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Bureaucracy as a Political Coalition

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...one can generally infer the actual intent of a system
 by assuming that a surviving system is providing
desirable functions to those who decided to create it.

Bureaucracies are systems of power -- social organizations whose purpose is to control material, informational, and especially human resources.

And as such they very quickly deviate from stated external goals replacing them with internal goals of top bureaucrats.

One way to view corruption is to see it as the way of getting something that should not be for sale by those who have the legal status as trustees of persons or property:

“The corrupt buy or sell what was not supposed to be for sale – a vote, for example, or public property. They turn to personal advantage their legal status as trustees of persons or property. Or they grant only to a privileged few what is purportedly available to all or available only through open and fair competition.”

This represents corruption of the worst kind, corruption of institutional purpose. If you think about it "turning official position into source of personal advantages" is the essence of behavior of bureaucrats. In a way this is immanent feature not a deviation. So the legitimate question is "How do modern organizational forms permit it, and what do they do to deter it?" not "How to eliminate it?" The latter is naive.

In one of his earlier writings, Karl Marx described bureaucracy like this:

"The principle of its knowledge is...authority, and its mentality is the idolatry of authority. But within bureaucracy the spiritualism turns into crass materialism, the materialism of passive obedience, faith in authority, the mechanism of fixed and formal behavior, fixed principles, attitudes, traditions. As far as the individual bureaucrat is concerned, the aim of the state becomes his private aim, in the form of the race for higher posts, of careerism."

Any large enterprise or a department in a large corporation should be viewed as a political coalition, not merely as a functional unit that produces specific type of goods or serves. Typical case of autocratic manager ("kiss up kick down") is just one political form: monarchy reproduced in the firm with all typical attributes (court of sycophants, etc). That means that the fundamental assumption that large public firms maximize profits "as if" an individual owner/decision maker was running the firm is deeply, fundamentally wrong in case of bureaucratic organizations. They behave quite differently. In a large public company conflict exists on several levels:

  1. Managerial vs. shareholder compensation vs. survivability and the future of the firm,

  2. Short-run vs. long-run goal setting (intersects with (1) especially if options are used for managerial compensation). ,
  3. Conflict between the labor and management, recently fought in the area of outsourcing.
  4. Hijacking of management ranks by sociopaths and authoritarian individuals.

If we view the public business firm as a Political Coalition it is clear that the firm’s executive is like a party leader. “His problem …[is] to select a coalition so as to maximize the difference between the demands of his coalition members and the potential return from the environment of the coalition.” [March, p. 674.

Important concept here is the concept of the minimum-winning coalition. It is related to situation in US Senate: when building a coalition in Senate, it is important not to give away more than needed for 51 votes.

The book Bureaucratic Phenomenon by Crozier's  was a landmark in the development of both the sociology of organizations and the study of French society in the 1960s. He analkysed the role of trade unions in the US and France during the cold war.

This led to his main cultural finding that in bureaucracies exists the fear of face-to-face communication. And it requires impersonal mediation to avoid confrontation with those in authority.  That's why number of layers of management never reflects that real necessities of the organization.


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[Aug 29, 2017] New York Police scrap 36,000 Windows smartphones

The story is probably more complex and Regisr is as close to yellow press as one can get but discarding 36K smartphones in one year is something that smells incompetence. BTW Lumia 83 can be upgraded to Windows 10 so this was not a problem.
Aug 29, 2017 | www.theregister.co.uk
Bonkers buy-up by bungling billionairess By Kieren McCarthy in San Francisco 28 Aug 2017 at 18:48 SHARE ▼ The New York Police Department will scrap 36,000 smartphones, thanks to a monumental purchasing cock-up by a billionaire's daughter.

The city spent millions on the phones back in October 2016 as part of its drive to bring the police force into the 21st century. And the woman behind the purchase – Deputy Commissioner for Information Technology, Jessica Tisch – praised them for their ability to quickly send 911 alerts to officers close to an incident.

There was only one problem: Tisch chose Windows-based Lumia 830 and Lumia 640 XL phones, and Microsoft officially ended support for Windows 8.1 in July.

Even though those two models are eligible to be upgraded to Windows 10 Mobile, the NYPD will need to redesign more than a dozen custom apps it created to run on Windows 8.1. And every phone will need to be manually updated to the new operating system. In addition, Microsoft is only promising to support upgraded Windows 10 phones through to June 2019.

In other words, the phones are effectively obsolete and so, according to the New York Post , the police department has decided to scrap them altogether and go with iPhones instead.

That decision has not come as a huge surprise: even when the purchasing decision was made, Windows-based phones held just three percent of the market. In fact, back in 2016 when the program was launched, pretty much everyone applauded the idea of giving cops smartphones but were baffled as to why anyone would go with Windows phones over Android or iOS.

Tsk, tsk, Tisch

Well, according to department sources quoted by the New York Post, the procurement disaster was all down to Ms Tisch – who, it turns out, is the daughter of former Loews CEO and billionaire James S Tisch.

"She drove the whole process," one unhappy cop told the paper, name-checking Jessica. "Nobody purchases 36,000 phones based on the judgment of one person," he complained. "I don't care if you're Jesus fucking Christ, you get a panel of experts."

Which is a fair point, since we have no hesitation in saying that even an expert panel of one would have concluded that Windows phones were a turn in the wrong direction for a huge police department.

According to other sources, the reason Tisch plumbed for the Lumia was because the NYPD was using Microsoft software on its video surveillance system – a system that Tisch has closely associated herself with and, back in 2012, demonstrated and boasted about to the press, raising eyebrows .

You can see how an inexperienced IT manager might think that it made sense to go with Microsoft all the way. But then that is also why anyone who carries out IT procurement into an area they are not expert on gets a team of people to review all the possibilities before they spend huge sums of money.

"She was in charge. It was her project, no question about that," another department source told the Post.

So why has the notoriously tight-lipped NYPD decided to dump on one of its own? It may be that Ms Tisch put a few noses out of joint with her smartphone plan, first announced in 2014.

At the time, then-police commissioner Bill Bratton specifically identified Tisch as being the driving force for the plan and joked: "She's a terror if she doesn't get her way, so I usually let her get her way. So she's certainly getting her way with this technology."

Oh dear.

We have asked the NYPD for confirmation and comment on the decision to scrap the phones. We'll get back if and when they respond.

[Aug 28, 2017] Bombastic boss gave insane instructions to sensible sysadmin, with client on speakerphone

Aug 28, 2017 | www.theregister.co.uk
When data disappeared, everyone knew exactly where to point the finger By Simon Sharwood, APAC Editor 25 Aug 2017 at 07:02 SHARE ▼ The Register 's weekly reader-contributed tales of workplace woe.

This week, meet "Craig," who shared a story of working for a small IT services company that hired a new "team leader".

Craig used italics because after meeting his new boss he quickly surmised the title "was an entire contradiction, as he was neither."

One fine day, Craig was given the job of sorting out an email issue at a small family owned legal firm. Craig knew the client well: he'd previously fixed their jammed printers, added new users to the company domain and lots of other mundane stuff.

On this occasion things were a bit more urgent as one of the senior partners had email issues and there was a whiff of data loss in the air. Enter the new team leader, who dispatched Craig to the client with thundered instructions to "JUST GO AND FIX IT!"

Upon arrival, Craig liaised with "Dianne", a worker at the law firm who helped him when he visited.

With Dianne's help Craig quickly figured out that senior partner's .PST file was corrupted. Craig tried his usual tricks but they didn't work, in part because "Outlook was throwing a hissy fit at every opportunity." So he called back to base to consult a colleague, but the phone was answered by the new team leader who insisted on taking control of the situation.

At this point, Craig put the call on speaker so that Dianne could hear it.

Both were treated to the new boss suggesting use of a .PST repair tool, which Craig had already tried.

"I don't care, run it again," was the response, so Craig obeyed and duly reported it had not worked.

"Delete the account and recreate it" was the next instruction, which again was hardly news to Craig and again didn't work.

So the boss got extreme and told Craig to "delete Outlook and Office from the registry."

Craig didn't like that idea and told the team leader so, while shaking his head at Dianne, making lots of bad-idea motions and telling his boss he felt this was not a sensible course of action.

"Just fucking do what I tell you" was the reply. Which got Dianne smiling as she now appreciated Craig's situation and realised the boss had no idea he was on speaker.

Craig protested that this was a dangerous course of action likely to create further problems in an already-unstable system and endanger the client's data.

To which the team leader responded that Craig was a lowly functionary and should do what he was told by his betters.

So Craig did as he was told, deleting any registry entry that mentioned Outlook while watching Dianne start to take notes about the incident.

Of course the glorious leader's idea didn't work and Craig was soon able to show Dianne that the partner's emails had gone, in all probability forever. Which is a bad look anywhere but even worse at a law firm.

Dianne was furious.

Craig was calm. He whipped out a third-party .PST repair tool he favoured, applied it to the backup of the partner's file he'd made just in case things went pear-shaped, and recovered just about all of the at-risk emails.

"Dianne hailed me as a hero," Craig recalls. And not long afterwards he was vindicated when the client sent his employer a letter saying that they'd be fired if the new team leader ever had anything to do with their IT again.

Said leader was gone two months later after other clients complained about his skills and service ethic.

"I was glad to see the back of him because he was an utter dickhead," Craig told us in his email to On-Call.

Has your boss ever asked you to do something dangerous? Write to share your story and it might be your anonymised name getting readers chuckling in a future edition of On-Call. ®

[Jul 04, 2017] A plea for bureaucratic socialism

Notable quotes:
"... As to your point on Bernie vs. "small Bernies" , I agree totally. This political system has developed corruption to the "point of know return" (my Kansas religion in summary), and cannot be changed incrementally, despite the strongest wishes of the peaceful and partial "Left" that has no unity and has too many bought "leaders" to be effective. A system that has made legitimate opposition illegal has made illegitimate opposition necessary. This, and the sudden turn of events that can occur during crises, will rule our future. ..."
Jul 04, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

UserFriendly , July 4, 2017 at 7:02 am

I'm not sure if the fact that this makes sense to me means I'm a genius or I'm totally off the deep end . but if anyone has time to kill this is interesting and at times funny and informative,

Slavoj Žižek – A plea for bureaucratic socialism (June 2017)

https://youtu.be/2OYSMWJafAI

maria gostrey , July 4, 2017 at 9:23 am

zizek was described in the most recent harpers as the "marxist philosopher gadly from slovenia." the specific nature of this description i found amusing, as if harpers needed to differentiate zizek from the "marxist philosopher gadly from albania".

amusing & hopeful, as i ponder a world of public discourse which includes so many "marxist philosopher gadflies" that this sort of description would become commonplace.

Mike , July 4, 2017 at 1:20 pm

To be honest, "socialism" was always understood to be the preparation for a LESS bureaucratic society, with some calling that communism, some naming it anarchism, the rest not thinking about it much.

The bureaucratic period was a transition, with the bureaus acting to inform the public of their rights and responsibilities, and protecting those rights during a period when capitalist and reactionary nationalist ideologies would still be prevalent among the populations. It would be a setup of new assumptions, the new unquestionables, that government was to protect, like capitalism is protected now. The problem is not the bureaus, but the power they give the the fearless leaders. Responsabilisation, s'il vous plait.

Žižek is provocative, in presentation a 60s radical a la Jerry Rubin, and loves to overstate his cases, so whatever he writes is sure to be "funny". The little communism in him is affected by his understanding of Slovenia's bad economic performance during the late stage of Titoism, and with a little German/US/English/Vatican help, that was quickly, if bloodily, settled.

Left in Wisconsin , July 4, 2017 at 2:25 pm

The point he is making in the talk is that there can be no revolution without being able to ensure that the water system, schools, hospitals, etc. function as people expect. He is criticizing the notion that fundamental change can be achieved merely by putting lots of people in the streets, that the larger the size of the protests, the closer we are to fundamental change.

And of course he is absolutely right. Here in the U.S., the vast majority of my left-ish friends have one of two mindsets. Either:

a) everything depends on electing Bernie, or the next Bernie, or some better Bernie; or

b) that view is incredibly naive; what we need to do is organize all the time (even when elections are far off!) and we need to get a lot of little Bernies elected.

The faith in democracy is touching, I guess. But the notion that having (some) politicians on our side is the extent of our strategy is a sign of how far away we are. How many accountants, bankers, engineers, etc. do we have on our side compared to how many we would need? Do we have any? I've been ranting of late that the other side has literally millions of economists on their side and we have, what, maybe 1000? Who mostly don't agree with each other? But you can probably run a society without economists. You can't without engineers.

Mike , July 4, 2017 at 3:03 pm

His talking points do come under some criticism in the comments from that web page (ignore the comments on his nervous tics – the medium is NOT the message), but he is absolutely right that we must replace the administrative roles under capitalism with a similarly effective system under socialism. My point is that this must be accompanied by a maniacal attempt at restructuring the administrative function, placing it under watch 24/7/365 (sorry, CIA haters, but we will have to use that role to watch the fox-house) even to the point of immediate recall and ankle-bracelets. Any bureaucratic position must be controlled as if a drug gang offered to help you fight off another drug gang, and had taken over your living room. How to do that without debilitating the system itself is the question anarchists repeat, and socialists answer very weakly.

As to your point on Bernie vs. "small Bernies" , I agree totally. This political system has developed corruption to the "point of know return" (my Kansas religion in summary), and cannot be changed incrementally, despite the strongest wishes of the peaceful and partial "Left" that has no unity and has too many bought "leaders" to be effective. A system that has made legitimate opposition illegal has made illegitimate opposition necessary. This, and the sudden turn of events that can occur during crises, will rule our future.

My gut feeling is that uprisings of a local or at most regional level will occur. They will be brutally put down, and maybe something will grow from that, or we are headed for a King or Queen. But the growth of opposition will be from the bottom, not the liberal-ish and reformist "Left" as it is now. If not that, then nothing.

[May 24, 2017] The cost cannot be measured only in lost opportunities, lives and money. There will be a long hangover of shame

May 24, 2017 | www.theamericanconservative.com

Michael N. Moore , says: February 11, 2013 at 12:13 pm

In my opinion the most under-reported event of the Iraq war was the suicide of military Ethicist Colonel Ted Westhusing. It was reported at the end of a Frank Rich column that appeared in the NY Times of 10-21-2007:

"The cost cannot be measured only in lost opportunities, lives and money. There will be a long hangover of shame. Its essence was summed up by Col. Ted Westhusing, an Army scholar of military ethics who was an innocent witness to corruption, not a participant, when he died at age 44 of a gunshot wound to the head while working for Gen. David Petraeus training Iraqi security forces in Baghdad in 2005. He was at the time the highest-ranking officer to die in Iraq."

"Colonel Westhusing's death was ruled a suicide, though some believe he was murdered by contractors fearing a whistle-blower, according to T. Christian Miller, the Los Angeles Times reporter who documents the case in his book "Blood Money." Either way, the angry four-page letter the officer left behind for General Petraeus and his other commander, Gen. Joseph Fil, is as much an epitaph for America's engagement in Iraq as a suicide note."

" 'I cannot support a msn that leads to corruption, human rights abuse and liars,' Colonel Westhusing wrote, abbreviating the word mission. 'I am sullied.' "

Michael N. Moore , says: February 13, 2013 at 2:46 pm
As per the request of James Canning for more information on Col. Ted Westhusing, please see:

http://www.correntewire.com/a_disturbing_suicide_note_from_iraq

Or the book "Blood Money" by T. Christian Miller

thefatefullightning , says: June 4, 2013 at 1:09 pm
"The tiny pink candies at the bottom of the urinals are reserved for Field Grade and Above." --sign over the urinals in the "O" Club at Tan Son Nhut Airbase, 1965.

Now that sentiment, is Officer-on-Officer. The same dynamic tension exists throughout all Branches and ranks.

My background includes a Combat Infantry Badge and a record of having made Spec Four , two times. If you don't know what that means, stop reading here.

I feel that no one should be promoted E-5 or O-4, if they are to command men in battle, unless they have had that life experience themselves. It becomes virgins instructing on sexual etiquette.

Within the ranks, there exists a disdain for officers, in general. Some officers overcome this by their actions, but the vast majority cement that assessment the same way.
What makes the thing run is the few officers who are superior human beings, and the NCOs who are of that same tribe. And there is a love there, from top to bottom and bottom to top, a brotherhood of warriors which the civilian population will forever try to discern, parse and examine to their lasting frustration and ignorance.

It is the spirit of this nation [Liberty, e pluribus unum and In God We Trust ] that is the binding filament of it all. The civilians responsible for the welfare of the armed services need to be more fully aware of that spirit and they need to bring it into the air-conditioned offices they inhabit when they make decisions about men who know sacrifice.

Terrence Zehrer , says: July 15, 2013 at 12:48 pm
But the Pentagon is excellent at what it does – extort money from the US taxpayer. I call it treason.

"Massive military budgets erode the economic foundation on which true national security is dependent."

– Dwight Eisenhower

[May 24, 2017] Rank Incompetence by William S. Lind

Notable quotes:
"... The schools teach a combination of staff process and sophomore-level college courses in government and international relations. No one is taught how to be a commander in combat. One Army lieutenant colonel recently wrote me that he got angry when he figured out that nothing he needs to know to command would be taught to him in any Army school. ..."
"... The promotion system reinforces professional ignorance. ..."
Feb 01, 2013 | www.theamericanconservative.com
It was tragic that the career of General David Petraeus was brought down by a mere affair. It should have ended several years earlier as a consequence of his failure as our commander in Afghanistan. Petraeus, like every other theater commander in that war except Stanley McChrystal, could have been replaced by a concrete block and nothing would have changed. They all kept doing the same things while expecting a different result.

Thomas Ricks's recent book The Generals has reintroduced into the defense debate a vital factor the press and politicians collude in ignoring: military incompetence. It was a major theme of the Military Reform Movement of the 1970s and '80s. During those years, a friend of mine who was an aide to a Marine Corps commandant asked his boss how many Marine generals, of whom there were then 60-some, could competently fight a battle. The commandant came up with six. And the Marine Corps is the best of our services.

Military incompetence does not begin at the rank of brigadier general. An old French proverb says that the problem with the generals is that we select them from among the colonels. Nonetheless, military competence-the ability to see quickly what to do in a military situation and make it happen-is more rare at the general officer level. A curious aspect of our promotion system is that the higher the rank, the smaller the percentage of our competent officers.

Why is military incompetence so widespread at the higher levels of America's armed forces? Speaking from my own observations over almost 40 years, I can identify two factors. First, nowhere does our vast, multi-billion dollar military-education system teach military judgment. Second, above the rank of Army, Marine Corps, or Air Force captain, military ability plays essentially no role in determining who gets promoted. (It has been so long since our Navy fought another navy that, apart from the aviators, military competence does not seem to be a consideration at any level.)

Almost never do our military schools, academies, and colleges put students in situations where they have to think through how to fight a battle or a campaign, then get critiqued not on their answer but the way they think. Nor does American military training offer much free play, where the enemy can do whatever he wants and critique draws out why one side won and the other lost. Instead, training exercises are scripted as if we are training an opera company. The schools teach a combination of staff process and sophomore-level college courses in government and international relations. No one is taught how to be a commander in combat. One Army lieutenant colonel recently wrote me that he got angry when he figured out that nothing he needs to know to command would be taught to him in any Army school.

The promotion system reinforces professional ignorance. Above the company grades, military ability does not count in determining who gets promoted. At the rank of major, officers are supposed to accept that the "real world" is the internal world of budget and promotion politics, not war. Those who "don't get it" have ever smaller chances of making general. This represents corruption of the worst kind, corruption of institutional purpose. Its result is generals and admirals who are in effect Soviet industrial managers in ever worse-looking suits. They know little and care less about their intended product, military victory. Their expertise is in acquiring resources and playing the military courtier.

[May 24, 2017] A Condensation of Military Incompetence

Notable quotes:
"... Now think about it a minute. These are the people to whom we have given the authority to make life and death, godlike, decisions, over thousands of their subordinates and millions of people in less fortunate foreign lands. As you will see toward the end of this article, their manifest failings have had some rather serious consequences-that could have been much worse-in an episode in Korea in the 1960s that is revealed in full here for the first time. ..."
May 24, 2017 | www.dcdave.com

What with all the glorification of our "heroes" in uniform, a glorification that seems to grow in inverse proportion to the real need for them, a person could begin to feel afraid to utter aloud the sort of jokes that people used to make. For instance, you might feel the need to look over your shoulder before you repeat the old George Carlin observation that "military intelligence" is an oxymoron.

The growing military hype and the sort of military intelligence with which I became all too familiar in my two years of service, 1966-1968, came together on this Veterans Day weekend. The picture of the U.S. Navy's finest engaged in the Sisyphean task of mopping dew off the basketball court that had been laid on the deck of the USS Yorktown said it all. That was in coastal South Carolina on Friday night, November 9, in what was to have been a big military advertisement to kick off the weekend. The same fiasco played itself out on the deck of the USS Bataan in Jacksonville, Florida, except that the college basketball players there put themselves in harm's way for an entire half, attempting to play on the virtual skating rink that the very predictable condensation had made of the surface.

... ... ...

Now think about it a minute. These are the people to whom we have given the authority to make life and death, godlike, decisions, over thousands of their subordinates and millions of people in less fortunate foreign lands. As you will see toward the end of this article, their manifest failings have had some rather serious consequences-that could have been much worse-in an episode in Korea in the 1960s that is revealed in full here for the first time.

... ... ...

Before we were to do our one dry run we had a planning meeting, presided over by the lieutenant colonel from Eighth Army Headquarters in charge of the operation, at which the action plan was handed out. Right off the bat we noticed a problem. Each of the teams was identified with a number. We were team four. Each of the islands was also assigned a number, one through four, and they were called "sites." Our team four was to go to site one, team three was to go to site two, and so on.

We wanted badly to suggest that it might be a better idea to match up the sites and the team designations, so that team one went to site one, etc., but we were told that we would have an opportunity to make suggestions for the final action plan after we had done our dry run, so we held our fire.

... ... ...

"We're implementing the action plan," said he, or words to that effect. "Move out immediately."

Patting myself on the back for the decision I had made, and in a state of rather high excitement, I pulled out the phone number of the contact in the Kimpo engineer battalion to make sure that there would be boats for us when we got to our destination.

It's a good thing the phone worked-the military phones were something of a hit-or-miss thing at that time in Korea-considering his response. "We haven't had any move-out order," he responded to me.

I immediately got back on the phone to the Eighth Army lieutenant to ask him what was up.

"Hold that first order," he said. "We've decided to give it a little more time."

