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.


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:


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 …


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,



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.


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,


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,


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,


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.


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,


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,


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:


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,