had something really complicated to chew on lately.

In the meantime, between now and the inevitable Supreme Court challenge, it is likely that the bill will pass and the word strike will be almost verboten.

If this happens, maybe people will substitute another code word in their communication in order to evade prosecution.

Let’s try it out using the word “sex” for fun.

If we could see over people’s shoulders as they write various emails, the emails might contain the following lines:

I’m so unhappy with things that I think that sex is the only way out.

I’ve sampled the membership and they indicate that they are ready for sex at any time.

Isn’t it awfully cold outside for all of us to participate in sex?

It is difficult to be productive when I need to consider sex every 3-4 years.

What is the current rate of sex pay?

So if our sex is illegal, can we be charged with anything else?

I support my brothers and sisters in their need for sex and will provide any help they need.

<<In an email from an innocent intern>> Do you mean to tell me that I have misunderstood all of your emails and that the book I recommended, “99 Recommended Sex Positions”, is not a book on negotiation strategy?

<<In an unrelated presentation, translated accidentally in a “global search and replace” operation>> It’s time to sex while the iron is hot.

I’m just being silly.

Or am I?

When parties are at odds, attempting to find common ground will build a stronger foundation for the future of everyone in the relationship and for other parties directly affected by the relationship.

For one side to automatically suppress the rights of others unilaterally because of an occasional bad event is not strategically sound, collaboratively sound, politically sound or possibly, depending on what the under-utilized Charter lawyers come up with, legally sound.

For those in politics, intelligence in the areas of strategy, collaboration, politics and legalities are necessary to create a sound future for everyone.  In addition, for those in politics, unions need not be their best friend but one doesn’t want them as an enemy either.

Otherwise, they  may not be in politics for long when people perceive that they are just being screwed (with).

In service and servanthood,

Harry

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Alberta Government, Privacy and the Weakest Link

The trust of the innocent is the liar's most useful tool. - Stephen King

Learning to trust is one of life's most difficult tasks. - Isaac Watts

The Wildrose Party of Alberta, the Province’s official opposition, revealed an email today written by Darren Cunningham, the Director of Operations for the Premier of Alberta.

Here is the content of the email:

image

In Question Period today in the Alberta Legislature, the Wildrose Party attempted to make issue of this email and the costs that allegedly resulted from the request made by Mr. Cunningham (as explained on their website here).

Frankly I don’t think cost is the issue.  A few thousand here, a few thousand there – it’s all chump change when it comes to government budgets and in truth, the Wildrose Party (and any political party for that matter) can be dinged for wasting money just as easily.

As for the notion of piggybacking political gain on the backs of the people who were wiped out by the floods this year in Alberta, it is a terrible thing to do but politicians have done this since the beginning of time.  If you don’t like stuff like this, then turn your back on most politicians.

However, there is something important here that I am surprised the Wildrose Party didn’t appear to catch and presents a larger concern to me.

It is the fact that this email identifies a number of people inside the inner circle of the Premier of Alberta, one of the most influential politicians in Provincial / State politics in North America.

And it reveals that one of the people identified in this email, the staffers of one of these people or someone within the IT infrastructure of the Government cannot be trusted with the confidential information that they are privy to.

Why it matters.

The Premier of Alberta has partaken in many government and corporate sessions where the details are private for a number of reasons – either politically, diplomatically, national security-wise or some other perfectly legitimate reason, including the protection of corporate or personal information.  Much of this information could be very damaging if it were released inappropriately or to inappropriate recipients.

What this leak reveals today is that someone within this inner sanctum or someone attached to them cannot be trusted to honor the trust bestowed upon the Government and the safekeeping of the complex myriad of information that the Government requires in order to be effective.

Until we discover who is responsible for the leak, any piece of information communicated to or within the Premier’s Office must be considered as a candidate to be leaked if the leak serves someone’s need.

It’s like whispering secrets to the local busybody.  It’s not a matter of if the information will be shared but when – if the gossip is juicy enough, of course.

That’s the great challenge in regards to protecting sensitive information in the modern era.  We can wrap as many layers of technology and legislation around it as we want but it only takes one individual with an ulterior motive to undermine all of it.

The money allegedly misspent as a result of the aforementioned email can be recovered somewhere and in the grand scheme of things, doesn’t even register.

However, I think trust, once misspent, is not so easily recovered and therein lies a warning for all of us to strive harder to protect it.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,

Harry

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Caring For Alberta’s Foster Kids–Room For Praise & Scorn

The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism. - Norman Vincent Peale

There has been quite a buzz in Alberta these days regarding recent reports of 145 children who died while in the care of the Alberta Government between 1999 and 2013.  To quote this article in the Edmonton Journal:

Of the 145 children who died in the care of the Alberta government between 1999 and 2013, 53 cases merited a public fatality inquiry or a documented in-depth internal review. When those reviews issued recommendations to prevent future deaths, there was no system in place to track them, or to ensure they were implemented.

