Friday, November 30, 2007

[ian blair] there's no conclusive proof

I'm not going to name the three august bloggers who commented [to condense them]: "There's absolutely no proof and no shred of evidence of government collusion in 7/7 and its aftermath."

That's true - there is no final proof but as for no shred of evidence, for that to be true - well, that would mean that the whole of what appears below must be dismissed holus bolus.

It forever astounds me why bloggers who themselves do fiskings and investigations of their own using august opinion and circumstantial in large doses, then turn around and demand finite, absolute, lay-it-before-me, cast iron proof for an issue which can never have anything like that - especially if it is investigating organizations with past histories of lying and cover-ups.

The most you're ever going to get is a large collection of circumstantial of varying degrees of veracity. I don't necessarily suggest all the following is conclusive - I do suggest that it is most indicative that not all was above board.

October 8th, 2006 Iain Dale
Sir Ian said the British people should 'brace themselves for a truly appalling act of terror'. He said that following this act of barbarism 'people would be talking quite openly about internment', giving the impression that he would be leading the pro-internment lobby.
The Guardian noted:
The discovery that Khan was reinvestigated the following year appears to contradict claims from MI5 that inquiries about him came to an end in 2004 after it was decided that other terrorism suspects warranted more urgent investigation. It is also likely to lead to scrutiny of MI5's assertion that its officers, who had followed, photographed and secretly recorded Khan, and made other inquiries about him, did not know who he was.
On the surveillance operation which David Davis bought into, one claim was:
But the serious mistake that Panorama has identified is that at the time MI5 never informed West Yorkshire Special Branch about the surveillance operation that ended up in its patch.
A Canada Free Press article [now removed] said that a simultaneous bombing drill was going on, on 7/7, just as NORAD were running a 20 plane simultaneous attack exercise on 911. A deepjournal article says about this:
So it was with the Hinckley attempt to assassinate Ronald Reagan, when a presidential succession exercise was scheduled for the next day, as I showed in my George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography (1992; reprint by Progressive Press, 2004)'.
And continues, on some other matters:
'The one virtuoso performance of July 7 was that of the Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, and the European Central Bank, which flooded equity and capital markets with liquidity through such vehicles as the Plunge Protection Team (PPT), turning a big Wall Street loss into a small gain', writes Webster Tarpley.

A blogger named The Cunning Realist has done some
research and proves with some remarkable statistics (1 2) that the Federal Bank of the U.S., shortly before the attacks on July 7, pumped $35 billion into the market to soften eventual blows.
There was even some pre-7/7 speculation going on:
Insider Joseph Farah writes about the successful stock speculations just before 7/7: '[...] it appears some profited by short selling the British pound in the 10 days leading up to the attacks. The pound fell about 6 percent (approximately 1.82 to 1.72) against the dollar for no apparent reason
And so to the day itself, with Blair having flown in from Singapore and ensconced with the G8 leaders in Scotland while Giuliani and Netanyahu in London. J7, who run a nice timeline of the events of 7/7, note:
* Reports of defective trains and firemen at Balham [7.10 a.m.], at Caledonian Road [7.57 a.m.] and at Piccadilly Circus [8.07 a.m.].

The 4 are caught on CCTV together heading to the platform for the King’s Cross Thameslink train.

It is claimed the four alleged suicide bombers were recorded on CCTV at King’s Cross station at 8.26 or (later on) 'about 08:30'. None these pictures have never been made public.

8.43am Mossad office in London was alerted to a pending terror strike

The first report of a major incident at Liverpool Street station was received by the London ambulance service at 0849, within a minute of the blast. [BMJ Diary of Major Incident (PDF)]

First Alert Call – from Metropolitan Police to TfL and other Gold Partners. [7 July Review Committee Timeline]

9.24am The first reports: “British Transport Police say the incident was possibly caused by a collision between two trains, a power cut or a power cable exploding.
Deepjournal adds:
[In an] article by the Cambridge Evening News in which an eyewitness testifies: 'As they made their way out, a policeman pointed out where the bomb had been. "The policeman said 'mind that hole, that's where the bomb was'. The metal was pushed upwards as if the bomb was underneath the train.

They seem to think the bomb was left in a bag, but I don't remember anybody being where the bomb was, or any bag," he said.'
Mark Honigsbaum of The Guardian also talks in this radio report [RealPlayer] with witnesses about a bomb under the rail carriage.
To the timeline again:
8 July Sir Ian Blair, Head of the Metropolitan Police, said no evidence suggested that the attacks involved suicide bombers, but officials hadn't ruled out the possibility. Ian Blair curiously alluded to the number of bombers:
'If London can survive the Blitz it can survive four miserable bombers,' but then hastily added 'I am not saying there were four bombers', words then edited out of subsequent news reports.
9 July All four CCTV cameras on the 30 bus were not working. Al Qaeda take the blame:
MSNBC translator Jacob Keryakes suggests that [the al Qaeda website claim] might be a fake claim, since "This is not something al-Qaida would do." The Australian [story now removed] says: "The language of all the statements has been vague and does not conform to al-Qaeda language and style." The service provider appears to be based in Maryland, VA.
11th July Christophe Chaboud, France's new antiterrorism coordinator, states that he knew ‘the nature of the explosive’ in the London bombings: It ‘'appears to be military, which is very worrisome,’' he said, adding: ‘'We're more used to cells making homemade explosives from chemical substances’ (Le Monde)

12 July On the identification of the four: No DNA tests were necessary to identify them, because the suspected bombers all happened to be carrying personal documents (source: Boston Herald) , which survived the bomb blasts.
Blair, in his first report to the Commons, rules out an official inquiry.

13 July Traces of the military explosive ‘C4’ were found at all four blast sites, The Times reported. ‘C4,’ manufactured mostly in the United States, is very deadly and efficient - easy to hide, stable, and often missed by traditional bomb-sniffing detection systems. (United Press International)]

19 July
Scotland Yard still has no clue as to what explosives were used, declared the Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir Ian Blair.
The Feb 18, 2007 James Casbolt evidence is strange, not so much for this:
No. This whole remote system is quite strange because on the day itself Ian Blair took down all of the mobile phone communications. Everything was switched off.
... but for ths:
The BBC relied exclusively on a testimony given by a Scottish guy. The Scottish guy contradicted himself so many times and yet no one in the media asked him about these contradictory statements.
... and this:
James Casbolt- "So they were told 'this is just a dummy run?"

X10- "It was a dummy run. They were part of the dummy run. They stopped their car just outside of Luton and they were briefed by somebody. When they left Luton of course, they didn't leave Luton at the time described because there was a cock up with train times.