Now I was thinking that it was an especially good thing that I had not taken the "immediately" part of his move-out order too literally, and I was really glad I had gotten that boatman's phone number. Considering the weather conditions, "high and dry" doesn't precisely describe the position we would have found ourselves in at the evacuation site without the boats and without even a need for them, but it comes close.

Having heard many reports of predicted river flooding on the news where the levels expected are based upon levels already recorded upstream, I inquired of the lieutenant as to the basis on which the final decision would be made. I remember his response as though it were yesterday:

"Colonel 'Geronimo' is down looking at the river."

As it turned out, no one drowned because some would-be rescue helicopter had landed at Site 3 instead of the correct Site 2 because he had received an emergency radio call from Ground 3, and we never suffered from the lack of manpower that the Korean Army might have provided at our site. None of the islands flooded that day-or that year-and the "hold" on that first call from the Eighth Army lieutenant continued into perpetuity.

... ... ...

David Martin

November 15, 2012

[Apr 06, 2017] In capitalism the inherent maladies of bureaucracies serve to discourage lower echelons and keep them in their place without directly associating the blame for hierarchal authoritarianism with top executives

Notable quotes:
"... There's a long-standing tension in organizations between innovation and bureaucracy. Excessive layers of management and byzantine processes often shoulder the blame when a promising idea fails to make it to market or a nimble start-up thwarts a mature competitor. ..."
"... In capitalism the inherent maladies of bureaucracies serve to discourage lower echelons and keep them in their place without directly associating the blame for hierarchal authoritarianism with top executives. That is to say that bureaucratic dysfunction plays a key role in the essential function of the petite bourgeoisie to maintain the bourgeois capitalist system. OTOH, bureaucratic dysfunction plays a similar key role in all hierarchal authoritarian systems. ..."
Apr 06, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
RC AKA Darryl, Ron -> Tom aka Rusty... Reply Thursday, April 06, 2017 at 07:54 AM [In his "Little Red Book" the machinations of self-serving bureaucrats was one of Chainman Mao's biggest pet peeves. ]

https://hbr.org/2005/10/bureaucracy-becomes-a-four-letter-word

"Bureaucracy" Becomes a Four-Letter Word

by William H. Starbuck

From the October 2005 Issue


There's a long-standing tension in organizations between innovation and bureaucracy. Excessive layers of management and byzantine processes often shoulder the blame when a promising idea fails to make it to market or a nimble start-up thwarts a mature competitor.

That tension can be traced back at least 340 years, to an inadvertent collaboration between two government officials in France. In 1665, with the French economy in turmoil, King Louis XIV appointed Jean-Baptiste Colbert as his comptroller general of finance. Colbert prosecuted corrupt officials and reorganized commerce and industry according to the economic principles known as mercantilism. To assure the populace that the government would act fairly in monetary disputes, he demanded that officials abide by certain rules and apply them uniformly to everyone.

Then, in 1751, Jean Claude Marie Vincent de Gournay became France's administrator of commerce. Gournay was outraged by what Colbert had put in place and railed against the multitude of government regulations he believed were suppressing business activity. To describe a government run by insensitive creators and enforcers of rules, who neither understood nor cared about the consequences of their actions, he coined the term bureaucratie. Translation: "government by desks."

*

[There are democratic solutions to the dilemma posed by bureaucracies, but there are no republican solutions for it. Important to note, that both the little "d" in democratic and the little "r" in republican are profoundly significant to solving the dilemma of bureaucracy, or not.

Mao's brand of communism was too paranoid, paternal, and hierarchal to work any better than a common ordinary garden variety republic. It seemed like Mao actually wanted to be more democratic in governing and in the work place but could not really bring himself to do it as he was a neurotically compulsive micromanager just as any dictator would need to be.

In capitalism the inherent maladies of bureaucracies serve to discourage lower echelons and keep them in their place without directly associating the blame for hierarchal authoritarianism with top executives. That is to say that bureaucratic dysfunction plays a key role in the essential function of the petite bourgeoisie to maintain the bourgeois capitalist system. OTOH, bureaucratic dysfunction plays a similar key role in all hierarchal authoritarian systems.

... ... ...

[Feb 26, 2017] Functional stupidity is organizationally-supported lack of reflexivity, substantive reasoning, and justification. It entails a refusal to use intellectual resources outside a narrow and "safe" terrain

Feb 26, 2017 | www.moonofalabama.org

Demian : Jan 6, 2015 6:33:36 PM | 27

@Ghubar Shabih #23:
"Never ascribe to bad faith what can be explained by incompetence."
Yuri Orlov wrote an interesting post about organizational incompetence. To quote the paper he bases his post on:
Functional stupidity is organizationally-supported lack of reflexivity, substantive reasoning, and justification. It entails a refusal to use intellectual resources outside a narrow and "safe" terrain . It can provide a sense of certainty that allows organizations to function smoothly. This can save the organization and its members from the frictions provoked by doubt and reflection. Functional stupidity contributes to maintaining and strengthening organizational order. It can also motivate people, help them to cultivate their careers, and subordinate them to socially acceptable forms of management and leadership. Such positive outcomes can further reinforce functional stupidity.
But clearly the destructive effects of US foreign policy are often deliberately malevolent. Orlov also has a post about that :
By Anglo-imperialists I mean the combination of Britain and the United States. The latter took over for the former as it failed, turning it into a protectorate. Now the latter is failing too, and there are no new up-and-coming Anglo-imperialists to take over for it. But throughout this process their common playbook had remained the same: pseudoliberal pseudocapitalism for the insiders and military domination and economic exploitation for everyone else. Much more specifically, their playbook always called for a certain strategem to be executed whenever their plans to dominate and exploit any given country finally fail. On their way out, they do what they can to compromise and weaken the entity they leave behind, by inflicting a permanently oozing and festering political wound. " Poison all the wells " is the last thing on their pre-departure checklist.

[Nov 19, 2016] The Democratic party lost its soul. Its time to win it back

Notable quotes:
"... For one thing, many vested interests don't want the Democratic party to change. Most of the money it raises ends up in the pockets of political consultants, pollsters, strategists, lawyers, advertising consultants and advertisers themselves, many of whom have become rich off the current arrangement. They naturally want to keep it. ..."
"... For another, the Democratic party apparatus is ingrown and entrenched. Like any old bureaucracy, it only knows how to do what it has done for years. Its state and quadrennial national conventions are opportunities for insiders to meet old friends and for aspiring politicians to make contacts among the rich and powerful. Insiders and the rich aren't going to happily relinquish their power and perquisites, and hand them to outsiders and the non-rich. ..."
"... I have been a Democrat for 50 years – I have even served in two Democratic administrations in Washington, including a stint in the cabinet and have run for the Democratic nomination for governor in one state – yet I have never voted for the chair or vice-chair of my state Democratic party. That means I, too, have had absolutely no say over who the chair of the Democratic National Committee will be. To tell you the truth, I haven't cared. And that's part of the problem. ..."
"... Finally, the party chairmanship has become a part-time sinecure for politicians on their way up or down, not a full-time position for a professional organizer. In 2011, Tim Kaine (who subsequently became Hillary Clinton's running mate in the 2016 election) left the chairmanship to run, successfully, for the Senate from Virginia. ..."
"... The chair then went to Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, a Florida congresswoman who had co-chaired Clinton's bid for the Democratic nomination for president in 2008. This generated allegations in the 2016 race that the Democratic National Committee was siding with Clinton against Bernie Sanders – allegations substantiated by leaks of emails from the DNC. ..."
"... So what we now have is a Democratic party that has been repudiated at the polls, headed by a Democratic National Committee that has become irrelevant at best, run part-time by a series of insider politicians. It has no deep or broad-based grass-roots, no capacity for mobilizing vast numbers of people to take any action other than donate money, no visibility between elections, no ongoing activism. ..."
Nov 19, 2016 | www.theguardian.com

For one thing, many vested interests don't want the Democratic party to change. Most of the money it raises ends up in the pockets of political consultants, pollsters, strategists, lawyers, advertising consultants and advertisers themselves, many of whom have become rich off the current arrangement. They naturally want to keep it.

For another, the Democratic party apparatus is ingrown and entrenched. Like any old bureaucracy, it only knows how to do what it has done for years. Its state and quadrennial national conventions are opportunities for insiders to meet old friends and for aspiring politicians to make contacts among the rich and powerful. Insiders and the rich aren't going to happily relinquish their power and perquisites, and hand them to outsiders and the non-rich.

Most Americans who call themselves Democrats never hear from the Democratic party except when it asks for money, typically through mass mailings and recorded telephone calls in the months leading up to an election. The vast majority of Democrats don't know the name of the chair of the Democratic National Committee or of their state committee. Almost no registered Democrats have any idea how to go about electing their state Democratic chair or vice-chair, and, hence, almost none have any influence over whom the next chair of the Democratic National Committee may be.

I have been a Democrat for 50 years – I have even served in two Democratic administrations in Washington, including a stint in the cabinet and have run for the Democratic nomination for governor in one state – yet I have never voted for the chair or vice-chair of my state Democratic party. That means I, too, have had absolutely no say over who the chair of the Democratic National Committee will be. To tell you the truth, I haven't cared. And that's part of the problem.

Nor, for that matter, has Barack Obama cared. He basically ignored the Democratic National Committee during his presidency, starting his own organization called Organizing for America. It was originally intended to marshal grass-roots support for the major initiatives he sought to achieve during his presidency, but morphed into a fund-raising machine of its own.

Finally, the party chairmanship has become a part-time sinecure for politicians on their way up or down, not a full-time position for a professional organizer. In 2011, Tim Kaine (who subsequently became Hillary Clinton's running mate in the 2016 election) left the chairmanship to run, successfully, for the Senate from Virginia.

The chair then went to Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, a Florida congresswoman who had co-chaired Clinton's bid for the Democratic nomination for president in 2008. This generated allegations in the 2016 race that the Democratic National Committee was siding with Clinton against Bernie Sanders – allegations substantiated by leaks of emails from the DNC.

So what we now have is a Democratic party that has been repudiated at the polls, headed by a Democratic National Committee that has become irrelevant at best, run part-time by a series of insider politicians. It has no deep or broad-based grass-roots, no capacity for mobilizing vast numbers of people to take any action other than donate money, no visibility between elections, no ongoing activism.

[Nov 12, 2016] Why We Hate HR

Notable quotes:
"... Strategic Human Resource Management ..."
Aug 08, 2005 | fastcompany.com

In a knowledge economy, companies with the best talent win. And finding, nurturing, and developing that talent should be one of the most important tasks in a corporation. So why does human resources do such a bad job -- and how can we fix it?

From: Issue 97 | August 2005 | Page 40 | By: Keith H. Hammonds | Illustrations by: Gary Baseman

Because let's face it: After close to 20 years of hopeful rhetoric about becoming "strategic partners" with a "seat at the table" where the business decisions that matter are made, most human-resources professionals aren't nearly there. They have no seat, and the table is locked inside a conference room to which they have no key. HR people are, for most practical purposes, neither strategic nor leaders.

I don't care for Las Vegas. And if it's not clear already, I don't like HR, either, which is why I'm here. The human-resources trade long ago proved itself, at best, a necessary evil -- and at worst, a dark bureaucratic force that blindly enforces nonsensical rules, resists creativity, and impedes constructive change. HR is the corporate function with the greatest potential -- the key driver, in theory, of business performance -- and also the one that most consistently underdelivers. And I am here to find out why.

Why are annual performance appraisals so time-consuming -- and so routinely useless? Why is HR so often a henchman for the chief financial officer, finding ever-more ingenious ways to cut benefits and hack at payroll? Why do its communications -- when we can understand them at all -- so often flout reality? Why are so many people processes duplicative and wasteful, creating a forest of paperwork for every minor transaction? And why does HR insist on sameness as a proxy for equity?

It's no wonder that we hate HR. In a 2005 survey by consultancy Hay Group, just 40% of employees commended their companies for retaining high-quality workers. Just 41% agreed that performance evaluations were fair. Only 58% rated their job training as favorable. Most said they had few opportunities for advancement -- and that they didn't know, in any case, what was required to move up. Most telling, only about half of workers below the manager level believed their companies took a genuine interest in their well-being.

None of this is explained immediately in Vegas. These HR folks, from employers across the nation, are neither evil courtiers nor thoughtless automatons. They are mostly smart, engaging people who seem genuinely interested in doing their jobs better. They speak convincingly about employee development and cultural transformation. And, over drinks, they spin some pretty funny yarns of employee weirdness. (Like the one about the guy who threatened to sue his wife's company for "enabling" her affair with a coworker. Then there was the mentally disabled worker and the hooker -- well, no, never mind. . . .)

But then the facade cracks. It happens at an afternoon presentation called "From Technicians to Consultants: How to Transform Your HR Staff into Strategic Business Partners." The speaker, Julie Muckler, is senior vice president of human resources at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. She is an enthusiastic woman with a broad smile and 20 years of experience at companies such as Johnson & Johnson and General Tire. She has degrees in consumer economics and human resources and organizational development.

And I have no idea what she's talking about. There is mention of "internal action learning" and "being more planful in my approach." PowerPoint slides outline Wells Fargo Home Mortgage's initiatives in performance management, organization design, and horizontal-solutions teams. Muckler describes leveraging internal resources and involving external resources -- and she leaves her audience dazed. That evening, even the human-resources pros confide they didn't understand much of it, either.

This, friends, is the trouble with HR. In a knowledge economy, companies that have the best talent win. We all know that. Human resources execs should be making the most of our, well, human resources -- finding the best hires, nurturing the stars, fostering a productive work environment -- just as IT runs the computers and finance minds the capital. HR should be joined to business strategy at the hip.

Instead, most HR organizations have ghettoized themselves literally to the brink of obsolescence. They are competent at the administrivia of pay, benefits, and retirement, but companies increasingly are farming those functions out to contractors who can handle such routine tasks at lower expense. What's left is the more important strategic role of raising the reputational and intellectual capital of the company -- but HR is, it turns out, uniquely unsuited for that.

Here's why.

1. HR people aren't the sharpest tacks in the box. We'll be blunt: If you are an ambitious young thing newly graduated from a top college or B-school with your eye on a rewarding career in business, your first instinct is not to join the human-resources dance. (At the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business, which arguably boasts the nation's top faculty for organizational issues, just 1.2% of 2004 grads did so.) Says a management professor at one leading school: "The best and the brightest don't go into HR."

Who does? Intelligent people, sometimes -- but not businesspeople. "HR doesn't tend to hire a lot of independent thinkers or people who stand up as moral compasses," says Garold L. Markle, a longtime human-resources executive at Exxon and Shell Offshore who now runs his own consultancy. Some are exiles from the corporate mainstream: They've fared poorly in meatier roles -- but not poorly enough to be fired. For them, and for their employers, HR represents a relatively low-risk parking spot.

Others enter the field by choice and with the best of intentions, but for the wrong reasons. They like working with people, and they want to be helpful -- noble motives that thoroughly tick off some HR thinkers. "When people have come to me and said, 'I want to work with people,' I say, 'Good, go be a social worker,' " says Arnold Kanarick, who has headed human resources at the Limited and, until recently, at Bear Stearns. "HR isn't about being a do-gooder. It's about how do you get the best and brightest people and raise the value of the firm."

The really scary news is that the gulf between capabilities and job requirements appears to be widening. As business and legal demands on the function intensify, staffers' educational qualifications haven't kept pace. In fact, according to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), a considerably smaller proportion of HR professionals today have some education beyond a bachelor's degree than in 1990.

And here's one more slice of telling SHRM data: When HR professionals were asked about the worth of various academic courses toward a "successful career in HR," 83% said that classes in interpersonal communications skills had "extremely high value." Employment law and business ethics followed, at 71% and 66%, respectively. Where was change management? At 35%. Strategic management? 32%. Finance? Um, that was just 2%.

The truth? Most human-resources managers aren't particularly interested in, or equipped for, doing business. And in a business, that's sort of a problem. As guardians of a company's talent, HR has to understand how people serve corporate objectives. Instead, "business acumen is the single biggest factor that HR professionals in the U.S. lack today," says Anthony J. Rucci, executive vice president at Cardinal Health Inc., a big health-care supply distributor.

Rucci is consistently mentioned by academics, consultants, and other HR leaders as an executive who actually does know business. At Baxter International, he ran both HR and corporate strategy. Before that, at Sears, he led a study of results at 800 stores over five years to assess the connection between employee commitment, customer loyalty, and profitability.

As far as Rucci is concerned, there are three questions that any decent HR person in the world should be able to answer. First, who is your company's core customer? "Have you talked to one lately? Do you know what challenges they face?" Second, who is the competition? "What do they do well and not well?" And most important, who are we? "What is a realistic assessment of what we do well and not so well vis a vis the customer and the competition?"

Does your HR pro know the answers?

2. HR pursues efficiency in lieu of value. Why? Because it's easier -- and easier to measure. Dave Ulrich, a professor at the University of Michigan, recalls meeting with the chairman and top HR people from a big bank. "The training person said that 80% of employees have done at least 40 hours in classes. The chairman said, 'Congratulations.' I said, 'You're talking about the activities you're doing. The question is, What are you delivering?' "

That sort of stuff drives Ulrich nuts. Over 20 years, he has become the HR trade's best-known guru (see "The Once and Future Consultant," page 48) and a leading proponent of the push to take on more-strategic roles within corporations. But human-resources managers, he acknowledges, typically undermine that effort by investing more importance in activities than in outcomes. "You're only effective if you add value," Ulrich says. "That means you're not measured by what you do but by what you deliver." By that, he refers not just to the value delivered to employees and line managers, but the benefits that accrue to investors and customers, as well.

So here's a true story: A talented young marketing exec accepts a job offer with Time Warner out of business school. She interviews for openings in several departments -- then is told by HR that only one is interested in her. In fact, she learns later, they all had been. She had been railroaded into the job, under the supervision of a widely reviled manager, because no one inside the company would take it.

You make the call: Did HR do its job? On the one hand, it filled the empty slot. "It did what was organizationally expedient," says the woman now. "Getting someone who wouldn't kick and scream about this role probably made sense to them. But I just felt angry." She left Time Warner after just a year. (A Time Warner spokesperson declined to comment on the incident.)

Part of the problem is that Time Warner's metrics likely will never catch the real cost of its HR department's action. Human resources can readily provide the number of people it hired, the percentage of performance evaluations completed, and the extent to which employees are satisfied or not with their benefits. But only rarely does it link any of those metrics to business performance.

John W. Boudreau, a professor at the University of Southern California's Center for Effective Organizations, likens the failing to shortcomings of the finance function before DuPont figured out how to calculate return on investment in 1912. In HR, he says, "we don't have anywhere near that kind of logical sophistication in the way of people or talent. So the decisions that get made about that resource are far less sophisticated, reliable, and consistent."

Cardinal Health's Rucci is trying to fix that. Cardinal regularly asks its employees 12 questions designed to measure engagement. Among them: Do they understand the company's strategy? Do they see the connection between that and their jobs? Are they proud to tell people where they work? Rucci correlates the results to those of a survey of 2,000 customers, as well as monthly sales data and brand-awareness scores.

"So I don't know if our HR processes are having an impact" per se, Rucci says. "But I know absolutely that employee-engagement scores have an impact on our business," accounting for between 1% and 10% of earnings, depending on the business and the employee's role. "Cardinal may not anytime soon get invited by the Conference Board to explain our world-class best practices in any area of HR -- and I couldn't care less. The real question is, Is the business effective and successful?"

3. HR isn't working for you. Want to know why you go through that asinine performance appraisal every year, really? Markle, who admits to having administered countless numbers of them over the years, is pleased to confirm your suspicions. Companies, he says "are doing it to protect themselves against their own employees," he says. "They put a piece of paper between you and employees, so if you ever have a confrontation, you can go to the file and say, 'Here, I've documented this problem.' "

There's a good reason for this defensive stance, of course. In the last two generations, government has created an immense thicket of labor regulations. Equal Employment Opportunity; Fair Labor Standards; Occupational Safety and Health; Family and Medical Leave; and the ever-popular ERISA. These are complex, serious issues requiring technical expertise, and HR has to apply reasonable caution.

But "it's easy to get sucked down into that," says Mark Royal, a senior consultant with Hay Group. "There's a tension created by HR's role as protector of corporate assets -- making sure it doesn't run afoul of the rules. That puts you in the position of saying no a lot, of playing the bad cop. You have to step out of that, see the broad possibilities, and take a more open-minded approach. You need to understand where the exceptions to broad policies can be made."

Typically, HR people can't, or won't. Instead, they pursue standardization and uniformity in the face of a workforce that is heterogeneous and complex. A manager at a large capital leasing company complains that corporate HR is trying to eliminate most vice-president titles there -- even though veeps are a dime a dozen in the finance industry. Why? Because in the company's commercial business, vice president is a rank reserved for the top officers. In its drive for bureaucratic "fairness," HR is actually threatening the reputation, and so the effectiveness, of the company's finance professionals.

The urge for one-size-fits-all, says one professor who studies the field, "is partly about compliance, but mostly because it's just easier." Bureaucrats everywhere abhor exceptions -- not just because they open up the company to charges of bias but because they require more than rote solutions. They're time-consuming and expensive to manage. Make one exception, HR fears, and the floodgates will open.

There's a contradiction here, of course: Making exceptions should be exactly what human resources does, all the time -- not because it's nice for employees, but because it drives the business. Employers keep their best people by acknowledging and rewarding their distinctive performance, not by treating them the same as everyone else. "If I'm running a business, I can tell you who's really helping to drive the business forward," says Dennis Ackley, an employee communication consultant. "HR should have the same view. We should send the message that we value our high-performing employees and we're focused on rewarding and retaining them."

Instead, human-resources departments benchmark salaries, function by function and job by job, against industry standards, keeping pay -- even that of the stars -- within a narrow band determined by competitors. They bounce performance appraisals back to managers who rate their employees too highly, unwilling to acknowledge accomplishments that would merit much more than the 4% companywide increase.

Human resources, in other words, forfeits long-term value for short-term cost efficiency. A simple test: Who does your company's vice president of human resources report to? If it's the CFO -- and chances are good it is -- then HR is headed in the wrong direction. "That's a model that cannot work," says one top HR exec who has been there. "A financial person is concerned with taking money out of the organization. HR should be concerned with putting investments in."

4. The corner office doesn't get HR (and vice versa). I'm at another rockin' party: a few dozen midlevel human-resources managers at a hotel restaurant in Mahwah, New Jersey. It is not glam in any way. (I've got to get a better travel agent.) But it is telling, in a hopeful way. Hunter Douglas, a $2.1 billion manufacturer of window coverings, has brought its HR staff here from across the United States to celebrate their accomplishments.

