Monday, September 30, 2013

Is Calgary’s Crime Rate Out of Control?

You can have data without information, but you cannot have information without data. - Daniel Keys Moran

I attended a forum last week between the two candidates for the role of Councillor (Ward 12) for the City of Calgary and it represented, at least to me, the sharp contrast between Canadian and US-style politics.

The incumbent, Shane Keating, discussed his family, his ties to the community, his record within the Calgary council chamber and his plans for the future.  He insisted on keeping the campaign above-board and indicated his desire to campaign on the issues and not by bashing the other candidate.

The challenger, Stephanie Kusie, opened by attacking the incumbent for allegedly producing no results of value and for implying that he was unable or unlikely to produce any results of value in the future.

To quote from her opening remarks, after her obligatory thank-yous to the host, the incumbent and the attendees, she said:

What I'm really excited about with this forum is that this forum, as Peter indicated, is about ideas but the truth is that ideas can be meaningless if there is no action and there are no results and I think that Ward 12 deserves better action and better results ……

And with those opening remarks, I knew that I was in for a contest between calm sharing of data and emotion-based, fear-laden rhetoric.

In essence, I was watching the clash of the Canadian and American political systems respectively.

Now in truth, anger, fear and indignation sell as I described here in Anger: Setting Yourself Up For Manipulation and as was so well described in the excellent book Trust Me, I’m Lying – Confessions of a Media Manipulator.

And the American political system, which Ms. Kusie has been immersed in for years as a diplomat and which I have spent most of my Life in, would be the system that she has witnessed the most in her recent history – a system where emotion over facts is used very effectively.

But I’m a data guy – not an emotion guy

As a data guy, I have noticed over the years that the more emotional a candidate gets and the more evasive they are regarding questions such as “why?” and “how do you know?”, the less likely that the candidate has any factual foundation for their campaign at all.

For example, Ms. Kusie indicated during the debate that there is increasing concern about crime and vandalism in her ward and implied that many constituents are becoming fearful of their neighborhood.

I was intrigued by this as I am active in the community and I wasn’t aware of any heightened crime concerns.

However, I’m a data guy.

So when Ms. Kusie tweeted this yesterday (along with the Facebook post), beating the crime drum again, I thought I would explore the statistics.



Since Ms. Kusie discussed or implied in the forum last week that in regards to crime her focus was on the crimes of assault and vandalism, I went to the Calgary Police Service website that tracks such crimes.

And since she named Cranston specifically in yesterday’s tweet, I selected the data slice for that neighborhood for the last 6 months (the largest slice available on the website).

Here’s what I came up with.


Choosing the crime stats she was interested in last week, specifically assault, attempted murder, homicide, robbery, sex offences (the personal attack categories) and vandalism, I came up with the astounding number of 13 violations for the last 6 months.

Is this a crime rate out of control?


But people without data need to fall back on emotion, fear and hysteria because that’s all they have.  Her tweet discussed “unreported crimes”, a subjective topic that can be easily hyped up in absence of real data.  It also implies that she has alternate sources of information that are not readily available to others.

Sadly, voters who don’t rely on data will easily fall susceptible to such a ploy.

Meanwhile when the tough questions come her way

Despite my requests for her to answer “why” and “how do you know” when it comes to her assertions and intentions, I received the classic response often provided by people who can’t answer to the data.

I didn’t get an answer at all.

Her website has this interesting opening line as to why she should be the choice of Calgarians in Ward 12.


When I asked her at the forum how she would make “Calgary the best city it can be”, in other words how did this line translate into measurable actions, she denied that it was on her website and we argued over it.

A week later, it is still there.

And I still don’t know what it means.

If I can’t translate rhetoric, emotion or “feel good” into a measurable future, I don’t know how I can vote for her either.

Now if she can convince me that the current crime wave in our ward is about to overwhelm us and she knows how to fix that, I might change my mind.

But somehow I don’t think she cares about data.

And so we become the classic paradox of the irresistible force versus the immovable object, with people like me becoming a major source of irritation that needs to be ignored, buried or neutralized.

The Bottom Line

I wonder if elections like this are a litmus test, on a micro level, of the future of politics in Canada.

Are Canadians still the type of people who care about the issues and who demand that candidates demonstrate how they will address the issues in a respectful way?

Or have Canadians fallen to the US model, where whoever shouts the loudest, appears to be the most intimidating and avoids answering the questions using data will be the winner?

I think this election will answer that question.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,



I have great respect for Ms. Kusie and anyone else who puts their name in the ring to run for politics.  It is a difficult, often thankless job for the candidate and their family and it takes great courage (in addition to other resources) to submit one’s self to a living, 24x7 “Whose Line Is It Anyway” regimen where no matter how well you do, half the people will not like your answers or results.

And we must never forget that good human beings run for office in every election.

However, even good human beings have to remain accountable in terms of what they are offering, what they intend to do for their constituents and how they intend to do it.

Rather than merely tear their opponent down, they should take their passion, wrap it around facts that have context for the voter and take that to victory.

We should be able to elect the person who lifted themselves up the most and not the person who tore the other person down the most.

Because when we elect the person who won by tearing the other person down, we all lose eventually.

If they will tear others down, what does it say about their ability to negotiate and collaborate – to “play well” with others?

And what does it say about what they will think of their constituents if our feelings or demands for accountability get too “inconvenient” for them once they are in office?

What indeed?

Addendum – October 1, 2013

For those who missed the forum, it can be viewed here.


And as a final note to close this subject, here is Mayor Nenshi’s thought on the concept of crime in Calgary.


Addendum – October 7, 2013

In an interesting back and forth with one of her campaign staff today, Ms. Kusie’s failure to answer questions was explained as follows:


to which I replied:


This is disappointing.  One looks for new candidates to bring in fresh concepts in ideation, expression, collaboration and execution.  Defensive or deflective postures suggest otherwise, either in the candidate or perhaps in the people who are advising the candidate.

The end result is the same.

The other funny thing to note is that for all the time these fine people have to entertain “intellectual exchanges” defending their candidate, they never get around to answering the questions. :-)

If I were running for office, I would spend more time creating alliances and less time creating self-perceived antagonists.  Life tends to be easier and more successful that way.

In closing, one of this individual’s closing comments strengthens my argument that facts and data are essential to dialog.


The author of this tweet is attempting to plant a seed of deception, lack of transparency or lack of honesty on my part by suggesting that I am covertly connected with her candidate’s competitor’s family.

When I indicated that I have no association with her candidate’s competitor’s family (I’ve never even met them), she tweeted this.


So emotion, confrontation and misinformation are fine from her perspective.

But when one stands up to this by demanding transparency, facts and truth, she withdraws from the conversation, citing issues with “the other person”.

As I said … disappointing.

One final addendum (hopefully) – October 7, 2013

There was an amusing moment that occurred later when someone from the Keating (Ms. Kusie’s opponent) campaign stated unequivocally that I was not associated with his campaign or his family at all, to which Ms. Kusie’s staff member replied:


With this tweet, there was a suggestion, as inferred by some people who commented on this tweet, that @NOYFB_Sith was the alleged son of Councillor Keating that I was covertly connected with.  I think people came to this conclusion because @NOYFB_Sith wasn’t part of the conversation at all but was suddenly named in the “conversation wrap-up”.