Now in fairness to the Alberta Government and to all the agencies involved with this story, taking care of children, especially those who have lived difficult lives, has many complexities including but not limited to:

- the creation of effective programs to help these kids and their families

- the coordination of the many groups that work together to help everyone in need

- the addressing of child and family needs that are often specific to each individual

- finding budgets for such programs in fiscally difficult times

- the protection of the the privacy of the families and children who are involved.

And let me be clear …

THERE ARE MANY HEROES IN THE SYSTEM WHO LOOK AFTER THE CHILDREN THAT SOCIETY MAY APPEAR TO HAVE TURNED ITS BACK ON.

However ……..

I believe that the press conference that Minister Hancock held this morning was a tremendous strategic communication mistake.

Here’s why.

I got the feeling as I listened to the press conference that there was an attempt to claim the title of who was the greater victim – the children or the people who help them.

Some quotes:

[Reporting of these problems] "should not be allowed" – Katherine Jones – Alberta Foster Parent Association

“While it [the story] is true, it is hurtful” - Danica Frazer - Alberta Association of Services for Children and Families Executive

“We don't need to traumatize everyone working in the system” - George Ghitan – Hull Services

The Minister also noted several times that the focus of the media should be on hope and the great results produced and not on the problems that have surfaced.

Where does the media fit into all of this?

The media has been hungry to dig into this story but to be honest, this is what they do for a living.  When they do it for a cause we agree with, we think they are heroes.  When they do it for something we would rather hide, they are villains.

It’s all perspective.

Regardless of the bad news that has surfaced, it is true that the system has thousands of people doing great things for children who really need help and there are many success stories in the system.

Everyone who participates, either offering or receiving help, is a hero in my mind.

But people must never be afraid to embrace the criticism that comes their way or to deflect the criticism by suggesting that they are the victim instead of the real victims … the children and their families.

We must also never get side-tracked from fixing injustices in the world just because someone suggests that to focus on such problems is pessimistic. 

Correcting problems is not the role of a pessimist.

It is the role of an optimist.

Such optimists are also realists since they believe they can make the world a better place by acknowledging and tackling the problems as opposed to the pessimists who throw up their hands and give up or the people who would rather pretend the world has no problems.

And besides, most of us have learned that our greatest growth has come when we tackled our problems directly rather than pretend that they are not there or that they are someone else’s fault or responsibility.

I think now is the time for the heroes in our system (front line workers and the Government) to show us how they are going to make the system better instead of implying in official press conferences that there is a fight to claim the title of “greatest victim”. 

We already know who the real victims are.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,

Harry

Addendum

Much has been made of this cartoon:

I’m sure that it has offended many, including Minister Hancock.

But like many things, expressing an opinion as this artist did has a way of applying a cranial defibrillator that we can claim to be offended or hurt by when we should be using our aroused energy to actually find a solution to the problem at-hand.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Strategy - Have You Hired a Million Monkeys?

“We've all heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually reproduce the entire works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true.” - Robert Wilensky

I was asked to observe a group of people today who have been tasked with solving a particular problem but who up to this point seemed unable to solve the problem despite the amount of time invested in it and despite glowing references of their past successes.

After watching them participate in a fascinating but pointless stream-of-consciousness session for about an hour (I was asked to observe, not participate), I asked my client if they had ever heard of the one million (or infinite) monkeys theorem:

A monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time, or an infinite number of monkeys hitting keys at random, will almost surely type a given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare.

When they indicated that they had, I commented that they were observing the theorem in practice and that if they had an infinite amount of time, they would eventually hit upon a solution.

They weren’t happy to hear this but they had asked me to tell them what they needed to hear and not what they wanted to hear.

More and more often I see people and organizations attempting to solve problems using random execution with no awareness regarding end goals, intentions, objectives, resource availability, resource leveraging, environ concerns, constraints, deadlines, etc.   Many people don’t seem to know why these elements matter (despite their vehement protests to the contrary) nor do they seem to know how to create the strategic and tactical roadmaps that illustrates how one gets “from here to there”.

It is certainly not for lack of available information.  We are overloaded and overwhelmed with theories, best practices, methodologies, frameworks and the like for how to solve most problems.

The reasons for inappropriate or inadequate problem solving are many and diverse.  A quick Google search reveals a bazillion theories as to why such problems exist and how to compensate for or nullify them.  I can cite a number of cute sayings, expressions, theories and cartoons (I am guilty of having done so on occasion) as to why this problem is still so pervasive.

But for all the explanations out there, there is something that I don’t see enough people talking about.

It’s in how problem solvers are evaluated and selected

For many organizations, their quick-hit interview or selection processes don’t objectively determine whether the person or organization being considered can actually solve problems consistently.  A candidate’s past performance in solving problems may be based on luck or specific context as much it was on process and knowledge and therefore asking a few questions or asking people to fill out an exhaustive (or exhausting) RFP often doesn’t differentiate between luck and predictable consistency.