So whether they managed to get to London or not is an unknown because the video camera evidence has been shown to be faulty. There is a problem with the timing on some of the video footage.

James Casbolt- "So the guys on the train who were ex MI 5, ex SAS, they left the explosives on the train and then got off. What were their names again?"

X10- "The ex MI 5 man was codenamed 'J-boy' and Mcgreagor was the ex SAS guy"

James Casbolt- "And then you say they escaped in a Vauxhall cabriolet?"

X10- "Yes and they were driven away from the scene."
Now my reading of X10, in the light of his later rhetoric, is that he was very keen to take the blame from the Muslims. The Shayler opinion, equally suspicious for a different reason, was:
Shayler added that what's even more suspicious is the private security firm in charge of the training drills prior to 7/7 had ties to former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Which ties in with Rudi being in London on the day. Fast forward to 12.4.06:
Haroon Rashid Aswat, who was widely touted as being the ringleader for the London bombings, is being extradited without facing charges in the UK. Ex-Justice Dept and terrorist expert John Loftus’ claim that Aswat was an MI6 asset can be judged for yourselves but he has been extradited.

In an interview with Dayside of TV channel Fox he says that the British first told the Americans that Aswat was dead. They believe it and discontinue the lawsuit against him. But also the American Department of Justice is obstructive and 'blocked efforts [to have Aswat convicted] by its prosecutors in Seattle in 2002'.

However, the man surfaces alive and well in South Africa. Loftus: '[...] the Brits know that the CIA wants to get ahold of Haroon. So what happens? He takes off again, goes right to London. He isn't arrested when he lands, he isn't arrested when he leaves'.
Now to Ian Blair himself. Blogger Antagonize wrote:
One need only look to the date of the letter Ian Blair sent to Sir John Gieve in the wake of the murder of an innocent man. The letter asked that the IPCC be given 'no access to the scene at the present time'.

The result was that the IPCC investigation (Stockwell 1, which bizarrely didn't include Blair's own actions in its scope) was delayed for six days, thereby denying the IPCC access to crucial evidence.

Ian Blair's letter to John Gieve was dated 21 July 2005, a day before de Menezes was executed and two days before
Ian Blair says that he knew an innocent man had been executed.

When the letter was published after a freedom of information request it was issued with a caveat that: '
The letter is incorrectly dated 21st July. It should have been dated 22nd July when it was delivered.' July 22nd is the same day that de Menezes was executed.

So it would appear that Ian Blair knew exactly what happened on the day it happened and Brian Paddick is the only senior officer that appears to have any interest in telling the truth.

Not only that, but the evidence to prove this exists in the public domain and has done since the publication of Ian Blair's rather carelessly dated letter delaying the IPCC inquiry.
And finally to the current day's news:
IPCC chairman Nick Hardwick said there would be a series of recommendations to try to prevent mistakes being repeated. Mr Hardwick said there had been a "significant corporate failing" on the part of the force. He said the recommendations would focus on failings in the police's strategy and communications. The report is set to contain details of the case not heard during the trial.
The Less Universally Accepted Press claim the report also reveals how officers:
* Used the Prime Minister's name in a bid to stop the IPCC probe

* Failed to pass on alerts from the undercover team that they were tailing an innocent man

* Delayed five hours in deploying ‘specialist' firearms cops who could have taken him alive

* Doctored a Special Branch log of the surveillance operation leading to the shooting, as revealed by the News of the World in January, and

* Fouled up orders to frontline men, ordering that the suspect be "stopped" which was tragically interpreted as "kill him".

Other startling findings include evidence that de Menezes, 27, was high on cocaine when he was gunned down at Stockwell Tube station last July 22.

But the worst news for Sir Ian is the revelation that some of his most senior aides knew of de Menezes' innocence but kept it from him for 12 hours.
An IPCC-linked source told us:

"That's a cast-iron fact. The question is why. The belief in Whitehall is that it's because Sir Ian is notorious for taking bad news very badly—they just couldn't face telling him so they left it until Saturday morning."

An IPCC source said their report also spotlights "gross negligence" of the SO12 watchers' team leader in failing to tell bosses one of his men had definitely ruled out de Menezes as the suspect.
It was one of this group, says the report, that later deliberately doctored their official surveillance log to suggest they HADN'T identified de Menezes as the target.

The commission says loose language used by Yard commanders in communicating with officers on the chase probably condemned de Menezes to death. As he walked into Stockwell station, Commander Cressida Dick ordered that he must be "stopped" getting on a train. Another officer claimed she added "at all costs".

Commander Dick told the IPCC she meant the suspect should simply be apprehended. But on the scene her officers took it to mean death.
Conservative Home reports David Davis' words:
"There is something wrong with a process of accountability that, two years on, continues to prevent the publication of the review of the events leading up to 22 July 2005.
I suggest that could equally apply to the whole sorry business of 7/7.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

[wyatt earp] killer or protector

"Throw your hands up, I want your guns"

So said Virgil Earp, with brothers Wyatt and Morgan beside him plus Doc Holliday. Opposite them stood Ike Clanton, Billy Claiborne, Tom and Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton, cattle rustlers.

30 seconds later, Virgil had been shot in the leg, Morgan in the back, Holliday was grazed on the hip, both McLaurys and Billy Clanton were dead and the others had run away.

Wyatt Earp stood, unscathed, surveying the carnage.

The town was Tombstone, Arizona and a legend was born. It's all the more interesting because I've been trying to get to the truth of whether Wyatt Earp was a murderous gunman or an upstanding law enforcement officer.

Technically, he had no authorization to carry a gun on that day and did not wear a badge of office. Of course he had worn one earlier in Dodge City, from whence his legend had sprung. The friendship between Doc Holliday and Wyatt wasn't hard to understand either - Holliday had saved Wyatt from being murdered and yet Holliday disliked lawmen and Wyatt was one.

The more one reads, the murkier and greyer become the distinctions. The OK Corrall seems more and more a revenge killing for a complex set of happenings in the preceding months, people taking other's girlfriends and so on.

The people in the town were split too. Whereas the common folk seemed to back the Earps in their rough justice notion of law and order, the rustlers, particularly Billy, seemed to be reasonably popular in town. Wyatt seems to have been not universally loved and the Earps generally seen as men who took advantage of their positions to mete out fear and favour.

There seems to be no consensus because people were of one camp or the other. Wyatt? Dangerous, yes. Bat Masterton said of him:

Wyatt Earp's daring and apparent recklessness in time of danger is wholly characteristic; personal fear doesn't enter into the equation, and when everything is said and done, I believe he values his own opinion of himself more than that of others, and it is his own good report that he seeks to preserve.
Just a killer? Well, he was charged with murder following the shootout but was acquitted. Here's the modern day Clanton family's version of events. Bit different to the legend, yes? Here's a similar view. Here's a more pro-Earp account. Interesting that no two accounts seem to match.