The company's top brass is on hand. Marvin B. Hopkins, president and CEO of North American operations, lays on the praise: "I feel fantastic about your achievements," he says. "Our business is about people. Hiring, training, and empathizing with employees is extremely important. When someone is fired or leaves, we've failed in some way. People have to feel they have a place at the company, a sense of ownership."

So, yeah, it's corporate-speak in a drab exurban office park. But you know what? The human-resources managers from Tupelo and Dallas are totally pumped up. They've been flown into headquarters, they've had their picture taken with the boss, and they're seeing Mamma Mia on Broadway that afternoon on the company's dime.

Can your HR department say it has the ear of top management? Probably not. "Sometimes," says Ulrich, "line managers just have this legacy of HR in their minds, and they can't get rid of it. I felt really badly for one HR guy. The chairman wanted someone to plan company picnics and manage the union, and every time this guy tried to be strategic, he got shot down."

Say what? Execs don't think HR matters? What about all that happy talk about employees being their most important asset? Well, that turns out to have been a small misunderstanding. In the 1990s, a group of British academics examined the relationship between what companies (among them, the UK units of Hewlett-Packard and Citibank) said about their human assets and how they actually behaved. The results were, perhaps, inevitable.

In their rhetoric, human-resources organizations embraced the language of a "soft" approach, speaking of training, development, and commitment. But "the underlying principle was invariably restricted to the improvements of bottom-line performance," the authors wrote in the resulting book, Strategic Human Resource Management (Oxford University Press, 1999). "Even if the rhetoric of HRM is soft, the reality is almost always 'hard,' with the interests of the organization prevailing over those of the individual."

In the best of worlds, says London Business School professor Lynda Gratton, one of the study's authors, "the reality should be some combination of hard and soft." That's what's going on at Hunter Douglas. Human resources can address the needs of employees because it has proven its business mettle -- and vice versa. Betty Lou Smith, the company's vice president of corporate HR, began investigating the connection between employee turnover and product quality. Divisions with the highest turnover rates, she found, were also those with damaged-goods rates of 5% or higher. And extraordinarily, 70% of employees were leaving the company within six months of being hired.

Smith's staffers learned that new employees were leaving for a variety of reasons: They didn't feel respected, they didn't have input in decisions, but mostly, they felt a lack of connection when they were first hired. "We gave them a 10-minute orientation, then they were out on the floor," Smith says. She addressed the weakness by creating a mentoring program that matched new hires with experienced workers. The latter were suspicious at first, but eventually, the mentor positions (with spiffy shirts and caps) came to be seen as prestigious. The six-month turnover rate dropped dramatically, to 16%. Attendance and productivity -- and the damaged-goods rate -- improved.

"We don't wait to hear from top management," Smith says. "You can't just sit in the corner and look at benefits. We have to know what the issues in our business are. HR has to step up and assume responsibility, not wait for management to knock on our door."

But most HR people do.

H unter Douglas gives us a glimmer of hope -- of the possibility that HR can be done right. And surely, even within ineffective human-resources organizations, there are great individual HR managers -- trustworthy, caring people with their ears to the ground, who are sensitive to cultural nuance yet also understand the business and how people fit in. Professionals who move voluntarily into HR from line positions can prove especially adroit, bringing a profit-and-loss sensibility and strong management skills.

At Yahoo, Libby Sartain, chief people officer, is building a group that may prove to be the truly effective human-resources department that employees and executives imagine. In this, Sartain enjoys two advantages. First, she arrived with a reputation as a creative maverick, won in her 13 years running HR at Southwest Airlines. And second, she had license from the top to do whatever it took to create a world-class organization.

Sartain doesn't just have a "seat at the table" at Yahoo; she actually helped build the table, instituting a weekly operations meeting that she coordinates with COO Dan Rosensweig. Talent is always at the top of the agenda -- and at the end of each meeting, the executive team mulls individual development decisions on key staffers.

That meeting, Sartain says, "sends a strong message to everyone at Yahoo that we can't do anything without HR." It also signals to HR staffers that they're responsible for more than shuffling papers and getting in the way. "We view human resources as the caretaker of the largest investment of the company," Sartain says. "If you're not nurturing that investment and watching it grow, you're not doing your job."

Yahoo, say some experts and peers at other organizations, is among a few companies -- among them Cardinal Health, Procter & Gamble, Pitney Bowes, Goldman Sachs, and General Electric -- that truly are bringing human resources into the realm of business strategy. But they are indeed the few. USC professor Edward E. Lawler III says that last year HR professionals reported spending 23% of their time "being a strategic business partner" -- no more than they reported in 1995. And line managers, he found, said HR is far less involved in strategy than HR thinks it is. "Despite great huffing and puffing about strategy," Lawler says, "there's still a long way to go." (Indeed. When I asked one midlevel HR person exactly how she was involved in business strategy for her division, she excitedly described organizing a monthly lunch for her vice president with employees.)

What's driving the strategy disconnect? London Business School's Gratton spends a lot of time training human-resources professionals to create more impact. She sees two problems: Many HR people, she says, bring strong technical expertise to the party but no "point of view about the future and how organizations are going to change." And second, "it's very difficult to align HR strategy to business strategy, because business strategy changes very fast, and it's hard to fiddle around with a compensation strategy or benefits to keep up." More than simply understanding strategy, Gratton says, truly effective executives "need to be operating out of a set of principles and personal values." And few actually do.

In the meantime, economic natural selection is, in a way, taking care of the problem for us. Some 94% of large employers surveyed this year by Hewitt Associates reported they were outsourcing at least one human-resources activity. By 2008, according to the survey, many plan to expand outsourcing to include activities such as learning and development, payroll, recruiting, health and welfare, and global mobility.

Which is to say, they will farm out pretty much everything HR does. The happy rhetoric from the HR world says this is all for the best: Outsourcing the administrative minutiae, after all, would allow human-resources professionals to focus on more important stuff that's central to the business. You know, being strategic partners.

The problem, if you're an HR person, is this: The tasks companies are outsourcing -- the administrivia -- tend to be what you're good at. And what's left isn't exactly your strong suit. Human resources is crippled by what Jay Jamrog, executive director of the Human Resource Institute, calls "educated incapacity: You're smart, and you know the way you're working today isn't going to hold 10 years from now. But you can't move to that level. You're stuck."

That's where human resources is today. Stuck. "This is a unique organization in the company," says USC's Boudreau. "It discovers things about the business through the lens of people and talent. That's an opportunity for competitive advantage." In most companies, that opportunity is utterly wasted.

And that's why I don't like HR.

Keith H. Hammonds is Fast Company's deputy editor.

[Sep 15, 2016] Satyajit Das The Business of Politics naked capitalism by Satyajit Das

Notable quotes:
"... I think the key difference between successful politicians and business people is patience. When you look at the careers of successful politicians, you can often see many years of pure relentless grind going into a few years of glory in a senior position. Endless committee meetings, rubber chicken dinners, being nice to people you loath, the inevitable humiliation of losing elections. Most business leaders simply lose patience after a few years after they go into politics. ..."
"... "The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it." ..."
"... Neoclassical economics hid the work of the Classical Economists and the difference between "earned" and "unearned" income. ..."
"... Once you hide this it is easy to make it look as though the interests of business and the wealthy are the same. ..."
"... There should not really be any tax on "earned" income, all tax should fall on "unearned" income to subside the productive side of the economy with low cost housing and services. ..."
"... "The Labour and time of the poor is in civilised countries sacrificed to the maintaining of the rich in ease and luxury. The Landlord is maintained in idleness and luxury by the labour of his tenants. The moneyed man is supported by his extractions from the industrious merchant and the needy who are obliged to support him in ease by a return for the use of his money. But every savage has the full fruits of his own labours; there are no landlords, no usurers and no tax gatherers." ..."
"... Adam Smith saw landlords, usurers (bankers) and Government taxes as equally parasitic, all raising the cost of doing business. ..."
"... "…who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it." Adam Smith just described the modern Republican Party and movement Conservatives. ..."
"... The children of the US elite were the storm troopers of this ideology and they headed out from their elite US universities to bring this new ideology to developing nations. ..."
"... "The Chicago Boys" headed out from the University of Chicago to bring the new way to South American nations and "The Berkley Mafia" headed out from the University of Berkeley, California to bring the new way to Indonesia ..."
"... Any means were deemed acceptable to implement the one true solution and the new ideology, e.g. torture, terror, death squads, snatching people off the streets and making them disappear permanently. Any left wing resistance had to be quashed by whatever means necessary ..."
"... Their revolutions always massively increased inequality, a few at the top became fabulously wealthy and extreme and widespread poverty became prevalent at the bottom. Mixing with the people at the top, the elite US storm troopers deemed their revolutions a huge success. This ideology was ready to roll out across the world. ..."
"... Under this new ideology, the UK dream is to emulate the idle, rich rentier with a BTL portfolio, living off "unearned" income extracted from the "earned" income of generation rent, whilst doing as little as possible and enjoying a life of luxury and leisure. ..."
"... Obfuscating the relationship between free markets and the role of government is coming to an end. So much failure and misdirection cannot hide forever. The cognitive dissonance set up in society is unsustainable- people don't like to feel or experience crazy. ..."
"... Markets are stronger and healthier when backed by functioning government. Defining what good government is and demanding it is required today. That is the revolutionary force, finally turning back the negative campaign against government and demanding good government- fighting for it. ..."
"... "Enoch Powell…once remarked that all political lives end in failure. It is also true of most business leaders." But that is also what they say about love. No good end can come of it. ..."
"... This bit of convenient fiction caught my eye: "Political leaders must also manage for the entire population rather than the narrow interest of investors." ..."
"... Perhaps political leaders should do this but, as has been recently shown, there is no basis in reality that this is any kind of requirement (as in "must"). ..."
"... Perhaps his use of "must" in this case is talking about the intrinsic requirement. In other words, even if they are managing negatively for some and positively for others, they are managing for all. ..."
Sep 15, 2016 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

By Satyajit Das, a former banker. His latest book is 'A Banquet of Consequences ' (published in North America as The Age of Stagnation to avoid confusion as a cookbook). He is also the author of Extreme Money and Traders, Guns & Money

Electorates believe that business leaders are qualified for and likely to be effective in politics. Yet, with some notable exceptions, business people have rarely had successful political careers.

The assumption is that corporate vision, leadership skills, administrative skills and a proven record of wealth creation will translate into political success. It presupposes personal qualities such drive, ambition and ruthlessness. The allure is also grounded in the romantic belief that outsiders can fix all that is wrong with the political process. The faith is misplaced.

First, the required skills are different.

Successful business leaders generally serve a technical apprenticeship in the business, industry or a related profession giving them familiarity with the firm's activities. Political success requires party fealty, calculating partisanship, managing coalitions and networking. It requires a capacity to engage in the retail electoral process, such as inspirational public speaking and an easy familiarity with voters in a wide variety of settings. It requires formidable powers of fund raising to finance campaigns. Where individuals shift from business to politics in mid or later life, he or she is at a significant disadvantage to career political operatives who have had years to build the necessary relationships and organisation to support political aspirations.

Second, the scope of the task is different. A nation is typically larger than a business. The range of issues is broader, encompassing economics, finance, welfare, health, social policy as well as defence and international relations. Few chief executives will, during a single day, have to consider budgetary or economic issues, health policy, gender matters, privacy concerns, manage involvement in a foreign conflict in between meeting and greeting a range of visitors varying from schoolchildren to foreign dignitaries as well as attending to party political matters.

Political leaders must also manage for the entire population rather than the narrow interest of investors. They must take into account the effect of decisions on a wide range of constituencies including many implacably opposed to their positions.

Third, business objectives, such as profit maximisation, are narrow, well defined and constant. Political objectives are amorphous and ideological. The emphasis is on living standards, security and social justice. Priorities between conflicting objectives shift constantly. The benefits of decisions by governments in infrastructure, education and welfare are frequently difficult to measure and frequently will not emerge for a long time.

Business decisions rarely focus on the societal impact. Firms can reduce workforce, shift production overseas, seek subsidies or legally minimise taxes. Politicians must deal with the side effects of individual profit maximisation decisions such as closed factories, reduced employment, welfare and retraining costs, security implications as well as social breakdown and inequality or exclusion.

Fourth, the operating environment is different. Businesses usually operate within relatively defined product-market structures. In contrast, governments operate in a complex environment shaped by domestic and foreign factors, many of which they do not control or influence. Government actions require co-operation across different layers of government or countries. Businesses can withdraw from certain activities, while government do not have the same option.

Fifth, within boundaries set by laws and regulations, business leaders enjoy great freedom and power to implement their policies. Boards of directors and shareholders exercise limited control, usually setting broad financial parameters. They do not intervene in individual decisions. Most important government actions require legislative or parliamentary support. Unlike commercial operations, government face restrictions, such as separation of powers, restraints on executive or governmental action and international obligations.

Business leaders have unrivalled authority over their organisation based on threats (termination) or rewards (remuneration or promotion). Political leaders cannot fire legislators. They face significant barriers in rewarding or replacing public servants. Policy implementation requires negotiations and consensus. It requires overcoming opposition from opposing politicians, factions within one's own party, supporters, funders and the bureaucracy. It requires overcoming passively resistance from legislators and public servants who can simply outlast the current incumbent, whose tenure is likely to be shorter than their own.

The lack of clear goals, unrivalled authority and multiple and shifting power centres means that political power is more limited than assumed Many Presidents of the United States, regarded as the most powerful position on earth, have found that they had little ability to implement their agendas.

Sixth, unless they choose to be, business leaders are rarely public figures outside business circles. Politicians cannot avoid constant public attention. Modern political debate and discourse has become increasingly tabloid in tone, with unprecedented levels of invective and ridicule. There is no separation of the public and the personal. Business leaders frequently find the focus on personal matters as well as the tone of criticism discomforting.

There are commonalities. Both fields attract a particular type of individual. In addition, paraphrasing John Ruskin, successful political and business leaders not only know what must be done but actually do what must be done and do it when it must be done. A further commonality is the ultimate fate of leaders generally. Enoch Powell, himself a long-serving Member of the British Parliament, once remarked that all political lives end in failure. It is also true of most business leaders.

PlutoniumKun, September 15, 2016 at 4:27 am

I think the key difference between successful politicians and business people is patience. When you look at the careers of successful politicians, you can often see many years of pure relentless grind going into a few years of glory in a senior position. Endless committee meetings, rubber chicken dinners, being nice to people you loath, the inevitable humiliation of losing elections. Most business leaders simply lose patience after a few years after they go into politics.

Much the same seems to apply to military leaders, although off the top of my head I can think of more successful examples of the latter than of business people (Eisenhower and De Gaulle come to mind). Berlusconi comes to mind as a 'successful' politician and businessman, but then Italy does seem to be an outlier in some respects.

One key difference I think between 'good' politicians and 'good' businesspeople is in making decisions. Good businesspeople are decisive. Good politicians never make a decision until they absolutely have to.

PhilU, September 15, 2016 at 4:40 am

This is clearly a consequence of 'The government is like a household' misinformation campaign, which I think is really conceptualized as 'government is like a small business.' So why not get a businessman to run the thing?

Yves Smith Post author, September 15, 2016 at 5:03 am

Interesting point. It also comes out of 30+ years of demonization of government as being less well run than business, when IMHO the problems of government are 1. the result of scale (think of how well run GM and Citigroup were in the mid 200s…and both are better now that they have downsized and shaped up) and 2. inevitable given that you do not want government employees making stuff as they go, i.e., overruling the legislature and courts. The latter point is that some rigidity is part of how government works, and it's necessary to protect citizens.

Sound of the Suburbs , September 15, 2016 at 6:06 am

Adam Smith on the businessmen you shouldn't trust:

"The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it."

What they knew in the 18th century, we have forgotten today, but nothing has changed.

He wouldn't like today's lobbyists.

Sound of the Suburbs , September 15, 2016 at 6:09 am

Neoclassical economics hid the work of the Classical Economists and the difference between "earned" and "unearned" income.

Once you hide this it is easy to make it look as though the interests of business and the wealthy are the same.

We lowered taxes on the wealthy to remove free and subsidised services for those at the bottom. These costs now have to be covered by business through wages. All known and thoroughly studied in the 18th and 19th Centuries, they even came up with solutions.

There should not really be any tax on "earned" income, all tax should fall on "unearned" income to subside the productive side of the economy with low cost housing and services.

This allows lower wages and an internationally competitive economy.

Adam Smith:

"The Labour and time of the poor is in civilised countries sacrificed to the maintaining of the rich in ease and luxury. The Landlord is maintained in idleness and luxury by the labour of his tenants. The moneyed man is supported by his extractions from the industrious merchant and the needy who are obliged to support him in ease by a return for the use of his money. But every savage has the full fruits of his own labours; there are no landlords, no usurers and no tax gatherers."

Adam Smith saw landlords, usurers (bankers) and Government taxes as equally parasitic, all raising the cost of doing business.

He sees the lazy people at the top living off "unearned" income from their land and capital.

He sees the trickle up of Capitalism:
1) Those with excess capital collect rent and interest.
2) Those with insufficient capital pay rent and interest.

He differentiates between "earned" and "unearned" income.

The UK dream is to emulate the idle, rich rentier with a BTL portfolio, living off "unearned" income extracted from the "earned" income of generation rent, whilst doing as little as possible and enjoying a life of luxury and leisure.

KYrocky , September 15, 2016 at 8:28 am

"…who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it." Adam Smith just described the modern Republican Party and movement Conservatives.

Sound of the Suburbs , September 15, 2016 at 6:14 am

We have seen left wing revolutions before; we are now dealing with a right wing revolution.

Left wing revolutions usually involve much violence and eventually lead to tyranny, as any means are deemed acceptable to implement the one true solution and the new ideology. Pol Pot was the most extreme example where he decided to return to year zero by wiping out the bourgeoisie in Cambodia. When the dust has settled the revolution just leads to a new elite who maintain their ideology with force and brutality.

When Francis Fukuyama talked of the end of history, a new year zero was envisaged, this one based on a right wing ideology. A right wing revolution that could take place globally and was not confined to individual nations like left wing revolutions.

Its theories had already been tested in South America and Indonesia where extreme brutality was employed to implement their one true solution and the new ideology. The children of the US elite were the storm troopers of this ideology and they headed out from their elite US universities to bring this new ideology to developing nations.

"The Chicago Boys" headed out from the University of Chicago to bring the new way to South American nations and "The Berkley Mafia" headed out from the University of Berkeley, California to bring the new way to Indonesia.

Any means were deemed acceptable to implement the one true solution and the new ideology, e.g. torture, terror, death squads, snatching people off the streets and making them disappear permanently. Any left wing resistance had to be quashed by whatever means necessary.

Their revolutions always massively increased inequality, a few at the top became fabulously wealthy and extreme and widespread poverty became prevalent at the bottom. Mixing with the people at the top, the elite US storm troopers deemed their revolutions a huge success. This ideology was ready to roll out across the world.

Under this new ideology, the UK dream is to emulate the idle, rich rentier with a BTL portfolio, living off "unearned" income extracted from the "earned" income of generation rent, whilst doing as little as possible and enjoying a life of luxury and leisure.

Norb , September 15, 2016 at 7:27 am

Obfuscating the relationship between free markets and the role of government is coming to an end. So much failure and misdirection cannot hide forever. The cognitive dissonance set up in society is unsustainable- people don't like to feel or experience crazy.

Markets are stronger and healthier when backed by functioning government. Defining what good government is and demanding it is required today. That is the revolutionary force, finally turning back the negative campaign against government and demanding good government- fighting for it.

Fighting fraud and corruption follows these same lines. Reading about the various forms of fraud and corruption here at NC daily provides the framework to address the problem. The real work begins convincing fellow citizens to not accept the criminality- the new normal. It is sometimes distressing seeing the reaction of fellow citizens to these crimes not as outrage, but more along the lines of begrudging admiration for the criminals. The subtile conditioning of the population to accept criminality needs a countervailing force.

Modern mass media projects a false picture of the world. The meme they push is that violence and corruption are so pervasive in the world, vast resources must be expended addressing the problem, and when these efforts fail, settle for apathy and avoidance. The creation of the Businessman/Politician is the perfect vehicle to move this agenda forward.

Politics controlling and driving business decisions must be reestablished, not the other way around- business driving politics and society. That truly is the distinction between authoritarianism and democracy. Small authoritarians are tolerable in society- large ones not so much.

KPL , September 15, 2016 at 9:14 am

Bang on. Especially being a political leader in a democracy is too tough and I am surprised that people want the job given the landmine they have to navigate and the compromises you have to make on a daily basis. Similarity is closest when you compare a benevolent dictator and a successful businessman, something like how Lee Kuan Yew ran Singapore.

Robert Hahl , September 15, 2016 at 9:41 am

"Enoch Powell…once remarked that all political lives end in failure. It is also true of most business leaders." But that is also what they say about love. No good end can come of it.

RobC , September 15, 2016 at 12:15 pm

There is a mistaken assumption here that business people are responsible for their own or their organization's success. Or even that they're qualified as business people. The higher up the business ladder you go, the more it is other people making the important decisions, even deciding what you think, do and say.

In this way it's similar to politics. It's likely that neither the successful business person nor the politician is qualified for their roles, that nobody can be. Also their roles are essentially to be authorities, and likewise nobody is truly qualified nor has the justification or legitimacy for authority.

shinola , September 15, 2016 at 12:28 pm

This bit of convenient fiction caught my eye: "Political leaders must also manage for the entire population rather than the narrow interest of investors."

Perhaps political leaders should do this but, as has been recently shown, there is no basis in reality that this is any kind of requirement (as in "must").

Robert Coutinho , September 15, 2016 at 2:07 pm

Perhaps his use of "must" in this case is talking about the intrinsic requirement. In other words, even if they are managing negatively for some and positively for others, they are managing for all.

[Aug 16, 2016] Normalized Deviance

angrybearblog.com
  1. Zachary Smith August 15, 2016 3:26 pm

    To likbez August 15, 2016

    There is a new essay at Consortium News which describes the issue we're talking about.

    https://consortiumnews.com/2016/08/15/us-war-crimes-or-normalized-deviance/

    It's worth a look.

  2. likbez August 16, 2016 5:23 pm

    to Zachary Smith August 15, 2016 3:26 pm

    Thank you.

    This term "Normalized Deviance" reminds me Dixon's study of military incompetence which deepened the traditional observation that peacetime armies and wartime armies prefer (and promote) very different types of officers. Actually it is sycophants and "yes men" who are promoted at peace time, especially "kiss up, kick down" type.

    They gradually pervert the organization and when war strikes commit blunders.