It’s like the worthlessness of many of the “top x under x” designations that many people seem to tout, impressive sounding until you realize that for many of them, their ability to win the moniker was based as much on how well they self-assessed themselves as it was on any measurable criteria.

And so the next time you are selecting candidates to solve large, complex or high profile problems, you can entertain yourself with glossy brochures, slick presentations, self-professed “intellectual giants”, worthless, pie-in-the-sky “what was the toughest problem you ever solved” questions, goofy (pointless) “who’s the smartest hominid in the room” questions, questionable “one size does not fit all” psych evaluations or massive but often meaningless RFP processes …. or … you can pick up one of your toughest problems, march it over to a candidate’s facility, throw it on the table and observe how they tackle it.

Doing the latter will often provide better insight than the former as to whether you are hiring problem solvers or a million monkeys.

If you think you don’t have the time to do this, you might be kicking yourself at some point as you wait for words of wisdom to emerge from the monkey house.  While your problems won’t be solved, the upside is that you can pay them in bananas.  The downside is that some people may consider you (and not the people you hired) to be the biggest monkey of all.

And unless monkey business is your business, I don’t think the downside is what you really want.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,

Harry

The Bottom Line

The quality and effort invested in your evaluation process must always be commensurate with the scale and impact of the problem you are trying to solve.  The crop you harvest is always reflected in the quality of the seeds that you sow and how you nurture them, not just the length of the growing season.

Client Notice

This blog was written with the encouragement of the client in question.  No clients were injured in the writing of this blog. :-)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Conspiracy Theories–The Economic Savior?

The world is in a constant conspiracy against the brave. It's the age-old struggle: the roar of the crowd on the one side, and the voice of your conscience on the other. - Douglas MacArthur

Civilization is a conspiracy. Modern life is the silent compact of comfortable folk to keep up pretences. - John Buchan

Whenever you're faced with an explanation of what's going on in Washington, the choice between incompetence and conspiracy, always choose incompetence. - Charles Krauthammer

I upset a lot of people with my blog post the other day entitled Obamacare–Harbinger of Doom? where I suggested that the government’s inability to deliver a simple system is a warning regarding its ability to deliver protection against more complex cataclysmic events, manmade or natural.

The second addendum attached to that post has really upset some people also, not because it’s a lie but because it reminds them of what’s going on in the world.

My apologies – while we live in an amazing world filled with mind-boggling potential, reality can still suck sometimes.

After a series of meetings this week, I got to thinking that we can turn a lot of our worries (real or imagined) into a real boom to the economy.

<<Putting my logic-based, analytical hat on>>

Think of what would happen if we embraced such worries and just ran with them, officially admitting that there is a possibility that all the risks are real and imminent.

1. A certain percentage of people would not be able to deal with the news and would not stick around.  They may suffer the same fate soon anyway (thinks some emergency preparedness people) and so their actions would solve a significant logistics problems for planners.

2. The news media, wired to report bad news or sensationalist items instead of useful information, would experience a huge upswing in media spending.  Instead of 400 useless channels on TV, we could have 4000 – all drilling bad news into us incessantly. They could even dare to ask viewers to pay for the right to be depressed by them.

3. A large percentage of people would go crazy for a while, probably rioting or committing other acts of violence.

4. Riot squads would be needed to settle down the populace and martial law would need to be invoked for a while while the wave of insanity passed over people.  Maybe then we will finally find out how our privileges are restricted as defined within Executive Directive 51.  Most of don’t us like Congress or the Senate these days anyway so would it matter if they were dissolved?  Since many (not all) politicians are out of touch or in it for themselves, elections would be seen as an unnecessary expense, with the money saved from banning elections being used for an awesome annual fireworks show instead.  The significant portion of people who don’t vote would also appreciate this more appropriate use of government funding.

But once realities set in and everyone calms down, we would see an economic boom in the sale of things like riot gear, weapons, survival shelters, personal survival equipment, SPF 50000 suntan lotion, real gold bars (not gold certificates) and extended shelf life food.

We would finally get around to building a massive asteroid deflection system, employing millions of people.  We could name it after Bruce Willis just for fun.

We could finish those climate control systems like HAARP (or is it mind control – I don’t remember). During the testing, a few nations will be fried to death by drought while others would be flooded out of existence but hey – they’re taking one for the team.  We can always remember them with a cool monument.

We could finally sell our nuclear stockpile to terrorists, knowing that the proceeds would help pay for the new nuclear protection dome that we build over each nation.  We would be impervious to the terrorists then anyway and we could start a new Truman-like reality show where we watch them blow themselves up. 

Think of the ratings!!!!!