In the rampage following the killing of Morgan some months later, when Wyatt and Doc Holliday then tracked down and killed the killers across the west is still a thorny question. Along the way, other outlaws like Johnny Ringo were found dead and that was attributed to the terrible two.

They certainly inspired fear in a lawless west at that time. One report from Wyatt's early days said:
Deputy Earp was known for pistol-whipping armed cowboys before they could dispute town ordinances against carrying of firearms. It is not known what kind of pistol Wyatt carried.
The line between lawless and lawman seems to have been a fine one. He's not known to have knowingly acted against unarmed or harmless people. He seemed to relish taking on the most dangerous. He doesn't seem to have had a brittle temper - reports say he was ice cold in such situations.

So was he a bad man? Was he a psycho behind a badge? Or was he a product of the times who brought law and order to part of a lawless land?

Dodge City, 1882 - would you want to have lived there in those times?

[christmas] what's in and what's out this year

In this year

The birth of Jesus of Nazareth, giving to the poor, wassailing, carolling, mulled wine, reflections on life, Christmas trees, prezzies under the tree, service in church.

Out forever

This winterval stupidity, crass commercialism, piped carols everywhere you move, credit debt, greedy eyes, depression, atheistic and humanistic spoilsports.

We don't have the December 25th orgy of commercialism here. It's celebrated on January 7th and is close to its original roots. Nice lunch with immediate family, nothing dire, not too long.

[christmas] here's one gift idea

It has an awesome engine, unbelievable grip, four comfortable seats, an anticipated five-star safety rating, and a price tag some $40,000 cheaper than a comparable Porsche 911.The M3 is comfortable and compliant around town, but has awesome grip and poise. It also offers a more comfortable ride than most BMW luxury cars.

In short, it's the great leap forward that a Car of the Year should be. The last-generation M3 was a great car deservedly revered, yet BMW's engineers found a way to make the new model more useable, more refined, more technologically advanced - and also faster.

One judge described the new M3 as "a pinnacle car", while another said it "defies belief" and "will go down as one of the all-time great cars".
Time to raid the piggy bank and your child's Trust Fund.

[incompetence] failure analysis and human nature

This mini-series began with "There may be a reason", continued with the article on "Human Resources" and concludes now with "Failure Analysis".

The series is a reaction against the massive losses of the past few months in governmental departments and it focuses on the private sector first.

The greatest problem with failure analysis is that no one wishes to acknowledge a personal error. As Amy Edmondson and Mark D. Cannon wrote, in The Hard Work of Failure Analysis, August 22, 2005:
Most people prefer to put past mistakes behind them ... self-confidence and self-esteem [are at stake].
If we examine the mechanism in our heads, it's pretty clear – we make the error, we hope we get away with it, when we are found out we rationalize it or blame something or someone else.

So what hope does failure analysis have?

Somehow the Child Endowment details of millions were lost. Clearly the source of the problem is somewhere and has to be identified in order to prevent it happening again. For the Minister to accept responsibility would be a fine thing although everyone knows it wasn't directly him to blame.

The senior official who did take the heat – well not even he was directly to blame for the loss of the CDs. The blame lay somewhere within the system [excluding, for the moment that it was induced from above, which is not, as has been shown in the Micro-Control posts, beyond the realms of the possible].

How to find the real source of the error, with everyone scurrying around watching their butts? Who's going to be honest?

Edmonson and Cannon continue:
Not so long ago, a large European telecom company [attributed] large failures to uncontrollable events outside the organization e.g. the economy and to the intervention of outsiders.

Small failures were interpreted as natural outcomes of experimentation, or of not adhering strictly to the company's core beliefs. Similarly, consultants simply blamed the client, concluding that the client was not really committed to change, or that he was defensive or difficult.
Frequently, lower level people are reluctant or unable to identify the bigger problem. This may be because:
1. they feel it’s not their business;

2. they are less able to think conceptually about issues;

3. they believe that, even if they raise these issues, they won’t be acted on;

4. they are frightened of recrimination, especially from immediately above them;

5. they don’t want to add to their workload.
There's an awful lot of froth and bubble surrounding failure analysis when it comes to humans taking the blame. Alexander Dunn, in Root Cause Analysis, Assetivity Pty.Ltd., 2004, quoted Latino and Latino [see below] on causes of failure:
1. Physical – why the machine broke;

2. Human – who failed to do what he should have;

3. Latent – organizational problems which led to this situation.
They argue that the most effective, sustainable solutions are those that address the latent causes. Yet we often see troubleshooters focus almost exclusively on addressing physical causes, while management focuses on human causes.
And what of the people themselves who investigate the errors?
[Some say] that failure analysis is best performed by “experts” [but] these specialists quickly become the bottleneck themselves. Every individual brings his/her own knowledge and biases to the problem solving process.
Some possible ways around the impasse:

Amy Edmondson and Mark D. Cannon mention Julie Morath, Chief Operating Officer at the Minneapolis Children's Hospital, who has a "Good Catch Log" to record information that will be useful in better understanding and reducing medical errors. Any error, no matter how small, is recorded and the sum total reviewed by panels and patterns identified.

The pharmaceutical industry is a special case - about 90 percent of newly developed drugs fail in the experimental stage, and drug companies have plenty of opportunities to analyze failure. Perhaps that's where we should look for solutions.

Certainly it's worth the effort. Firms that are creative in analyzing failure benefit in four ways:
1. analyzing a failed drug sometimes reveals that the drug may have a viable alternate use – e.g. Pfizer's Viagra, Eli Lilly, Evista;

2. a deep probing analysis can sometimes save an apparently failed drug for its original purpose – e.g. Alimta;

3. failure analysis can often include customer feedback – e.g. Xerox;

4. the value of the learning itself [in the analysis] is often overlooked. For example, researchers in one of the early German polymer labs made a mistake which led to the development of nylon.
Certainly that's a method but who would carry it out? Alexander Dunn advised:
Empower the workforce to solve problems within their area of operations and encourage the use of team based problem-solving approaches for more complex problems.
Maybe but as Anon wrote:
I have encountered many people, mostly in their 50's, professionals, possessed of detailed skill sets and experience, whose position in the hierarchy, and therefore decision making abilities, has been displaced by a "team" of dysfunctional incompetents, effectively "above them", making rules and procedures that are unworkable. This team proceeds without a knowledge base, and of course major cluster f**s happen frequently.
And don't forget:
A camel is a horse designed by a committee. [Issigonis]
Surely it comes down to the composition of the teams in the first place and whether their briefs are within their range of their competence. Management always likes employees to be multi-faceted but even such people have their core competencies and other areas where they're a little fuzzier.