    The same process occurs within three letter agencies, which degenerate into propaganda arms of White House. Some observers claim that this process started at full force in CIA under Bush I and State Department under Clinton.

    https://consortiumnews.com/2011/08/29/rise-of-another-cia-yes-man/

[Aug 15, 2016] Rise of Another CIA Yes Man – Consortiumnews

Notable quotes:
"... As for Michael Morell, as with many other successful CIA careerists, his strongest suit seemed to be pleasing his boss and not antagonizing the White House. If past is precedent, his loyalty will be to Petraeus, not necessarily to the truth. ..."
"... Wall Street Journal ..."
"... At the Center of the Storm, ..."
"... President's Daily Brief ..."
"... Wall Street Journal ..."
"... Wall Street Journal ..."
"... apologia pro vita sua ..."
"... Washington Post ..."
"... The first is from a recently retired Senior Intelligence Service officer. ..."
"... The second comment (on the remarks above) is from Larry C Johnson, former CIA intelligence officer. ..."
"... Comment from Mary McCarthy, former Senior Intelligence Service officer and White House official. ..."
"... A schizophrenic 'Team B' element was infiltrated into the original integrity of the CIA, (billed as 'Team A'), as and soon after Bush served as Director, 1976. He is, after all, who made the CIA what it is today, who presided at the ceremony of the cornerstone for the (second) Headquarters Building and so recognized by namesake on the bronze plaque by the front door. ..."
"... The corroborating correlation I most notice is that nine-eleven is the commemorative founding date of the CIA, 1947. ..."
consortiumnews.com
August 29, 2011

Exclusive: The gross manipulation of CIA analysis under George W. Bush pushed a new generation of "yes men" into the agency's top ranks. Now one of those aspiring bureaucrats will be Gen. David Petraeus's right-hand man, writes ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern. (Also, at end of article, see special comments from several CIA insiders.)

As Gen. David Petraeus prepares to take the helm at CIA in September, he can expect unswerving loyalty from his likely deputy, Michael Morell, who has been acting director since July when Leon Panetta left to become Secretary of Defense.

Like many senior CIA officials in recent years, Morell's record is checkered, at best. He held key jobs in intelligence analysis over the past decade as the CIA often served as a handmaiden to the war propagandists.

As for Michael Morell, as with many other successful CIA careerists, his strongest suit seemed to be pleasing his boss and not antagonizing the White House. If past is precedent, his loyalty will be to Petraeus, not necessarily to the truth.

Forgive me if my thinking about loyalty to the facts seems "obsolete" or "quaint" or if it seems unfair to expect CIA analysts to put their careers on the line when politicians and ideologues are misleading the nation to war but those were the principles that analysts of my generation tried to uphold.

The recent tendency at CIA to give politicians what they want to hear rather than the hard truth is not healthy for the Republic that we were all sworn to serve.

And, if Petraeus's own past is precedent, loyalty to the four-star general will not always be synonymous with loyalty to the truth.

Burnishing an Image

However, you will get no indication of this troubling reality from the flattering, but thin, feature about Michael Morell, "Mr. Insider Will Guide Petraeus at the CIA," by Siobhan Gorman in the Wall Street Journal on Aug. 26.

Gorman is normally a solid reporter; but either she did not perform due diligence and let herself be snookered, or her editors stepped in to ensure her story was consonant with the image Petraeus and the Establishment wish to create for Morell.

Before her "rare" interview with Morell, Gorman should have taken a close look at former CIA Director George Tenet's memoir, At the Center of the Storm, to learn what Tenet says about Morell's record during the last decade's dark days of misleading and dishonest intelligence.

In Tenet's personal account of the CIA's failures around 9/11 and the Iraq War, Morell Tenet's former executive assistant is generally treated kindly, but Tenet puts Morell at the center of two key fiascoes: he "coordinated the CIA review" of Secretary of State Colin Powell's infamous Feb. 5, 2003 address to the United Nations and he served as the regular CIA briefer to President George W. Bush.

Putting Access Before Honesty

So, Morell was there as Bush blew off early CIA warnings about the possibility of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden being "determined to strike in the US" and while Bush and his neoconservative inner circle were concocting intelligence to justify invading Iraq.

Tenet credits Morell with suggesting to analysts that they prepare a report on the terrorist threat, which became the President's Daily Brief that was handed to Bush on Aug. 6, 2001, at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. Bush brushed aside the warning with a reported comment to the CIA briefer, "all right, you've covered your ass," and went off fishing.

Though Tenet said Morell got along well with Bush, it appears the President didn't pay much heed to any CIA information coming from Morell, at least not anything that went against what Bush wanted to hear nor did Morell seem to risk offending the President by pushing these contrary points.

After the Aug. 6 PDB was delivered, Tenet wrote that he needed to follow it up, and did so with a trip to Crawford 11 days later, when Tenet remembers Bush driving him around in a pickup truck as Tenet made "small talk about the flora and fauna."

Morell also was the CIA briefer with Bush in Florida on the morning of 9/11 when news arrived about the attacks on New York City's Twin Towers. Later, Bush told Morell "that if we [the CIA] learned anything definitive about the attack, he wanted to be the first to know," Tenet wrote, adding:

"Wiry, youthful looking, and extremely bright, Mike speaks in staccato-like bursts that get to the bottom line very quickly. He and George Bush had hit it off almost immediately. In a crisis like this, Mike was the perfect guy for us to have by the commander-in-chief's side."

However, it appears Morell was not willing to risk his rapport with Bush by challenging the President's desire to pivot from retaliatory strikes against Afghanistan to a full-scale invasion of Iraq based on false and misleading intelligence.

Tenet also described Morell's role in organizing the review of the "intelligence" that went into Powell's speech, which let slip the dogs of war by presenting a thoroughly deceptive account of the Iraqi threat, what Powell later called a "blot" on his record.

Though the CIA embraced many of Powell's misleading assertions, Tenet recounted one exchange in which Morell stood up to John Hannah, an aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, regarding Iraq's alleged efforts to obtain yellowcake uranium from Niger.

"Hannah asked Mike Morell, who was coordinating the review of the speech for CIA, why the Niger uranium story wasn't in the latest draft," Tenet wrote. "'Because we don't believe it,' Mike told him. 'I thought you did,' Hannah said. After much wrangling and precious time lost in explaining our doubts, Hannah understood why we believed it was inappropriate for Colin to use the Niger material in his speech."

Despite that one pushback, the CIA analysts mostly bent to pressures coming from the White House for an alarmist treatment of allegations about the "weapons of mass destruction," which turned out not to be in Iraq.

Of the CIA's finished intelligence product, it was reportedly the PDB delivered by Morell that most exaggerated the danger.

Not Mistaken, Dishonest

It is sad to have to recall that this was not "erroneous," but rather fraudulent intelligence. Announcing on June 5, 2008, the bipartisan conclusions from a five-year study by the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Jay Rockefeller described the intelligence conjured up to "justify" war on Iraq as "uncorroborated, contradicted, or even non-existent."

Rockefeller's comments call to mind what Tenet told his British counterpart, Sir Richard Dearlove, on July 20, 2002, after former Prime Minister Tony Blair sent Dearlove to the CIA to get the latest scoop on how the U.S. planned to "justify" the attack on Iraq.

According to the official British minutes of a cabinet-level planning session chaired by Blair on July 23, 2002, at 10 Downing Street, Tenet made clear to Dearlove that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" to bring "regime change" to Iraq.

Could it be that Tenet would let the British in on this dirty little secret and keep George W. Bush's personal briefer, Michael Morell, in the dark? Seems unlikely.

But even if Morell were not fully informed about the high-level scheme for war, would he have been with his prized relationship with the President the most appropriate senior official to "coordinate the CIA review" of Powell's speech?

The 'Sinister Nexus'

In the Wall Street Journal feature, reporter Gorman was assured of something else about Morell's role in preparing the intelligence on Iraq. According to Gorman, "His [Morell's] team didn't handle the analysis that erroneously concluded the Iraqi government had weapons of mass destruction." I guess that depends on your definition of "team."

But what about alleged ties between Iraq and al-Qaeda, the second bogus issue used to "justify" attacking Iraq? There Morell seemed to be on better ground, telling Gorman that his "team" had concluded that there had been earlier contacts between Iraqi intelligence and al-Qaeda, but there were no links to al-Qaeda operations at the time.

Still, Morell didn't seem to have pressed this point very hard while coordinating the CIA's review of Powell's UN speech. If Morell had, one has to wonder why Powell was fed, and swallowed, the line about a "sinister nexus between Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist network?"

ABC's Brian Ross shot down that canard just hours after Powell spoke. Citing a BBC report from London, Ross noted that British intelligence had concluded there was no evidence to support the theory that al-Qaeda and Iraq were working together.

Virtually all intelligence analysts with no axes to grind, after sifting through thousands of reports, had long since come to that same conclusion.

Did Secretary Powell have to learn about the Iraq/al-Qaeda disconnect from the BBC? Later, Powell was livid at having been led down the garden path by the likes of Tenet, Tenet's pandering deputy John McLaughlin, and Morell, a Tenet protégé.

Tenet and McLaughlin were also co-liars-in-chief regarding those mobile biological weapons factories, a yarn spun by the infamous source called "Curveball." In his memoir, Tenet doesn't describe Morell's role in promoting, or at least acquiescing in depicting, the charlatan "Curveball" as a reliable intelligence source for a key portion of Powell's speech.

And, if you think it's unfair to expect CIA bureaucrats to risk their careers by challenging the political desires of the White House, it's worth noting the one major exception to the CIA's sorry record during George W. Bush's presidency and how honest CIA analysts helped prevent another unnecessary war.

After former chief of State Department intelligence Tom Fingar was put in charge of National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs), a thoroughly professional NIE in late 2007 concluded unanimously and "with high confidence" that Iran had stopped working on a nuclear weapon in mid-2003.

President Bush's own memoir leaves no doubt that this Estimate played a huge role in spiking White House plans for war on Iran. It's a pity that the Estimate on Iran should be an exception to the rule.

Much to Be Humble About

Yet, in the Wall Street Journal feature, Michael Morell lectures Gorman on the basics and the limits of intelligence analysis.

"We end up having bits of information that have a multitude of possible explanations," said Morell. "You've got to be really humble about the business we're in."

Well, yes indeed. The WSJ also ran a sidebar with a list of the following CIA failures and Morell's facile potions for cures:

–2001, Sept. 11 attacks: A failure of both intelligence collection and analysis. Lesson: A need to better penetrate U.S. adversaries.

–2003, Iraq weapons of mass destruction: Analysts erroneously concluded Iraq had WMDs. Lesson: Analysts must describe confidence levels in conclusions, consider alternate explanations.

–2009, Bombing of CIA base in Khost, Afghanistan: Doubts about the asset-turned-suicide-bomber didn't get to the right people. Lesson: Share information with the people who most need it.

Is this Morell fellow on the ball, or what?

Let's address these one by one:

–9/11 need not have happened if Tenet and his protĂ©gĂ©s simply shared the information needed by the FBI and others. See, for instance, Consortiumnews.com's " Did Tenet Hide Key 9/11 Info ?" Or, Tenet and Morell might have risked their cozy relationship with Bush by challenging his casual dismissal of the existing multiple warnings.

–The WMD not in Iraq? How about promoting and rewarding honest analysts; no "fixing" allowed. Face down White House pressure. We used to do it all the time. We used to have career protection for doing it.

–On the tragedy at Khost? Well, how about some basic training in tradecraft, including rudimentary security precautions.

And speaking of rudimentary security precautions: Morell bragged to Gorman that he had recently flown to Kabul to brief Petraeus, carrying a blue briefing book emblazoned with the CIA seal and detailing the CIA's every critical program, organization and operation.

"It was the most highly classified guide that I've ever seen in my life" was Petraeus's wow-response.

The appropriate reaction, in my professional view, would have been to fire Morell on the spot for recklessness. He should know better. They down aircraft, blow up motorcades and shoot people in Afghanistan, you know. Is it really such a great idea to carry a briefing book with the CIA's most sensitive secrets into that environment?

Moreover, bragging about this cavalier approach to protecting sensitive documents sends shivers down the backs of foreign intelligence officers, adding to their reluctance to share delicate information with us.

Loosening Leashes on Dogs of War

There is ironic serendipity in the fact that the WSJ feature on Morell appeared on Aug. 26, exactly nine years after the fraudulent speech given by Vice President Dick Cheney before the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Nashville.

And just four days before the nation's bookstores host In My Time , Cheney's apologia pro vita sua . (The advance promotion includes his personal warning that the book will have "heads exploding" all over Washington.)

There are huge lessons in what happened and what did not happen immediately after Cheney's Aug. 26, 2002, thinly disguised call for an attack on Iraq, and how those who recognized the lies could not summon enough courage to try to stop the juggernaut toward war.

The Fawning Corporate Media and the cowering careerists at CIA were among the main culprits. But there were others who, if they have a conscience and are honest with themselves, may still be finding it difficult to look in the mirror nine years later.

In his August 2002 speech, Cheney launched the virulent propaganda campaign for an aggressive war against Iraq, telling the audience in Nashville:

"Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us."

This was no innocent mistake by the Vice President; it was a bald-faced lie, a falsehood that opened the gates to a hellish conflict that has ripped apart Iraq, bringing untold death and destruction.

Nine years later it is well worth recalling this lie on behalf of the 4,500 U.S. troops killed in Iraq, the many more wounded, the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed, and the five million displaced from their homes.

Let it be widely understood that on Aug. 26, 2002, Dick Cheney set the meretricious terms of reference for war.

Hear No Evil, Speak No Truth

Sitting on the same stage that evening was former CENTCOM commander Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, who was being honored at the VFW convention. Zinni later said he was shocked to hear Cheney's depiction of intelligence (Iraq has WMD and is amassing them to use against us) that did not square with what he knew.

Although Zinni had retired two years before, his role as consultant had enabled him to stay up to date on key intelligence findings.

"There was no solid proof that Saddam had WMD. … I heard a case being made to go to war," Zinni told Meet the Press three and a half years later .

Zinni is normally a straight shooter with a good bit of courage. And so, the question lingers: why did he not go public when he first heard Cheney's lie?

What seems operative here, I fear, is an all-too-familiar conundrum at senior levels where people have been conditioned not to rock the boat, not to risk their standing within the Washington Establishment.

Almost always, the results are bad. I would bet a tidy sum that Zinni regrets having let his reaction be shaped, as it apparently was, by a misguided kind of professional courtesy and/or slavish adherence to classification restrictions.

After all, he was one of the very few credible senior officials who might have prevented a war of aggression, which the Nuremberg Tribunals after World War II branded the "supreme international crime."

Zinni was not the only one taken aback by Cheney's words. Then-CIA Director George Tenet said Cheney's speech took him completely by surprise.

In his memoir, Tenet wrote, "I had the impression that the president wasn't any more aware than we were of what his number-two was going to say to the VFW until he said it." But like Br'er Fox, Tenet didn't say nothing.

Tenet claims he didn't even check it all out with either Cheney or Bush after Cheney's speech. Yet, could Cheney's twisting of the data not have been anticipated? Indeed, weren't Tenet and his CIA in on the determination to make a case for war?

In a way, that conclusion is a no-brainer. As mentioned above, just five weeks before Cheney's speech, Tenet himself had explained to his British counterpart that the President had decided to make war on Iraq for regime change and "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

Cheney simply was unveiling the war rationale to the public. Several weeks later, when Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Bob Graham insisted on a National Intelligence Estimate before any vote in Congress, Tenet told his folks to prepare one that dovetailed with Cheney's unsupported rhetoric.

Sadly, my former colleagues did. And where was Michael Morell in this process? Clearly, he did nothing to destroy his career or put himself too much on the outs at the White House.

The Sales Job

When Bush's senior advisers came back to town after Labor Day 2002, the next five weeks were devoted to selling the war, a major "new product" that, as then-White House chief of staff Andy Card explained, one shouldn't introduce in the month of August.

Card, too, apparently had no idea that Cheney would jump the gun as "fixer-in-chief." At that point, the Tenets, McLaughlins and Morells of this world fell right into line.

After assuring themselves that Tenet was a reliable salesman, Cheney and then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld allowed him to play a supporting role in advertising bogus claims about aluminum tubes for uranium enrichment and mobile trailers for manufacturing biological warfare agents.

The hyped and bogus intelligence succeeded in scaring Congress into voting for war on Oct. 10 and 11, 2002.

In my view, it strains credulity to think that Michael Morell was unaware of the fraudulent nature of this campaign. Yet, like all too many others, he mostly kept quiet, and he got promoted. That's how it works in Washington these days.

This kind of malleability regarding twisting facts to support war has worked well for Petraeus, too.

Today, there is little chance Petraeus can be unaware of Morell's pedigree. Given Petraeus's own experience in climbing the career ladder, the general may even harbor an admiration for Morell's extraordinary willingness to please.

The two will make a fine pair for Official Washington, though not for those "quaint" folks who put a high premium on integrity.

As for Dick Cheney who was once given the well-deserved sobriquet "Vice President for Torture" in a Washington Post editorial, I just wish he would disappear so he would stop bringing out the worst in everyone.

I found my own feelings mirrored in a plaintive comment from a good friend who prays a lot. She said, "I keep praying for Dick Cheney, especially when he goes into the hospital. But he always comes out again."

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was a PDB briefer of Vice President George H.W. Bush and the Secretaries of State and Defense during President Ronald Reagan's first term, and earlier in his career chaired National Intelligence Estimates. He serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) .

Note: I sent a draft of the above article to former colleagues, intelligence officers who served in CIA more recently than I and left after clocking many years at very senior levels. The comments I received from them turned out to be so germane and incisive that I include them below for those wanting a better feel for what really goes on.

The first is from a recently retired Senior Intelligence Service officer.

Ray:

You make a good case that Morell isn't going to be the objective, unpoliticized deputy that Petraeus is going to need. He may be what Petraeus wants, but not what he needs to do a good job.

You make the case that, like McLaughlin, he's going to give the veneer of an analyst's integrity to decision making without any of the burdens (integrity, nonpoliticization, tradecraft, etc.) that make the analyst imprimatur meaningful. Like McLaughlin, he seems eager to play handmaiden to a predetermined agenda.

In fact, the case you make, correctly, is that Morell is the quintessential intelligence community bureaucrat who has survived and prospered by subscribing to a particular worldview and steering clear of the alternatives declared off-limits by the U.S. right wing.

A couple of more specific comments:

–Your use of the word "loyalty": Morell will be loyal to his boss i.e., he will not upset him the way McLaughlin was loyal to Tenet. That ignores, of course, that the deputy's job is to protect his boss from himself and from his own biases.

McLaughlin's "loyalty" to Tenet wound up screwing Tenet, and Morell's "loyalty" to Petraeus is going to do the same. A man like Petraeus shows up with HUGE blind spots, and Morell rather than help him see into those blind spots almost certainly will reinforce them.

Your use of the word "loyalty" conveys that it's a virus that will harm Petraeus. And that's what it is.

The "winds blowing from the White House" requires a little elaboration. Just as Panetta was captured, so has this White House been via the person of CIA veteran John Brennan on site. Brennan, of course, is the fellow who could not get confirmed as director because of his well known past history, so he's running things from the White House.

The number of Obama flip-flops on intelligence issues has been stunning. The "winds," you might say, have been blowing from CIA's own Tenet protégé Brennan.

I personally would say Morell, like McLaughlin, knows and accepts that the operations people and their rightwing allies in the Admin, at the Pentagon, and in the Congress (and there are many!) set the direction the wind blows; Morell will always urge his boss to tack accordingly.

In fact, the parallels with McLaughlin are strong, an analysis directorate fellow of modest capabilities, desperate for acceptance by the operations people and the rightwing downtown, jettisoning tradecraft and going with the flow.

The Gorman piece in the WSJ was disgraceful cooptation in action. The fact that she could list his many failures as "lessons learned" was amazing. It's as if the rightwing were signaling to Petreaus not to judge Morell by his repeated failures and repeated inaction; judge him by our right-wing love for him.

On the many failures, I don't have first-hand knowledge of Morell's role in the historic intelligence cook-job of WMD and the fateful State of the Union lies about yellow cake; all I know is that Alan Foley was the designated representative in that coordination.

But your sourcing of Tenet on that is compelling, and I think your sanity-check on Morell's performance is fair.

–Words like "wow-response" are also fair, and effective. The "wow" factor is used to shock and awe people to squeeze them into the tiny space in which conformity is expected and challenges rejected.

For me, particularly with a weak Administration with no policy bearings like this one, the problem is that operations are done for operations' sake sans policy, sans review.

I'm reading Joby Warrick's book, and his worship of targeters is somewhat jarring when there's no discussion of the number of innocent people killed and no discussion of why this is an "intelligence" vice military mission. We know why, but his readers don't making such worship rather cynical.

You're probably right that it "strains credulity" that Morell didn't know how fraudulent the whole National Intelligence Estimate on WMD in Iraq was. I just don't know, however, whether he was able intellectually to see what was going on.

He was so close to power and so close to their mindset and so eager to stay in their good graces that he may have believed all the horse manure.

Wrapped up as he was, he may not have fully appreciated the thing was especially because key elements of the intelligence community funneling info to him were also true-believers, as were those in charge of community analysis.

Who could ever have been giving Morell an alternative view? The most senior people were all true-believers. It was very much frowned upon to ask real questions.

So how could a man of Morell's background and capabilities ask them? If you preferred not to say outright that Morell was guilty of fraud, you could be somewhat more charitable and put it this way: He was surrounded by true-believers and didn't have the fortitude or candlepower, or even perceived space, to question the bogus intelligence he was involved in validating.

Not a good harbinger for the future.

The second comment (on the remarks above) is from Larry C Johnson, former CIA intelligence officer.

Your observations provide important context. The lies that paved the road to war in Iraq are being revived this week as part of the 10-year anniversary of 9/11.

We have not learned a damned thing. Meanwhile, Iraq remains a deadly place for the various Iraq factions and our actions have completely disrupted the balance of power in the Middle East. Of course, neither the media nor the majority of the pundits want to focus on that.

And a brief but important point made by first commenter in reaction:

And cranking up for Iran?

Comment from Mary McCarthy, former Senior Intelligence Service officer and White House official.

You asked if I knew Morell and what he is like. I do; you nailed it.

The only moment of discomfort is when you use Tenet as a compass point for the actual truth. Because, of course, Tenet often has his own version of the facts.

Nancy Abler, August 29, 2011 at 11:08 am

My comment is actually a question. What political person or group was most instrumental in changing the inherent integrity of the CIA to a politically obeisant CIA? And when?

