Friday, May 14, 2010

An Open Letter to the Tea Party-ers

Dear Tea Party-er,

This letter is not to say you are wrong. Much of what you say does have some truth in it, although not any more than the Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Conservatives or all the other political groups. You do have every right to exist, express, assemble and all the other rights that are expressed and implied in the constitution. It also needs to be said that you have rights even beyond those, but are not recognized by our political system.

This letter is sent as a warning about closing into yourself so much that you lose sight of the truth and critical analyst. Many organizations have fallen to this in the past, both public and private. They even have a name for it, “Group Think.”

There are two shining examples of this in our past as a culture. One is President John Kennedy’s invasion of Cuba called the “Bay of Pigs” and Coca Cola’s huge marketing mistake in changing the formula for Coke.

In Kennedy’s example, his advisers and cabinet of very smart people concocted the idea of having refugees from Cuba invade the country and over throw the government. This would bring the United States to the rescue. The plan might have actually worked except not enough critical analyst had gone into the planning. The group, thinking they knew it all, didn’t feel they needed outside evaluation. So each member supported other members in their thinking because, after all, they know they were right. The refugees never got off the beaches and the United States watched as thousand died or were captured in the colossal failure.

Coke went through the same problem. Research that the board was certain was correct, told them that to keep in front of Pepsi and changing consumer tastes, they needed to change the flavor of the mainstay product. Oops, the arguably most loyal customers of any consumer product revolted. For many months Coca Cola had to back track and address the public relations debacle. In this case, the research was actually saying something else, but the board thought it told them to change the product because, again, they didn’t go outside the group to ask for a critical review.

So, Tea Party-ers, consider these two examples of many when deciding a course of action and who to support. Group think is a real, powerful and dangerous thing. To move forward without considering, and, in many cases, adopting outside advice on your platform and plans could be a disservice to all the people that have faith in your movement.

To not accept this advice is in itself, group think.


The Responsible Community

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

BP Was Doing What Was Expected

When did we buy into the notion that corporations have the community’s best interest in mind?

Now before you think this is a blog post about bashing big corporations, consider this. Corporations by civil and criminal law are to make as much money as possible for their stock holders. If they don’t, CEO’s will be fired, boards replaced, investors will withdraw their money, civil suits will be filed and legal action will be taken. The western culture makes it very clear that corporations are to place making money above any fiduciary responsibility they may have to the communities they serve.

We could all take on the Wall Street bankers as a prime example of making money over serving their community, but there is a more current example buried in stories about BP’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It comes from an article in the New York Times entitled, “Regulator Deferred to Oil Industry on Rig Safety.” It states that the Minerals Management Service, the Interior Department agency charged with regulating the oil industry “continue[d] to allow the industry largely to police itself, saying that the best technical experts work for industry, not for the government.”

The key phrase in the sentence above is, “work for”. The technical experts that the agency relied on were people that work for the oil industry, not the agency or an independent source. When an oil industry corporation, like any other corporation, makes a risk assessment, their decisions are based on making money. The risk of oil spills, accidents and other things do factor in based on the actual monetary cost and the cost to their public image. But, in the end, the question is how much money can be made.

The people that work for the corporation didn’t want this oil spill. They, it is reasonable to believe, did all they could to prevent it. But, the experts that work for the corporation are all directed to make plans that are cost effective. They will likely convince themselves that the plan will work. If they don’t get outside assessment of their plans, they could be involved in “group think.” It is, in the simplest of terms, a concept that the original premise is correct and that members of a deeply cohesive group will convince each other that it is correct. Regulators should not rely on the industry people to assess their own plans.

The mandate of corporations should be first and foremost to serve the community instead of making money. Yes, of course, they need to make money. But they must create jobs, provide a product or service that the community needs and protect the environment first. They should be held accountable to that mandate.

If a specific corporation can’t do that, let another one that can.


Monday, May 10, 2010

Harwell and Huff

Last week was a tough week for the Detroit Community. We have lost two outstanding individuals that provided shining examples of how we should all lead our lives. Detroit Police Officer Brian Huff and Tiger Broadcaster Ernie Harwell should both be remembered in all of our hearts.

Ernie Harwell will be remembered as the voice of summer for three generations of Detroiters. He began his career when baseball, the game of summer, was also America’s past time. Fans would hang on his every word when listening to the Tiger Baseball game. But, he never placed himself between the game and the audience. He knew they were there to listen to the game not his personal life.

He also provided a great example of life outside of baseball. In great contrast to so many people who claim fame, he was a genuine soul. Like the box score on a perfect game he had No drugs, no affairs and no bad things to say about anyone. He will be dearly missed.

But, the heroism of Detroit Police Officer Brian Huff must take a place above that of Harwell’s in the community. This is not to take anything away from Harwell. It is just that he labored in the limelight of fame. In that light, he did not succumb to the corruption that often follows and is to be honored. But, Police Officer Huff labored in anonymity. His heroism wasn’t in bright lights, his was in the quiet and ill lit light of everyday life.

When the call came from neighbors that there was trouble, a Detroit dispatcher sent a car with officers that had less experience on the force then Huff. It is reported that he was on his way to help before the dispatcher sent him as back up. Huff knew that there would be trouble and the officers responding to the call were going to need help. He was willing to place his life on the line because he thought that his experience on the job would help save lives and protect the community. That was to be Huff’s last call. He died quietly without lights or glory, a true hero’s death.

As individuals living in the community, we must all take on our responsibilities without the bright lights that come with fame. Every day we make sacrifices and invest our time and labor to make our lives and the community better. At the end of each day no one is there shining a light on our lives for everyone to admire. In the dark of night we lay down and go to sleep with only the self knowledge that we have done the best we can. Officer Huff must have done the same thing every evening.

While we honor the Harwell’s of the world with bright lights, the greatest tribute we can provide for the Officer Huff’s of the world is to continue to make the sacrifices necessary to build a better world for ourselves, our families and our communities.

A sincere and deeply felt thank you to Detroit Police Officer Brian Huff.