The funny thing is that he is not related to Councillor Keating either.  His hilarious response to this inference cannot be repeated here – it is a family-friendly website after all. :-)

Closure – October 8, 2013

I was grateful that Ms. Kusie reached out to me and apologized for my experience with a member of her campaign team, indicating that the person above does not speak on behalf of her or her campaign.  Time and actions taken moving forward will serve as evidence of the authenticity of the apology.  Almost 24 hours after that apology, the individual above is still self-described as:

Jeanette Marshall bio after Kusie said she didn't speak for her or campaign

Given that the person above initiated conversation with me claiming to represent the campaign as the social media / marketing advisor, this should serve as a warning to all people with public personas that our reputation is built not only upon what we say and do but upon what others claiming to represent us say and do as well.

Closure – For Real :-) - October 9, 2013

I see 24 hours later that this person no longer references the Kusie campaign on her Twitter profile but still does on her LinkedIn profile (perhaps in response to this blog).



It doesn’t matter at this point.  Damage to the campaign has already occurred, with people I don’t even know stopping me and asking me if I’m the guy that they saw on Twitter having “an interesting conversation” with this person.

Some free advice

It reminds me of the following key behaviors for any politician or their supporters to observe when in the public eye (not an exhaustive list):

  • You should always endeavor to guide the conversation without letting it get out of control.
  • If you can't control it, keep it positive or at least neutral.
  • Don't make it personal.
  • Don't let anything get under your skin – never let them see you sweat.
  • Never get angry.  It reflects poorly on you and may be used to your disadvantage as I noted in Anger: Setting Yourself Up For Manipulation.
  • Anything said on social media lives forever – remember this before making an angry or embarrassing comment publicly.
  • Seek to create alliances and not antagonists.
  • Never attack a voter or belittle their questions or efforts to obtain clarity or information.
  • Pursuant to the previous point, don’t confuse (intentionally or otherwise) a request for information with being attacked.  You may think it is a useful strategy but it can be leveraged to make you look weak or stupid.
  • You may invite a pile-on in social media if you attack others – don’t claim to be a victim if this occurs.  This lowers your credibility even further.
  • If the issue is dead, let it remain dead.  Don’t deliberately bring it back to Life, especially if the previous incarnation created problems for yourself or the people you work with.
  • Be aware of the Vatican Effect (aka the Streisand Effect as I described in The Voice of the Rebel).  Specifically, the Vatican Effect states that: The more noise someone makes trying to hide or refute something, the more Life they give it, requiring a closer investigation as a result (named after Dan Brown’s sudden success with “The DaVinci Code” when the Vatican set up a group to destroy its credibility). The traffic to this blog post had pretty much died down until this person’s actions caused a lot of people to revisit it – creating elevated readership and bringing unfortunate information back into the conversation.

Bottom line: We must always be careful of people who speak (or claim to speak) on our behalf.

The damage they produce may be irreparable.

Choose your support wisely.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

When Avoidance Produces The Unavoidable

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning. - Winston Churchill

The final installment in the #1206 "fiction" series ….

He adjusted his tie as he looked at himself in the mirror.  The years had aged him significantly, he thought, but the greatest worry didn't show.  At least he hoped it didn't.

It was September 11, 2019 and five years to the day since terrorists had executed a perfectly synchronized takedown of 113 civilian aircraft simultaneously around the world with shoulder-fired rocket launchers they had acquired several years before.  Allowing the Libyan rebels to obtain the weapons during the overthrow of Gaddafi had seemed like a good idea at the time.  So did providing training and similar weapons to the Syrian rebels a short time later.

It was also five years to the day that he had invoked Executive Directive 51, dissolving the Congress and the Senate and waiving the need for elections in America.  It seemed at the time that it should have fixed a lot of issues and should have made it much easier to govern a nation embroiled in turmoil … racially, politically, socially, ecologically, economically and emotionally.  The attack that day made everything seem so …. convenient … so easy … almost perfect beyond coincidence.


"If only we hadn't avoided the real issues then", he thought as he fussed with his tie again.


In a hot, humid, crowded room on the third floor of a run-down building in a bombed out city no different than many such cities around the world, three men stared at the 3D image projected in front of them, containing simulations of the biometric data they would need to penetrate the launch systems of US and Russian defense systems.

Manipulating the images with the help of their neural interface, they looked at each with the realization that they were about to achieve their dream.

They were about to go to heaven.


In the Vatican, the Pope sat and reflected on the message his two visitors had just presented to him.  They had woven together tales of chilling prophetic visions and unlimited hope, along with a promise and an ultimatum.

No one makes demands of the Pope, he thought and then, hesitating for a moment, he called his friend the Archbishop of Canterbury on his neuralphone.

His friend's image appeared before him, his gaunt, haggard face presenting a reflection of how he felt.

"Funny thing that you should call", said the Archbishop, "I just had the strangest two gentlemen here telling me ...."

As he listened to his friend's story, the Pope was alerted to a call coming in from a friend of his in Tel Aviv, and then another call from a Muslim colleague of his.

"One moment", the Pope said, interrupting the Archbishop, "I think we need to bring some people in on this conversation.  Would you mind?"

"Not at all", replied the Archbishop as the Pope conferenced in the other callers.

Within minutes, it occurred to all of them that two gentlemen, Yajuj and Majuj, had seemingly appeared to all of them simultaneously.

In each case, the same promise was made.

As was the same demand.

"So what do we do now?", asked the Pope.  “That which we have worked so hard to hide for centuries was about to be exposed”, he thought sadly.


In a brightly lit, modern office in Mountain View, California, a group of scientists stared at the streams of data that had suddenly started flowing in on their long range SETI scans …….


"Two minutes, Mr. President", came the muffled voice through the door, accompanied by a light double-tap on the door.

"Be there in a moment", he called back.  "I wonder who really cares what my tie looks like.  In 10 minutes, it won't matter anyway", he thought.

He looked down at the two stacks of paper on the vanity.  One was his speech to the people.  The other was a newly signed executive order.

He gathered them both up, opened the door and passed the executive order to his Chief of Staff.  "The Vice President must be given this immediately and I mean now", he said emphatically.

"Yes, Mr. President", replied the Chief of Staff, taking the document and promptly turning down the hall.

Secret Service personnel fanned out in front of him as the President walked down the hall towards the podium outside.

His head was swimming, unable to focus on anything.

"If only we hadn't avoided the real issues then", he thought again.

His eyes suddenly became fixated on the service revolver on the belt of the DC policeman in front of him.

"Metropolitan Police Department - A Monsanto Organization", emblazoned on the back of the police officer, distracted him for a moment.

And then his gaze returned to the revolver.


Outside the White House, the press corp waited impatiently for the President to make what was described as the most important speech in the history of the nation.

A speech that the White House had promised was about to change everything.

Suddenly, a shot rang out from inside the White House.

At the same moment, air raid sirens began wailing all around them.

And the sky was suddenly filled with a brilliant light that seemed to originate from nowhere and everywhere.

It was …. the end .... or was it the beginning?


© 2013 – Harry Tucker – All Rights Reserved


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. :-)

The series concludes with this installment.  I’ve enjoyed writing it but must conclude it for a variety of reasons that I can’t get into here.  Suffice to say that I am not permitted to add any other layers to this story, to avoid breaking covenants that I have signed and at the suggestion of a few “friends in the industry”.

And while it is just “fiction”, I hope it has encouraged you to think.

Such is the reason behind everything I do – I just want people to think.