Then there are the triple factors of people's aspirations, their own self-assessment and their capacity for good interpersonal relations. All very well for management to ignore this and say staff must get along with each other. All very well for group leaders not to wish to hurt the feelings of members.

It needs a trained or a natural team leader, not just an elected team member for the week and each team leader needs to have a dash of competence, a dash of people skills and a sense of where the team fits into the whole. In the end, a quietly spoken, concerned team leader will win out where a brash, focused expert might not. Or a team member with core competence in that area but no people skills will not.

So, if we empower the team, based on three basic concepts:
1. direction [knowing what has to be done and how];

2. freedom [to do the job without interference];

3. support [being provided with the necessary resources]
... and give them a quality team leader, then a certain esprit de corps can develop and everyone knows the group will take the heat for any error but the individual most culpable is still not going to be able to hide. The matter can be dealt with quickly and with little fanfare.

If management is simply looking for scalps whenever there's an error, the team approach can't work. If management is simply looking for the errors to cease, then the team leader is now empowered to approach what he/she knows to be the trouble and make adjustments to the team.

This provides sufficient elasticity to save the hide of the miscreant on this occasion [who may indeed be skilful but just made an error this day] or alternatively, the team, in discussion, can come to see the systemic error – the flaw in the lines of communication, for example - and make recommendations, free from fear.

Now we come to the biggy, the granddaddy of them all – genuine support, genuine listening and the "taking on board" from top management. Dunn again:
We are conditioned from childhood to wait for direction. Effective empowerment requires a high degree of management support behaviour, particularly in organisations with previously strong hierarchical management structures and “Top-Down” decision-making styles.
It is essential that recommendations are acted upon. Esso Longford, Columbia and Challenger [and some say 911] are all examples of failure to act on advice.
It's not only management's willingness to genuinely listen, it's also the ongoing culture of analysis and the “Good Catch” procedures in place right throughout, from upstream to downstream.

The greatest problem within the team is if the worker with the highest level of experience and expertise lacks people skills and if another is then appointed over him. It's therefore all in the appointments and in Top Management keeping small leadership "pairs" or "trios" abreast of company direction, drawing them into the planning process.

It's also laying on these leader "clusters" the constant need to address even the smallest error.

High Reliability Organisations, show a preoccupation with failure. They constantly encourage the reporting of errors and treat any failure, no matter how small, as a symptom that something is wrong.

This preoccupation with error creates a culture where people gradually become less frightened of participating and eventually give their considered opinions, with no fear of recrimination.
This is the key to the whole business – genuine elimination of fear – let's face it, we are a very untrusting lot when it comes to possible blame being laid. Reason and Hobbs argue that successfully eliminating fear requires the proactive establishment of an organisational culture with three components:
1. a Just Culture in which there is agreement about what are blame-free and what are culpable acts;

2. a Reporting Culture where any reported error invokes a team response, and where the reporting worker knows he will be rewarded for the report and guaranteed that it does not go on his employment record;

3. a Learning Culture to prevent future errors and failures.
Of course, on the “snitching” in N2, it's the error which must be snitched on, not the individual, otherwise it will become a Stalinesque, oppressive work culture and all the good will be undone. There has to be a recognition also that most errors are not solvable by Root Cause analysis becasue they are an amalgamation of many factors.

W. Hess was a commenter on Dunn's article:
Accidents happen because of an amalgamation of errors, not simply because of one person's "human error". Design faults, management pressures, under-funding, poor training, long shifts, poor device interfaces, insufficient safety procedures, poor maintenance and many other issues come together to create an accident.
Root Cause Analysis is loved by management because it enables blame to be placed and makes the rest of the organization feel "safe" while latent problems still linger. It’s also cheaper.
Management is vital here and must support its own process. Robert Latino, in Supporting Root Cause Analysis: A Manager's Perspective, Reliability Center, Inc., Jan/Feb 2001, says:
One role of a manager is to be a protector of those who utilize the process. Sometimes we refer to this as providing “air cover” for ground troops. He must guarantee protection for those who act as the company would wish them to.
Gerald Blair, Senior Lecturer in VLSI Design at the Department of Electrical Engineering, The University of Edinburgh, says the manager has three major roles to play:
1. planner and visionary;

2. provider of resources;

3. protector.

The manager should be there to protect the team insofar as they are stepping outside the comfort zone in the interests of failure correction and the overall profitability of the company.
Teams are a useful concept and it's madness not to draw on your pool of expertise, even with contributions from those not specifically within their area of core competence. And as for sacking older "competents" who no longer fit the company vision, this is also madness. These people should be part of the team "leadership pair or trio" and a balanced solution emerges.

However, Chris Dillow's dream of unfettered worker empowerment and an end to Top-Down management is unrealistic.

Unmanaged teams with no established knowledge base, no matter how generally bright, would be directionless and unable to stay focused, as Anon's comment above outlines. HR is a case in point here. Further, there would be a cluster effect of self-justification and exclusion of the "genuine competent" in group managed teams, especially excluding an older, former sub-manager.

The old style sub-manager may be anachronistic to a point and yet he still has much to offer, not only in skills and knowledge but through stability.

Also, there's nothing wrong, per se, with a boss. A powerful boss with vision can create profit through his drive and expertise and profit creates expansion and that enables worker benefits and then everyone's happy, e.g. the former Hewlett Packard. Of course, he can also be a maniac.

It scarcely matters if a boss is a prickly customer, as long as he has vision, a brain and is eminently fair and rewarding of good intentions in the interests of the company. If his employees feel he does care about them, in other words and that they will be listened to, it's worth any amount of university management theory.

This was the case at Hewlett Packard with Lew Platt, an old company man who steadily increased profitability but was forced out by the new PC "wow girl" Carly Fiorina and it's history the disaster she and her successor brought to HP.

Similarly, it matters not how democratic the team is, if they lack expertise and are all out for themselves. Within your team, who's going to look out for you, protect you and reward you? I think it's a pipe dream to say that a nebulous, egalitarian group is going to do that.

A good team leader might though.

Leaders do rise in an organization [or can be moved across laterally] and more often than not it is not brown-nosing alone which will do it - there has to be a certain ability because those above will also stand or fall by the actions of those below. A good leader is a good leader.

I really do think that one natural leader is worth more than a mediocre, egalitarian group and will naturally form advisory groups at the least and ideally teams in line with modern practice. The very nature of a good leader is that he/she listens and acts on what is heard.

Dinosaurs who are past their sell by dates generally do not rise but older experts can maintain their place. There has to be a sort of give and take here, with some mental flexibility and some wisdom.

