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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Saturday 5 October 2013

3 Things

Three things that inspire me:




Best part is, I don't have to limit myself to just going online to find them.  They're out there, every day, in places you'd least expect.

Friday 4 October 2013

Marvel Phase 3: Tahiti is a Magical Place

So what is up with Phil Coulson?
He's stabbed through the heart, then he's starring in Agents of Shield, with the only explanation as to what happened in between is reference to Tahiti as "a magical place" to recover in.  
If you care at all about the character - and thanks to a brilliant portrayal by Greg Clarkson and some great writing (in no small part thanks to Joss Whedon), people DO care about him.  We want to know what happened.

We'll get to Phil in a second; first (and related) let's step back and look at Marvel's cinematic strategy for a bit.

Marvel has cleverly built their rollout around phases designed to slowly reel audiences into the Marvel Universe.  It's a complex place, that universe, with imaginary countries, aliens, sentient robots time travel, parallel timelines, etc.  But it also has more relatable street-heroes like The Punisher.

The phased-in strategy makes that reeling an organic process.

PHASE 1: A Realistic Entry
 To hook audiences, Marvel started their film odyssey off with Iron Man - a rich guy with cool toys that more-or-less makes sense in our world.  They also had Captain America, a hero whose powers are muted (there's really nothing he can do that Bruce Willis or Harrison Ford haven't done while playing John McClane or Indiana Jones); his stand-out strengths are his humility and leadership skills.  We admire the guy - we feel comfortable following him on his journey.  Let's hope Cap just doesn't jump the shark while Nuking the fridge.

 Phase 1 also introduced Thor - an alien/god who went through a very archtypical journey from Arrogant Bully to Empathetic Leader.  It's a story everyone knows and is comfortable with; given the real-world experiences Thor went through, we can relate to him, too.  Cleverly, there was a reference in Thor to magic and science being "one and the same" in his world.

Phase 1 culminated in The Avengers, which saw Captain America forced to come to terms with a strange new world in much the same way that Marvel's audiences are.  The film ended with a huge battle between Heroes and Aliens and introducing Thanos as the Big Bad, officially transitioning into Phase 2.

PHASE 2 - Going Sci-Fi

Now that the wall between our world and the sci-fi one has been broken, Marvel is starting to fill in the extra-terrestrial part of the map for us, notably with Guardians of the Galaxy which will use a Captain America-like character to organically guide us into that space, too.  Marvel's got a lot riding on GOTG, because if it isn't that successful they'll have a harder time pushing other sci-fi properties forward.
 Thor: The Dark World will also help with this, though, as it brings an even stronger sci-fi presence to earth than did his first outing.  If you're a fan of the shared universe Marvel has created, you're going to want to see how all the threads connect; more lines simply provide more hooks.

We know that Phase 2 will end with Avengers 2: The Age of Ultron, which is another sci-fi related theme; a sentient robot (possibly an evolution of Iron Man's Jarvis program) will threaten the world with The Avengers saving the day.  How Thanos will fit in to the picture leading towards an Avengers 3 confrontation remains to be seen.

But what of Phase 3?  If it's to have a unique theme and pull back the curtain on an even more fantastical Marvel realm than the last phase, what could it be?

PHASE 3: Tahiti is a Magical Place

Marvel has a whole world of magic to explore as well.  It's a bit of a stretch for American Ganster-loving audiences to go that far without a bridge, but bridging worlds in Easter-Egg like fashion has been a hallmark of Marvel's strategy.
There's been lots of talk around a Dr. Strange movie - a big character in Marvel but a hard one to deliver in a way that has mass appeal.  If there's a subtle transition from sci-fi to fantasy, though, audiences will have an easier time following through.

Which brings us back to Coulson.

We already know that SHIELD has a jump on the general public when it comes to what's going on in the world - there are countless references to that fact in all of Marvel's properties.  We also know that not every SHIELD agent is in on the Big Picture - they have to get to Level 7 to see how many of the sci-fi pieces connect.

Yet when Maria Hill and Sheppard Book talk about Coulson in the Agents of Shield pilot, they refer to our hero as not knowing what happened to him and that "he can never know." If there are things Coulson isn't in on, could that imply a Level 8?