We could also prepare for every natural disaster known to man and build every solution, driving employment levels to new highs.

Pharmaceutical companies would have a field day as doctors overprescribe medications to help all of us cope with this sudden success in society.  As Aldous Huxley suggested - "A gram is better than a damn".

Advances in medicine would also allow us to consume anything in unlimited quantities without fear of dying early from an illness caused as a result.  The fitness industry would be a victim to this progress since we would ban them as being counter-consumer and thus anti-progress!

We could finally acknowledge that one of the single largest drivers of increased Internet bandwidth is pornography and could make watching it mandatory to encourage research and development into a better Internet.

Speaking of making things mandatory, we would need to make sure that people’s minds aren’t too sharp and so in order to ensure this, we would make pot smoking and the playing of Facebook games mandatory.

And yes …. let’s not forget the potential boom in the tinfoil hat industry …. just in case.

We could even combine form with function – perhaps a nice tinfoil lining inside your favorite fashion statement.

And since we’re on the topic of alien invasions, don’t forget the boom in the personal lubricant industry, just in case the aliens don’t bring their own.

For the next 5-10 years, our economy would go ballistic, setting revenue records like we have never seen before.

To keep up with such an economic boom, we would have to print a lot of money and go insanely in debt without justification.  However, if you check our global resume, we’re already pretty good at that so it shouldn’t be too difficult to accomplish.

At the end of it all, our nation and the world would be prepared for practically anything, wouldn’t it?

Admittedly there might be an adverse affect on the planet’s ecosystems but who cares – we’re not doing much now anyway outside of talking about it so it doesn’t matter.

Once we have finished Operation Preparedness (every good project needs a strong, assertive name to rally people blindly), we would then be able to be audacious, daring anyone to come after us since we would be safe from practically everything outside of a natural, cosmic event.

Ahhhhh …. Life would be sweet as we revelled in the security of our brilliance.

<<Removing my analytical hat – damn – I didn’t realize I had put my sarcastic one on by accident>>

Sounds pretty stupid, doesn’t it?

Or does it?

Does it sound any more stupid to over prepare than it does to under prepare?

I’m not sure.

But I do know one thing.

This damn tinfoil hat sure scratches a lot. I wish we could stop thinking about Obamacare, the Canadian Senate, Rob Ford, global climate change and all of the other stupid stuff long enough to design a better one.

After all, priorities are priorities.

Don’t you agree?

In service and servanthood,

Harry

Addendum – The Umbrella Man

My friend Kevin shared this video with me regarding the Kennedy Assassination.  Take a look – it’s not what you think.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Obamacare–Harbinger of Doom?

Do you know how sometimes - when you are riding your bike and you start skidding across sand, or when you miss a step and start tumbling down the stairs - you have those long, long seconds to know that you are going to be hurt, and badly? - Jodi Picoult, My Sister's Keeper

The only relevant test of the validity of a hypothesis is comparison of prediction with experience. - Milton Friedman

As I watch the meltdown of Obamacare, I am reminded of the old “duck and cover” commercials in the US during the peak of the Cold War.  Duck and cover was a program providing people, especially children, with advice and guidance regarding the “right” things to do in the event of a nuclear explosion.

For those of you not old enough to remember the program, here is one of the commercials.  It is pretty disturbing to watch in its overly simplified response to the challenges of nuclear war.

 

 

Officials have since admitted that the duck and cover program was designed to provide people with peace of mind (idiotically downplaying the danger of a nuclear bomb while playing up the survivability of something that “could give you a serious sunburn”) and that it did absolutely zero to help people survive a nuclear war.

However, the program was useful because it helped people live in ignorance to the danger around them and the inability of their government to protect them from the danger.

What does this have to do with Obamacare?

Announcements today that the healthcare marketplace (a key foundational component of Obamacare) is only 30% complete after billions of dollars have been spent should disturb a lot of people.

People should also be disturbed by the news that the marketplace has already had its security compromised or is in imminent threat of being compromised.

I find it especially disturbing that post mortems indicate that proven best practices in the areas of software architecture and design, project management, project oversight, project communication and just about everything else were ignored or violated in creating the nightmare that the President is trying to make his way through.

After all, for those of us who have worked on much larger systems in terms of transaction volume, concurrent usage, security requirements and the like (where we were fined heavily by the government if we didn’t deliver as required), healthcare.gov is a relatively simple system to implement.

Of course none of this was known publicly until it was time to turn it all on and it didn’t work ….. at all.

Truth be told, there were plenty of warnings communicated by a lot of people that the system wouldn’t work. 

But hey, why disrupt a perfectly good gravy train for a lot of IT folks by disturbing the fantasy with a few claims of reality?  After all, there is nothing more of a nuisance than cries of “the emperor is not wearing any clothing” coming out of the wilderness.

Which leads me to more important things ….