This “fictional” musing is continued from ……

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.

Story Telling–Applying Personal Context to Data

As a long time strategy guy, I am the type of person who drives people crazy with questions like “why?’ and “how do you know?”.  I have always believed the idea that if the mere existence of a question evokes anger or other emotions in someone, then there is something buried in the emotion that warrants exploration. 

Sometimes when asking questions, what appears obvious to us may not appear obvious to someone else and it is at that point that the best, sharpest and most clearly illustrated data in the world just won’t convince someone of the point that we are trying to make.

It is at this point that we realize that if we don’t find a different way of making our point that we are condemned to an impasse, each side frustrated that they couldn’t “sell” their idea to the other.

This morning I attended a conference call regarding national emergency preparedness for a variety of scenarios.  After getting off the call, I had one of those moments where I just wanted to go throw up somewhere (not all of these meetings are gentle).

Shortly after getting off the call, a friend walked by, saw me, sat down for a moment and we exchanged pleasantries.

When she asked me what I was working on and I told her, it sparked a passionate conversation around her wonderment and bewilderment about why mankind seemed unable to embrace unlimited, unquestioned, unconditional love and trust in all scenarios – that to accomplish this would solve all of our problems.

It seemed so simple to her.

Try as I might to illustrate a response using tons of data and historical references (data is my life), my answers didn’t satisfy her questions at all and we were both getting frustrated with the conversation.

And then I explained it this way.

“Assume you are on a dark street at 3am in the morning and you are alone.  You see a large stranger approaching you in the dark.  What do you do?”

She replied “I blow my security whistle”, as she held up the whistle on her keychain.

Why?”, I asked.

“Because I am afraid he might hurt me”, came her answer.

“And why would you think the worst case scenario and not assume that he was approaching you in perfect trust and love?”, I asked.

“Because of my past history”, she replied.

And as she replied, the light came on.

Sometimes when you find that all of your glorious charts, graphs, tables, decision trees, logical perfection and everything else don’t seem to resonate with your audience, take a step back, pause and then find a way to wrap a personal story around what you are trying to present.

A story tailor-written to the context of the recipient’s Life experiences and not your own.

Because oftentimes the only thing that separates us from clear communication is the common context that best arrives in a good story.

In other words, we must touch the heart in order to influence the mind.

Have you touched any hearts lately?

In service and servanthood,


Monday, September 23, 2013

Government and the Death Spiral of Status Quo

Status quo, you know, is Latin for 'the mess we're in'.- Ronald Reagan

I would say any behavior that is not the status quo is interpreted as insanity, when, in fact, it might actually be enlightenment. Insanity is sorta in the eye of the beholder. - Chuck Palahniuk

Some say that I should settle down, go slower and not push so hard, so quickly for such transformational change. To them, I say that you misunderstand the size of the problems we face, the strength of the status quo and the urgency of the people's desire for change. - Eliot Spitzer <<Great quote – questionable origin :-) >>

Minority House Leader Nancy Pelosi announced late last week that there was no point for Republicans to demand more cuts in the Federal budget because “the cupboard was bare”.  The Republicans are countering with the opposite message – that there is a LOT of fat that can be trimmed.

Their claims are fairly typical of governments in Canada and the US, at the federal, state / provincial and municipal levels.  Governments are constantly singing the blues about the financial difficulties that they claim to be experiencing while opposition parties exaggerate the amount of excess that can be cut from budgets.

There is a slight problem with these claims.

They are for the most part a lie …. for the moment.

But if we don’t do something more strategically and tactically intelligent soon, they will become a very painful, unrecoverable truth.

Their claims and the studies that back up those claims are often supported by people who have everything to win by protecting the status quo.

Unfortunately, those same claims, while benefiting many in the short term, will punish everyone in the long term.

The waste is indeed everywhere

Having consulted to all three levels of government in multiple countries for more decades than I want to admit, I am astounded by the waste of I have witnessed.  To write stories about it here would take hours to read and would be only the tip of the iceberg.

But is it any wonder that the waste continues?

Think about the parties involved whenever someone demands that an agency be reviewed for waste or opportunities for improvement.  More importantly, put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself if you would act any differently than they do.  The people involved typically include but are not limited to:

  • the people at the agency who stand to lose their jobs if they expose too many shortcomings(would you admit that your job or the job of a colleague was superfluous).
  • the large consulting companies who recognize that if they are too critical of a government client that they may be cut off from a multi-billion dollar cash cow that rewards them quite handsomely.
  • bureaucrats who see change as a threat and therefore strive to minimize or delay change as long as possible (“Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status.” - Laurence J. Peter)
  • unions who are tasked with not only protecting their membership but in fact, are constantly seeking ways to expand their membership and their influence.
  • upper / middle management of the agencies being assessed who, having allowed something to grow more inefficient for years, now face personal criticism unless they can justify that not only were they not wasteful with resources but in fact “have suffered from insufficient resources for years”.
  • politicians who find rewards in ensuring that the status quo is not interfered with.
  • people placed in charge of change but who are totally unqualified to make the assessment or to implement the necessary changes (or possibly have a history of failure in this area but are selected anyway).
  • fully qualified people who select the wrong processes or data to analyze / implement change or attempt to bend the wrong processes or data to fit the situation.
  • people who insist on making changes in absence of the knowledge of what motivates people to change, especially within the context of the team being studied (there is no one-size-fits-all rule - successful solutions in one area may not automatically work in another).  << This is a critical, complex and often overlooked or misunderstood element that must be handled appropriately in order to implement change successfully. >>
  • people who are tasked with implementing changes but who have not been given the authority, resources (human, financial or other) or time to implement those changes (the idea being that the existence of a study is enough to keep most voters happy).
  • the inability to break the deadlock between groups that agree that change is essential as long as “my group” is not changed.

Now in fairness, we must accept the reality that the systems that we have created or which we have allowed to grow organically are much more complex than many realize.  Some would posit that the complexity of such systems has exceeded our ability to understand, guide or correct.  But they are that way because we have allowed them to get that way, much in part due to the parties I just described.

All that being said, what is the one voice that is the most important to represent and yet often has the least representation at the table during such reviews?

It is the voice of the citizen – the primary stakeholder whom the agency being reviewed exists to serve.

And while improving things for citizens is often cited as the reason for the study or analysis, when one applies measurable criteria to the study it becomes clear that competing interests ensure that they are often the last ones to be considered since they often don’t have a voice at the table (or their voice is not as loud as the voice of other parties).

So the next time you hear that the cupboard is bare or that another study is being undertaken to determine “efficiencies” that can be realized within an agency, take a look at who made the statement or authorized the study, who is conducting any analysis and who really stands to benefit from any downstream recommendations.

Because discovering who benefits from the analysis and recommendations will help you determine whether the changes being proposed (if any) actually benefit you – the most important stakeholder of all.

And when the wrong people benefit on a regular basis while waste and inefficiency continue to grow, there is ultimately only one measurable result that will be produced.

Do you care what that ultimate result is?

Do you care about the legacy that we are leaving for future generations?

Do you care about creating something better?

Good - what are you willing to do to create it?

In service and servanthood,


I'm not interested in preserving the status quo; I want to overthrow it. - Niccolo Machiavelli

Addendum – Respect For Those In Public Service

I would be remiss in my duty if I didn’t share my belief that there are many great public servants and wonderful politicians who are truly doing everything they can to make a positive difference to their constituency, state / province, country and the world-at-large, despite popular public opinion to the contrary.