Tahiti is a magical place, indeed.  I can't wait to see what we find when Marvel takes us there.

Leadership With Gravitas

So they said, "If we make it amazing for him right where you are, will you be OK?"  And I said, "yeah."

From that moment forward, Sandra Bullock was anchored to Gravity and is bringing all the weight of her acting talent and marketing star power to bear.  They trusted and empowered her - she responded in kind.

Just imagine if more leaders treated their people with the same amount of respect and empathy they expect for themselves.  Think about what they could accomplish.

The Illusion of No Consequence

Just imagine a world where everyone felt the weight of their actions and accept the concept of opposite and equal reaction.

That's the way the world is, of course - the trick is to be conscious of our space in it.

Statesmanship Vs. Salesmanship: A Diagnosis for Politics

As the Federal, Provincial and Municipal governments all go through consultation process about sticky issues like youth employment, crime prevention and poverty reduction, here's a lesson to keep in mind:

Does Garry Breitkreuz Fit the Vic Toews Profile?

Isn't that more or less what Vic Toews said to Don Martin over the "with us or with the child pornographers" line?

The facts aren't all in yet, but they will be in time; Breitkreuz spoke to an entire class, meaning every student in the room, their parents and of course, the teacher will all have their take on what was said.  I hate to break it to Breitkreuz, but in he said/they said competition over the facts, the politician ain't likely to win.

Which brings us back to the question we should be constantly asking - what on earth drives folk like Toews, Breitkreuz and Gilmour to say such ridiculous things and then try to cover up (miserably) after the fact?

Racial profiling is so yesterday.  The future of behavioural forecasting is in cognitive profiling.

And there's a set profile emerging of reactionary, threat-centric and bombastic individuals who have a hard time committing sociology, i.e. understanding the perspectives of unlike-minded peers.

Unlike their with-us-or-against-us approach, the rest of us can focus on empowering them to think differently.  They, too, have maximum potentials to contribute - they just need to get over themselves to get there.

After all:

Play It Again, Ford!

Yes, there is more than one Casablanca reference that applies to Rob Ford.

And on this matter of music, he's bang on.

Many of the marginalized youth I talk to in this city from "Priority Neighbourhoods" (or whatever designation they go by these days) are really into The Arts.  They want to be the Next Big Thing with their singing, their dancing, their mixing.

It's all well and good to brush these kids off as going through an idealistic and unrealistic "garage band" phase of their lives - not everyone gets to be the next Drake, after all.  But it's way too simple a message to tell marginalized youth to "get over" their dreams and focus on reality, i.e. getting a real job.

For many of these kids, that's not an option.  They face postal code stigma, lack the soft skills (how to read body language, how to manage deadlines, corporate communication, etc.) and networks/family connections that really help land the good jobs out there.  To take away their music is essentially to leave them without hope.  When you can't succeed by playing the rules and are made to feel like you don't belong, crime and gangs become a tantalizing option to have somewhere to belong and get respect.

More to the point - there is a lot of untapped talent emerging from these communities.  Like Ragtime emerged from the dark corners of New Orleans, there truly is something artistically special emerging from neighbourhoods like Lawrence Heights and Flemingdon Park.  Perhaps it's because they aren't being forced into less rewarding but actually financially sustainable paths that these kids are pouring their energy and efforts into honing their artistic skills.  Whatever the case is, the kids' got talent.

I imagine that through his involvement with youth through football and other activities, Ford's gotten wind of this, too.  Which is probably why he's pursuing this musical dream in the first place.  There's more to this picture than just music, though - because the really passionate, focused youth are taking their love of music to the next step.

These emerging leaders aren't just pursuing ways to turn their talents into careers - they're looking for ways to empower their peers to do the same thing.

Youth with dreams and drive like Hopeton Latouche and Nikoletta Parousis are finding partners, crafting business plans and project and honing their voices while building their networks.  These kids have a powerful mission - to empower their peers with the tools they need to succeed.

See, "The Arts" isn't some frivolous waste of sociology-committing time; it's a conduit, a prism that focuses passion and talent into direction and planning.