When I think of a simple IT system that can’t be architected, designed, implemented or deployed properly, I wonder about REALLY complicated problems.

Problems like a response to terrorism.

After all, reacting to an event with thousands (or millions) of people, all reacting in different ways, all having different needs, etc. (basically a machine with millions of moving parts) is MUCH more complicated to figure out than a simple little healthcare marketplace.

In addition, unlike the needs of the healthcare marketplace which are fairly static and well defined, responding to a terror event would be very fluid, changing by the minute.

Because of the complexities involved, an emergency preparedness plan that addresses terrorism presents a very sharp double-edged sword.

1. You can’t reveal your response strategy in advance because it plays into the hands of terrorists who alter their own plans as a result.

2. You can’t reveal that if an event happens, most of it will be trial and error because you don’t want to panic the public (think “duck and cover”) and such an admission further emboldens those who wish to strike at our freedom.

3. In fairness to bureaucrats, you simply can’t invest in every possibility since the costs will quickly get out of control, you might tip your hand, people will complain about freedom infringement, etc.

4. Have you ever tried to practice a response with ten thousand (or a million) people who have no formal emergency preparedness training?  We’d probably injure or kill quite a few in the process (not withstanding the tremendous cost and complexity of successfully staging such an event).

With all of that in mind, people put together a few things and cross their fingers that they never have to face such a scenario.  If they do have to face such a scenario, they stumble through a response, sacrifice a few people when the event has passed (blame matters in political circles) and then quickly march out the political rhetoric of how we all rose to the occasion.

For many of us who lost friends and family on 9/11, we would rather have those people back in our lives rather than be praised for “rising to the occasion”.

So I was curious ….

I was curious about what emergency plans were in place for a particular place that is highly susceptible to an attack that, if successful, would have a major impact ecologically, economically and on the human capital in the area and for the nation.

I recognize that sensitive information wouldn’t be shared with me but I was curious as to what, if anything, I should do as a citizen to do my part before, during and after such an event since the likelihood of a successful terrorist event is high for the location in question.

Here is the response (redacted to prevent identification of the source):

The █████████ Emergency Plan (████) is a strategic plan that defines the Public Safety System, identifies the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders and very broadly details the procedures for coordination of emergencies in █████████████. It is not an operational plan, nor is it a hazard (specific or all-hazard) response plan. Within the ███ the department of the ███████ and ██████ (now joined with the department of  ██████ to form a new department known as █████████) has responsibility to monitor, implement and maintain the █████████ Counter Terrorism Crisis Management Plan. This plan, which is naturally a restricted distribution document, provides the operational and tactical framework for addressing human-induced intentional threats.

Which means that, like Obamacare, we won’t know what the plan looks like (or what our roles within it are) until we see it and the master architects of it won’t know if it even works until they throw the switch.

If the implementation of Obamacare, FEMA’s response to Hurricane Katrina or similar large-scale solutions are any indication of what we can count on when things matter, it reminds me yet again of the importance of self-preparedness.

After all, confidence in government’s ability to solve such problems relies on an organizational principle known as rationalized myths to sustain such confidence.  Specifically, we rely on logics of confidence:

Avoidance – barriers are placed between the information holders and the information seekers and the less information (especially bad news) that leaks out, the more confident that we are that things must be under control. Translation: If it’s under control, I don’t need to do anything myself.

Discretion – we trust a few experts who say that everything is under control and therefore we don’t need to examine things more closely. Translation: If he/she says it’s all good, then it must be and so I don’t need to do anything.

Integrity – the integrity of appearances are assumed, meaning that people or organizations with this much time, energy, money and knowledge assume that anything they do will be right and so they overlook their own weaknesses and mistakes. Translation: We are confident in our ability to deliver quality solutions, therefore you can be confident of the same and need not do anything to help us.

If that’s all I have to go on (and with all due respect to the many great people who are saddled and burdened with trying to find answers to many complicated scenarios) I think we need to do more to help ourselves so that if any significant event comes along, either at the hands of man or Mother Nature, that we are prepared.

The Affordable Care Act marketplace is not just a piece of poorly implemented technology.  It’s a sign that whenever anything complicated needs to be built by modern governments in relative secrecy, we may not know if we can rely on it until we need it and by then it may be too late.

Well .. with the exception of military hardware of course. We have mastered the ability to kill others but are less adept in other areas.

It is for this reason that duck and cover came to mind today.

Have you done your best to help yourself, your family, your loved ones, your community and yes, your government (including first responders) when it comes to preparedness for events that governments believe are a “when” and not an “if”?

Are you sure?

How do you know?

In service and servanthood,

Harry

Addendum – The Complexities of Our System

Here is a 50,000 foot view of how technology is implemented in one part of the US Government.

Government Spending

Consider that each box has many boxes of its own contained within – hundreds and in some cases, thousands of them.