  1. J. C. Murphy August 29, 2011 at 5:51 pm There is a daily compilation of news articles that appears on one of the DoD websites. I won't mention the name, but many of you are probably familiar with it. It's not classified information. I am a “non-combatant”, but I view it my duty to know what is actually going on. When you wear the 'chicken', that's kind of obligatory. Since I kind of assume that it's a “cooked” reading list, I check it out every day at lunch-time. Then, I go home in the evening and read what they say about the same stories on Alternet, TruthOut, TruthDig, CrooksandLiars, TheDailyBail, WhatReallyHappened, TheRealNews, etc.

    When I read Gorman's article, I almost fell out of my chair. Especially the part about the “Blue Book”, a hard copy of every significant intelligence initiative we have. And I swear to God, the first thing that went through my mind was, “I can't wait to hear what Ray McGovern has to say about this”. I hope that blue book had a close encounter with the nearest 'industrial strength' shredder. Better yet, the biohazardous waste incinerator at the nearest U.S. Military health facility.

    Ray, you're the best. Godspeed-

  2. Ethan Allen August 29, 2011 at 6:31 pm Though I have taken issue with Mr. McGovern on several occasions, this take on the professional veracity of Michael Morell reflects an improved awareness of honest candor and informed opinion. The concurrence of Mary McCarthy and "the retired Senior Intelligence Officer" mentioned are reassuring endorsements.
    I found this excerpt to be a particularly interesting observation:

    "Almost always, the results are bad. I would bet a tidy sum that Zinni regrets having let his reaction be shaped, as it apparently was, by a misguided kind of professional courtesy and/or slavish adherence to classification restrictions."

    It is this very "..slavish adherence to classification restrictions." that seems to continue to plague many of those who continue to be paid, even in ostensible retirement, with public largess; but none-the-less hold such nefarious pledges to secrecy in higher regard than their oath to the Constitution and the people it is designed to support and protect.

  3. Meremark August 29, 2011 at 7:47 pm –
    Ray, good man, my two senses:

    Saying, "The hyped and bogus intelligence [ foisted by media-mania in 'only' 5 weeks after Labor Day, 2002 ] succeeded in scaring Congress into voting for war on Oct. 10 and 11, 2002," does shortchange, bypass, and omit quite a bunch of conducts of equal or more importance (than 'hype and bogosity') that SCARED Congress to fear, panic, and comply at being commanded orders to self-destructively rubberstamp plans prepared for military invasion of Iraq.

    On first reading I mistook the year and thought the statement said 'between Labor Day and mid-October 2001' falsified intelligence scared Congress to make blind endorsement (of the PATRIOT Act) for Bush Admin 'throw-weight' - which truly happened then, (false claims fooled Congress), but such a brief description (as I misread it) applied to those dates in 2001, the year before, would be ignoring the scaring (and scarring) effect of the anthrax letters mailed to Congress.

    Anyway, it is all of-a-piece according to my estimation. Bush losing (to Clinton) in 1992 begat (Bush's) vendetta viciousness which begat a militaristic making of foreign policy which begat (Bush conceiving and appointing) a panel the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) to hop on a hype of Defense Quadrennial Review which begat a seeded "new Pearl Harbor" bearing for compartmentalized planners to steer toward in unison, and in parallel, which begat installing proxy Bush Junior as 'cover' misdirection overshadowing surreptitious operations which begat the inside-job obtaining in nine-eleven op which begat paralytic mortification of Congress which begat Patriot Act passage which begat destabilizing and off-balancing Middle East incusions which begat stovepipes (of 'war reporters') for massmedia distribution of the hype and bogosity scheduled to come "after August", 2002, which begat Executive war-crimes powers rubberstamped by Congress which begat oil confiscation from devastating Iraq and decapitating the House of Hussein … "to get him back," vengefully, "to finish the job" (and incidentally silence a partner confided privy in years-earlier crimes against humanity). ( Three men can keep a secret, if two are dead – Ben Franklin) In result: rule the world and control all its petroleum. or the other way 'round.

    If any segment of that plan in operation, 1993-2003, had failed then EVERYthing planned to follow on from the juncture (of the failure) would have NONE of it have happened. Most critically, if Junior had not been made Cover-Up Controller (POTUS) then nine-eleven op would not have happened. (Or if nine-eleven op had failed or been exposed truly, then taking over Iraq (oil production) would not have happened.

    Overall, my first comment is to the point that Congress's going along (obedience) for ceding war-power Authority, by its Oct. 2002 demented actions, was a longer psychological breaking-down procedure than only a 6-week public relations saturation-campaign of 'bad intelligence.'

    My second point is to crack your optimistic rose-colored glasses, Ray, through which you see the institution (of a 'secret' intelligence community, namely the CIA) as an intrinsic 'good' or good 'thing' permanently, and, transiently, the human-natured agents of the institution as individually good or bad cases, assets, apples … and if all the bad apples were taken or kept out of the institutional barrel, the provided fruits of such a cultivated institution would be good (natured) without doubt. I claim that the Tenets and McLaughlins and Morells and all the 'bad' apple-shining agents you may care to name, if they were to be cast out and departed from the intelligence community, what remained - in its very precept and principles, its conceived raison d'etre - was and evermore is inHERently 'bad' or a 'bad' thing … malevolent, malignant, a malady, undemocratic, anti-American.

    Not only is the institution of the CIA with its elite secrets and secret elites unjustified, true Justice should would and could (obviate), sanction, and sentence condemnation on its immoral purpose, motives, and practice. I kinda got this view (I share) of 'it' (discounting ordinary citizens' sensibility as unable to handle the truths of a certain privileged secret illicit and irrighteous 'license-to-kill') from Harry Truman; (versus Allen Dulles).

    Put all surveillance apertures, including orbiting-satellite views, including visual and every spectrum scanned, on the internet … as public money provides. Thus, then, all the malevolent agents and reagents in the world are objectively the seen , not the subjectively-serving seers .

    Ray, you can't make supremacism right in the CIA and USG by removing its wrongs in a process of elimination to reach its core value. You can't domesticate an antisocial tiger by changing or cleansing its stripes.

    One small note to end on for your consideration, Ray, regarding your uncertainty whether the President is riding the tiger or the tiger is riding the President, ("… Obama flip-flops on intelligence issues ???"). Consider the findings of investigation into Obama's biographic lineage, childhood, formative rearing, and deliverance achieved. Evidence (strongly and strangely suppressed) appears for conviction that he is but one specimen (the most prominent) of the MK-ULTRA human(life) experimentation, 1951-2011, making and made a (Legendary) 'manchurian candidate.' Made in USA branded brain.

    Evidenced in the original, although behind a subscription-required paywall yet soon a published book, appears here:
    http://www.waynemadsenreport.com/

    and appears in essential excerpt, here:
    http://www.veteranstoday.com/2010/08/18/wayne-madsen-obamas-cia-connections-part-i-and-ii/

    -

    Answer to Nancy Abler , 11:08 am, questions of what person most instrumentally corrupted the integrity of the CIA?, and (maybe) when? how?

    The most explanation I have read is Chapter 16 of George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography, by Webster Tarpley and Anton Chaitkin, here:
    http://tarpley.net/online-books/george-bush-the-unauthorized-biography/chapter-16-campaign-1980/

    A schizophrenic 'Team B' element was infiltrated into the original integrity of the CIA, (billed as 'Team A'), as and soon after Bush served as Director, 1976. He is, after all, who made the CIA what it is today, who presided at the ceremony of the cornerstone for the (second) Headquarters Building and so recognized by namesake on the bronze plaque by the front door.

    The corroborating correlation I most notice is that nine-eleven is the commemorative founding date of the CIA, 1947.

[May 12, 2016] Screw The Next Generation Anonymous Congressman Admits To Blithely Mortgaging The Future With A Wink A Nod

Notable quotes:
"... "Most of my colleagues are dishonest career politicians who revel in the power and special-interest money that's lavished upon them." ..."
"... "My main job is to keep my job, to get reelected. It takes precedence over everything." ..."
"... "Fundraising is so time consuming I seldom read any bills I vote on. Like many of my colleagues, I don't know how the legislation will be implemented, or what it'll cost." ..."
"... " Voters are incredibly ignorant and know little about our form of government and how it works." ..."
"... "It's far easier than you think to manipulate a nation of naive, self-absorbed sheep who crave instant gratification." ..."
"... "We spend money we don't have and blithely mortgage the future with a wink and a nod. Screw the next generation." ..."
"... Best line in the God Father. "Their Saps, They fight for other people". Sounds like pop talking. God damn right that's Pop talking. Come here you. ..."
"... The only function of a bureaucracy is to perpetuate the bureaucracy. ..."
"... Trump is getting so much attention because the citizenry doesn't know how the govt was designed to work, and is looking for a "leader" to fix things up. ..."
"... The power lies in Congress, by design, appropriately so, as it most closely represents the will of the People. And therein lies the eleventh-hour problem. ..."
"... This book will be exposed as a hoax. It is doubtless a compilation of quotes from multiple Congrees-critters over the years. I doubt any of these assholes would risk exposure in this manner. They don't have the guts. ..."
May 12, 2016 | Zero Hedge

A shockingly frank new book from an anonymous Democratic congressman turns yet another set of conspiracy theories into consirpacy facts as he spills the beans on the ugly reality behind the scenes in Washington. While little will surprise any regular readers, the selected quotes offered by "The Confessions Of Congressman X" book cover sheet read like they were ripped from the script of House of Cards... and yet are oh so believable...

A devastating inside look at the dark side of Congress as revealed by one of its own! No wonder Congressman X wants to remain anonymous for fear of retribution. His admissions are deeply disturbing...

"Most of my colleagues are dishonest career politicians who revel in the power and special-interest money that's lavished upon them."

"My main job is to keep my job, to get reelected. It takes precedence over everything."

"Fundraising is so time consuming I seldom read any bills I vote on. Like many of my colleagues, I don't know how the legislation will be implemented, or what it'll cost."

The book also takes shots at voters as disconnected idiots who let Congress abuse its power through sheer incompetence...

" Voters are incredibly ignorant and know little about our form of government and how it works."

"It's far easier than you think to manipulate a nation of naive, self-absorbed sheep who crave instant gratification."

And, as The Daily Mail so elqouently notes, the take-away message is one of resigned depression about how Congress sacrifices America's future on the altar of its collective ego...

"We spend money we don't have and blithely mortgage the future with a wink and a nod. Screw the next generation."

"It's about getting credit now, lookin' good for the upcoming election."

Simply put, it's everything that is enraging Americans about their government's dysfunction and why Trump is getting so much attention.

10mm

Best line in the God Father. "Their Saps, They fight for other people". Sounds like pop talking. God damn right that's Pop talking. Come here you.

SidSays

"My main job is to keep my job, to get reelected. It takes precedence over everything."

The only function of a bureaucracy is to perpetuate the bureaucracy.

chunga

The shining city on a hill is chock full of assholes like this. They've run out of other people's money for this purpose so bad, generations to come are screwed. Unless of course they are all stamped away and their bullshit repudiated.

The scummiest scum of humans go into politics.

Cabreado

"and why Trump is getting so much attention."

No, that is perilously false.

Trump is getting so much attention because the citizenry doesn't know how the govt was designed to work, and is looking for a "leader" to fix things up.

I've been pecking away for years that the attention must be on Congress. No takers here at ZH either, for the most part.

Again... a finally corrupt and defunct Congress is what must be dealt with post haste, and a "Trump" or any other will not be the answer to changing the trajectory.

The power lies in Congress, by design, appropriately so, as it most closely represents the will of the People. And therein lies the eleventh-hour problem.

financialrealist

I've said it time and again. Just today I posted "our entire system is based on subjective financial asset valuations to support the needs of today with no consideration of tomorrow". Politicians and their money grubbing corporate assholes thought of future generations don't transcend beyond their own line of sight. We do not have a government or system for the people. We have a government who's sole purpose is to enrich themselves at the expense of everyone else. Burn the fucker down

Captain Willard

This book will be exposed as a hoax. It is doubtless a compilation of quotes from multiple Congrees-critters over the years. I doubt any of these assholes would risk exposure in this manner. They don't have the guts.

[May 16, 2015] William J. Astore The American Military Uncontained, Chaos Spread, Casualties Inflicted, Missions Unaccomplished

May 16, 2015 | nakedcapitalism.com

By William J. Astore, a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF) who edits the blogThe Contrary Perspective. Originally published at TomDispatch<

It's 1990. I'm a young captain in the U.S. Air Force. I've just witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall, something I never thought I'd see, short of a third world war. Right now I'm witnessing the slow death of the Soviet Union, without the accompanying nuclear Armageddon so many feared. Still, I'm slightly nervous as my military gears up for an unexpected new campaign, Operation Desert Shield/Storm, to expel Iraqi autocrat Saddam Hussein's military from Kuwait. It's a confusing moment. After all, the Soviet Union was forever (until it wasn't) and Saddam had been a stalwart U.S. friend, his country a bulwark against the Iran of the Ayatollahs. (For anyone who doubts that history, just check out the now-infamous 1983 photo of Donald Rumsfeld, then special envoy for President Reagan, all smiles and shaking hands with Saddam in Baghdad.) Still, whatever my anxieties, the Soviet Union collapsed without a whimper and the campaign against Saddam's battle-tested forces proved to be a "cakewalk," with ground combat over in a mere 100 hours.

Think of it as the trifecta moment: Vietnam syndrome vanquished forever, Saddam's army destroyed, and the U.S. left standing as the planet's "sole superpower."

Post-Desert Storm, the military of which I was a part stood triumphant on a planet that was visibly ours and ours alone. Washington had won the Cold War. It had won everything, in fact. End of story. Saddam admittedly was still in power in Baghdad, but he had been soundly spanked. Not a single peer enemy loomed on the horizon. It seemed as if, in the words of former U.N. ambassador and uber-conservative Jeane Kirkpatrick, the U.S. could return to being a normal country in normal times.

What Kirkpatrick meant was that, with the triumph of freedom movements in Central and Eastern Europe and the rollback of communism, the U.S. military could return to its historical roots, demobilizing after its victory in the Cold War even as a "new world order" was emerging. But it didn't happen. Not by a long shot. Despite all the happy talk back then about a "new world order," the U.S. military never gave a serious thought to becoming a "normal" military for normal times. Instead, for our leaders, both military and civilian, the thought process took quite a different turn. You might sum up their thinking this way, retrospectively: Why should we demobilize or even downsize significantly or rein in our global ambitions at a moment when we can finally give them full expression? Why would we want a "peace dividend" when we could leverage our military assets and become a global power the likes of which the world has never seen, one that would put the Romans and the British in the historical shade? Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer caught the spirit of the moment in February 2001 when he wrote, "America is no mere international citizen. It is the dominant power in the world, more dominant than any since Rome. Accordingly, America is in a position to reshape norms, alter expectations, and create new realities. How? By unapologetic and implacable demonstrations of will."

What I didn't realize back then was: America's famed "containment policy" vis-ŕ-vis the Soviet Union didn't just contain that superpower — it contained us, too. With the Soviet Union gone, the U.S. military was freed from containment. There was nowhere it couldn't go and nothing it couldn't do — or so the top officials of the Bush administration came into power thinking, even before 9/11. Consider our legacy military bases from the Cold War era that already spanned the globe in an historically unprecedented way. Built largely to contain the Soviets, they could be repurposed as launching pads for interventions of every sort. Consider all those weapon systems meant to deter Soviet aggression. They could be used to project power on a planet seemingly without rivals.

Now was the time to go for broke. Now was the time to go "all in," to borrow the title of Paula Broadwell's fawning biography of her mentor and lover, General David Petraeus. Under the circumstances, peace dividends were for wimps. In 1993, Madeleine Albright, secretary of state under Bill Clinton, caught the coming post-Cold War mood of twenty-first-century America perfectly when she challenged Joint Chiefs Chairman Colin Powell angrily over what she considered a too-cautious U.S. approach to the former Yugoslavia. "What's the point of having this superb military that you're always talking about," she asked, "if we can't use it?"

Yet even as civilian leaders hankered to flex America's military muscle in unpromising places like Bosnia and Somalia in the 1990s, and Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, and Yemen in this century, the military itself has remained remarkably mired in Cold War thinking. If I could transport the 1990 version of me to 2015, here's one thing that would stun him a quarter-century after the collapse of the Soviet Union: the force structure of the U.S. military has changed remarkably little. Its nuclear triad of land-based ICBMs, submarine-launched SLBMs, and nuclear-capable bombers remains thoroughly intact. Indeed, it's being updated and enhanced at mind-boggling expense (perhaps as high as a trillion dollars over the next three decades). The U.S. Navy? Still built around large, super-expensive, and vulnerable aircraft carrier task forces. The U.S. Air Force? Still pursuing new, ultra-high-tech strategic bombers and new, wildly expensive fighters and attack aircraft — first the F-22, now the F-35, both supremely disappointing. The U.S. Army? Still configured to fight large-scale, conventional battles, a surplus of M-1 Abrams tanks sitting in mothballs just in case they're needed to plug the Fulda Gap in Germany against a raging Red Army. Except it's 2015, not 1990, and no mass of Soviet T-72 tanks remains poised to surge through that gap.

Much of our military today remains structured to meet and defeat a Soviet threat that long ago ceased to exist. (Occasional sparring matches with Vladimir Putin's Russia in and around Ukraine do not add up to the heated "rumbles in the jungle" we fought with the Soviet leaders of yesteryear.) And it's not just a matter of weaponry. Our military hierarchy remains wildly and unsustainably top-heavy, with a Cold War-style cupboard of generals and admirals, as if we were still stockpiling brass in case of another world war and a further expansion of what is already uncontestably the largest military on the planet. If you had asked me in 1990 what the U.S. military would look like in 2015, the one thing I wouldn't have guessed was that, in its force structure, it would look basically the same.

This persistence of such Cold War structures and the thinking that goes with them is a vivid illustration of military inertia, the plodding last-war conservatism that is a common enough phenomenon in military history. It's also a reminder that the military-industrial-congressional-complex that President Dwight Eisenhower first warned us about in 1961 remains in expansion mode more than half a century later, with its taste for business as usual (meaning, among other things, wildly expensive weapons systems). Above all, though, it's an illustration of something far more disturbing: the failure of democratic America to seize the possibility of a less militarized world.

Today, it's hard to recapture the heady optimism of 1990, the idea that this country, as after any war, might at least begin to take steps to demobilize, however modestly, to become a more peaceable land. That's why 1990 should be considered the high-water mark of the U.S. military. At that moment, we were poised on the brink of a new normalcy — and then it all began to go wrong. To understand how, it's important to see not just what remained the same, but also what began to change and just how we ended up with today's mutant military.

Paramilitaries Without, Militaries Within, Civilian Torturers, and Assassins Withal

Put me back again in my slimmer, uniformed 1990 body and catapult me for a second time to 2015. What do I see in this military moment that surprises me? Unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, for sure. Networked computers everywhere and the reality of a military preparing for "cyberwar." Incessant talk of terrorism as America's chief threat. A revival, however haltingly, of counterinsurgency operations, or COIN, a phenomenon abandoned in Vietnam with a stake through its heart (or so I thought then). Uncontrolled and largely unaccountable mass surveillance of civilian society that in the Cold War era would have been a hallmark of the "Evil Empire."

More than anything, however, what would truly have shocked the 1990 version of me is the almost unimaginable way the military has "privatized" in the twenty-first century. The presence of paramilitary forces (mercenary companies like DynCorp and the former Blackwater, now joined with Triple Canopy in the Constellis Group) and private corporations like KBR doing typical military tasks like cooking and cleaning (what happened to privates doing KP?), delivering the mail, and mounting guard duty on military bases abroad; an American intelligence system that's filled to the brim with tens of thousands of private contractors; a new Department of Defense called the Department of Homeland Security ("homeland" being a word I would once have associated, to be blunt, with Nazi Germany) that has also embraced paramilitaries and privatizers of every sort; the rapid rise of a special operations community, by the tens of thousands, that has come to constitute a vast, privileged, highly secretive military caste within the larger armed forces; and, most shocking of all, the public embrace of torture and assassination by America's civilian leaders — the very kinds of tactics and techniques I associated in 1990 with the evils of communism.

Walking about in such a world in 2015, the 1990-me would truly find himself a stranger in a strange land. This time-traveling Bill Astore's befuddlement could, I suspect, be summed up in an impolite sentiment expressed in three letters: WTF?

Think about it. In 2015, so many of America's "trigger-pullers" overseas are no longer, strictly speaking, professional military. They're mercenaries, guns for hire, or CIA drone pilots (some on loan from the Air Force), or warrior corporations and intelligence contractors looking to get in on a piece of the action in a war on terror where progress is defined — official denials to the contrary — by body count, by the number of "enemy combatants" killed in drone or other strikes.

Indeed, the very persistence of traditional Cold War structures and postures within the "big" military has helped hide the full-scale emergence of a new and dangerous mutant version of our armed forces. A bewildering mish-mash of special ops, civilian contractors (both armed and unarmed), and CIA and other intelligence operatives, all plunged into a penumbra of secrecy, all largely hidden from view (even as they're openly celebrated in various Hollywood action movies), this mutant military is forever clamoring for a greater piece of the action.

While the old-fashioned, uniformed military guards its Cold War turf, preserved like some set of monstrous museum exhibits, the mutant military strives with great success to expand its power across the globe. Since 9/11, it's the mutant military that has gotten the lion's share of the action and much of the adulation — here's looking at you, SEAL Team 6 — along with its ultimate enabler, the civilian commander-in-chief, now acting in essence as America's assassin-in-chief.

Think of it this way: a quarter-century after the end of the Cold War, the U.S. military is completely uncontained. Washington's foreign policies are strikingly military-first ones, and nothing seems to be out of bounds. Its two major parts, the Cold War-era "big" military, still very much alive and kicking, and the new-era military of special ops, contractors, and paramilitaries seek to dominate everything. Nuclear, conventional, unconventional, land, sea, air, space, cyber, you name it: all realms must be mastered.

Except it can't master the one realm that matters most: itself. And it can't find the one thing that such an uncontained military was supposed to guarantee: victory (not in a single place anywhere on Earth).

Loaded with loot and praised to the rafters, America's uncontained military has no discipline and no direction. It never has to make truly tough choices, like getting rid of ICBMs or shedding its obscenely bloated top ranks of officers or cancelling redundant weapon systems like the F-35. It just aims to do it all, just about everywhere. As Nick Turse reported recently, U.S. special ops touched down in 150 countries between 2011 and 2014. And the results of all this activity have been remarkably repetitive and should by now be tragically predictable: lots of chaos spread, lots of casualties inflicted, and in every case, mission unaccomplished.

The Future Isn't What It Used to Be

Say what you will of the Cold War, at least it had an end. The overriding danger of the current American military moment is that it may lack one.