Balancing multiple (often conflicting) demands from a wide variety of people who believe that their needs trump everyone else’s is very difficult to accomplish.

In addition, the complexities of today’s world are not easy to witness, understand or solve.  I have witnessed the disclosure of some information that left me shaken and wishing I hadn’t seen it and yet some people attempt to deal with it anyway at great personal expense.

And besides, if all public servants were truly dead wood, then the world would actually be far worse than it is.

So let’s celebrate, be grateful for and support the public servants and politicians who are actually striving to make a positive difference.

Because the only way we can create that difference is to collaborate with those who believe that a better world is possible – but only possible when we collaborate to create it and not hope that it happens by accident.

Addendum 2 – An Interesting Musing About Healthcare Costs in the US

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Alberta Health Services–In Need of a Cranial Defibrillator

When Alberta Health Services announced on September 10th that they were initiating a significant reorg of upper management as an initial step to providing better services to patients, partners and stakeholders, many people forwarded the report to me proclaiming it was either the best or worst report they had ever seen.

Upon examination of the report, I must confess one thing.

Without facts and data, how can you tell if it is either?

The report opens with its guiding principles (quoting verbatim):

  • How does this organization and structure further AHS in providing high quality service to Albertans, and secondarily in providing teaching and research opportunities to advance the future of health care in Alberta and beyond?
  • How does AHS provide teaching and research opportunities to advance the future of health care in Alberta and beyond?
  • How to ensure there is effective and enhanced collaboration between AHS and the Ministry of Health.
  • Serve as a roadmap for moving forward.

A very worthy but very broad set of principles, I thought, especially for an organization as wide, as deep, as complex and as important as Alberta Health Services is. 

The report then explains some of the symptoms that prompted the need for a study in the first place, including but not limited to (quoting verbatim):

  • The current organizational design could be improved to more directly support a mandate of putting the emphasis on service to people.
  • It is anecdotally reported that the structure is confusing to navigate for patients and the general public.
  • Community leaders have also expressed concerns that it is unclear who they should turn to inside the organization with local health delivery concerns.
  • There is more emphasis on corporate functions and responsibilities as opposed to clinical functions.
  • Each layer of the organization should demonstrate added value to AHS’s mission.
  • People should want to work in AHS, not simply be employed there because there is no other option.
  • It is not always apparent how AHS works complementary to and in support of the Ministry of Health.
  • It has been my observation that some staff in the organization frequently spend more time than is likely necessary or productive on process and crisis response including the preparation of briefing notes, background documents, media statements, etc.
  • Decision making activity and communication planning have to be focused on people and the overall mandate of the organization.

Whew … that’s a long list and quite an endeavor to undertake.

But then the report has a myocardial infarction.

It immediately proposes a new org chart, based on the principles of:

1. The primary focus is providing health care services to Albertans and secondarily to support teaching and research.

2. Working collaboratively with stakeholders and partners is essential to a continuously high performing health system

3. Any additional layers in the organization structure need to be justified on the basis they are adding value to the organizational objectives.

To jump to the end result without explaining how one got there is like watching the first five minutes of a movie and the last five minutes, leaving the audience to ask “What in the heck just happened here?”.  The producer and director know but that’s not helpful to the audience.

There is not a shred of data that demonstrates how the symptoms were measured nor how the org chart (and the associated firing / reorg of 5 / 75 people respectively) addresses the symptoms in a measurable “how do we know this solves them” way.

To justify the miracle cure, the report goes on to reference textbook-like quotes such as:

It is important here to distinguish between leadership and management – the two are not the same. AHS has a multitude of managers. Leaders, as distinguished from managers or bosses, are people who inspire others to be the best they can be. Someone others look up to as role models. Leadership requires courage, vision, and likeability.

Collaboration and cooperation with key stakeholders is critical moving forward.

For the record, leadership is not merely made up of people who inspire others to be the best that they can be or whom people look up to as role models. The Dalai Lama is a leader to many by this definition but probably wouldn’t have the foggiest idea how to run a health care system.  However, to get into a more valid definition would be to inundate you with more textbook quotes. :-)

The report then goes on to say that there will be reviews of strategy in the areas of:

  • IM/IT strategy
  • People strategy
  • Research strategy
  • Patient centred care strategy

But is the cart before the horse here?

I would posit that the strategies in these areas be examined first as part of a holistic “who are we, why are we here, who do we serve and how do we do it” review and then make appropriate org changes in order to maximize investment, execution and results in each of these areas. 

Perhaps some type of backward induction or backcasting process (click here for an example), starting backwards from a desired end goal to the present to determine optimal capital, processes, human resources, roles, rites, rituals, rewards, etc., could be used to create a baseline.  Existing attributes and processes could then be overlaid over these “theoretical optimums” to determine deviations from optimal, adjustments could be made, etc.  Very complex …. but very effective …. very measurable …. and very transparent.

      Otherwise, the completion of the studies planned within AHS (some of which use less effective “forward looking” processes or the even less effective, very subjective “justification” models) may require undoing / redoing the org changes that were just made.  In other situations, people may find that these studies become tainted as they become an exercise of “Ok – now how do we make these strategies fit into the present org chart even though the org chart should be changed to accommodate these strategies?”.

      How do I know what processes some groups are planning to use?  Read The Coffee Shop–The New Source of Privacy Leaks to find out.

      Then we have other worrisome ideas.  When I attended the Alberta Economic Summit in February past as I described in The Alberta Economic Summit and Tough Decisions, this suggestion was put forward:

      Heather Smith, President of the United Nurses of Alberta, suggested that many problems in Alberta’s economy would automatically be solved if we had more public servants – that bigger is always better. 

      So given all of this, it seems odd to invent a new leadership structure before one has all the data to understand what it is they are leading.

      The Bottom Line

      In the real world, leaders strive to run their organizations such that the organization becomes:

      • the investment of choice
      • the employer of choice
      • the provider of choice

      When a service is mostly a government monopoly (with some exceptions), it is difficult to accomplish these objectives and provide incentive to team members to accomplish such ideals.

      That’s not a call for a private competitor to Alberta Health Services.  It is just an observation of human realities and the fact that we are often at our best when facing competing forces.

      Goldilocks and Data – Not Too Much Or Too Little

      Add to this the complexity that when it comes to informing the electorate as to what one is doing to improve a government-provided service, one walks a fine line between informing the voter and overloading them (if the voters even care about the details).

      However, if we do things in the wrong order or in absence of sufficient data, it is difficult to determine whether the actions chosen will produce the desired outcomes.

      Add to that the fact that if we don’t demand supporting data (and full transparency in general) or pay attention to who really benefits as I mused about in Government and the Death Spiral of Status Quo, then we will never know if the right choices were made at all.

      And then we will never know if the cranial defibrillator being applied to Alberta Health Services is saving it or killing it.

      <rubbing the paddles together>


      In service and servanthood,



      When it comes to portraying something as salvageable or not, I recall with amusement, Monty Python’s “Dead Parrot Sketch” (warning: strong language).


      I’m not suggesting that AHS is not salvageable because it is a great organization, staffed with great people and it must be saved.  It just needs a little strategic and tactically intelligent assistance to help it reach its ultimate potential.

      However, I’m not certain that a report filled with little data is going to move the ball in a manner that serves the people, the organization or the government in a measurable, known-outcome way.