Consider as well that not only is communication difficult to maintain laterally and vertically between the boxes but in many cases, the boxes are actually competing with each other and are quite happy to see another box fail if their box has an opportunity for success – measured in budgets, accolades or other rewards.

Is it any wonder that things are so hard to deliver?

I would posit that anyone who can successfully navigate such a minefield and produce a useful result should be up for a Nobel Prize for “something”.

What do you think?

Addendum 2 – A Real Threat … Right Now

This video shows the state of the Fukushima reactor and what could happen if the fuel rods are removed incorrectly.  As one expert  indicates in the video, if things “go wrong” with the clean up of the fuel rods or if containment building 4 collapses because of an earthquake, she is evacuating her family from Boston, a city 6,560 miles away, as the northern hemisphere will be significantly contaminated by radiation.

Adding complexity to this is the recent announcement that the Japan Atomic Energy Agency has been cited for security failures at other facilities in Japan.

The question is this ….

What happens if someone decides to “make things go wrong” at Fukushima?

What would / should we do if an accidental or purposeful event occurs in Fukushima that significantly contaminates the northern hemisphere?

I don’t know what the answers are.

Do you?

In case you’re thinking that that’s a long way from home and too far away to be of concern, consider this report - U.S. nuclear reactors vulnerable to terrorist attack.

Then there was the debacle with the Stuxnet worm developed by the west to target Iranian nuclear installations and which I noted in June of 2012 in my post Viruses, Politics and Slippery Slopes would come back to haunt us.  Later in 2012, US power plants were disabled by malware not identified as Stuxnet but problematic all the same.  Russian power plants have also been attacked by Stuxnet.

When you are told that security procedures keep US nuclear power plants secure from cyber attack, keep this little ditty in mind – Homer Simpson would be proud: Nuclear regulators crack firewalls to access porn.

So the system is unable or unwilling to protect the people it serves.

How does that make you feel?

Do you even care?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

You Have To Trust Someone …. Right?

Let every eye negotiate for itself and trust no agent. - William Shakespeare

The #1206 “fiction” series continues …….

The President rubbed his eyes in the early morning hours as he shuffled in slipper-clad feet down the halls of the White House.  It was early on a Saturday morning and most of his staff had not yet arrived, with Secret Service being his only company this morning.

As he acknowledged the “Good morning, Mr. President” comments from the people he passed, he found himself looking forward to a reasonably quiet day, as quiet as any that the President could imagine anyway.

Stepping into the Oval Office, he noticed his morning briefing notes on his desk.  He sat in his chair and sighed.  “Always more paperwork”, he thought.

As he thumbed through the file, there was an urgent request from one Senator in particular, a Senator who had been a particular pain in his butt for some time. 

As his eyes skimmed over the latest rant from the Senator, his mind thought back over the last couple of years to the many antagonistic exchanges with this Senator.

There was the time when the government had established a connection between electronics, the heavy metals in them and cancer.  It was a proven fact and passing laws limiting electronics manufacturing had been a no-brainer.

The Senator protested vehemently to no avail.

The fact that this law targeted private storage medium such as hard drives, thumb drives and the like was purely coincidence but the Senator whipped up the conspiracy people  with an intention to block such the law.

He failed.

Passing laws requiring the mandatory returning and recycling of this technology had been a hassle as well but made easier using the contact information gathered in the healthcare legislation.

The Senator had yelled and screamed about this also but no one listened.

Giving citizens time to migrate all of their locally stored information to the cloud was also a nuisance but the pain was compensated for by the tens of thousands of jobs that had been created to help people with their data migration.

The Senator screamed much less regarding this when large contracts were awarded in his state.  “Everybody has their price”, thought the President.

In fact, the NSA, the EPA, social media companies, private industry and other groups collaborated in ways he had never seen before in order to get everything done as quickly as possible, with the NSA doing an outstanding job quarterbacking the entire effort.

“Maybe we’re finally learning to work together”, he thought.  “There is hope for us after all”.

The President returned his attention to the Senator’s note and his latest conspiracy-laden rant that with the capture of 99.9% of all privately owned data storage, the American people were putting their trust into agencies that were not to be trusted, either because of their own intentions or their inability to protect the people from the intentions of others.  The Senator also claimed to hear of rumblings of a concern that he needed to speak to the President about immediately and in private.

The President tossed the note onto his desk and leaned back in his chair.

“This is ridiculous”, he thought, “If the President of the United States can trust his information to the cloud, then surely the average American citizen can.”

Feeling agitated, he turned towards his tablet to fire off a note to his Press Secretary to address this matter once and for all.

As his tablet awoke from sleep mode, the President stared at the message displayed on the screen:

Unable to connect to the cloud. Please contact customer support.

Sighing in frustration, he pulled out his cellphone to call his exec for help.  Pressing the contacts button on his cellphone to find the right number, he was surprised to see a message appear on his cellphone screen:

Error: Unable to connect to provider.