The problem is getting this sort of person into or retaining them in the public sector. Pay parity with the private sector is one thing but it should be diverted largely into team leaders, rather than to high-flying blow-ins expecting fat pay packets.

Of course, the public sector is a sort of "tragedy of the commons" with no aim, no profit motive and therefore no strategic direction. To try to make it profitable is an error but to reward increased efficiency and an expanded range of services is as good a goal as any.

There are key differences between the two sectors but effective failure analysis would appear to be a desirable goal common to both.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

[yawn] the zzzs are taking over

With regret, I'm too knackered to blog this evening - sorry, people. Tomorrow morning.

[incompetence] eliminate human resources for a start

This mini-series began with "There may be a reason", continues with this article on "Human Resources" and concludes tomorrow wih "Failure Analysis".

The series is a reaction against the massive losses of the past few months in governmental departments and it focuses on the private sector first.

The first and most overwhelming obstacle or bottleneck to an organization, be it public or private sector, is its Human Resources Department.

The most charitable thing that can be said for Human Resources departments is that they are on a hiding to nothing. It's their very nature and the things they're expected to do which make them failures. Here is a compendium of comment from analysts, HR people themselves and from business men and women, in no particular order.

* HR departments can be needlessly bureaucratic, obstructionist, stuck in the "comfort zone" of filling out forms and explaining company benefits, and too closely aligned with the interests of management yet lacking the business knowledge to be effective strategic partners.

* Peter Cappelli, director of Wharton's Center for Human Resources said:

"Companies are pushing more and more work onto employees, and HR departments are becoming the mechanism for doing that. As a result, the idea that HR people are there to represent workers -- or at least deal objectively with their concerns -- is pretty much gone."

* With companies continuing to cut back employee benefits such as healthcare and pensions, HR departments have found themselves "increasingly the bearer of bad news to employees."

* According to the August 2005 cover story in Fast Company magazine, entitled "Why We Hate HR," HR people are not interested in an "open-minded approach" when it comes to making exceptions to company policies, including pay schedules.

"Instead, they pursue standardization and uniformity in the face of a workforce that is heterogeneous and complex.... Bureaucrats everywhere abhor exceptions -- not just because they open up the company to charges of bias but because they require more than rote solutions."

[My note here: "Flair" is not encouraged in system oriented businesses like McDonalds - there appears little scope for enterprising flair. I ran a cricket team once which was packed with boys capable of defence. We'd lost several matches with charismatic strokemakers getting out to clever balls and so we went in with "percentage" players. Worked well until one day it required someone to seize the initiative. None of our boys could. HR operates this way.]

* "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."

* Why HR is useless and even damaging:
1) Companies hire inexperienced and unqualified people to handle HR, but expect them to perform at higher levels than they are qualified.

2) Companies do not invest in HR as they do in other departments.

3) Many small to medium size companies have HR people that are strategic partners.
From business people

* USC suggests that HR people consistently overestimate their contributions as strategic partners. Not that they don't contribute--but the line managers they work with typically value this partnership less than does HR.

* While I don't doubt that there are many unqualified HR professionals out there, there is also a definite lack of excellent programs offering graduate degrees in HR.

* In my experience, too often what HR professionals miss is a sound business perspective. Most HR people that I've worked with have a pretty good handle on regulations and behavioral pitfalls but a very poor understanding of risk. Everything is viewed as a possible worst case. Yet in other parts of a company, departments handle risk/reward/cost trade offs all day.

* I work in the consulting field with a lot of companies in my state, I have seen first hand how CEO's do not value HR. They do not ask their HR person's opinion, they leave them out of major decisions, and they proceed to make decisions without a clue of the consequences they are about to incur.

* David Ulrich who wrote, in Human Resource Champions, that HR has four roles to fill in an organization: Strategic Partner, Change Agent, Administrative Expert and Employee Champion. HR departments appear not to succeed in any of these.

* In the field of IT, HR has even less reason to exist. Why? Well, in a personal sense for this chap, here are three reasons:
1. Recruiters don’t know anything about programming and are ignorant of virtually everything related to software development. Many hadn’t even heard of Boost, O’Reilly, or the C++ Users Journal. They didn’t understand the significance of my credentials.

2. Recruiters view my freelance experience as a negative point, even though they say they want “self-motivated independent problem solvers”. Apparently I am too independent!

3. I only computed two years of a university degree in computer science.
In other words, IT is a field where the bit of paper is of far less value than hands-on development incorporating latest technological ideas.

* Personnel Today decided to give the HR profession, as a whole, a 360-degree appraisal. First, in our 360-degree appraisal of HR survey, we asked our readers to rate the knowledge, performance, priorities and effectiveness of themselves and their HR department.
- Some 59 per cent of [HR employees] rated their HR department as extremely or very effective.

- 20 per cent of managers said their HR department was extremely or very effective. Another 43 per cent said it was not very or not at all effective.

- 46 per cent of managers said they experienced unnecessary red tape from HR.

- A healthy 80 per cent [of HR employees] declared their HR department offered good value, and only 10 per cent said no.

- However, a shockingly low 31 per cent of managers said their HR department offered good value for money, and 48 per cent said it did not.
* 5 Reasons to Hate Your HR Department:
1. They think you are a resource

2. Talking to them accomplishes nothing

3. No real understanding of you or your job

4. Inflexible policies and red tape

5. They pretend to be on your team
While most HR people are well meaning and while some HR departments are helpful to their employees, there is a reason why so many negative stereotypes exist.

My own further comments

HR are amateurs in business. If they were any good at business themselves, they'd be in there making money. They're not. By and large, they're the same PC do-gooder inflexibles who look to further regulation as the solution to systemic ills and as a substitute for effective analysis.

They are used by management to point fingers at anyone but the management [after all, management employed them and paid them] - therefore they have zero function in an organization in anything but a book-keeping sense.

Failure Analysis is looked at tomorrow and it can be seen that the bottleneck to efficiency called Human Resources quite clearly needs to be eliminated and its resources reallocated in order to make the analysis and repair job and ongoing efficiency of an organization actually work.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

[tramvai of dreams] of trees and camshafts

The Linara Tree

The Linara Tree is very special. First you have to be super-intelligent, 20 years old and so beautiful that men would weep and gnash their teeth.

Then you must go to the black sea and get a smoothed pebble of a reasonable size, bring it back, wrap copper wire around it, attach two glass eyes for stability, then add white cotton foliage.

Now it's ready to present to your professor. Спасибо огромное, милая!

What a day. Next week I plan to post a photo of just the type of thing one must put up with over here - five of them today and every one could grace a Vogue magazine cover.