      However, to the uninitiated, it does have a sense of “feel good”, I suppose … a feeling that “things are happening”.

      Unfortunately, “feel good” is like writing a prescription for pain killers when someone has a broken foot while omitting the need to put a cast on the foot.  It kills the pain for now but potentially leaves the patient lame for the rest of their Life or needing much more expensive treatment options in the future.

      Addendum 2 – Past Performance

      I am on public record three times for reporting privacy breaches by AHS staff and AHS staff (including people responsible for monitoring such breaches) are aware of this. 

      However, no one has ever contacted me to specifically ask what was revealed, by whom and in what manner was privacy contravened.  I wonder if such a lack of urgency (something that a business would get on top of immediately to protect their interests) is indicative of the sense of urgency to be expected in the upcoming reviews.  I hope not.

      Addendum 3 – Competency

      I have received a fair number of emails asking me to describe my thoughts on the overall thoroughness of the report and the competence of the author (Ms. Davidson).  While it is obvious from this blog that I find the report to be disappointing, other opinions that I might offer don’t add to a constructive dialog that would benefit the process of enhancing AHS and the services it offers.

      There is an intriguing event currently developing at the Trillium Health Centre where Ms. Davidson served as President and CEO until December of 2011.  Trillium has recently announced that 3,500 patients are facing potential health concerns as a result of the misinterpretation of mammograms and CT scans by one doctor for the period from April 2012 to March 2013.   I wonder if Ms. Davidson had any input into the processes there (with its supposed checks and balances) that allowed this issue to take place, given that it began a few months after she left. 

      She was also a senior official with the Canadian Red Cross when the tainted blood scandal was being resolved in the late 1990’s according to this bio but curiously omitted from her LinkedIn profile.


      What would she have learned from these incidents that the people of Alberta could benefit from as a result of these incidents?

      Mistakes happen. 

      What we learn from them matters.

      What we share with others matters more.

      Tuesday, September 17, 2013

      The Difference Between Bad Luck, Coincidences and Poor Choices

      “Coincidence is the word we use when we can't see the levers and pulleys.” - Emma Bull

      “Destiny is a good thing to accept when it's going your way. When it isn't, don't call it destiny; call it injustice, treachery, or simple bad luck.” - Joseph Heller

      America and its leaders have been fraught with a lot of “bad luck” these days.

      When American citizens were attempting to get to the bottom of the Benghazi affair, then Secretary of State Clinton was suddenly overcome with a series of illnesses that continued until the clamour for justice died down and then suddenly she was well.

      When people were wondering about what was going in Egypt and were calling Secretary of State Kerry’s focus into question, his wife was suddenly ill with an unknown illness that dominated the press until people stopped asking questions about Mr. Kerry’s choice of priorities.  Suddenly his wife was much better.

      Yesterday as the President prepared to conduct a press conference to announce that our economy and its recovery still remained as mysterious and elusive as our ability to convert lead into gold, we had the tragedy of the Washington Naval Yard and amidst the focus on that, the President held his little-covered press conference anyway.  Few people heard the news of continued uncertainty regarding our economic situation or questioned why this important press conference wasn’t delayed out of respect for the event that was unfolding at the Naval Yard and so that more people could hear what was being presented.

      Enter the conspiracist

      Conspiracy people like Alex Jones and others cry foul over such things, saying that such events are intentionally orchestrated at the right moment to hide things from the American people.

      For the third of my three examples, this would be a deep stretch unless one considers technology such as that which I wrote about in Experiencing the Voice of God.

      We can accept that all of these events are pure coincidences.

      We can take the conspiracy side and say they are all related and be swallowed up in the resulting paranoia.

      Or we can admit that our world has gotten so complex, with so many events going on at once and with so many moving parts that it becomes impossible to connect the dots in the right order and with the appropriate inter-relationships …. if some dots should be connected at all.

      It also becomes difficult to attribute the events to things that we have done … unless one steps back and looks at them in absence of the ill-informed propaganda that our news media presents as “information”.

      Our world has outstripped our ability to understand it

      The events of the world have assumed a life of their own and have exceeded the ability of their creators (us) to control, guide or predict them.  It is driving towards its own end point oblivious to our desires and actions to direct it elsewhere.

      Don’t believe me?  Ask any politician what the impact will be of signing “legislation du jour” and they won’t be able to answer you outside of sharing their PR shtick.

      And while people proclaim that gun control will prevent events such as yesterday’s tragedy in Washington DC or that bombing Syria will solve that “problem”, I suspect that things will continue to get more complex and not less when one discovers that much of today’s legislation and diplomacy are more of a best guess than a calculated strategic initiative with known outcomes.  The fact that the shooter in yesterday’s tragedy had weapons charges in his past and was also known to have psych issues when he passed an FBI background check in order to buy the weapon he used in the shooting and when he passed the Navy’s background check shows that more process and legislation doesn’t automatically fix anything.

      Expecting things to get more difficult seems especially apparent when considering the adage “you get / attract what you focus on” and considering that the brunt of our government intellectual / financial focus is on military expenditures and the use of force domestically and abroad instead of improving ourselves in the areas of:

      • education
      • healthcare including in the area of mental health and disease prevention
      • the poverty divide
      • climate change
      • clean water
      • human population sustainability
      • the technology singularity
      • sustainable “clean” energy
      • healthy food
      • ** insert your own concern here **

      I left one thing off the list, that being the ever-increasing surveillance that is taking place around the world.

      Our leaders tell us that we need additional surveillance in order to be safe and to provide ourselves with an opportunity to focus on the detailed list above.

      I think those leaders have their cause and effect backwards … intentionally in order to justify the military expenditures.

      And there’s a reason for this.

      If we had focused on that list almost exclusively, we wouldn’t have enabled or created many of the situations where we now need increased surveillance for our own safety.

      However, the list of challenges I described has no easy solution or even a solution at all in some cases.

      And so we stick with the one thing that we do very well and which we can control.

      We build weapons.  Of all the things in the world, that is the one thing where we can predict the outcome of our actions and we are willing to invest the money to prove it.

      For the rest of the items, we distract people from the fact that we are not solving them by producing feel-good studies that prove nothing or we actively seek opportunities to use our weapons, highlighting a “success” (and a justification for their use) while distracting us from the fact that more important things are not being solved.  Some have suggested that certain individuals will sometimes seed both sides of an argument so that people will be distracted, consumed or exhausted by the debate over how to fix things, eventually giving up or concurring that the problems are unsolvable.  Sadly, I have witnessed the latter technique being used successfully by some people.

      Even when responding to Putin’s comment the other day that Americans shouldn’t be told that they are exceptional, a member of the US Senate responded by citing American victories in two world wars as proof of American exceptionalism.

      I posit that Americans are exceptional in MANY non-military ways – why is our only response to Putin’s taunt tied to military victories (and old ones at that)?

      Luck – good or bad based on perspective

      People who seem to experience good luck constantly do so because they have sown the seeds that produce such luck.

      Conversely, many people and companies who appear to have bad luck all around them discover upon closer examination that they have sown so much complexity and “bad karma” in their lives that bad luck is bound to return with seemingly greater-than-normal frequency and intensity.

      And just as in classic accounting where we balance liabilities against assets, the truth is that one person’s bad luck is someone else’s good fortune.

      So with the bad luck that America has experienced lately, it in fact is someone else’s good luck and is not entirely unpredictable.