The youth that we really want to reach in Toronto don't get in to crime because they're bad seeds - it's because they lack alternatives plus the steps to get on more sustainable paths.  

By channelling their passions and using their artistic dreams as focal points to develop soft skills like planning, presentation and brand-building, we can help turn their aspirations into tomorrow's reality.

Which is what the Mayor's job should be about in the first place.

Thursday 3 October 2013

Political Surgeons

The reason democracy wants representation of the people by the people is the assumption that regular folk will be able to relate to the daily plight of their peers - unlike the one percent, who can play political games that cost the people beneath them without having any clue, ever, as to what real loss feels like.

There's an anecdote the late Michael Crichton tells in his book Travels about working in a hospital (the inspiration for ER); a group of surgeons are discussing the most involved, interesting procedure for a patient that happens to involve a colostomy bag.  It never occurs to them what the actual patient might think of that option - because they probably didn't recognize the end recipient as a person

Keep that in mind as your read this:


“What a sick twisted old man to say, why would we want to do that?” Sean Hannity, of Fox News, said to Ted Cruz. They were talking about Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, whose answer to a question about funding for the National Institutes of Health had become, for them, the story of the shutdown.
Once House Republicans refused to pass a spending bill on Monday night, the N.I.H. had to stop enrolling new cancer patients in clinical trials, among them some thirty children. This was such an indictment of the shutdown that the G.O.P. had suggested a micro-appropriation—part of a “piecemeal” funding tactic to keep anger at bay. Reid, talking to reporters, called it cherry-picking and said that he wanted the whole bill, sticking to that after Dana Bash, of CNN, asked why he wouldn’t help just one child with cancer if he could. If you listen to the exchange, something Reid then says—“Why would we want to do that?”—clearly refers to the pitting of different people hurt by the shutdown against each other. But he did give Fox a line, if one dependent on the idea that Reid would think that caring for children was an alien concept. “Pretty sick,” Hannity said, as Cruz tried to look sad. Also, “cold, callous, heartless, mean-spirited, hateful.” Guest after guest was outraged.
So many Republicans consumed by the idea that politicians ought to make sure that sick children get the care they need—one might call that novel. Do they plan to live out that conviction? The G.O.P. has shut down the government because it considers a law that will make health insurance far easier to get for the forty-eight million Americans who don’t have it—including millions of children, many of them sick—a threat to America. Will this talk of children with cancer lead them to read the provisions of the Affordable Care Act and, for once, think about what the law means for real people?
Being very ill in America without insurance is a disaster for anyone. You can easily be left bankrupt, even if you’re cured. Obamacare also addressed the particular ways getting sick could be terrible for children, even those with insurance. First, the law ended lifetime maximums, the catch by which insurance companies could decide that after they’d spent a certain amount they could walk away from a patient. Small children with cancer could, and often did, reach those limits before they’d made it through preschool. Next, provisions in Obamacare mean that these children won’t be kept from getting affordable (or any) insurance because of “preĆ«xisting conditions.” They can also stay on their parents’ health-insurance policies until they are twenty-six. And they are precisely the sort of young people who ought to: they need check-ups to be sure that there isn’t a recurrence of cancer. And their health struggles may have made it harder for them to jump into the job market, or just to sleep at night with the illusion that a twenty-something who doesn’t have insurance is just making a rational bet—being sensible and free.
Maybe the idea was that Reid should have just looked even more mournful than Cruz, praised American generosity and told a story, rather than actually doing something. But the professed anxiety by the G.O.P. about how children will be cared for doesn’t line up well with documents like the Paul Ryan budget, which translates into wholesale cuts in the Children’s Health Insurance Program and Medicaid. The American Cancer Society’s advice for the parents of uninsured children, which makes for depressing reading, talks about Medicaid and other low-income programs in terms of hope. Would Hannity call Ryan a sick, twisted young man?
This is not just about the hypocrisy of the G.O.P.’s rhetoric, or its practical cruelty. In bringing about this shutdown, the Republicans are infecting our political processes with the pathologies that made the American health-care system such a mess. The idea that it’s fine to stumble ahead with much of the federal workforce furloughed, that emergencies (the showy ones) can easily be disposed of with “piecemeal” spending bills, is another version of the argument, often heard in conservative circles, that we don’t really have an insurance problem in this country because people can always go to emergency rooms. This is America; we don’t let people die, except that we do. People who’ve had no preventive care get to that emergency room too late, leaving their families with bills for the ambulance. The parents of sick children have been put into the position of supplicants who have to wave their arms for attention, as if their child was having a heart attack in the middle of the street. They deserve that help, and it’s entirely in John Boehner’s power to give it to them, by bringing the six-week continuing resolution that the Senate has passed to the House floor. If Obama does intervene on behalf of the N.I.H., there shouldn’t be any illusions that a singularly harmful fluke has been dealt with. Children are quietly being put at risk because food-safety inspectors have been furloughed, their mothers aren’t being enrolled inWIC, and they lose their preschool spots. That is all less visible, unless you are among the most vulnerable.
We also seem to be heading toward a national version of the sort of personal financial crisis that our health system fosters. It’s an emergency; you stop paying bills, except maybe some when they catch you on the phone; you slash in some areas and spend more in others haphazardly. One day you wake up and your debt limit has been reached and your credit has been downgraded and you know it will take years to get back, if you ever can. The difference is that people don’t choose to get sick. The Congressional Republicans have not only chosen this, but they pursued it.
John Boehner and Ted Cruz and the House’s “suicide caucus”—willing to bring down the economy to derail Obamacare—appear to be making bizarre choices. Some in their own party think so. (Grover Norquist on Cruz: “He pushed House Republicans into traffic and wandered away.”) But their behavior should actually be quite familiar to anyone who has had the frustration of dealing with an insurance company. They are treating Obamacare—a law passed by Congress, affirmed by the Supreme Court, and whose namesake was reĆ«lected President—as a claim that they can avoid paying if they just come up with the right disingenuous angle. They are doing the same thing with their basic legislative responsibilities; they are the little men in the distant office, sending out letter after letter: deny, deny, deny. Obamacare might at least make that type rarer in the health-care system. When are we going to remake our politics?