Once upon a time, the U.S. military was more or less tied to continental defense and limited by strong rivals in its hegemonic designs. No longer. Today, it has uncontained ambitions across the globe and even as it continually stumbles in achieving them, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, or elsewhere, its growth is assured, as our leaders trip over one another in continuing to shower it with staggering sums of money and unconditional love.

No military should ever be trusted and no military should ever be left uncontained. Our nation's founders knew this lesson. Five-star general Dwight D. Eisenhower took pains in his farewell address in 1961 to remind us of it again. How did we as a people come to forget it? WTF, America?

What I do know is this: Take an uncontained, mutating military, sprinkle it with unconditional love and plenty of dough, and you have a recipe for disaster. So excuse me for being more than a little nervous about what we'll all find when America flips the calendar by another quarter-century to the year 2040.

Selected Skeptical Comments

Chris Geary May 15, 2015 at 3:41 am

"Military overreach" is a nice way I guess of putting the US ruthless/reckless plan for military control of the planet.

Christer Kamb May 15, 2015 at 5:57 am

It´s name is POWER-HYBRIS. Trying to put the Roman Empire in the shade is asking for the same end.

OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL May 15, 2015 at 5:36 pm

"The military wants to do everything everywhere". And Americans like it that way: THAT's the problem. Between Hollywood, TV, every Politboro news organ from Business Insider to Fox News, National Friggin' Geographic fer chrissakes extolling military porn, no wonder the plebs are so bloodthirsty. Last Christmas for the first time when Norad tracked Santa Claus on his journey from the North Pole his sleigh was escorted by two fighter jets. Gotta get 'em young.
Doesn't seem to matter to anyone that the American military has not won a major engagement since WWII. Oh, except Grenada. America's defining National Myth Monster rolls on.
Dennis Kucinich proposed a Department of Peace, just fund the hell out of it. Since the plebs operate in a "conscience-free zone", pay enough people to shout "Peace Now!" at every possible turn and you might move the needle. Worked a treat in 1971.

Harriet May 15, 2015 at 4:02 am

It's crushing to think how if even a fraction of the trillions sunk into maintaining military bloat–the F-35 boondoggle, or the mercenary contractors first come to mind–had been invested in U.S. education system, health care, and/or civic infrastructure, so many people and families would be alive and thriving today. And who knows if one of them was the next Marie Curie, George Washington Carver, or Hedy Lamarr?

sufferin'succotash May 15, 2015 at 8:35 am

That's Hedley!

PlutoniumKun May 15, 2015 at 4:55 am

'Not so much a country with an army as an army with a country' they used to say about Prussia. The US is increasingly beginning to resemble that description. Historically, countries with unconfined militaries end up in wars because sections of the military decide there must be a war, not because the civilian leadership decides. What his happening now in parts of the world (most notably Ukraine and elsewhere in eastern Europe) is beginning to resemble Manchuria in the 1930's, when an unconstrained Japanese army simply decided to start a war (actually, more than one war) without even bothering to consult with Tokyo. Increasingly I do not think it is relevant who sits in the White House, the crucial decisions are not made there.

MikeNY May 15, 2015 at 6:03 am

We're the modern-age Sparta.

According to Boehner, our military can't survive on a dime less than $604,000,000,000 a year. Because "it's downright shameful … to even contemplate turning our backs on American troops."

Every time you cut funding for an F-35 or a drone or a nuke, little baby Jesus weeps.

James Levy May 15, 2015 at 6:52 am

With one sad exception: our inequality extends to who bears the ultimate burden for that Sparta-like militarism. We've fobbed off imperial policing to mostly poor rural whites and Hispanics (blacks have largely internalized which way the wind is blowing and their participation rates in recruitment have dropped significantly). Every Spartan male who was not a Helot was a soldier. Here, we've upended that relationship so that those at the bottom make up the soldiery and those at the top never go near a barracks.

MikeNY May 15, 2015 at 2:33 pm

Yes, ITA.

Felix May 16, 2015 at 12:45 am

Plenty of blacks as well. Basically it is a well funded jobs program…….do nothing jobs…….huge benefits……out of sight medical care abuse……..as General Casey said, "a health care system that occasionally kills a terrorist." What other industry exists in the US that can offer an average citizen a middle or lower middle class income? Local Fire? Good luck if you don't have relatives and same with police.

Brooklin Bridge May 15, 2015 at 7:10 am

The insane expense of operating the military and the impossibility of shutting it down or limiting it in any way it is a good part of the military's (not to mention the empire's) Achilles heel. The other part is it's clunky, crusty, internal structure so resistant by hubris and habit to change and reason as Astore aptly describes. But it's cold comfort.

As always with our Empire, the tragedy is that we seem fated to go through all the machinations, but worse all the unnecessary suffering put mainly on the innocent, of a system that has reached that level of complexity or what ever it is that triggers the downward spiral of self destruction.

Brooklin Bridge May 15, 2015 at 7:21 am

Increasingly I do not think it is relevant who sits in the White House, the crucial decisions are not made there.

Hard to argue that point, but I suspect in reality it does matter in an odd sort of way. Executives have a sort of uncontrolled control like a car where the steering wheel is so loose as to be almost, but not quite, worthless. The President (and Obama with his narcissism is a pip for this) whirls the wheel and imagines he is at the helm, but the whole contraption, in reality, responds with a confused will of its own.

steviefinn May 15, 2015 at 5:17 am

It reminds me of how Bomber Command became like a giant machine during WW2. A bureaucracy which once put in motion ( as Kurt Vonnegut was told by a high level officer within it ), just kept on rolling even when it was realised, by many of the cogs working with in it that it was no longer serving a supposedly useful purpose.

There is a possibility that officer might have been the scientist Freeman Dyson, & here he talks about the sense of helplessness, when knowing something is very wrong within the organisation you are working for, but knowing that there is nothing you can do to change it :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQ8jRF5icZQ

Otter May 15, 2015 at 6:31 am

Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer: "America is no mere international citizen. It is the dominant power in the world, more dominant than any since Rome. Accordingly, America is in a position to reshape norms, alter expectations, and create new realities. How? By unapologetic and implacable demonstrations of will."

"Triumph Des Willens" was a huge fad last century. It came to a bad end 70 years ago.

Maju May 15, 2015 at 6:36 pm

Actually the best comparison is not Rome but Charles V, who also dreamed with Rome, like all European power-mongers ever. Like Charles V, the endless campaigns of the USA only manage to erode the empire, like Charles V, every other "second" power is trying to erode the influence of the USA, mostly with success, like Charles V, the hypertrophy of the military relies on an huge pile of debt, impossible to pay. The main difference is that Charles V used old-school money (silver and gold), while the USA uses paper-money.

It's kind of an ouroboros of European imperialism: the beginning and the end of it.

Jackrabbit May 15, 2015 at 6:41 am

I think the author is trying to say that our Democracy has been hijacked.

Military people tend to give too little credit to propaganda. Its an Empire of Illusion as much as it is an Empire of Chaos.

Americans have been too complacent about international relations. This allows our bought government a free hand for overseas adventures. But the war comes home in a variety of ways, from spying to cuts in social spending to militarized police and more.

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H O P

juliania May 15, 2015 at 4:21 pm

I don't think he is trying to say – he is saying it. Very clearly and concisely and encompassing all aspects of military malfeasance. The 1990 perspective is appropriate and chilling for those of us whose memories as adults reach back that far. It truly was a watershed moment, even perhaps a greater one than the 2000 election as far as this country's potential for actual reversal of course is concerned.

Well done, Mr. Astore.

James Levy May 15, 2015 at 6:47 am

I understand the man's thinking and praise him for it, but he doesn't take the ultimate step which Chalmers Johnson did–to understanding that since NSC68 it was always about aggrandizement, not "containment."

As an historian of Britain, the interesting thing for me intellectually (emotionally if find this all sickening and appalling) is how there was always a constituency for retrenchment in the UK, but it never cohered here, or hasn't since Pearl Harbor. British defence spending was always cut after wars. Hell, it was Churchill as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the 1920s who carried through the so-called Geddes Axe and slashed the services unmercifully. Despite a vast empire, the British establishment was always leery of paying the high taxes needed for a huge military. I guess we owe a lot of this to Nixon closing the gold window and the death of Bretton Woods. Our unique position as issuer of the global currency with no check on how much of it we can issue makes our military extravaganzas possible.

Carla May 15, 2015 at 7:07 am

In the "WTF America?" department, I wonder what James Levy and William Astore think of Michael J. Glennon's "National Security and Double Government" ?

norm de plume May 15, 2015 at 8:21 pm

The title sounds like it sails close to the borders of the Deep State, but this review I just read:

http://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/books/2014/10/18/review-national-security-and-double-government-michael-glennon/tUhBBdSj8s0WW1HoWUf20M/story.html

says 'This is no secret conspiracy nor a plot to deprive Americans of their civil liberties. It is the unintended consequence of a thoughtful attempt to head off the very threats that those attempts have inadvertently created'

Which sounds eerily like stevie's relay of Freeman Dyson's comment about Bomber Command above:

'A bureaucracy which once put in motion ( as Kurt Vonnegut was told by a high level officer within it ), just kept on rolling even when it was realised, by many of the cogs working with in it that it was no longer serving a supposedly useful purpose'

So, if it's just a blind monster driven by thousands of little bureaucratic decisions it should be easier to stop than if it's actually an evil cabal of bad guys, yes? A last quote from Glennon casts some doubt:

"the term Orwellian will have little meaning to a people who have never known anything different, who have scant knowledge of history, civics, or public affairs, and who in any event have never heard of George Orwell."

MyLessThanPrimeBeef May 15, 2015 at 2:02 pm

Our unique position as issuer of the global currency with no check on how much of it we can issue makes our military extravaganzas possible.

A fiat-money empire can be a household or not a household.

The choice is up to the people…the masters of the house.

"You have chosen…wisely."

JTMcPhee May 15, 2015 at 8:21 am

See Spot run! Run, Spot, run! See Dick shoot Jane! Shoot, Dick, shoot! See Dick show Vlad how to shoot, American style! And make tactical decisions just like successful US military!

No more topheavy command and control! Except realtime GoPro Battlespace management by fatass dudes at Global Network-Centric Interoperababble Battlespace consoles!

"War In Ukraine," now we know who the official Good Guys are!

https://youtu.be/hx0Y6tWKCB8
We be fu___ed. Like Totally,, Timmy!

OIFVet May 15, 2015 at 6:12 pm

The most telling bit is that these glorious, freedom loving defenders of free Ukraine are speaking in … Russian?! WTF??? They speak Russian and the US trainers' instructions get translated to them in Russian.

I guess they haven't had time to learn proper Bandera while fighting other Russian speakers…

Eureka Springs May 15, 2015 at 8:27 am

I think this is the authors most significant blind spot:

Above all, though, it's an illustration of something far more disturbing: the failure of democratic America to seize the possibility of a less militarized world.

We are not now nor have we ever been a democratic America. Beginning with the oft cited point by me that the D word does not exist in the Constitution. I say this understanding that the people even in a Democracy would likely approve if not demand to be a horrifically violent bunch. Who will change this, the Green party?

Maybe, but only in a Democracy, the kind which abhors secrecy and lies as much as bloody war mongering itself.

susan the other May 15, 2015 at 2:13 pm

I think this way as well. I sometimes think we really jumped the shark in the Cold War because we created so much advanced (mostly secret) technology it would stagger us all to learn about it. But the Cold War was the perfect window of history to accomplish this applied science. And now we are in a kind of existential crisis. Yes it was and is expensive to advance science at such a pace. And we will never know how that money has been spent because it's all top secret. I wish we could apply block chain accounting to military procurement. Pin down every penny. And for this reason: that money could have been spent on creating a sustainable world but it was "misallocated" as the capitalists like to say.

We failed to modernize our brains and our economy at a critical time. We should send the entire military to the psychologist and appoint a very enlightened bunch to change course at the DoD. The new Secty of Def is a curious guy. Almost likeable. I'd personally love to see the greatest oxymoron – a true peace, green peace preferably, even if it is a fascistic peace. It could be a great new economy.

MyLessThanPrimeBeef May 15, 2015 at 3:02 pm

You're right – the money could been spent on creating a sustainable world.

Printing more doesn't address the issue if we don't correct the misallocation, and when we correct it, we will likely see we don't need to print more.

OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL May 15, 2015 at 5:53 pm

Tinkering at the margins won't work. Do what Ron Paul said: bring the troops home.

When asked when he would do it, he replied "as soon as the boats can get there".
THAT's the world we need to be imagining: America with an unbelievably strong, successful fighting force (1/10th it's current size) ready to defend our borders against every conceivable threat. Take another 1/10th of the force and put them to work on American soil building roads, bridges, TRAIN TRACKS, and hospitals HERE for a change. Aim 1/10th of the force to R&D, techno-science and manufacturing advancements they are already so good at.

Loudly announce to the Taiwanese and the South Koreans and the Europeans and the Israelis that they must pay for their own defense. Faced with the impossibility of doing so just maybe they would find new ways to cooperate with their neighbors rather than simply hiding behind the World's Apex Bully.

Henry May 15, 2015 at 8:30 am

What I find interesting is that the American people are becoming more and more suspicious and fearful of big government but are still enamored and almost fawning of a big military as if they are two separate things. They believe politicians are corrupt but the military brass are honorable and respect worthy. I'm not sure if this is caused by Hollywood, but there is a real cognitive dissidence in the minds of the American people.

I hope they're able to wake from this fantasy before it's too late.

bruno marr May 15, 2015 at 1:18 pm

…I like the creative use of "dissidence" (misbelief) in this comment. I expected to see "dissonance" (inconsistency), but misbelief better describes the American mindset.

A refusal to accept reality.

barutanseijin May 15, 2015 at 1:21 pm

I don't know if it's ALL Hollywood's fault, but they certainly have something to do with it. The military parasitic complex doesn't cooperate with Hollywood projects like Top Gun for nothing.

And it's not just Hollywood, but news media which serves up blatant propaganda as "news" (yellowcake!) & pays members of the military-parasitic class to yabber away on network teevee. Not to mention the NFL which takes Pentagon dollars for salutes to soldiers. It's like an oxoplasma gondii infection, where the protozoans take over rodent brains and drive them towards the cats.

MyLessThanPrimeBeef May 15, 2015 at 2:30 pm

Government is not just for building bridges. Military is a big, big part*.

Let's not overlook this reality when we are not being skeptical (but we should be) of the unlimited money creation authority (so claimed, but debatable) for the government to spend (so that it will trickle down to you), especially when we can do better – we can take away military spending and use it for all those things mentioned above (which we desperately need) by Harriet, at 4:02AM.

*Big Brother says he's being ignored.

vegeholic May 15, 2015 at 1:24 pm

A good start would be to re-institute compulsory national service with NO DEFERMENTS. If there is pushback from uncooperative draftees, maybe that is valuable feedback that should be listened to. I am sure it was a dream come true when the brass got their professional, all volunteer army, and could then forge ahead with their plans knowing there would be little resistance from inside.

For all of the untidiness of the Vietnam era protests, there was valuable feedback indicating the citizens had lost interest in pursuing that lost enterprise. If the policy makers knew that their children and grandchildren (and themselves !) were about to become cannon fodder they might think twice about starting new adventures.

jrs May 15, 2015 at 2:33 pm

You idea of compulsory national service with NO DEFERMENTS is a delusion. The rich will NEVER EVER EVER serve with the grunts. Get that straight. Short of revolution (and even then probably!!!).

We already know the criminal laws don't' apply to the rich. And we expect them not to get out of the law when not just their freedom (ie being sent to the slammer) but their lives are at stake. Yea right. As always we will die, they will profit. That's the case even with voluntary recruitment. And it will be the case if they get the draft only no peasants will have any choice but to die in wars for their profit.

And the feedback from Vietnam took how many years to end the war? How many dead Americans? (dead Vietnamese too, yes but I'm talking about the war being ended out of self-interest and it's impact on Americans, or rather that NOT actually happening historically, or at least not until it had gone on forever).

You want to give our unaccountable rulers in an ever more unaccountable government more power to send us to die (neo-liberals "go die" isn't nothing, compared to being made to die and kill). Hasn't Fast Track and the TPP at least shown us that there's no democracy in the White House, no democracy in the Senate. And as everyone knows there's no democracy in the Supreme Court. What's left that cares what the populous wants? Maybe the House if the stars perfectly align.

If you want to make policy makers responsible for their wars, why not just send them and their children to die in them? They are rarely influenced by us anyway.

jrs May 15, 2015 at 2:54 pm

It's sometimes as if we hardly need our rulers to stuff horrible nonsense down our throats (and they do of course), when sections of the population beg for it themselves. Few in power have argued for a draft lately (thank heavens for small mercies, maybe a draft is buried in the TPP text for all we'd know!). Well then we better do so. "Please, please, oh wise ruling class you haven't done enough until you make my children die for you. Just as long as you promise it will be equal, and everyone will have an equal chance of dying, including your children, it will be equal right …. right?"

A draft over my dead body. There aren't enough horrors in the world to worry about. I mean I understand wanting some kind of accountability if they read about another wedding being bombed, another kid having his legs blown off or being made into pink mist by the U.S. empire. But a draft of the powerless (the 99s) is questionable as a solution to that, but is certain to ruin THEIR lives. People who come back from these stupid wars are killing themselves right and left from the trauma already.

JTMcPhee May 15, 2015 at 11:03 pm

Our imperial military has no use for a draft. That just means more unreliable Troops that might , as they've done before, mutiny or decline to obey orders. I'm waiting for still newer versions of the Soldier's Oath, that omit that stuff about supporting and defending the Constitution. The part about obeying LAWFUL orders is fading out, and drones and autonomous battle robots and UAVs and boats and sub's and missiles (and mercenaries, for wet work in meatspace, are just so much more reliable, from the Brass Hat's perspective. Too tired to look stuff up tonight, but a whole lot of planning is going into getting rid of GIs with their long term costs and problems.

So you need not fear having to become a dead body to resist a massive conscription… The Thing this post describes is a stage IV metastatic malignancy. Now we can all go back to our "Call of Duty" and
Blow some heads off, or a quick round of "Game of War" where you have a chance to " build an Empire that will Last Forever!!" A little different theme than "Sim City," right?

tim s May 15, 2015 at 2:11 pm

Edit. Meant as a reply to Henry

The people in the USA are a little more diverse than that. Many do not harbor such grand feelings about the military. Recall how many were opposed to actions in Syria, Iran, Ukraine. Back in 1990, there was some hoo-rah, but that was largely propaganga based. Many, like the author, were simply confused by Desert Storm. Of course, the light show streamed on TV made those predisposed to being led around by their noses fell all warm and fuzzy, so there was that support to show. That was also a time where the "markets" were just about to lift off and escape from reality, so there was so much $$$ for people to swim in that there was not any pain from these skirmishes, so they didn't give it a 2nd thought. Without thinking, there is only the flashing screens, which do seem to be used by TPTB at every opportunity to mold the thoughts of the masses. At every point in our progression to this point, there was no shortage of Hollywood / propaganda. This is predictable, however. I believe it was Goebbels that said that it works the same in all times and places, and I'm sure that this is correct. I recall reading that a large percentage of the Germans & the Japanese had no idea of the reality of their situation during or even near the end of WW2.

As pervasive as the propaganda is, the USA has such a wide variety of people that they are trying to herd cats, with about as much success as expected. The main thing to remember is that all that is happening militarily is not in support of the USA, but rather of the moneyed interests, which are not actually contained within the borders of the USA, and is is many ways counter to the interests of the people in that country.

There are many contributors to our political campaigns who are not US citizens. Even our super-rich consider themselves to be of a super-national class rather than US citizens. All of this is not about the USA. Our remaining political system still has some of the pesky remnants of a democracy, so there is some need to win us over to keep the charade going. We see that this is not going so well (i.e. TPP).

Still, I'm sure that the MIC gets funding (official and unofficial) regardless of what the people think, just as the TBTF banks get what the need as far as trillions in credit/bailouts, simply because this structure maintains the status of the moneyed interests, which are again super-national. Of course, there are factions within these moneyed interests that would fight each other to the death given the logical progression of events.

Like you, I hope that there is much more wakening. People right now are in that phase of just coming out of sleep, and many are completely confused and disoriented. What a mess. Such is life.

MyLessThanPrimeBeef May 15, 2015 at 2:56 pm

Our super-rich are American-citizen patriots who support military spending, and at the same time, super-nationals with global profit outlook.

They are a long way from the provincial "we speak only one language" American middle class of the 50's. They are fully aware of the global consequences of printing money (hot money in and out, but more significantly, as shown in this article – mutant military) here.

They know there is only one exceptional country that needs never to take out foreign currency loans.

They know there is only one exceptional country that can print fiat money as much as it wants and the rest of the world will share her burden (unlike say, Ukraine who can print as much as she likes, but no one other country will participate in economic-pain-sharing with her).

tim s May 15, 2015 at 4:45 pm

Per the Merriam–Webster dictionary : Patriotism – : having or showing great love and support for your country

Show me one way our super rich prove this love and support.

All I see is self-love and love of power. Support? How is hiding wealth in offshore accounts and shell companies supportive of their country? Show me the ranks of these rich that have volunteered for military service.

sam s smith May 15, 2015 at 6:39 pm

Prince, the head of Black Water was Navy SEAL.

MyLessThanPrimeBeef May 15, 2015 at 8:25 pm

My fault.

Should have put quotation marks around 'patriots.'

Crazy Horse May 15, 2015 at 3:53 pm

You commentators have it all wrong. After all, what would the Land of the Free be without its most viable industry, the manufacture and distribution of weapons of death?

Conventional manufacturing and all the jobs it once generated have been off-shored to whatever country comes closest to pure slave labor. Farming has been subsumed into a form of industrial sharecropping , with the chief beneficiary being companies like Monsanto that control the genetic structure of the crops and banksters that supply credit to purchase the chemicals and machinery that are the primary inputs into what was once called farming.

The largest volume of "productive" activity in the country is in "finance" which has exactly the same contribution to the welfare of the nation as a vampire has to that of its' host.

Liberals wring their hands because of what they see as the shortcomings of President Obama, ignoring his contribution to the welfare of the country.

Under his leadership the US share of international arms trade has grown from a mere 60% to over 80%. Thank god we have at least one industry that still leads the world.

Sluggeaux May 15, 2015 at 3:57 pm

One word: Corruption

Congress allocates the funds. The Presidency and the Congress use the "military" as the definitive self-licking ice cream cone, channeling these vast and wasteful appropriations of fiat money to their cronies, while claiming to be anti-Big Government (it was former Nixon-strategist Mevin Phillips who pegged the Bush dynasty as nothing but a snarling hyena-pack of war-profiteers).