      Whose good luck it is and whose decisions are producing the “bad luck” are the questions that merit a closer examination.

      The difficulty now is that we have passed the point of no return, where “the people” no longer have the means or even the right to question the priority of the people they elect and the seeds that they are sowing.

      Since it’s no longer the elected official that make many of decisions, chasing after them for answers will not produce much satisfaction anyway.

      And the sad truth is that pressing for such information may produce bad luck for the querent.

      But that’s only coincidence, isn’t it?

      In service and servanthood,



      A friend of mine who has served as a senior advisor to multiple Presidents of the US indicated to me some time ago that the events that are taking place both domestically and internationally cannot and will not be stopped and that what we should prepare for is the transition through the coming difficult times.

      The difficulty with this analysis is this.

      Transitioning through difficult times is only possible when one knows what the difficult thing is that needs to be navigated through.

      Otherwise, we are likely to experience a LOT of bad luck.

      Or is that also just a coincidence?

      Tuesday, September 10, 2013

      9/11–What Have We Learned After 12 Years?

      “There is something fundamentally unfair about a government that takes away so much of people's money, power, and personal control while telling them that life will be better as a result.” - Steve Forbes

      “Remember the hours after September 11th when we came together as one to answer the attack against our homeland. We drew strength when our firefighters ran upstairs and risked their lives so that others might live; when rescuers rushed into smoke and fire at the Pentagon; when the men and women of Flight 93 sacrificed themselves to save our nation’s Capitol; when flags were hanging from front porches all across America, and strangers became friends. It was the worst day we have ever seen, but it brought out the best in all of us.” –Sen. John Kerry

      As I took my morning walk this morning, I stopped and watched some young children playing at a local playground.

      It is a beautiful sunny Tuesday morning and I am reminded that it is almost identical to a beautiful sunny Tuesday morning 12 years ago that became the worst nightmare in US history.

      As I watched the children play and my mind replayed the events of 9/11, I reflected on what has changed since then.

      And I wonder what we have learned.

      Airline Security

      Despite the billions we have spent on airline security, including advanced screening equipment and reinforced cockpit doors, there are still easy ways to get bombs on planes as well as techniques that can force pilots to open the cockpit door and give up control of their aircraft.

      Our invasion of Libya also caused the “accidental misplacement” of thousands of shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles capable of downing commercial aircraft.  Many of these missiles are believed to now be in the hands of Al Qaeda-friendly forces.

      Ok … so we’re not doing so well there.

      International Relations

      On the international front, we continue to try random experiments with diplomacy in the hope that things will just work out perfectly by accident, with little or no knowledge or care of the downstream effects of our actions.

      Examples ….

      We embraced and even promoted the Arab Spring movement and watched it destroy proud nations like Egypt.

      Iraq and Afghanistan are no more stable now than ever and in fact, in some parts of those countries, they are more lawless and dangerous now than they ever were.  What did our brave servicemen and women accomplish there despite the great sacrifices they made for themselves and their families?

      Libya is now considered to be lawless and in ruin since we removed Gadhafi, with thousands of armed militants roaming the countryside and providing a training ground for tomorrow’s terrorist generation.

      The complexities of Syria continue to simmer, with the US government willing to engage in a military strike even before evidence was available as to who “the enemy” was and with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff admitting that he had no idea what the objective would be or what the downstream effect of a military strike would be.  Let’s not forget also that with Russia sending in defensive forces to back Syria, it wouldn’t take much to accidentally create a larger global conflagration.

      And so our random experiments with diplomacy are doing little outside of creating more countries that are unstable, something proven to be a breeding ground for terrorists.

      Hmmmm … we’re not doing so well there either.

      Meanwhile back home

      Meanwhile back home, our political leaders continue to brew a dangerous concoction that brings no peace to the world nor does it bring additional security to the citizens whom they claim to serve.

      And just to complicate things, the threat of domestic terror along the lines of the Boston Marathon Bombing is something that many enforcement officials have indicated is practically unpreventable with current laws.

      John Kerry’s 9/11 quote when he was Senator is wonderfully patriotic and yet conveniently glosses over the truth that decisions that he and his colleagues made helped draw the ire of terrorists in our direction in the first place.

      It would be like a fireman setting fire to a building and then running inside, saving the occupants and proclaiming himself to be a hero.

      The people who participated in the events that led up to 9/11 and who play games of random diplomacy get to enjoy security for themselves and their families for life while innocent civilians who care little for political, diplomatic and military tit for tat exercises pay the ultimate price.

      I think of my friends who died that day in the World Trade Center, including but not limited to:

      - Narender Nath, who saw the best in everyone.

      - Stephen Fiorelli, a Port Authority engineer who stayed behind to guide the brave first responders.

      - Eric Bennett, who was constantly helping and serving others as much as he could.

      I think of my neighbor’s brother who died on Flight 93.

      I think of my other neighbor whose office was across the street from the World Trade Center and who watched many of the people jump from the towers.  He was deeply impacted by the event and 6 months later was dead, having been so traumatized by what he saw that the images that replayed in his mind eventually took his Life.

      These wonderful citizens, fathers, husbands and Life partners didn’t give a rats behind about what our diplomats and politicians did abroad and in fact, because of national security constraints, couldn’t have known even if they wanted to.

      They didn’t sign up to fight any wars.

      They didn’t volunteer to be sent into harm’s way.

      And yet they paid the ultimate sacrifice anyway but have “the honor” of being publicly named at patriotic memorials every year.

      I wonder if part of the problem is that once our leaders transformed from being those who lead people into battle into those who send people into battle, they become less aware of the real impact of their choices on the innocent.

      If our leaders started losing their own loved ones as a direct result of their actions, perhaps they might have an incentive to think and act differently when it comes to the decisions they make. << Dear NSA.  That is an observation and not a threat. Stand down. >>


      Why we remember 9/11

      Someone asked me recently why we bother to remember the events of 9/11 and suggested that perhaps we should let it fade into the past and allow healing to take place.

      The problem is that when we forget the events that led up to 9/11, we release from accountability those who have helped create it and those who continue to stoke the fire for the next big event.

      An event that will probably once again exempt those who helped architect or contribute to it while sacrificing those who have nothing to do with it.

      An event that we will claim took us by surprise.

      An event that will draw a revenge response on our part.

      An event that will add more names of the innocent to the lists that we read during patriotic memorial events.

      We all play a role in this

      We are not without responsibility in how 9/11 came to pass nor are we without responsibility for preventing such events from occurring in the future.

      How we responded to Syria is an indicator that we haven’t learned a damned thing .… yet.

      And until we start learning something from that painful day on 9/11, we must accept that the lives of those lost were indeed sacrificed in vain and that we are potentially worse off and in a more precarious situation than ever.

      Meanwhile back at the playground

      As my mind returns to the children in the playground, I think about the people who worry about the color of their next iPhone or whether their designer coffee has a little too much “whatever” in it and I wonder.

      If we spent more time focusing on what is right for the next generation and not what is right for ourselves, I think we would realize the right thing to do, whether it’s in the selection of our leaders or how we hold our leaders to be accountable  in regards to domestic and foreign policy.  We would also know what our own responsibilities are for co-creating a stronger potential for future generations.