"But 100 people with 1% of the solution? That'll get it done."

You will regularly hear bosses of all sorts talk about how busy they are, focused on making money.  The role of their employees is to help them make money, pure and simple.

I once tracked the money a consultancy operating with hourly rates lost over just one week because those highly-paid employees were left standing around, waiting as the boss was late for meetings or took external calls, interrupting those meetings.  The total ended up being around $10,000.

Then there's HR.  It's surprising how many big organizations don't even have HR departments - people who will understand what terms like "presenteeism" mean.  Fortunately, best practices are starting to surface.

None too soon.  So many of the big problems we face are structural in nature; costly, morale-sucking and frustration-building gaps, duplication and overlaps exist that can be entirely avoided, if we just do communication and human literacy better.

It begins by focusing not on what you can acquire, but what you should leave behind.

Obsolescence should be the primary motivator of every leader; build self-sustaining organizations that can thrive regardless of which individuals come or go.  Build systems capable of adaption to changes in the environment. 

Creating a whole that's more than the sum of its partsthat's leadership.

Developing Front-Line Leaders Starts At The Top

John Baldoni, Contributor
I write about the impact leaders have on those they lead.
Weak leadership on the front lines is one big reason that organizations struggle.
According to a new study of 300 HR managers by Development DimensionsInternational (DDI) together with and the Institute for Human resources, weak leadership can be costly. For example, of those surveyed:
  •  69% say it caused lower rates of engagement;
  • 65% say it caused a loss of productivity; and
    Weak and Powerless
    Weak and Powerless (Photo credit: TMAB2003)
  •  59% say it resulted in higher turnover “of themselves or team members.”
Looking deeper into the findings, 56% of respondents “rated the lack of interpersonal skills as the number one reason for leadership failure.” Deficiencies in “listening, empathizing and involvement” erode a leader’s ability to connect to the very people he or she is expected to manage and lead.
The other key reason for leadership failure is “lack of strategic skills.” According to DDI’s Richard Wellins, Ph.D., the fault also likes with the organization because it is not helping its leaders acquire these skills.
Not surprisingly, one in four surveyed claimed that poor leadership resulted in lower profitability. As Wellins put it, “These findings paint a dismal picture for the pipeline of future leadership talent that organizations need to survive and thrive.” Worse, as Wellins notes, when high performers see weak leaders in position of power they become disillusioned.
In short, when you have weak leaders on the front lines the entire organization is in peril. The high failure rate of new leaders is concerning,” says Wellins “Many times failure is due to lack of motivation or personality that no amount of training will change.” Organizations “need to more diligent about whom they promote into positions of decision-making… because cost of failure is very high.
To correct such leadership deficiencies, it falls to organizations to make investments in leadership development but do it ways that are individually focused as well as focused on the needs of the organization. Organizations that I have studied offer a combination of internal programs that offer participants access to senior leaders as well as the opportunity to acquire new skills via action learning or job rotation.
“In terms of development,” says Wellins, “it is usually not the content or actual classroom training that is wrong. As the study points out the best training are learning journeys of multiple events that tie together over time.” Additionally “management support is also crucial.”
As Wellins notes, “the best thing senior leaders can do is serve as role model of good leadership skills.” Toward that end leaders must set the right example. They must show through their actions what it means to set clear expectations, follow through on commitments, put people in positions to succeed, and most importantly – hold themselves accountable for their actions.