Then to the cafe and the paths were so treacherous it was just a shuffling slide the whole way. Perfect example of what I wrote about last week. Only minus 5 and yet so cold my back froze up through the jacket - the wind was coming off the lake and it was bitter.

The girls I cheerioed the other evening were there and "clustered", the pea and ham soup was wonderful, a warm time was had by all and then it was out into the chill again. Shuffle, stop, shuffle, stop, hood up, gloves on and still not enough. This was going to be tough but the soup was nice.

Tramvai eventually came to the wind whipped stop and all augured well, Higham the Iceberg stumbled up the steps, the feeling came back to the body and then, right in the middle of the busiest intersection imaginable, four lanes in each direction, the tram stopped. Now I hadn't wanted to say anything but the dirty great metal camshaft rolling around the tram floor was in for a surprise.

Suddenly the driver, a woman, came running out, the conductress, a woman, helped her lift the shaft off the tram, the lights changed, the horns reached a cacophany, the shaft turned out to be a tow bar and suddenly we were towing another tram, we stopped, the driver came rushing out, they both got off and collected the shaft and flung it back on the tram, the driver hurtled into a lady passenger, the conductress smiled at my dumbfounded expression, the tram started and that was the end of the fun.

Life can be difficult over here but it is never, never boring. Actually, the body core temperature I think did drop a fraction and the back hasn't responded in the warm flat so perhaps off to bed now is the answer.

[presidency] obama, meet oprah

Time posts an interesting point of view on the Obama-Winfrey connection:

Winfrey's endorsement — and her announcement that she will appear with Obama at campaign events in Iowa, South Carolina, and New Hampshire on December 8 and 9 — helps bring the following four things to Obama: campaign cash, celebrity, excitement and big crowds.

The four things that Obama has on his own in great abundance — without Winfrey's help — are campaign cash, celebrity, excitement and big crowds.

Perhaps but surely it's not going to hurt either.

[incompetence] there may be a reason

This mini-series begins today with "There may be a reason", continues tomorrow with "Human Resources" and concludes the day after wih "Failure Analysis".

The series is a reaction against the massive losses of the past few months in governmental departments and it focuses on the private sector first.

Dave Cole sums up the lost disks saga:
Apart from providing endless fodder for fake eBay auctions and amusing photos, one thing that I hope comes out of Revenue-gate is a desire to keep tabs on data protection, privacy and computer security in all public bodies.

To that end, I think the Government should cause to be published, all in one place, the relevant policies from every bit of government. A Royal Commission should investigate and make recommendations on whether current procedures are sufficient and whether a standardised set of policies would be preferable.
Good analysis as far as it goes but makes the same mistake as many equally astute analysts in assuming the system actually works and that party politics and the juciciary are actually the real source of power.

So George Osborne says Labour is "now officially in crisis. Everything Gordon Brown promised about his premiership - competence, honesty and change - has been blown away in the last few weeks. " What's he talking about "in the last few weeks". My goodness party politics is a bore because it signifies nothing in the end.

The articles called Micro-Control 1-8 are not particularly wonderful but they do include links fed by men and women who have dug deep. These few bloggers outline what really is happening, not unlike the inimitable Wat Tyler does in a more government based sense.

The aforementioned bloggers have shown beyond reasonable doubt that the old enemy inside Europe is indeed moving into Britain with its practices and procedures and has been doing so with a far more wide-ranging agenda than the average person will accept.

There's an understandable tendency to assume the incompetence of losing CDs and all the rest of it as almost par for the course – well of course a wicked man like Brown would preside over an incompetent civil service, wouldn't he? He's NuLab, after all. And of course Bush needs a minder.

But for me, that assumption's not enough. Let me explain.

I worked in the civil service in HM Customs and though I could write a book about that experience, nevertheless, it was just not true that incompetence was endemic. This was in the 70s. We had a situation where 15 pence was unaccounted for one evening and we were kept there until 20:50 going over and over thousands of the day's dockets to find the error.

There was a real top-down demand that everything be ship-shape. Losing five CDs would have been enough for an internal inquiry. Now we are seeing such a continuing litany of error, gross error and I really wonder how such gross error continue? Departments are known for covering their butts, not for such mammoth scandals as these, at least not so often and not so continually.

There are only two ways I can see. The incompetence is either embedded in the essential weakness of modern team-based procedures [see Hewlett Packard] or else tacit acceptance comes down from above, as Abu Ghraib also seems to have done. I'm not referring to direct orders but to far more subtle things.

For example, a junior clerk used to make an error. He was jumped on by a superior because the superior would be jumped on from above and so on. Now the junior clerk's just told to be more careful and his team carries the blame. That's a quantum shift.

The rationales which are now possible were not possible earlier. The new work procedures are always going to have teething troubles, aren't they? Give us time to get things working – these are exciting new procedures, after all and there'll be new ones next year. £5 million mislaid – well, we're still getting our command and control structure right to meet 21st century challenges.

And all the while, Julia Middleton and her ilk are pushing the necessity for change in workplace and regional command practices. Change, change, change, so there's no breathing space for stability and efficiency to emerge. New ideas, always new, with a litany of rhetoric and labels to support them and to vilify traditional practices.

We had this in education, [see link here and this link which links to links here], a field where faddiness is endemic and wholesale changes were made in the 70s and 80s. Look at the result of the fads now.

The truly evil men, those with malice aforethought, are both subtle and removed from the immediate machine which produces the non-functioning people who make the errors. They're never going to be caught out actually doing anything evil – they just fail to do good when it is required [the church during the war for example]. They just appeal to and help along human nature, natural folly and incompetence and let the sheep do the rest.

And one small part of this overall thrust is that team based solutions in “modern” business are always going to equal avoidance of direct responsibility – blame it on the team and punishment is blunted. How do you sack an entire team? A great structure to produce dystopic results.

A huge amount of the blame can also be laid at the feet of HR [post coming up] in organizations and was there ever a set of serpents such as these – incompetents in business, telling staff that they're on their side but in reality either in with management via the cursed monthly evaluations or else marginalized and irrelevant. Get rid of HR now.

The last thing is failure analysis [post coming up] or lack of it in any effective way. Experts rail at top down hierarchies and say that team-based approaches solve the problem. Do they heck as like – they just defuse and decentralize blame giving and taking.

So, as long as the mania for change for change's sake continues, gross errors will continue. I admire Dave Cole's implicit faith in the system, calling for a Royal Commission but I can't share this faith, not when the system is undergoing such radical change on the back of an almost maniacal EU drive.

Monday, November 26, 2007

[russia] election on december 2nd for us

The NYT reports:
President Vladimir V. Putin today accused the United States of trying to taint the legitimacy of upcoming Russian parliamentary elections by pressing a group of prominent independent election observers to abandon their attempts to monitor the campaign.