      I think that the events of the world, while seeming to be chaotic and disturbing, are that way because someone benefits from allowing this to happen or from creating such an environment.  Sometimes the list of those who benefit is not always obvious as Esquire magazine generated extra web traffic this morning by showing this outrageous picture.  The picture is of an unknown man falling to his death from the World Trade Center on 9/11 accentuated with tasteless text added by Esquire.

      I think that we need to work harder to be the voice for those who don’t have one (or don’t believe they do), to offer a hand-up to those who have stumbled, to show love to those who feel that love has abandoned them, to stand up for those who feel overcome by the world and to be the champion for those who seek someone to look up to.

      I think that we need to work harder at being the light that lights someone else’s path.

      I think that we need to work harder at being the salt that seasons the Earth and the great variety of Life that exists on it.

      I think that we need to share more with those who have less.

      I think that we need to help others follow their dreams as we need others to help us follow ours.

      I think that we need to move beyond labels that differentiate us and seek the things that unify and unite us.

      I think that we need to model the behavior that we want to see in future generations.

      I think that we need to try harder to live every day as if it might be our last …. because eventually that does become our reality.

      And finally, even as an optimist I think that the world only gets better when we make a choice to make it that way, that a world of unlimited potential doesn’t happen by accident. 

      While it would be great to write a heart-tugging, peace-and-love-overcomes-everything blog, history teaches us that the world and humanity don’t work this way.

      Or can I be proven wrong?

      I would like to be.

      What do you think?

      In service and servanthood,


      Addendum – September 11, 2013

      In the days that followed 9/11, I found myself repeatedly playing a song by Styx.

      The song came to mind again this morning.  Here it is …. “Show Me the Way”.

      Monday, September 9, 2013

      Politics–Converting a No Into a Yes

      It does not take a majority to prevail... but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men. - Samuel Adams

      The average voter has to hear a point seven times before it registers. - Paul Weyrich

      The political and media fight to convince Americans to attack Syria continues unabated, being driven by passionate pleas from President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry.

      Since many people thought that their initial reaction to reject the strike seemed like a no-brainer, many have wondered why the appeal to attack Syria has not only continued unabated but appears to have escalated.

      They forget that politicians are using a tried-and-true technique that commonly turns a passionate “no” into an equally rabid “yes”.

      Here is what the process looks like (click on the image for a larger version of it).


      It’s an iterative battle, with each proposal using information gleaned from the previous rejection and playing on people’s emotions as I wrote about in Anger: Setting Yourself Up For Manipulation

      Occasionally, if the message recipient is particularly resistant to the message, more than one iteration may be necessary within each of the steps shown above.  In addition, some steps may occasionally have to be revisited if something new is added to the message that introduces resistance that was not previously expressed by the message recipient.

      Each proposal not only factors in the responses from the previous proposal but includes a lot of additional information that is misleading or which overloads the recipient so that they cannot create the space necessary to properly evaluate the proposal before them.

      Each iteration also gets more complex, the stakes get higher and the deadlines become more critical (at least as suggested by the politician).

      It is a battle of attrition … one which the average citizen eventually loses (most times, not all) because they don’t have the resources to keep fighting, the information to make an intelligent choice, the time to keep fighting or because they are so worn out just trying to survive their own battles that they don’t have the energy to fight something which they have become convinced is not a big deal to them anyway.

      Such techniques are not limited to the Syria issue.

      In fact, it’s the common technique that politicians use to bring you to their viewpoint instead of the other way around, the latter being a more appropriate, more effective form of representation “for the people, by the people”.

      Who will win the battle?

      It depends on how badly each side wants to win their side of the argument and whether or not someone else enters the conversation with an idea that either works for all parties involved or derails the original intention of one side or the other.

      What side of the battle are you on?

      Would you recognize the signs that the other side is changing your position even if it against your fundamental beliefs?

      Are you sure?

      In service and servanthood,


      Addendum – September 9, 2013 – Resisting the Cycle

      I would be remiss in my thoughts if I didn’t share a brief musing on resisting the cycle described in this blog.

      Many people are susceptible to the traps described in this blog because they respond with emotion (not to be confused with passion) instead of data / facts.

      If one responds with requests for data / facts (or responds with data / facts to challenge the original assertions), one has a better opportunity to get to truths and to be able to make effective choices based more on truth and less on emotion.

      People who hide behind “everyone knows this”, “it’s protected under national security” or something similar or who respond to data or requests for data with sharp emotion don’t have facts.

      When they don’t have facts, they aren’t worthy of your time, your influence or your support.

      And when you can use their own data against them, that’s even better.

      It reminds me of the apocryphal story of the man who was solicited in the mail by a fraudulent evangelist who promised that for every $100 that the man sent to the evangelist, God would reward him in kind with 7x the donation from unexpected sources.

      The man wrote on the donation card “If you truly believe that God rewards people in this way, why don’t you send me $100 a month and you will receive $700 as you describe”.

      He never heard from the evangelist again.

      Friday, September 6, 2013

      The Alternate Reality of Politicians

      Divide and rule, the politician cries; unite and lead, is watchword of the wise. - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

      A hypocrite is the kind of politician who would cut down a redwood tree, then mount the stump and make a speech for conservation. - Adlai E. Stevenson

      I have always been fascinated by the alternate reality that politicians live in.

      Take for example, The Minister of Municipal Affairs in Alberta, the Honorable Doug Griffiths.

      When asked to comment on Opposition Leader Danielle Smith’s plans to hold a town hall to once again express anger over the RCMP and their seizure of weapons in flood-ravaged High River, Alberta, he made an interesting faux pas when he said:

      “I am sick and tired of people like her going around trying to blame people when we’re still trying to rebuild the community. It’s fucking embarrassing.”

      One of the rules of politics (and business) is that you never let your opponent see you sweat.  As the Opposition Leader, Ms. Smith is paid to represent her constituents, lead her party AND get under the skin of the government.

      When a member of the government drops the f-bomb as a result of her actions, the Opposition Leader can only think “mission accomplished – what else can I do to to continue this momentum?”

      In addition, in the business world, such words issued against a colleague would immediately motivate HR to investigate – requiring an apology at best or other disciplinary action, including termination.

      This rarely happens in the political world.  Even when an Alberta member of government was found to be using his government influence for the benefit of his own company, he was found to be guilty of unethical behavior but not illegal.

      I guess it comes down to realities and rationalization. :-(

      And finally, we are always loudly trumpeting anti bullying / anti intimidation legislation, especially legislation designed to create a better world for children.

      But it doesn’t matter how much legislation we pass to encourage people to treat others with respect.

      People model what they see

      Unfortunately, politicians can pass legislation that promotes one idea while living another and not see the difference between them.

      Meanwhile in High River …..

      Ms. Smith held another town hall in High River where angry residents had another opportunity to vent the anger they have vented repeatedly, the only difference being that this time, they had an opportunity to vent it towards representatives of the RCMP.

      The reasons for their anger have been documented and expressed many times since June so I’m not certain that another round of yelling and screaming “moves the ball”.

      In the real world, upon first capturing the essence of a problem, a problem solver says “I hear you loud and clear.  I will do what it takes to get this resolved and will report periodically on progress or ask for your opinion should we reach a point where decisions needs to be made”.

      But in the political world, while Ms. Smith may have taken some actions on behalf of her constituents, she is still focused on the importance of whipping up anger.

      The time for anger has passed.

      What matters now is focus on execution and results that benefit the people of High River.

      Continued anger and outrage in lieu of results only benefits the politician who encourages it.