Lack of accountability, or a perceived double-standard, where those at the top get a free pass while those in the middle or lower ranks get the boot when things go poorly erodes trust in leaders. Those leaders put themselves on the line are those that others want to follow.
As senior leaders consider their legacy they need to focus not simply how they are improving the bottom line but what they are doing to develop next generation leaders who will take the organization to the next level of growth and productivity. They can do this via mentoring, of course but also affording opportunities for emerging leaders to experiment and learn.
Leadership development is not a one-way street; high-potential managers need to commit to the process, that is, they need to consider job relocations (including overseas placements) in order to acquire the skills and experience necessary to manage within a global environment.
Leadership development becomes the responsibility of everyone in management to bring out the best in their people.

How the Lost Art of Negotiation Led to TWO Government Shutdowns

Come to think of it, our House is closed for business, too.

Transparency.  Trust.  Not the appearance of each, not the discrediting of opposition, but real, honest example-setting leadership.

One can but imagine.

Schmooze or Lose: How the Lost Art of Negotiation Led to a Shutdown

With all the finger-pointing and name-calling going on in Washington these days, it’s hard to believe a delegation of kindergarten teachers from Dubuque hasn’t arrived to put an end to the nonsense. But no. The blame game goes on and on and the government stays shuttered.
And meanwhile, the people watching the story play out – and, we would say, especially leaders in business – might be missing the most important lesson of it all.
You have to schmooze.
Clarification: You have to schmooze early and often. You can’t suddenly burst out of your office to build relationships when you hear rumbles of trouble from down below, and it’s certainly too late by the time a crisis flares. No, schmoozing has to be what you do all the time as a leader; it has to be a massive part of your job. Walking around, having a coffee, sitting and listening, getting real, letting people get real with you. Showing who you are, what you care about, exposing your hopes and dreams and values. Asking people the same about themselves.
Building — in two big fat words — trust and transparency.
And look, we’re not talking about the standard, ho-ho-ho kind of social schmoozing you do with your customers and your team and your boss. That’s easy. That’s like President Obama schmoozing with Nancy Pelosi, or John Boehner schmoozing with Eric Cantor.
Leaders have to do something harder and more essential; something that can feel awkward at first. You have to schmooze with your known “adversaries” too, say, for instance, your union, or the group of employees who hate your new strategy and want the old one back. The resistors that exist in every organization. The perennial naysayers. Smart and annoying. Them.
Because if you don’t schmooze with friend and foe alike as a leader, unpleasant or wildly inefficient as it may seem, one day a crisis will come and, without thriving relationships and ongoing dialogue, it will shut you down, be it in the grand corridors of Capitol Hill or over in the three cramped rooms you call headquarters.
Here’s an example of what we mean. Throughout the 1960s and ‘70s, GE was plagued by strikes. That changed in the ‘80s when the senior team made it a priority to meet with the unions at every possible opportunity. The idea was to create constant, candid dialogue about values and goals, treating union leaders with the dignity and respect they deserved, whether it was at the plant or national level.
There wasn’t a strike at GE for 21 years. Did that mean management and labor suddenly started to see eye-to-eye? Hardly. But where there had been suspicion and wariness, there now was transparency and trust. No more “first dates” every three years, sitting grimly across from each other at the bargaining table. Schmoozing had smoothed the way.