Suddenly there was a knock at the door and an urgent voice calling for the President’s attention.

To be continued.

-----------------------

© 2013 – Harry Tucker – All Rights Reserved

Addendum:

This series, a departure from my usual musings,  is inspired as a result of conversations with former senior advisors to multiple Presidents of the United States, senior officers in the US Military and other interesting folks.

While this musing is just “fiction” and a departure from my musings on technology, strategy, politics and society, as a strategy guy, I do everything for a reason and with a measurable outcome in mind. :-)

This “fictional” musing is continued from ……

National Security–Arming Both Sides – October 30, 2013

Be Careful What You Wish For – October 27, 2013

When Avoidance Produces The Unavoidable – September 26, 2013

By Way of Deception, Thou Shalt Do War – August 30, 2013

Serving Two Masters – August 22, 2013

Growing the Rot From Within – August 6, 2013

The Coming Storm – June 8, 2013

The Master of Distraction – May 15, 2013

Living on the Edge – How Close Do You Dare? - March 29, 2013

Preventing A Disaster – Or Preparing To Survive One - November 29, 2012)

Divide and Conquer - August 5, 2012

Financial Crisis – March 11, 2008

There is benefit to reading those first (oldest to newest) but it is not required.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Will the Ignorant Inherit the Earth?

Blessed are..
...the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (5:3)
...those who mourn: for they will be comforted. (5:4)
...the meek: for they will inherit the earth. (5:5)
...those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: for they will be satisfied. (5:6)
...the merciful: for they will be shown mercy. (5:7)
...the pure in heart: for they will see God. (5:8)
...the peacemakers: for they will be called children of God. (5:9)
...those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (5:10) – Matthew 5:3-10

Anyone who has studied theology understands that the format of the Beatitudes is always the condition followed by the result.

After a conversation with a friend and business colleague today, I’d like to create my own set of anti-beatitudes that I refer to as the Anti-Success Beatitudes.

They are as follows.

Cursed are ..

… those who prefer fantasy over fact, for reality is inevitable and painful when ignored.

… those who think that the details don’t matter, for the devil is always in the details.

… those who prefer politics over partnership, for they will find themselves without friends when they need them the most.

… those who prefer obfuscation over clarity, for they will be overwhelmed by complexity.

… those who think that values, ethics and morals are inconvenient or fluid, for when all else fails, they are how we are perceived, judged and remembered.

… those who ride coattails, for they will find themselves naked and exposed.

… those who focus on the small and unimportant, for the ignored may become significant and critical.

… those who are ruthless, for they will find themselves without favor when they need one.

… those who prefer academia over Life experience, for wisdom comes from how knowledge is applied and not how it is cited.

… those who think that more process is always better, for they will find themselves owned by the process instead of owning it.

… those who hide their weaknesses or incompetence behind bravado or “the rules”, for they will be revealed at a time most inconvenient.

… those who think that excessive busy-ness is the mark of a winner, for they will find their productivity and Life-work balance diminishing exponentially.

… those who think that a packed calendar is a good one, for they will be owned by it and will suffer as they discover that what matters couldn’t find its way into it.

In the Beatitudes, Jesus promised rewards for those who could identify with the Beatitudes.

In the corporate (or government) world, much can be suggested about the punishment that awaits those who allow their team members to succumb to the Anti-Success Beatitudes.

That is of course, unless they fall prey to the worst of the Anti-Success Beatitudes.

Cursed are ..

… those whose ego is significant, for punishment awaits those who are unable to learn, to adjust, to improve, to share and to serve others because they see not the reason to.

Will the ignorant inherit the earth?

I don’t know but I have a fear that we are definitely trending in the wrong direction.

What do you think?

How do you know?

In service and servanthood,

Harry

Dedicated to P – who lives by the real Beatitudes and not the Anti ones.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Canadian Healthcare–Villains Amongst the Heroes

Who is to say who is the villain and who is the hero? Probably the dictionary. - Joss Whedon

Of the many gifts that my parents gave to me when I was young, two stand out.

From my mother, I received the gift of reading and the insatiable need for constant knowledge acquisition.

From my father, I received the gift of constantly asking questions, the need to understand the “why” of things and the need to never stop asking until I was satisfied with the answer.

Both gifts came together suddenly on Saturday past when my father was admitted to hospital in Eastern Canada in septic shock and renal failure.

It turns out that he was suffering from a retroperitoneal abscess, a massive, internal pus-filled infection that has a 75% mortality rate.

Thanks to the healthcare practitioners who quickly and correctly diagnosed this condition, my father is now recuperating, fortunate to be in the 25% and not the 75%.

I am very grateful to them for their quick thinking and the result.

But as my father taught me, after an event occurs it is important to understand why this happened so that it doesn’t happen again to my father or to anyone else.