Our Fearless Leader, congress-critters, and their cronies will find the rise of unaccountable surveillance and assassination described above to be a convenient resource when the masses who have been out-sourced by globalization continue with ever-larger Katrina/Ferguson/Baltimore-style uprisings. Just watch.

I will, but hopefully from a "resilient" sideline…

VietnamVet May 15, 2015 at 4:17 pm

I agree with the points of this post. It just does not bring them to a logical conclusion.

Without the draft and tax on the wealthy, none of the wars that America is fighting from Ukraine to Somalia will be won. Simply stated, these privatized conflicts are a means to extract the remaining wealth from Americans until they are so burdened with debt that infrastructure and government collapses.

North America will be borderless fiefdoms separated by language and cartel enforcers; that is if mankind avoids nuclear war, plagues, or a climate collapse.

OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL May 15, 2015 at 6:10 pm

OK, my third comment, this subject is very close to my heart.

Everyone uses an outdated lens when looking at war today, the old paradigm had nations seeking to acquire territory, resources, factories, the "spoils of war". But today *war making itself* IS the treasure: no reason to try to capture and hold territory or resources, the mere act of making a new war pumps dollars to the corporate and government elites.

We waste endless ink trying to parse the strategic implications of this or that conflict, who is in it, and what they could gain. That's meaningless today: just go start punching someone, anyone. This explains America's flailing around the globe, desperate to find a new enemy at every turn. The Cold War ending was a giant blow to these forces, the GWOT worked well for a while but is getting stale, hence the glee at demonizing Russia.

In between we punch Libya, try to punch Syria, get all bloodthirsty about Iran…I mean it's just so obvious. None of these have to have any glimmer of rationale about being in our "strategic interest", when KFC gets multi-million $ no-bid contracts to set up shop behind the trenches, you know the fix is in.

OIFVet May 15, 2015 at 6:26 pm

I generally agree, but I think that there is another dimension: exerting stronger control over the population as its standard of living declines ever more. The War on Terra ushered in the legalization of the tools for control: domestic surveillance, the militarization of police, the creation of the fusion centers, etc. Of course that's good for bidness, so we really have a twofer. So for all the justified criticisms toward the author's belief that we actually had a democracy, he is correct that whatever crapp and imperfect illusion of freedom there was is taken away gradually.

jrs May 15, 2015 at 6:37 pm

The MIC gets rich, but there's really no other purpose?

No oil, no pipelines, no minerals, no petrodollar, no markets to neoliberalize and conquer, noone to overthrow who is not going along, no strategic military bases to establish?

OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL May 15, 2015 at 11:56 pm

I dunno, if Iraq was about the oil, then why didn't we get any? The Chinese did. And I'm not sure how we neo-liberalize markets with the military…threaten we will invade?

I know Hilary threatened Sweden with reduced cooperation/funds if they didn't lighten up on Monsanto…pretty sure she didn't say we would invade though.

And as far as installing our own bad guys, maybe it's the one-two punch: green helicopters to get rid of the previous guy, then the rep from the IMF shows up for the Economic Hitman routine.

OIFVet May 16, 2015 at 12:16 am

And I'm not sure how we neo-liberalize markets with the military

Through NATO's military umbrella, NATO being the PC name for the US military occupation of the "allies". When dependent on the US for defense from the "enemies" we spend so much time and treasure to cultivate, we ensure our native compradors' loyalty and also their protection from the natives in case they get restless and dissatisfied. Full spectrum dominance, baby!

Nick May 15, 2015 at 5:47 pm

This column is quite lopsided. Iraq is over, the US is not invading Yemen, there may yet be a nuclear deal signed with Iran, and Russia is contained (for the moment) in Ukraine. The 21st Century is all about Asia and China…and the US pivot to Asia continues.

OIFVet May 15, 2015 at 6:33 pm

The US provides target intelligence to the Saudis, so it is a proxy war. And how, pray tell, is Russia contained in Ukraine? The events of the past coupe of days point to the beginning of Western retreat from Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Russia and China went to great length to project an image of cooperation, with the leadership inseparable during the Victory Day parade and Chinese formations marching on the Red Square (with Russian formations set to return the courtesy in August's celebrations of the end of WW2 in Beijing).

Which shows that the pursuit of the pivot to Asia will only gobble ever increasing amounts…

frosty zoom May 15, 2015 at 8:37 pm

turn off your t.v.!

Jeremy Grimm May 16, 2015 at 1:37 am

A lot of the points made in this post are a little dated. Some sound like the author drank too much of the KoolAid passed around at the time and it's finally wearing off. Just touching on one:

"The U.S. Army? Still configured to fight large-scale, conventional battles, a surplus of M-1 Abrams tanks sitting in mothballs just in case they're needed to plug the Fulda Gap in Germany against a raging Red Army."

Around the end of Poppy Bush's [Mr. CIA and Mr. Shadow Iran Contra Man] Iraq war, the US Army was organized around Corps or Division size force structures best suited for a large scale war. However, following Desert Storm, many of the planners and theorists were re-thinking these basic structures as well as the larger strategy for structuring the world-wide Army forces. "Modular Army", "Army Modernization" grew into large scale efforts to re-structure and re-equip the Army forces.

These efforts coincided with changes to the Army mission. I didn't follow this process and its history well enough to trace its history — but today's Army is organized around modular brigade structures similar to the kinds of smaller force structure the Marine Corps have used for years to enable quick deployment of smaller self-contained forces — "expeditionary" forces. [If you're interested, I believe the Army's Mission Statements and Planning documents are available to the public so you could trace the evolution in thinking if you wanted, but first better make several large urns of coffee.]

I don't know about the hordes of mothballed Abrams, but I believe they exist. What impressed me were the large numbers of Humvees issued to units and replaced in theater with Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles using some specially created paperwork and paid for using the unit's discretionary funds. The armor on the initial versions of the Humvees was too thin. "Up-Armor" Humvees replaced Humvees and in turn were replaced with MRAP vehicles as it became evident the Up-Armor Humvees were too vulnerable to improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The force structure designs still allocated Humvees the last I was involved with that work. As far as I know many of these expensive vehicles ended up in storage. For a while they were considered temporary bridges to the future force built around the Future Combat Systems (FCS), a multi-billion dollar boondoggle which I suspect still haunts the Army higher command when they struggle for DoD dollars today. Bottom line is that a lot of waste very profitable to the large defense contractors who paid for the Bush trademark, was created during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

But this colossal waste isn't evidence that the Army is still organized to fight a major ground war with Russia. It is good evidence that mistakes were made and saving face is more important than saving tax-payer money, and besides none of the big Defense contractors complained.

OIFVet May 16, 2015 at 2:22 am

Pretty much spot on the reorganization of the Army. It began about 2001 with the introduction of the Stryker and accelerated in earnest after we went after Saddam. Remember, during the initial invasion it still was divisions (though stripped down) who did the deed. M1A2s are still being procured, matter of fact, even though there are already a ton of these dinosaurs around. What's more, the development of M1A3s is set to start in two to three years. General Dynamics has to pay the shareholders, don't you know…

Humvees: awesome dune buggies just as long as no one is shooting at you with RPGs or setting off IEDs. The Iraqi rascals even had a sense of humor: I've personally seen IED locations marked with red, white, and blue ribbons to help the triggerman time his blast perfectly. Forget light armor, most humvees had none initially. It was either a stamped metal doors for the combat arms or plastic on tube frame for combat support. A few up-armored humvees here and there. When we deployed in the end of 2003, my unit had no armor of any kind on our humvees. The production of up-armored humvees was just ramping up Stateside, meanwhile combat arms were receiving completely inadequate bolt-on armor kits. Support units were receiving none, even though this was a war with no rear where every unit could become frontline in a heartbeat. The more enterprising of them would get their hands on scrap armor and torches and fashion themselves a Mad Max version of humvees and 5-ton gun trucks. It was mostly worthless protection but it did provide a bit of psychological boost to soldiers. Not much urgency to actually provide proper protection until that dude went of on Rummy in Camp Udairi in Kuwait and people in the States could support our troops not only with yellow ribbon magnets but also by demanding that more money be spent of the war machine. Because the concept of bringing the troops home and not being in constant wars is just unthinkable for the modern American consumer….

[Sep 29, 2013] Ronald Coase A respectful dissent by David P Goldman

Sep 10, 2013 | Asia Times

I have an alternate theory of the firm, namely that large firms exist to protect mediocrity - from the lunatics and conmen on one hand, and disruptive innovators on the other. An entrepreneur, my former partner Jude Wanniski liked to say, is a fellow who walks into your office wearing a propeller beanie and carrying a perpetual-motion machine convinced that he's going to be a trillionaire. Ex ante it's hard to tell the loonies from the real thing. For every Thomas Edison there are a hundred candidates for commitment to state mental health facilities.

Most people don't like disruption. They want to acquire a skill, work reasonable hours, secure reasonable pay, watch television in the evening and play golf or whatever on the weekends. They don't look deeply into the matters that concern them and are content to do what other people in their position do. If they are diligent, reliable, well-mannered and polite, they are just the sort of folk that the human relations types at corporations prefer. Without a way to socialize, train and employ such people the world would come to a halt, because they make up the vast majority. And that is the great contribution of corporations to social welfare: they find ways to make mediocre people useful.

By training, supervising and deploying the great mediocre mass, corporations earn the trust of consumers who are equally mediocre. Consumers want reliable and predictable products that do not challenge their tastes, habits, and skills. Corporations spend most of their research and development funds ascertaining these tastes and habits and designing products that conform to them.

If they do their job properly, they prevent the supply chain from substituting anti-freeze for corn syrup or talcum for milk power. Unfortunately, corporations also do a good job of extirpating the sort of people who get bored with such products and attempt to do something new. Those people often become entrepreneurs and attempt to challenge the system.

Such challenges are not always beneficial. During the 1990s, the dot.com bubble proceeded on the unstated premise that the future of the US economy lay in downloading music and watching pornography. Innovation chased youth culture down the wrong rabbit hole.

Corporations do not innovate well, and economies die without innovation. Disruptive entrepreneurs destroy corporations who have done their job of cultivating mediocrity a bit too long, and create new corporations that, in turn, will cultivate their own sort of mediocrity.

Sometimes this goes haywire, as the US financial industry did during the 2000s. Left to its own devices, the financial industry created the sort of product that mediocre customers thought they wanted, namely AAA-rated securities. No-one needs imagination to own AAA's. Unfortunately, the financial engineers put the financial equivalent of anti-freeze into the corn syrup and poisoned the financial system. In the mediocre culture of corporations, advancement is attained by making your numbers and hoping that when a suppurating mass of toxic waste finally explodes it will do so on someone else's watch, long after you have been promoted.

Mediocrity can under special circumstances become a Petri dish for the incubation of some dangerous problems. The advent of financial engineering introduced a predator into the system against which mediocrity had no natural defenses. In the financial industry, at least, the mediocre became corrupt: millions of homeowners lied on mortgage applications, and tens of thousands of bank employees encouraged or at least countenanced the lies, both serious crimes under American law.

... ... ...

[Aug 19, 2013] DHS Whistleblower Censored from 60 minutes #N3

You should not assume that inefficiency of bureaucracies extends to the area when their vital interests are breached. They will fight tooth and nail with those who they consider dangerous for their interests.
YouTube

Oona Craig:

DHS is no different than the Cheka was in Bolshevik Russia and the Stasi in Bolshevik East Germany -- and run by the same tribe.

PlasmaBurns:

We need to start putting the constitution in every email, that way the Government will actually start reading it...

furballbear:

Julia Davis' story is completely true and she even made a documentary about it titled Top Priority: The Terror Within which shows that the United State's "war on terror" is a scam.

Support Julia Davis by purchasing her documentary and support the US Constitution by demanding that the USA PATRIOT Act be repealed.

furballbear:

No the whole intent is to make money. That's why it's finally become clear to even the average American that the 'War on Terror' is nothing more than a money grab.

Brave whistleblowers like Julia Davis and Edward Snowden need to keep speaking up so that we can finally repeal the ridiculous USA PATRIOT Act.

Funk Obama

our very own government perpetrates many of these attacks. To make money, amend laws, create new ones, and take away our civil liberties. That's all true, but the most sinister of it all has to do with occultism. This many sound ridiculous to many of you, but those that are truly in power of this planet are spirit worshipers that practice HUMAN SACRIFICE. The whole intent is to kill people.

Ken Anderson

It occurs to me that the NSA keeps Americans safe in much the same way as the Gestapo kept Germans safe in the 1930s and 1940s. Is this really what we want?

[Sep 08, 2011] The Business firm as a political coalition by James March

James March

Main point -- March sees the business firm as one complex organization that in organizational behavior resembles a political system because it has conflict systems and power struggles.

As the Modern Business firm is a large complex institution that makes decisions within a market economy. It is inadequate to just view the firm economically as an entrepreneur or politically in just the area of economic policies, so March proposes that the business firm should be seen as a political system and this would help to explain both the economic theories of the firm and the problems of political systems.

In order for us to view the business firm as a political system, we must first understand what is entailed in a political system (it is basically a conflict system) and what are the theories of resolving these conflicts.

Conflict systems

What is a conflict system?

Conflict systems can be used to describe the behavior of individuals in a learning experiment, the interaction between parties in a legislative setting or the internal dynamics of a small group when solving a problem. Basically it can be used in describing the behavior of small groups when they are setting agendas, normally two characteristics will occur.

Using the example of the business firm:

  1. There are consistent basic units—The executives at the bottom level of the power rank are independent decision-makers who will prefer one state of the company to the other possibilities that exist.
  2. There is conflict—conflict will arise in the firm when the executives’ demands can not be met by the system and they do not accept any other alternative offered by the firm.

Some features of the conflict system

  1. The elementary unit of one study can be the conflict system of another.
  2. The individual can be treated as the system in some cases and as the elementary unit in other cases.
  3. Small groups can be considered as both elementary units and systems.

Theories of Conflict resolution

There are two theories of conflict resolution, the theories of political coalition states that in order to resolve conflict; a superordinate goal is imposed to which conflict can then be mediated. The second theory being theories of the business firm, conflict can be resolved using a process which avoids comparing usefulness when making decisions.

A) The imputation of a superordinate goal

Any conflict system that is observed is seen to be acting according to what is detailed by the superordinate goal, a superordinate goal can be imputed if:

  1. There is an assumption of an existing joint preference ordering for the system at any moment in time. For example in the firm, a superordinate goal can be set if there is a mutual consensus among the employees, unity in preference for the system at any one time.
  2. It is assumed that the system will choose the most preferred alternative behavior.

For example a tree would seek to be exposed to the sun as much as possible pending certain conditions that limits its goal but it is actually trying to resolve the conflict of maximizing it total exposure to the sun as that is a scarce resource.

Effective use of an imputed superordinate goal demand that the goal has to be constant and it has to be a meaningful goal. This imposition of a superordinate goal helps in making decisions about the allocation of scarce resources.

B) The description of a conflict resolution process

Any system that " behaves" can be said to be acting under a superordinate goal but it is also having a conflict resolution process. Therefore 2 conditions are needed in describing a theory for conflict resolution.

  1. The end decision is based on a simple premise.
  2. It can be assumed that there is joint consensus for elementary decisions.

But for the process of conflict resolution to be successful, the basic decision process has to be treated as basic units and there must be analytic procedures to explain the model, so that the theory can make meaningful predictions.

Studies of the Firm as an economic conflict System

The firm is treated as a part of a larger conflict system with the objective of maximizing long term profits where given a fixed set of prices the firm will set the lowest cost factor for the highest output. The economic theory of the firm is joint preference ordering which is profit maximization. Such a theory has poor predictive qualities, so profit maximization is replaced by a more general function. For the economist their definition of the firm implied that the firm represents a conflict system, in terms of superordinate goals, to be vulnerable to useful classification. Economic theories of the firm are useful only in constructing macro –economic theories of the firm but they are not useful in the micro description of the firm. To explain the firm’s decision making behavior as just profit maximizing would be simply too general an approach. March goes on to give a critic of the economic theory of the business firm, (which he says is not a true reflection of the firms behavior in the actual setting.)

Studies of political conflict systems

In this theory, there are various groups with different interests therefore they make different demands on the system. The allocation of resources therefore is dependent on the coalition of interest groups and their control over the system. In these political systems there is an emphasis on "power, internal struggle and expediency: a de-emphasis of order, cooperation and problem solving." and process oriented conflict resolution method is used.

The Firm as A Political Coalition

In describing the process of conflict resolution, we assume that the firm is a political coalition, with the executive of the firm as the main actor. Nothing is set yet, no goals are given and the table is open for bargaining.

Assuming that there is also a set of potential participants who will pay the price required participating in the firm. They can be customers, employees, suppliers etc. They demand something from the firm and this will sway the results of the negotiation being made between the political broker and the firm, for it could strengthen or weaken the bargaining power of the broker. The demands do have a certain consistency. Consistency of the pairs of demands depends on external conditions, of which some pairs are complementary to the goals of the political broker and this is the marginal "cost" of any participant to the coalition. At the same time several assumptions are made.

  1. The level of demands moves in responds to experience
  2. The attention given to the demands depends on the perception of the problems.
  3. The coalitions of participants also have a certain " value " which is of use to the environment involved.

Using the example of the government coalition, where in democracy the party with more than 50% power will be able to do anything but not the party without that 50% support. In the same way in alternative business coalition, different participants are allocated different marginal value for different coalition.

March sees the executive as the lead actor whose goal is to maximize his own gains from the firm, so he needs to find a coalition that will best support his goals. But his problem is how to find one coalition that has complementary goals with his, so that he would incur a low " marginal cost" and the coalition must be powerful enough to help him succeed in his goal. That is the " marginal value " of the coalition. This whole description of the firms behavior for March resembles more of a political coalition than it is being described in economic sense, especially in the following 4 ways.

  1. The focus of attention is on the people who are actually the organizers of the coalition like stockholders. Their demands would be a form of constrains on the lead actors and would help determine future coalitions.
  2. This theory focuses on the short run solutions to the problems faced by the coalition.
  3. The theory places an importance on policy demands and payments rather than trying to meet demands.
  4. The importance of institutional constrains on the problems of the coalition are stressed.

The theory of the business firm as a political coalition is empirically supported and has face validity, as it is more in line with the observed attitudes of business decision making.

From March’s vivid description of the firm as a political coalition, it shows that he is out to show that the firm’s behavior resembles more of an organization than what the economist would describe the firm as, an entrepreneur.

Introduction of Computer.

With the introduction of the Computer program model, a new dimension to the process description models of conflict systems is added. These models may not best describe the business firm as a political coalition but they allow us to explore the possibility of seeing the business firm as a political coalition. The computer models being process descriptive are a natural form of theory in this particular area and their introduction makes it possible to study the business firm’s behavior as a political coalition even further.

What are the implications for the study of Political Conflict Systems?

  1. The business firm can be viewed as a political conflict system; it serves as a test for which we can see how being in a non-political setting had modified the political.
  2. The computer programs models used in the analysis of political systems within the business firms were a success showing how computer language can be used for the treatment of political conflict systems generally.
  3. In theory the similarity between the political business coalition and the political government coalition implies that the behavior models of the firm could be useful as a form of comparison with the models of governmental decision making

The behavior of the firm when making decisions as a coalition suggests that it is a form of political coalition and this contributes to the development of the theory of the firm as well as to the theory of politics.

[Jul 04, 2011] The bureaucratic phenomenon

AcaWiki

Crozier's book can be seen as a response to both the rational approach to organizations and to the human relations approach. Crozier argues that organizations act as the site for conflict and politics and argues against what he argues is a simplistic Weberian account of organizations and efficient and largely rational spaces. Instead, he seems them as sites for negotiation of complex power relations. Crozier explains that:

The classic rationalists did not consider the members of an organization as human beings, but just as cogs in the machine. For them, workers were only hands. The human relations approach has shown how incomplete this rationale was. It has also made it possible to consider workers as creatures of feeling, who are moved by the impact of the so-called rational decisions taken above then, and will react to them. A human being, however, does not have only a hand a heart. He also had a head, which means that he is free to play his own game (p. 149).

The first half of his book focuses on two settings in which he has done extensive research and which he reports a long serise of detailed examples of the nature of work and management. His two examples are each located in France: "The Clerical Agency" and "The Industrial Monopoly". Crozier chose these examples not only because he was French, but also because he claims that socially and culturally France has developed in such a way that it created organizations that closely resembled the Weberian notion of an ideal bureaucracy.

His book essentially argues that bureaucracies are often dysfunctional and his analysis aims to unpack conflicts and power struggles to understand why this is.

His theory is based on the observation that in situations where almost every outcome has been decided in advance according to a set of impersonal and predefined rules and regulations, the only way in which people are able to gain some control over their lives is to exploit 'zones of uncertainty' where the outcomes are not already known.

Attacking both the rationalists and the human relations school for ignoring the role that such power struggles play in the shaping of an organization he argues that organizational relations are in fact a series of strategic games where the individuals attempt either to exploit any areas of discretion for their own ends, or to prevent others from gaining an advantage.

The result of this is that goals are subverted and the organization becomes locked into a series of inward looking power struggles. Thus, paradoxically, the result of attempting to design an efficient organization that runs on rational and impersonal lines is to create a situation where the opposite to is true.

Finally, Crozier argues that bureaucratic systems are characterized by the existence of a set of vicious circles that find their source in centralization and impersonality:

The bureaucratic phenomenon by Michel Crozier

Alibris

In "The Bureaucratic Phenomenon" Michel Croier demonstrates that bureaucratic institutions need to be understood in terms of the cultural context in which they operate. The originality of the study lies in its association of two widely different approaches: the theory of decision-making in large organizations and the cultural analysis of social patterns of action.

The book opens with a detailed examination of two forms of French public service. These studies show that professional training and distortions alone cannot ex plain the rise of routine behavior and dysfunctional "vicious circles." The role of various bureaucratic systems appears to depend on the pattern of power relation ships between groups and individuals. Croier's findings lead him to the view that bureaucratic structures form a necessary protection against the risks inherent in collective action. Since systems of protection are built around basic cultural traits, the author presents a French bureaucratic model based on centralization, strata isolation, and individual sparkle-one that that can be contrasted with an American, Russian, or Japanese model. He points out how the same patterns can be found in several areas of French life: education, industrial relations, politics, business, and the colonial policy. Bureaucracy, Croier concludes, is not a modern disease resulting from organizational progress but rather a bulwark against development. --[??? innovation -- NNB]

The breakdown of the traditional bureaucratic system in modern France offers hope for new and fruitful forms of action.