Now, we’re not Luddites. We love dashing off an email and texting can’t be beat for efficiency. Y call Sally abt her promotion when u can just send a :-) ?
But the day Sally has a bone to pick with you about a new initiative or a promotion she didn’t get – and she’s ready to start building a coalition around her position – a :-) isn’t going to cut it. She needs to have seen you smile in person, and heard your voice and mind – and you need to have seen and heard and known her too.
People will always have legitimate differences. What’s happening in Washington right now is, underneath it all, based on them. But for leaders, the building of transparency and trust is what makes those differences negotiable.
It turns foes into friends with different opinions.
Jack Welch is Founder and Distinguished Professor at the Jack Welch Management Institute at Strayer University. Through its executive education and Welch Way management training programs, the Jack Welch Management Institute provides students and organizations with the proven methodologies, immediately actionable practices, and respected credentials needed to win in the most demanding global business environments.

Suzy Welch is a best-selling author, popular television commentator, and noted business journalist. Her New York Times bestselling book, 10-10-10: A Life Transforming Idea, presents a powerful decision-making strategy for success at work and in parenting, love and friendship. Together with her husband Jack Welch, Suzy is also co-author of the #1 international bestseller Winning, and its companion volume, Winning: The Answers. Since 2005, they have written business columns for several publications, including Business Week magazine, Thomson Reuters digital platforms, Fortune magazine, and the New York Times syndicate.

Will You Resign?

About 80% of politics is street theatre.

There's no shocking revelation in this - it's pretty much accepted wisdom that politicians will chest-thump with over-the-top rhetoric to get attention or to make their opponents look egregiously bad.  "Worse scandal ever" or "most incompetent leadership ever" is the kind of hyperbole we expect from our elected officials - which is in no small part why we pay little attention to politics (and why they need to go loud in the first place).

Part of the problem is, especially in cases of majority governments, there's no risk for Opposition Parties in playing white-hat/black-hat.  If they say a certain Prime Minister/Premier/Minister should resign for incompetence, they know there's nothing they can do to enforce a resignation - instead, it's a punch-line delivered more for the media and the regularly-donating base.

But what if that wasn't the case?  What if Opposition Parties had to walk the talk and were held accountable for being over the top?

There's interest in policy/government accountability ideas these days, so here's one:

If 60% of the Opposition, including the Leaders says that a Member of Parliament (federal or provincial) is corrupt, it should trigger an automatic investigation by the appropriate level of police into the claim.  If 60% of the Opposition,k including the Leaders says a Minister or PM/Premier should resign, they have to do so, full stop, and can never be returned to Cabinet.

They could do it as a vote-recorded motion which would be triggered automatically should any Member use the words "corrupt" or "resign" while speaking in the House.

It fosters some accountability.  It empowers individual Members.  It also puts Opposition Leaders in the hot seat; either they support calls for resignation or they don't - and will have to justify their response and support/lack of support for their Caucus to the media.  

More to the point, it's a what comes around, goes around thing.  It's presently far too easy for Opposition Parties to decry the same practices they inevitably fall into if and when they form government.

This way, Leaders and their teams are forced to think about longer-term consequences before they speak - something we could use a lot more of at every level of politics.

Loyalty Vs. Omerta - Definitions for #Topoli (UPDATED)

"He's a good guy," Ford said.  "I don't throw my friends under the bus."

"You can't teach loyalty." 

Oh, your Worship... let's do some term clarification here.  

Throwing Under the Bus is when you make someone the patsy - make them take the fall for something done by someone higher up in the industry or for implementing their instructions (See Sona, Michael for a potential example).  The implication is that you are offering up someone else in an abdication of your own responsibility.