Blame is not important but prevention is.

So a little due diligence produced this interesting trail of events.

Retroperitoneal abscesses are caused by a number of things including infections introduced via hospital procedures such as routine diagnostics or surgeries.  They are also caused by bleeding within the body, including bleeding from ulcers or micro ulcers.

A little extra digging revealed the fact that my father was on an anti-inflammatory medication for 17 years as a preventative measure against a bout of arthritis he had suffered years ago.

That’s like taking aspirin for 17 years on the off-chance that you might get a headache at some point.

I spoke to a couple of doctors about the use of this medication for this long as a preventative measure and they told me that it is simply not allowed.  One doctor, when I described the use of this medication for this long, replied with one phrase, that being (and forgive the language) “Holy Shit”.

One of the interesting by-products of this medication even in short-term use is the potential for the creation of micro ulcers and bleeding and the risk is especially heightened in the elderly.  For this reason, monitoring for bleeding is required although in my father’s case, no such monitoring was performed.

Hmmmmmm …. the plot thickens.

The documentation accompanying the medication indicates that it must be used in the minimum dosage possible and for as short a duration as possible.  I wonder what the risks are from taking it for 17 years.

Exploring the doctor’s background, one quickly learns that he:

- sought to put a 20 year old male on valium to slow him down because “he works too hard”

- once put a 22 year old male on Dolobid, Feldene and Orudis (all anti-inflammatory medications used for the treatment of osteoarthritis and / or rheumatoid arthritis) and aspirin simultaneously upon receiving complaint of a sore back and without any further testing to justify the use of the medications

- sent the same young male to the hospital a short time later with the diagnosis that he was having a heart attack (he turned out to be fine although the medical team that had been alerted weren’t too pleased with the doctor).  There are known complications from the previously named medications and heart and stroke risk although the connection was never made or explored.

- told a mid 40’s patient after placing him on cholesterol treatment medication that it would be easier to treat the patient if he weren’t an alcoholic.  The patient, a non-drinker, discovered that the initial baseline liver test that is required for this medication had not been performed and the subsequent liver test for monitoring abnormal medicinal impact indicated that the liver was seriously malfunctioning (a known side effect of the medication).  Without a baseline, the doctor was blaming it incorrectly on the lifestyle of the patient and the liver function returned to normal when use of the medication stopped.

- told a female patient that the pneumonia scars on her lungs as seen in a chest x-ray were in fact the signs of lung cancer and that treatment for such was imperative.

People are still emailing me their stories.  I think these are sufficient and are verifiable with doctor-written reports, hospital reports and prescriptions.

So, as a strategy guy who asks a lot of questions (thanks, Dad – it’s all your fault), I look at past performance as a predictor of current / future behavior.

And what I see appears to be much more than coincidence.

All that being said, we must not forget  ……………..

The Canadian healthcare system is filled with many heroes, people who go above and beyond to treat an incredibly diverse collection of diseases and injuries with ever-tightening constraints in the resources that they have access to.

Such are the heroes who saved my father’s Life this weekend and I am grateful to them.

In fact, I believe all Canadians should feel grateful to have such a healthcare system, one of the best in the world.

However, it is doesn’t help the heroes when there are doctors who are actually introducing patients into the system through carelessness or negligence that probably shouldn’t have been introduced in the first place.

Maybe a prescription of litigation such as is used in the US might cure the system of what ails it.  I’m don’t know as I’m not sure if the pandemic of litigation sweeping the US is actually solving anything or just making everything more complicated.

Meanwhile, the Canadian system won’t get better if we refuse to question the actions of a few bad apples merely because we don’t want to offend the heroes in the system, because we are told that we shouldn’t question anyone with more knowledge or authority or because we are told that we should feel so grateful for the entire system that to question anything is to be expressing a lack of gratitude for everything.

And it won’t get better in cases like my father’s when doctors will privately admit that this doctor made mistakes but will not admit so publicly for fear of losing their own jobs.

The bottom line …..

The best way we can help the healthcare system and ourselves is to follow the advice of my parents when they imparted these two key elements upon me many years ago:

1. Learn all that you can – in this case, about your health and any treatment options that a doctor insists you follow

2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions until you’re satisfied, even if it means offending someone.  A good doctor will welcome questions and dialog.  Open dialog brings knowledge and understanding, both of which strengthen the relationship and the results.  Only the weak-minded or those with something to hide will get angry or defensive when the opportunity for dialog arises.  Either are a warning that perhaps a second opinion should be sought.

I was raised to always be respectful of doctors and I am, recognizing the incredible knowledge that many have, the constraints that they work within and their raison d'ĂȘtre, their desire to heal others.

But I think one can have the deepest respect for someone and still not be afraid to ask questions of them.

What do you think?

My questioning continues …..

How about yours?

In service and servanthood,

Harry