Mr. Putin contended that the monitors, who are deployed by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, had canceled plans to appraise the parliamentary balloting at the urging of the State Department in Washington.

Well, I'm in no position to comment. I'm indirectly involved in this election and I'm privy to what many Russians say. On the other hand, I'm known to be connected with one side in the matter so not everyone comes out and says what they think.

One of the strongest detractors I know admits that the majority do actually support Putin and are therefore hoodwinked and she doesn't assert coercion. If only those obervers would remain, they could see for themselves.

I'm intending to go to one of the polling stations and last time I went, I can say this categorically - I watched many going into the room in the school [as in the west] where the booths were with curtains [as in the west].

I saw a ballot paper and it listed just the names of the candidates, although there was a big poster in the foyer with all candidates and which party they were from. It may be that this time the parties are listed but it scarcely matters - people know anyway.

I saw people go in and then come out of the booth, walk across to the table and slip the folded ballot paper in the letterbox opening in the sealed metal box [as in the west]. There were no cameras and the closest armed guard was outside the polling room and he looked bored.

Clearly no one was expecting trouble as it's pretty well a foregone conclusion - most pundits say Yedinaya Rossiya will pick up around 75% of the vote.

Even if assertions were correct and undue pressure was brought to bear, it still doesn't alter the fact that the ballot paper is marked in a curtained booth and then goes straight to the one box with all the others.

Of far greater concern to me is the plan to cut out our trams - I need my tram home and do not wish to go by car nor by bus. However, I'm fighting a losing battle because it seems to have been settled.

The only ray of hope is that my mate said they've been saying this for the last ten years so hopefully they'll threaten it for another ten years too.

[once a champ] sampras' amazing feat

OK, it was a “friendly”. OK, there might have been a bit of skylarking here, I don't know. But it seems amazing to me:
Pete Sampras' win over Roger Federer in Macau this weekend does nothing to end arguments about who is the greater player, but the American is convinced the world No.1 will smash his records.

Following two defeats last week in their three-match Asian exhibition series, the retired Sampras came back strongly at Macau's Venetian resort-hotel Saturday, defeating the Swiss maestro in straight sets 7-6 6-4.

Sampras, who admitted in a press briefing after the match that he came to Asia hoping to be competitive and to take a set off Federer, is predicting that the 12-time Grand Slam champion will beat his mark of 14 and eclipse his rankings records.

Sampras, 36, held the top ranking for a record 286 weeks in total and finished as world number one for a record six consecutive years.
36 years old? Wow! And not over a former champ nor even a current Top 10 but over the reigning World N1. That's awesome.

[churches] new directions a cause for concern

Click for the big pic.

There are some themes and motifs running right the way through Christian belief including:

1. The church [meaning the sum total of believers] is always going to be perverted from the course outlined in scripture and will follow charismatic men's interpretations about what scripture says rather than what it actually says - and followers will accept this on the strength of the leaders' esoteric knowledge of theology.

In other words, the high priests and cardinals will say that such 'n such is the Word and it will be believed by the majority of believers. This will not be accepted by both infidels nor by the tiniest minority of believers. Strange bedfellows, the infidel and the Christian thinker.

The result of this is that the “moral majority” will turn on the minority believer and, at the behest of the leaders, ostracize that person and turn a deaf ear to his/her words. The infidel chuckles at this because it achieves the same effect they desire - inuring people against the Word.

These Charismatics, seeming holy men but actually anything but, are the “false prophets” referred to in the gospels and the warning is that even “the very elect” will be fooled by their signs and “miracles”. But if one analyses the sum effect of the signs and words and looks at the nature of the miracles, it will be possible to see through false messages.

You'll know them by their fruits.

Thus, miracles like the changing of the water in Nairobi or celestial wonders might not stem from the Messiah or his prophet at all but from quite achievable set-ups plus one more thing – the sign will not be of a genuinely “healing nature”. That is, Lazarus will not be able to take up his bed and walk but it will be either a clever effect or it will look very much as if Lazarus did take up his bed and walk [whilst in fact he was never dead in the first place].

In other words, the believers will be fooled.

2. Another sign that something is wrong is the moment money comes into the equation and when Churches [the buildings] glitter with gold, when pardons are sold, when the leaders ride in Mercedes, when mass congregations chant in unison, when the charismatic overrides the simple Word of scripture.

The mass movement of people for any cause, taking them from homes and families and creating a "greater good" [which is a key Christian motif anyway] is dangerous, highly dangerous because an enormous pool of devotees seeking for signs can be easily hijacked, diverted and fleeced.

This is why, for such as these, only scripture itself is safe, particularly the gospels.

The instant the credit card comes into the conversation too, that's the time to exit. Collection plates are one thing – they've always been but are open to abuse, i.e. the congregation sees how much you've put in the plate and the credit donation is so open to abuse. About the only genuine collection is the opaque box at the entrance to the Church where no duress is placed on visitors.

3. Yet another motif is that Christians, by definition, believe that society will slowly degrade to the point where all sorts of profanities begin to exist on a more or less mass scale, e.g. pre-marital sex, drugs, violence, disrespect, role models turned on their heads [e.g. Paris Hiltons rather than Dr. Livingstones], deviant promiscuity [this is a big motif], lawlessness, idolatry, false gods like shopping centres [the palaces of glitz], rampant materialism and so on.

Trouble is that Christians have always seen end-time scenarios – in Roman times, with Napoleon, with Hitler – there've always be cogent arguments for this being The End - but a reading of the gospels indicates clearly that we won't know when that is. He'll come “like a thief in the night”.

Even here people seek their own comfort e.g. the widespread belief that when the oppression starts [as Revelations indicates opaquely], all true believers will be plucked up to Heaven [pre-tribulationists] and the infidels will be left to cook in sulphur fires and to suffer all manner of pestilence.

For a start, how can the pre-tribulationists know that and secondly, how does that accord with “suffering” for Christ, enduring things for His sake? Pre-tribulation is a cushy way of armchair travel, i.e. we can't be touched because we're protected.

4. This is not how I read scripture. I read it that there will be great vicissitudes, that people will mock and oppress anyone who preaches a grim scenario [because let's face it, no one wants to hear bad news] but that what faith brings is comfort in times of trouble.

It doesn't inure the believer against trouble itself, it doesn't deliver him/her from it but it does provide a way of coping with it - real comfort in troubled times. That's its overwhelming plus - Christianity. Not just redemption in Heaven [and boy, I'm going to need all the redemption I can get] but real succour and one more thing – inner strength.