Not ratting on your friends would be a better term to use here.  It relies on the concept of Omerta, or an anti-authoritarian code of silence - first rule of Fight Club is, you do not talk about Fight Club kind of thing.  The implication is that you know your friends are engaging in misdeeds, but you're not going to talk about them - even if the law states that you need to.  This code of silence is generally a mutually-reinforcing thing; you don't snitch on me, I won't snitch on you and we'll both get away with breaking the rules.  See The Godfather for what a code of silence "between friends" looks like.

Or better yet, watch GoodFellas, because that's more often than not how cones of silence dribble out into convictions.  See The Prisoner's Dilemma for further reading.

Both throwing under the bus and not ratting on your friends are demonstrations of putting selfish interest and the avoidance of accountability before the public good - something the Chief Magistrate, as Public Servant #1, should really be focused on.

Loyalty, however, isn't about protecting friends or enabling bad behaviour - it's about serving the mission set forward by the leader, fulfilling the mission-related tasks as assigned by the leader and adding value - partially by providing critical assessments to the leader of when they're going astray.

Doug Ford's use of the term loyalty in reference to David Price is another indicator of how the Fords seem to feel loyalty actually has the same meaning as omerta, which it does not.  This creates problems for the Fords; despite Doug's saying that he doesn't know Lisi and Ford's insistence that he was shocked, shocked to hear Lisi had been charged with drug-related offences, the overarching narrative would suggest otherwise.

Good investigators, which the folk on this case apparently are, will have no trouble connecting the dots and building a map of behaviour between the parties; if Lisi knows Price and they were both involved in the hunt for a non-existent video that has been connected to a murder, the police will be able to shade in the dark spots and build a legally condemning picture of how this ring operated.  That's before you get to the interrogation part of the equation; you might be surprised the sorts of effective techniques for teasing out truth there are these days.

The Fords haven't promoted loyalty to themselves nor demonstrated loyalty to their circle; instead, they've let down their friends and betrayed the city.  If Rob Ford was truly loyal to Sandro Lisi, he would have encouraged him to get help and develop legal means of success.  The best social program is a job, after all - one presumes by this Ford means a legal one.  For his part, if Lisi was truly loyal to Rob Ford, he would have either not engaged with him or kept his own nose clean to avoid potential negative consequences for his friend.

The same, let it be noted, is true for everyone on City Council and within the Mayor's Office who had any knowledge of these problems and chose not to act.

There has been an exemplary model for what real loyalty looks like in this story - one that will hopefully get due recognition with time.  That role model is Mark Towhey.

Towhey, a soldier by training, always put the mission first; he believed in what Rob Ford stood for and believed in what they could accomplish at City Hall.  Everything he did was viewed through that lens.  Ford's former Chief of Staff didn't tell tales out of school, but at the same time he did not shy away from his responsibility to provide critical advice to the Mayor or to cooperate with the police when that became his duty.  

Ironically, Ford rewarded this exemplary loyalty by throwing Towhey under the bus.  I guess he didn't consider Towhey a friend.  The rest of the staff who opted to follow Towhey out the door?  That tells you a bit about who had earned respect in that office, doesn't it?

Despite everything Towhey has been through - despite the fact that it grows more likely that history will vindicate him, daily - he is still holding the line.  Long after Ford is gone, I imagine Towhey will still be supporting the vision he believes in.

Now, that's loyalty.

UPDATE: But there is one issue that falls through the cracks in the Canadian press's editorial room: racism.  Specifically when it comes to Black Canadians, the rule of Omerta reigns.

Wednesday 2 October 2013

Crime, Youth and Living Consciously

Connecting a couple of dots:
A valuable lesson learned through a hug-a-thug program:
That, of course, is what the Political Right is advocating for; the difference is, they don't believe you can teach self-motivation, you have to find it in yourself.  There's no evidence for this; in fact, there is evidence for the contrary:
Free your mind, and the body will follow...

Cops and Robby: Theory and Games in Toronto (Updated)

Let's get the elephant in the room out of the way first; politics isn't about serving the public good.  It's about winning.  If it were about serving the public good, political leaders would spend time trying to establish consensus and setting the sorts of example others could draw inspiration from.