Michel Croier was the founder and director of the Centre de Sociologie des Organisations and senior research fellow of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique. He is currently a member of the Academie des Sciences Morales et Politiques. He is the author or co-author of numerous books including The Stalled Society, The Crisis of Democracy, and The Trouble with America. Erhard Friedberg is professor of sociology and director of the Master of Public Affairs at Sciences Po in Paris. He is the author of numerous books including Actors and Systems (with Michel Croier) and Local Orders--Dynamics of Organized Action.

The bureaucratic phenomenon - AcaWiki

Crozier's book can be seen as a response to both the rational approach to organizations and to the human relations approach. Crozier argues that organizations act as the site for conflict and politics and argues against what he argues is a simplistic Weberian account of organizations and efficient and largely rational spaces. Instead, he seems them as sites for negotiation of complex power relations. Crozier explains that:

The classic rationalists did not consider the members of an organization as human beings, but just as cogs in the machine. For them, workers were only hands. The human relations approach has shown how incomplete this rationale was. It has also made it possible to consider workers as creatures of feeling, who are moved by the impact of the so-called rational decisions taken above then, and will react to them. A human being, however, does not have only a hand a heart. He also had a head, which means that he is free to play his own game (p. 149).

The first half of his book focuses on two settings in which he has done extensive research and which he reports a long serise of detailed examples of the nature of work and management. His two examples are each located in France: "The Clerical Agency" and "The Industrial Monopoly". Crozier chose these examples not only because he was French, but also because he claims that socially and culturally France has developed in such a way that it created organizations that closely resembled the Weberian notion of an ideal bureaucracy.

His book essentially argues that bureaucracies are often dysfunctional and his analysis aims to unpack conflicts and power struggles to understand why this is.

His theory is based on the observation that in situations where almost every outcome has been decided in advance according to a set of impersonal and predefined rules and regulations, the only way in which people are able to gain some control over their lives is to exploit 'zones of uncertainty' where the outcomes are not already known.

Attacking both the rationalists and the human relations school for ignoring the role that such power struggles play in the shaping of an organization he argues that organizational relations are in fact a series of strategic games where the individuals attempt either to exploit any areas of discretion for their own ends, or to prevent others from gaining an advantage.

The result of this is that goals are subverted and the organization becomes locked into a series of inward looking power struggles. Thus, paradoxically, the result of attempting to design an efficient organization that runs on rational and impersonal lines is to create a situation where the opposite to is true.

Finally, Crozier argues that bureaucratic systems are characterized by the existence of a set of vicious circles that find their source in centralization and impersonality:

The Bureaucratic Organization

A Theory of Bureaucratic Dysfunction - Michel Crozier (1964)

In " The Bureaucratic Phenomenon " the French Sociologist, Michel Crozier set out to re-examine Weber's concept of the efficient ideal bureaucracy in the light of the way that bureaucratic organizations had actually developed and constructed a theory of bureaucratic dysfunction based on an analysis of case studies.

The core of his theory stems from the observation that in situations where almost every outcome has been decided in advance, the only way for people to gain control over their lives is to exploit any remaining 'zones of uncertainty'. He argues that organizational relations become little more than strategic games that attempt to exploit such zones, either for their own ends, or to prevent others from gaining an advantage. The result is that the organization becomes locked into a series of inward looking power struggles - so called 'vicious circles' - that prevent it learning from its errors.

Thus, in order to be rational and egalitarian, bureaucracies attempt to come up with a set of impersonal rules to cover every event. The first result of this is that, because the outcome of such decisions are predetermined, hierarchical relationships become less important and the senior levels lose the power to govern.

Secondly, in order to maintain the impersonal nature of decision making, decisions cannot must be made by the people who might be affected. The result of this is that most problems are resolved by people who have no direct knowledge of them.

Thirdly, the elimination of opportunities for bargaining and negotiation creates an organization consisting of a series of isolated strata. The result is peer group pressure to conform to the norms of the strata regardless of individual beliefs or the wider goals of the organization.

Finally, individuals or groups that gain control the zones of uncertainty wield disproportionate power in an otherwise regulated and egalitarian organization. This leads to the creation of parallel power structures, which in turn results in decisions being made based on factors unrelated to those of the organization as a whole.

Open letter to BlackBerry bosses Senior RIM exec tells all as company crumbles around him By: Jonathan S. Geller

Jun 30, 2011

There’s no question Research In Motion is in the midst of a major transitional period. The company is planning to launch a brand new product line based on a brand new operating system within the next 12 months, and even though the first device born out of RIM’s new QNX OS was impressive in some ways, it was incomplete. There still is a chance for RIM to deliver some really interesting competitive products, but time is quickly running out, as we have written time and time again. The thing is, RIM has always been a company controlled by two people — Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis. For all the things that have worked, they have missed the boat countless times and we’re now seeing the results.

We have received an open letter to Mike and Jim from a high-level RIM employee (whose identity we have verified), and in an amazingly honest and passionate plea, this letter gives fascinating insights into what RIM must fix, and fast. RIM did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Read the open letter in its entirety after the break.

P.S. If you’re an employee of RIM and want to send us your thoughts and feelings on the company, you can send them to us via email or leave a comment below.

I have lost confidence.

While I hide it at work, my passion has been sapped. I know I am not alone — the sentiment is widespread and it includes people within your own teams.

Mike and Jim, please take the time to really absorb and digest the content of this letter because it reflects the feeling across a huge percentage of your employee base. You have many smart employees, many that have great ideas for the future, but unfortunately the culture at RIM does not allow us to speak openly without having to worry about the career-limiting effects.

Before I get into the meat of the matter, I will say I am not part of a large group of bitter employees wishing to embarrass us. Rather, I believe these points need to be heard and I desperately want RIM to regain its position as a successful industry leader. Our carriers, distributors, alliance partners, enterprise customers, and our loyal end users all want the same thing… for BlackBerry to once again be leading the pack.

We are in the middle of major “transition” and things have never been more chaotic. Almost every project is falling further and further behind schedule at a time when we absolutely must deliver great, solid products on time. We urge you to make bold decisions about our organisational structure, about our culture and most importantly our products.

While we anxiously wait to see the details of the streamlining plan, here are some suggestions:

1) Focus on the End User experience

Let’s obsess about what is best for the end user. We often make product decisions based on strategic alignment, partner requests or even legal advice — the end user doesn’t care. We simply have to admit that Apple is nailing this and it is one of the reasons they have people lining up overnight at stores around the world, and products sold out for months. These people aren’t hypnotized zombies, they simply love beautifully designed products that are user centric and work how they are supposed to work. Android has a major weakness — it will always lack the simplicity and elegance that comes with end-to-end device software, middleware and hardware control. We really have a great opportunity to build something new and “uniquely BlackBerry” with the QNX platform.

Let’s start an internal innovation revival with teams focused on what users will love instead of chasing “feature parity” and feature differentiation for no good reason (Adobe Flash being a major example). When was the last time we pushed out a significant new experience or feature that wasn’t already on other platforms?

Rather than constantly mocking iPhone and Android, we should encourage key decision makers across the board to use these products as their primary device for a week or so at a time — yes, on Exchange! This way we can understand why our users are switching and get inspiration as to how we can build our next-gen products even better! It’s incomprehensible that our top software engineers and executives aren’t using or deeply familiar with our competitor’s products.

2) Recruit Senior SW Leaders & enable decision-making

I’m going to say what everyone is thinking… We need some heavy hitters at RIM when it comes to software management. Teams still aren’t talking together properly, no one is making or can make critical decisions, all the while everyone is working crazy hours and still far behind. We are demotivated. Just look at who our major competitors are: Apple, Google & Microsoft. These are three of the biggest and most talented software companies on the planet. Then take a look at our software leadership teams in terms of what they have delivered and their past experience prior to RIM… It says everything.

3) Cut projects to the bone.

There is a serious need to consolidate our focus to just a handful of projects. Period.

We need to be disciplined here. We can’t afford any more initiatives based on carrier requests to squeeze out slightly more volume. Again, back to point #1, focus on the end users. They are the ones making both consumer & enterprise purchase decisions.

Strategy is often in the things you decide not to do.

On that note, we simply must stop shipping incomplete products that aren’t ready for the end user. It is hurting our brand tremendously. It takes guts to not allow a product to launch that may be 90% ready with a quarter end in sight, but it will pay off in the long term.

Look at Apple in 1997 for tips here. I really want you to watch this video because it has never been more relevant. It is our friend Steve Jobs in 97 and it may as well be you speaking to RIM employees and partners today. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3LEXae1j6EY

4) Developers, not Carriers can now make or break us

We urgently need to invest like we never have before in becoming developer friendly. The return will be worth every cent. There is no polite way to say this, but it’s true — BlackBerry smartphone apps suck. Even PlayBook, with all its glorious power, looks like a Fisher Price toy with its Adobe AIR/Flash apps.

Developing for BlackBerry is painful, and despite what you’ve been told, things haven’t really changed that much since Jamie Murai’s letter. Our SDK / development platform is like a rundown 1990′s Ford Explorer. Then there’s Apple, which has a shiny new BMW M3… just such a pleasure to drive. Developers want and need quality tools.

If we create great tools, we will see great work. Offer shit tools and we shouldn’t be surprised when we see shit apps.

The truth is, no one in RIM dares to tell management how bad our tools still are. Even our closest dev partners do their best to say it politely, but they will never bite the hand that feeds them. The solution? Recruit serious talent, buy SDK/API specialist companies, throw a truckload of money at it… Let’s do whatever it takes, and quickly!

5) Need for serious marketing punch to create end user desire

25 million iPad users don’t care that it doesn’t have Flash or true multitasking, so why make that a focus in our campaigns? I’ll answer that for you: it’s because that’s all that differentiates our products and its lazy marketing. I’ve never seen someone buy product B because it has something product A doesn’t have. People buy product B because they want and lust after product B.

Also an important note regarding our marketing: a product’s technical superiority does not equal desire, and therefore sales… How many Linux laptops are getting sold? How did Betamax go? My mother wants an iPad and iPhone because it is simple and appeals to her. Powerful multitasking doesn’t.

BlackBerry Messenger has been our standout, yet we wasted our marketing on strange stories from a barber shop to a horse wrangler. I promise you, this did nothing to help us in the mind of the average consumer.

We need an inventive and engaging campaign that focuses on what we are about. People buy into a brand / product not just because of features, but because of what it stands for and what it delivers to them. People don’t buy “what you do,” people buy “why you do it.” Take 3 minutes to watch the this video starting from the 2min mark: http://youtu.be/qp0HIF3SfI4

6) No Accountability – Canadians are too nice

RIM has a lot of people who underperform but still stay in their roles. No one is accountable. Where is the guy responsible for the 9530 software? Still with us, still running some important software initiative. We will never achieve excellence with this culture. Just because someone may have been a loyal RIM employee for 7 years, it doesn’t mean they are the best Manager / Director / VP for that role. It’s time to change the culture to deliver or move on and get out. We have far too many people in critical roles that fit this description. I can hear the cheers of my fellow employees now.

7) The press and analysts are pissing you off. Don’t snap. Now is the time for humility with a dash of paranoia.

The public’s questions about dual-CEOs are warranted. The partnership is not broken, but on the ground level, it is not efficient. Maybe we need our Eric Schmidt reign period.

Yes, four years ago we beat Microsoft when everyone said Windows Mobile with Direct Push in Exchange would kill us. It didn’t… in fact we grew stronger.

However, overconfidence clouds good decision-making. We missed not boldly reacting to the threat of iPhone when we saw it in January over four years ago. We laughed and said they are trying to put a computer on a phone, that it won’t work. We should have made the QNX-like transition then. We are now 3-4 years too late. That is the painful truth… it was a major strategic oversight and we know who is responsible.

Jim, in referring to our current transition recently said: “No other technology company other than Apple has successfully transitioned their platform. It’s almost never done, and it’s way harder than you realize. This transition is where tech companies go to die.”

To avoid this death, perhaps it is time to seriously consider a new, fresh thinking, experienced CEO. There is no shame in no longer being a CEO. Mike, you could focus on innovation. Jim, you could focus on our carriers/customers… They are our lifeblood.

8) Democratise. Engage and interact with your employees — please!

Reach out to all employees asking them on how we can make RIM better. Encourage input from ground-level teams—without repercussions—to seek out honest feedback and really absorb it.

Lastly, we’re all reading the news and many are extremely nervous, especially when we see people get fired. We need an injection of confidence: share your strategy and ask us for support. The headhunters have already started circling and we are at risk of losing our best people.

Now would be a great time to internally re-brand and re-energize the workplace. For example, rename the company to just “BlackBerry” to signify our new focus on one QNX product line. We should also address issues surrounding making RIM an enjoyable workplace. Some of our offices feel like Soviet-era government workplaces.

The timing is perfect to seriously evaluate at our position and make these major changes. We can do it!

Sincerely,

A RIM Employee

More letters to RIM; employees rally alongside anonymous exec by Jonathan S. Geller

Jul 1, 2011

BGR published an open letter to Research In Motion yesterday from an anonymous high-level RIM executive who begged for senior management to take notice of all of the issues within RIM. The exec explained how the company should make some changes to focus on the talent and potential within RIM, and also to focus on end users instead of carriers. After we published the article, RIM responded. It wasn’t pretty, and it really didn’t address a single point that was made by the original plea. It wasn’t just RIM that responded, however — we received dozens of emails from current and former RIM employees detailing their stories, and essentially all agreeing with the open letter that was published on BGR. Among the correspondence were several new “open letters” written by RIM employees, and the BGR team has gone through them at length. There were nearly a dozen gems amid the emails we received, and while we may address various highlights in the coming weeks, we can’t publish them all at this time. We thank each and every person who took the time to email us with their thoughts, but there were two in particular that stood out from the crowd. One is from a former RIM employee and the other is from a current employee, and both sources have been vetted. The full, unedited letters can be read after the break.

Letter 1

This letter brilliantly articulated just about everything I’ve thought and/or heard relating to the company in the last two years.

I was an employee at RIM for a year and a half. I worked in the legal and business affairs departments, and despite having originally thought I’d landed the jackpot job-wise, it took no time for me to begin planning my exodus.

My first week started with a complete change in my title and duties without anyone telling me, and when I dared ask what was happening, the director (my boss) and her BFF the OD business partner ganged up on me and threatened to let me go, setting the tone for the remainder of my time there.

Over a year an a half, the four of us in the same position dwindled to just me and yet I was responsible for getting all four jobs done for the better part of a year, since this is how long it took the department to hire other entry-level people. Two individuals who had less education and experience (not to mention drive or intelligence) than me were promoted several times while my boss continued to tell me up and down that I had reached my ceiling at RIM due to my lack of education (two degrees!) and experience (5 years!)–as an administrative assistant. Rather than attempt to fight this system I figured I could transfer departments, only the company policy requires the supervisor to act as a liaison and reference for internal applicants. The insanely high turnover rate meant the department head wouldn’t let anyone go, in addition to refusing to promote from within (pets excepted). People were pitted against each other and an incredibly tense and hostile work environment was fostered. People around the office started referring to the office politics as “Survivor: RIM edition.” And we all remember the great movement to make recycling physically impossible across the entire company because one person let some confidential information slip.

Then, as I was saving up to return to school and make a better life for myself, I received a series of nasty emails from HR letting me know that since my boss had failed to log my vacation time a year earlier on SAP (despite my insistence on her doing it at three different times), I would have two full paycheques deducted to “pay back” the company for what was being portrayed as my mistake. I never received an apology and almost had to drop out of school due to the loss of a full month’s pay. On my last day my boss deliberately avoided me at all cost. The best part is that I recently heard that my boss just got promoted to the VP of the business affairs department.

I write this not to rant about my discouraging situation (it was a few years ago), but rather to relate that my experiences seem (even now as I maintain contact with many work friends) to be the rule rather than the exception across the company. Individuals who have fresh ways of thinking and who try to do things in new ways are not only reprimanded, but demoted (did I not mention I was also demoted at one point for asking too many questions?). Passive-aggression fills the halls where collegial interaction should thrive. The amount of red tape required to get just about anything done is exhausting, slowing progress and removing all incentive for employees at any level to innovate. Success cannot be borne of a 2005 status quo when the world looks a lot different now than it did even 12 months ago.

Despite what I endured at the company, I continue to support RIM as I love its products and sincerely wish it the best. Perhaps if it can take the recommendations from the employee’s open letter to heart, change will be ignited sooner rather than later, and employees and consumers alike will gain as RIM refines its most crucial relationships.

Letter 2

Inside RIM there is a small-ish (maybe 200-300) group of employees who’s only focus is keeping the BlackBerry services (Email, Browsing, BBM, the network, etc) running for our customers. We’re a 24/7/365 organization, maintaining 10′s of thousands of servers, network devices, services and basically anything that keeps devices working with our service. Keeping this massive service running smoothly, and keeping visible downtime to a minimum is a monumental task, made worse by the poor management decisions we deal with every day.

If I could have time with Mike and Jim to talk about the problems I see, I would happily reinforce what your executive said, and add a few things:

  1. No longer “In Motion”: The operations teams are full of extremely skilled and talented individuals who are excessively good at what they do — they were hired for that reason. We have pulled in resources from many of the best companies, from literally around the world. Many come with years of experience in the industry, and a lot of ‘been there, done that’ knowledge that is invaluable. However, each one of us has been handcuffed by overdone, poorly planned and every more poorly executed process. It can take weeks of time to make small changes, and months to make major ones. Whenever something goes wrong (incident, problems, even non-customer impacting) a lengthy and involved process of finger pointing starts, and without fail, a new process is born. And, sadly, since the announcement came out about the financial problems and layoffs, it’s become worse. Many of the managers are saying we need to rely more heavily now than ever on process. To those of us who need to deal with this process, which consumes days of work generating documents that no one will read, it’s an obvious case of CYA on the managers part. If they say ‘but we followed the process!’, they seem to hope their heads won’t be on the line. We are no longer a company that is innovative and energetic, we are drowning in paperwork. RIM needs to capitalize on the resources they have — hundreds of very smart, dedicated and driven individuals that can solve problems without needing a flowchart or document. We need to get out of this process paralysis, and back “In Motion”.
  2. AT&T: Internally, there’s a large joke that we should be called “RIM-T&T”. A lot of our senior leadership has come from there, and they come in with ideas from an old, stodgy, process driven industry. Having worked in a telecom like position in the past, I know how much paperwork and process they love — AT&T (and Bell, and other carriers) are dealing with a century of regulation, knowledge and process. Maybe they have some great best practices, but you don’t see ‘new and innovative’ happening a lot at AT&T. It also opens up a lot of questions about business directions when many senior leaders came from one of our carrier partners. RIM is not AT&T. RIM is not Microsoft. RIM is not Google. RIM is not Palm. RIM is RIM, and needs a RIM created focus, RIM ideas, and RIM leadership.
  3. Poor leadership: My small team of people has over 75 projects assigned to us right now. Why? Because leaders are afraid to say no. And we’re not the only ones — if you polled the various teams around operations, you’d probably find each and every team / individual has a list that is completely unattainable. But, no one is putting a foot down to say “ok, enough”. No one wants to upset someone above them by saying “no, we don’t have the time” or “no, that’s not valuable” or “no, you clearly don’t understand what it is we do around here”. Instead, there is (again) a lot of CYA and placating going on. Add to this a lot of process, and you have a workforce that is unable to deliver things quickly, properly, or with any degree of pride in their work.
  4. Morale: Being swamped by process, led by poor leaders, and buried in too many projects understandably leaves all of us feeling hopeless. When there isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel, but you are still expected to work 12 hours a day (and only paid for 8), it becomes difficult to stay focused on what needs to happen to make things better. Then, throw in notice of layoffs without any discussion internally, defer promised raises, and cut out expenses that may have been used to bolster morale (staff social events, travel, professional conference attendance), and you have a large workforce of people who are disillusioned about their future. And we’re supposed to be working harder to make the company strong right now.
  5. Guts: As the other writer said, there are far too many people sitting back and letting others do their work, and nothing happens to them. Everyone knows who these under performers are, but no one does anything about it. Having spoken very directly about this matter with a number of managers, the common thread is that it’s more work to try and get rid of them than to simply put up with them. A combination of laziness and poor OD processes is causing RIM to rot from the inside. We are actually happy to see layoffs here (assuming they don’t target us), because we’re hoping the right people are pulled out and that will open room for us to work properly, or even replace them with someone skilled and who wants to work hard.
  6. Products: If you walk around and talk to RIM employees (in operations, I’m sure the development teams are better) about the products we make, you’ll find most of us a) don’t know anything about our new products, b) don’t like our current products and c) pine for the old products. There is so much secrecy in the company, no one knows anything about new things until we see it on the news. That means we’re not able to tell our friends and family anything about new things, and that reflects badly on RIM. The current products are slow and underpowered. It’s generally acknowledged that our devices are inferior to other devices, and indeed, many people have personal devices from our competitors. Our old devices, when we were leading, are snappy, nice to use and highly functional. We need to get back to that. Bells and whistles are nice, but when reading email on the device is difficult, I don’t care if I can play podcasts. Internally, the feedback we can provide is ignored or filed as a ‘bug’ and then ignored. RIM has a big set of internal testers, but ignores their feedback to their own detriment.
  7. Sales channels: I heard someone telling this story around the office. Their sister went in to a local carrier store to buy a new BlackBerry, replacing an Android phone they didn’t like. They walked in with $400 in hand and wanted a BlackBerry, and walked out with an iPhone. When the sister asked the carrier sales rep for a BlackBerry, they talked her out of a BlackBerry by telling her how bad they are, then offered her an iPhone for $39. How could the sister resist, after having the Blackberry trashed (slow, useless, hard to use), and then a price like that for a competing product dangled in front of her? When our only avenue to selling our devices is through a ‘neutral’ 3rd party, and is just as happy to sell someone a competitors product as ours, we are at their mercy.
  8. Marketing: My friends love to poke me and make fun of our ads. Sure, BlackBerry seems to be sponsoring a lot of concerts and baseball games, but looking at my circle of friends and family, no one cares about that. Our marketing is boring, our ads are plain, and completely uninteresting. The whole campaign around the Playbook seems to be “IT DOES FLASH! LOOK!” … but honestly, my mother doesn’t know or care about that. She wants to know ‘can I play Angry Birds?”.

If I could only tell Mike, Jim and the rest of the C*O crowd one thing, it would be this: stop keeping the incredible pool of smart, talented and capable people handcuffed by poorly thought through process. It’s destroying the company, and destroying those of us that have to manage it. Being able to move quickly and innovate is what will save the company, and that goes completely opposite all our process.

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