This is what infidels can never forgive, nor the deluded and misled believers who think they're true believers [after all, they attend Church and give money] but they don't seem to have this inner power. They can never forgive the person who simply followed the instruction manual and “submitted' [the Islam motif too] to the Word, thereby gaining this strength, this serenity.

And yet, look at the saints through history – driven people, uncompromising in what they said, inconvenient things in the eyes of the powers that be [will no one rid me of this turbulent priest], inconvenient things to the comfort seeking populace – and saints always come a cropper in the end, burnt for their beliefs. Savonarola, Joan of Arc maybe, perhaps Thomas More.

It's a constant motif, easily recognizable. The real Christian lives dangerously, a voice in the wilderness, he/she's vilified.

But is he/she technically mad? I say he/she's no more mad than the sheep following a false messiah. He/she's definitely different to the multitude but more likely to be a reformed sinner than a born saint. If tending to the sufferings of the weak and vulnerable can be termed madness, if taking a different tack to the multitude, knowing it will bring trouble down on the household is mad, then he/she is mad.

5. The notion of exclusivity is a huge problem, theologically and socially. Are those of another faith, e.g. Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, condemned to hellfire because they don't accept Jesus of Nazareth as Messiah?

Logic dictates not. Logic dictates that these people would be categorized as innocents and who knows, maybe they're given another chance later. Maybe when all is revealed, the true nature of affairs will encompass all of these anomalies.

Through the gospels run compassion and concern for one's fellow man. It's most certainly not manifested in condemnation until one comes to Paul, with whom I have great problems. This is why I prefer to stick to the gospels although Paul did say some intelligent things.

And so, finally, to the point of this post and well done if you've got this far:

6. The motif of evangelism and the problems arising from that. From the New York Times comes this story of Anchorage early in October:
[A] soaring white canvas dome with room for a soccer field and a 400-meter track. Its prime-time hours are already rented well into 2011. Nearby is a cold-storage facility leased to Sysco, a giant food-distribution corporation, and beside it is a warehouse serving a local contractor and another food service company.

The entrepreneur behind these businesses is the ChangePoint ministry, a 4,000-member nondenominational Christian congregation that helped develop and finance the sports dome. It has a partnership with Sysco’s landlord and owns the warehouse.

The church’s leaders say they hope to draw people to faith by publicly demonstrating their commitment to meeting their community’s economic needs.

Among the nation’s so-called megachurches — those usually Protestant congregations with average weekly attendance of 2,000 or more — ChangePoint’s appetite for expansion into many kinds of businesses is hardly unique.

An analysis by The New York Times of the online public records of just over 1,300 of these giant churches shows that their business interests are as varied as basketball schools, aviation subsidiaries, investment partnerships and a limousine service.
But the entrepreneurial activities of churches pose questions for their communities that do not arise with secular development.

These enterprises, whose sponsoring churches benefit from a variety of tax breaks and regulatory exemptions given to religious organizations in this country, sometimes provoke complaints from for-profit businesses with which they compete — as ChangePoint’s new sports center has in Anchorage.

And when these ventures succeed — when local amenities like shops, sports centers, theaters and clinics are all provided in church-run settings and employ mostly church members — people of other faiths may feel shut out of a significant part of a town’s life, some religion scholars said.

Churches have long played an economic role ... but the expanding economic life of today’s giant churches is distinctive. First, they are active in less expected places: in largely flourishing suburbs and barely developed acreage far beyond cities’ beltways and in communities far from the Southern Bible Belt with which they are traditionally associated.

Scott L. Thumma, a pioneer in the study of megachurches at the Hartford Institute for Religion Research at the Hartford Seminary in Connecticut, whose roster of churches was the basis for the Times analysis, said he has noticed churches that sponsor credit unions, issue credit cards and lend to small businesses.

Although community outreach is almost always cited as the primary motive, these economic initiatives may also indicate that giant churches are seeking sources of revenue beyond the collection plate to support their increasingly elaborate programs, suggested Mark A. Chaves, a religious sociologist at Duke University.

Also feeding this wave of economic activity is the growing supply of capital available to religious congregations.
ChangePoint paid $1 million upfront and borrowed $23.5 million from a state economic development agency to buy a defunct seafood-packaging plant and warehouse out of foreclosure in July 2005.

To do so, it formed a partnership with the for-profit owner of the cold-storage unit surrounded by the seafood plant’s land. An affiliated nonprofit is developing the sports dome with a gift of $4 million worth of church land. The church controls these entities directly or through board appointments, said Scott Merriner, executive pastor and a former McKinsey consultant.

Just how far-reaching the megachurch economy can become is clear at the First Assembly of God Church in Concord, a small community northeast of Charlotte. Under the umbrella of First Assembly Ministries are the church, with 2,500 in weekly attendance; a 180-bed assisted-living center; a private school for more than 800 students; a day-care center for 115 children; a 22-acre retreat center; and a food service — all nonprofit.

In addition, there is WC Properties, a for-profit unit that manages the church’s shopping center, called Community at the Village, where a Subway outlet, an eye-care shop and other businesses share space with church programs that draw traffic to the mall.
7. The Charismatic. It's an interesting article - 6 - and though the reasons seem, in Christian terms, to be valid and cogent, one needs to be careful. It may well be that these are not the end times we're entering now but it sure looks like it.

Given that, we need to be on the lookout for the false messiahs [plural], the Hitlers who will appear to be the nation's saviours but turn out to be anything but. They'll appear at a time of low national morale, when the leadership is riddled with corruption and no one really knows where they're going.

They'll appear at the last moment, just when things seemingly can't get worse and when people are roaming around like lost sheep, when the Word has effectively fallen into disuse and all reference to it [e.g. Christmas] is being actively suppressed throughout the community and on the net.

They'll be charismatic, thes messiahs, seeming to have the answers, which is the reason I can never be one of these – I don't have any answers within myself. I'm just a miserable sinner like the next man but I can point you to one of the answers if you wish because I've seen it working.

So I'm waiting for the seemingly great Man of Integrity to arise, knowing it's neither Brown nor Bush but will be someone everyone thinks is a really cool dude because he'll have an air of being in charge, of having the answers. I can't see it being Clinton because she's vilified by so many already.

It will be someone who seems to talk “eminent sense” but part of that “sense” will be suppression of ALL religion [meaning Christianity as the main target] because religion has caused more wars and so on and so on.

He'll [and I think it wil be a He because half the population will not follow a She] be eminently reasonable in suggesting that we need to be chipped for our own security against dangerous insurgents within our communities, that everything will be fine as long as we don't rock the boat and listen to free thinkers [labelled terrorists]. He'll start on the intelligentsia and scientists and work his way through the community.

This is not theological in the least. This is just a rehashing of the history of nations. The only thing I can say is to be aware. That's all.

Click for the big pic.