Instead, politics is about strategic manipulation of assets to create fields of victory.  Knowing that what the public wants and what they're willing to pay for it are wildly out of line, political organizers pick an choose their battles, their opponents, even their friends.  Which is why they can spin around in different directions, depending on which way the winds are blowing. 

When they get caught in doing something problematic (or not doing something which is essential, but difficult and unappealing - like structural change), political planners often turn to that age-old tactical slight-of-hand known as "bait and switch."

Thing is, political operators aren't the only players on the board.  All kinds of other stakeholders who interact in the public sphere know these tricks of the trade, too.  When they're thinking ahead, all of these players will try to suss out the lay of the land through SWOT (strength, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analyses and plan accordingly.

Among those other players are the police.

You may have noticed that the Toronto Police have a serious reputation crisis on their hands.  It's quite possible that the public (and by Association, the Police Board) are done with platitudes and want some meat.  The G20, Sammy Yatim and an admission by a police officer that discrimination is built into the system are all very problematic for the police.  And that's just scratching the surface.

It's hard enough for law enforcement at the best of times - people tend not to follow rules they find onerous, like texting and driving or rushing yellow lights.  When the public doesn't think law enforcers are following the laws they're meant to uphold or enforcing them fairly, it gets even harder.  That's where we're at right now; that's why people are demanding change.

This isn't all on them, though.  Police aren't solely responsible for a systematic culture change; they don't write the laws and ultimate accountability for their conduct lies with elected officials.  But they do wear the blame for how internal cop culture manifests negatively in society. 

Everyone wants the easiest solution to their problem, the shortest route between challenge and comfort.  Where's the low-hanging fruit solution to this structural/branding crisis?
Enter Rob Ford. 

Rob Ford is in a spot of trouble with the law, what with the crack scandal and all.  But, he's the Chief Magistrate, so the job of the police is to support his office - isn't it?  Or is it to enforce the law equally, regardless of a person's status?  Those being stigmatized at the lower end of the social spectrum are becoming increasingly agitated by top-official abuses that aren't meeting consequences.  And the police seem to have been doing a good job of corralling around the Mayor when he gets into trouble.

Here's where it gets interesting.

At the same time as they've been helping keep the Mayor out of harm's way, Toronto's Finest have been very careful not to take a public stance on the Mayor's direct involvement in any of the allegations that are being made or investigations being conducted.  This could be a case of professional conduct, which would be nice, but in politics you always assume everyone has an ulterior motive for everything they do/don't do.  What could be the police's ulterior move here?

Now, this would be cynical politics at its worst, but from a strategic point of view very clever; what if the police, knowing they need to deliver some sort of public-assuaging deed, are setting up the Mayor for a fall?  What if the intent all along has been to bait-and-switch when the time is right, offering Ford up to the public as a distraction?

Should the Mayor of Canada's Largest City (who already gets international press) be arrested and convicted on drug-related charges and related corruption/cover-up charges, fit would hit the shan.  There would be massive, global interest and scrutiny around how politics is working/not working in Toronto.  The elected officials, the bureaucrats, the public, everyone would be in a tizzy; and the police would have their deed to tie over public/media interest for quite some time.

Where ensuing focus wouldn't be is on internal problems within the Toronto police force.  Heck, by taking down the biggest fish in their net regardless of status, they would be demonstrating their commitment to blind justice.  It would be very difficult for any politician (some of them with some overlooked criminal infractions themselves) to pry into police culture for quite some time without being accused of striking back in retaliation to the punishment of one of their own.

Is this the Toronto Police Force's play?  Do they even have people who do plays?  Beats me.

It will, however, be interesting to see how the story continues to play out.  I'll certainly be tuning in. 

After all, who doesn't enjoy a good high-stakes game of chess?

UPDATE: There've been some updates on this front.  Any similarities between my speculation and reality, of course, are entirely coincidental.

UPDATED, AGAIN: Christie Blatchford from today (Nov 15, 2013):

All that can be read like this: The police did by the back door - gave the stamp of approval to the disgracing of Ford and to the notion that this was correct and in the public interests - what for some reason they were unwilling to do by the front, that is, with an arrest and charge.