      In the real world, anyone who has their marching orders but continues to convene meetings to revisit their marching orders will cause people to think:

      • Did this person not hear us the first time?
      • Does this person not know how to solve this problem?
      • We have already expressed our anger over this – why does this person want us to keep revisiting our anger instead of solving the problem?
      • Why are we wasting our time rehashing everything we already know?
      • If we meet enough times, maybe we need to turn our attention to the person who keeps reconvening us.

      But this is not the real world.

      This is politics, where anger and obfuscation are often more useful than results, as I posited here - Anger: Setting Yourself Up For Manipulation.

      Ms. Smith knows what the issues are, she knows the anger that is simmering amongst the citizens and she knows what is at stake.

      All that is left are measurable results that benefit citizens – the bane of many politicians.

      And speaking of producing measurable results that benefit citizens ….

      President Obama is insisting on the need to perform a military strike against Syria when he, John Kerry and their many political and military advisors cannot publicly identify the actual threat to America, the benefit to America in carrying out the attack or the downstream ramifications of what might happen should an attack be launched.

      And as I listen to them play chess with our safety and our lives yet again, I think of the 15 close friends that I lost in the World Trade Center almost 12 years ago and the thousands of loved ones who were lost on that day and in the wars that followed.

      When politicians use our security, our well being and our lives in the grand scheme of the strategy game they are engaged in, they do it with lots of upside and little downside … for themselves.

      My friends cared little for the political, diplomatic and military tit for tat exercises that ultimately produced their death.

      Meanwhile, the people who participated in the events that led up to 9/11 have moved on to bigger and better things, safe behind the security only available to those who play God with the lives of others.

      The bottom line

      The greatest challenge in our world is that the definitions of reality in the real world and the political world will continue to diverge until all politicians are forced to live the realities that they create for others.

      Only then will they realize what needs to be done and how quickly it needs to be done in order to create a better world for everyone.

      As James Freeman Clarke once said:

      A politician thinks of the next election. A statesman, of the next generation.

      In service and servanthood,



      Minister Griffiths has apologized for his use of the f-bomb as noted earlier.

      Thursday, September 5, 2013

      Experiencing the Voice of God

      When you are in tribulation and all these things come upon you, in the latter days you will turn to the Lord your God and be obedient to His voice.  - Deuteronomy 4: 30

      Today I had an opportunity to experience the Voice of God.

      No, it was not THE Voice that many seek in times of trial and tribulation nor was it the quiet voice that consoles those with a troubled Spirit.

      This one was of manmade origins and after signing the longest NDA in my long career, I had an opportunity to witness it in operation.

      I entered the demo as a sceptic.

      I left the demo both amazed and disturbed.

      I guess the dominant feeling depends on who I thought would use the technology and with what motivation and intention.

      While not permitted to describe the exact technology (ha – like I could even try) or the nature of the demo I witnessed, for those who aren’t aware, technology exists to beam a message into someone else’s head.

      It can be done without the knowledge of anyone other than the targeted recipient of the message.

      The recipient is not necessarily aware that the message is originating from outside their mind instead of inside it.

      The message can be made to sound like it is originating from a trusted source – a loved one, a friend …. or in some cases, God Himself.

      And it is almost free of side effects, with “only” a few participants reporting that they have experienced light seizures or small strokes after participating.

      But as I was assured by the person conducting the demo, it cannot be proven conclusively that the technology itself produced the subsequent health issues.

      Uh huh.

      Ohhhhhh the potential

      Think of the potential (assuming that the device is in fact not frying people’s minds) if the technology is allowed to develop, getting smaller, become more advanced, etc.

      1. Communication could get even more interesting, dispensing of the need to actually “hear” a conversation or risk a sensitive conversation being overheard.  Never again will we have to yell at the kids to turn the TV volume down since the sound would be beamed right into our head!

      2. People who are terminally ill or in a coma could have soothing messages playing in their mind.

      3. Children who feel afraid could hear the soothing voice of a parent telling them they are ok or giving advice in times of danger, generated by a device on the child’s belt that knows when the child senses fear.

      4. Education could be sped up, with new knowledge flowing into our brains all the time - perhaps even context or situation dependent.

      5. We could have projectile/explosive-free containment of hostile forces, becoming very useful for law enforcement, the military, etc.

      6. One of the researchers I spoke to has been monitoring brain research with an eye towards figuring out at some point how to integrate some kind of signal that can inject images into someone’s mind (although they are a long ways from this yet).

      Wow – dreams on demand ….. hopefully not against one’s will.

      It’s all wonderful, isn’t it?

      But then I think of the other side of the coin.

      1. Advertisers shooting incessant messages to consume into our mind.

      2. Politicians shooting self-promotion shtick into our minds during an election campaign.  Uggg … imagine if Anthony Weiner got his hands on this technology.

      3. Business competitors sabotaging each other with inappropriate content.

      4. The inability to walk away from “noise” just to find a place to sit and contemplate things.  We would need to make use of electronic “dead rooms” in order to create such quiet. A quiet “walk in the woods” mightn’t be quiet any more or it might be “enhanced”, with super HD-quality sounds of nature being fired into our brains to enhance our experience.

      5. Pharmaceutical companies proving that you need the latest schizophrenia medication because you can’t make the voices in your head go away.

      6. False memories being injected into someone’s head as the technology improves, making it easier to build consensus or incriminate the innocent.

      7. Government leaders convincing their citizens that the controversial step they are about to take is actually very good for everyone – merely with the push of a button.  Can anyone say Syria?

      8. Nations launching a new form of cyber warfare, directed at the minds of the citizens of an enemy nation or at the minds of the people who control their defense systems.

      It would be like a person growing up in a small town in the deep South of the US and suddenly being transported to Manhattan during rush hour – experiencing a super energetic ballet of humanity and its potential or instant mayhem, chaos and madness.

      Hmmm …. maybe those tinfoil hat guys are onto something.

      Tin Foil Hat Guy

      Hmmmm … maybe not.

      The bottom line

      The bottom line with this technology is that it is amazing but then it reminds me of our research into splitting the atom.

      When we split the atom correctly, we get relatively clean electricity forever (the conundrum of safe disposal of  spent fuel rods not withstanding).

      When we do it poorly, we get Fukushima and Chernobyl.

      And when we use the technology maliciously, we get Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

      I wonder which way we will go with the technology that I witnessed.

      I know what I would like to see.

      But human history, in all its potential, seems to make different choices when it comes to converting cool, amazing things into the tools of warfare.

      Hopefully the human race will go out of character when it comes to this technology.

      Otherwise, I suspect that a lot of people may at some point be praying in earnest, aching to hear the real Voice of God.

      If they are able.

      In service and servanthood,


      Addendum – September 17, 2013

      After the disturbing tragedy that occurred at the Washington Naval Yard yesterday, this interesting item was in the news today - Navy Yard shooter reported hearing voices 6 weeks before spree, police say.

      Particularly interesting was this comment attributed to the assailant some weeks ago after he called police to come to his hotel room:

      “Alexis told police that the three talked to him through the walls, floor or ceiling at three hotels — two commercial hotels in Rhode Island and one on a naval base there. He told them that they used a microwave machine to send vibrations and keep him awake.”

      Are these the worries of a madman with a known mental health concern or are they something else?

      The technology exists to accomplish this which doesn’t automatically imply that such technology was used.

      Sadly, many truths disappear when a perpetrator is killed or takes his own Life.