Thursday, July 23, 2009

Gates, Obama and Racisim

Having read the arrest report and corroborating witness statements--in addition to the press coverage--the facts are clear. This was not a case of racism, but instead, ultra-arrogance by an academic.

It is very apparent that the professor was trying to bully, intimidate and humiliate the officer. His language, volume and manner are all indications of this.

The cop was doing his job--and more politely and professionally than I would have in the same circumstances.

Are the police just supposed to take the word of an unidentified man (fitting the description of the reporting witness) through a locked door? I sure would want the police to follow-up if it were my house--and I wouldn't have any problems producing ID and responding to the requests of a police officer.

Just suppose that it had been a real break-in (and how could the officer have known it was not) and the officer had just walked away? What do you think the consequences would have been then? The occupants of the house could have been in serious danger. And, in addition to not preventing a crime, the officer would have most likely been accused of racism for not following up because the house was owned by a black man.

Dr. Gates was arrested because of his outrageous behavior--which went far beyond the reasonable--not because of racism. Anyone, regardless of skin color, demonstrating this behavior and total lack of respect for the police, should expect the same outcome--arrest.

By his comments (". . . the Cambridge Police Department acted stupidly . . ."), Mr. Obama was not speaking as a President of the United States, but instead as a "community organizer". His comments were ill-conceived at best, and demonstrated a true lack of judgment.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Quotes for the Day

Great quotes to consider . . .

"He is a self-made man & worships his creator." - John Bright

"He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire." - Winston Churchill

"He had delusions of adequacy." - Walter Kerr

"He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I know." - Abraham Lincoln

"He has the attention span of a lightning bolt." - Robert Redford

"They never open their mouths without subtracting from the sum of human knowledge." - Thomas Brackett Reed

"He inherited some good instincts from his forebears, but by diligent hard work, he overcame them." - James Reston

"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go." - Oscar Wilde

"He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends." - Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

"The Passion of Christ" redux

With the release of Mel Gibson's, The Passion of Christ" on DVD last week, I've been reflecting on the movie and the madness surrounding its theatrical release earlier this year. I saw the movie on Good Friday and thought it was a moving portrayal of Jesus' betrayal, arrest, torture and crucifixion. I also remember the firestorm of debate surrounding its release. Various groups, attempting to sanitize history through a politically correct filter, claimed that the movie, and Gibson, were anti-semetic and that the movie would unleash a wave of anti-semitism and "Jew-hating" worldwide. Even less logical were the statements that the movie was historically flawed because "the Jews" of that era would never have been involved with the crucifixion of Jesus; and that the death of Jesus was wholly due to the Romans' desire to kill a troublemaker in a troubled land.

Well, it's been now over 6 months since the movie's release and absolutely nothing even closely resembling anti-semitism has occurred as a result of someone having seen the movie, so that's not the issue here. Instead, let's review what most likely took place involving the arrest, trial and execution of Jesus--based on our understanding of the environment in Palestine 2000 years ago. To wit:

There is no question that "the Jews" were complicit in the arrest, trail and execution of Jesus. However, the question should be, who are "the Jews"? I have always felt that "the Jews" were the Jewish religious/political leadership, not the Jewish people as a whole. After all, Jesus and all of his disciples (men and women) were Jews!

Jesus would have been seen in his day by the Jewish establishment as a political and religious demagogue--a very dangerous man in a day when an oppressive Roman government was only too willing to brutally put down any sign of potential rebellion. The Jewish establishment knew this and feared both potential Roman reprisal and the loss of their own power, should this Galilean peasant gain mass acceptance. In this sense Jesus was no different than the Reverend Martin Luther King in the 60's. Dr. King was feared by those in power for what he represented--that is, a movement to shift power from the hands of the white establishment to a shared arrangement in which all people could participate equally. The fact that he was investigated and harassed by the government and law enforcement (FBI, et al) and, ultimately assassinated, shows the degree to which people will go when they feel they have something to lose. Should we be surprised that Jesus was treated any differently by those in power during His lifetime?

It's true that only Pilate could order crucifixion--the Jewish penalty was blasphemy would have been death by stoning. However, reading the Gospels gives one the very strong sense that Pilate tried his best to dodge this particular bullet. For example, (according to Luke) the Chief Priests arrested Jesus in the garden using their paid informant, Judas, to betray him. After questioning Him all night (could the purpose of a nighttime meeting have been to avoid stirring up the populace?), they then brought Him before Pilate in the morning. Pilate after questioning Jesus, found Him "not guilty", but the chief priests were still adamant that He be punished as a political criminal, for "inciting the people." Pilate then decides that because Jesus is a Galilean, that King Herod should have to deal with Him, and sends Him to Herod. After questioning Jesus, Herod also finds Him not guilty and returns Him to Pilate. Pilate, still unwilling to crucify Jesus, states that, "no capital crime has been committed" and plans to have Jesus flogged with the intent of releasing him.

This plan however was foiled by the insistence of the Jewish leadership who, inciting a crowd, demanded that Jesus be executed under Roman law. For a third time Pilate announces his reluctance ("Why? What evil has he done?'). However, when he saw that "he was not succeeding at all, but that a riot was breaking out instead, he took water and washed his hands in sight of the crowd (Matthew 27:24)", and then sentenced Jesus to death. As to his motivation, I think it's fair to say that the last thing Pilate would want was a full-scale riot in Jerusalem, when over a million Jews were in the city to celebrate Passover. It would be pretty hard to explain to his bosses in Syria (the Governor of Syria controlled the Legions responsible for Palestine) and Rome why one Jewish peasant was worth calling in the Legion and the attendant violence, destruction and death that would follow.

So in reading the Gospels, it is quite apparent that "the Jews" did conspire to have Jesus arrested and executed. However, once again, I do not feel that the reference is to the Jewish people, but instead, to a very small minority that comprised the political/religious leadership of the Jewish people in Palestine. Simply put, Jesus was viewed as a revolutionary and threatened the existing power structure. In fact, the priestly leadership saw Jesus as a threat even early in his ministry and attempted to have him arrested or killed on several occasions preceding the crucifixion. However, being Jewish had nothing to do with Jesus' death. Had Jesus been a Gaul or a German or a Spaniard or a Celt during the same era, the outcome would have been the same. Jesus died for the sins of all humanity, for all time. In fact, we living today are just as guilty of the death of Jesus as those who were alive during His time. That's the real message of the crucifixion and why, in my opinion, Jesus’ sacrifice is so powerfully felt, even today. We have all sinned and are in need of redemption.
When we leave this world and go before God, God does not view us as Christians, Jews, Muslim, etc. but as His children who have come home to Him. As such, we are all brothers and sisters in the eyes of God. For someone to be anti-Semitic or anti-Jewish means that they've missed the whole message that God sent humanity when He sent Jesus to Earth to save His children from their sin. In truth, Christians can't hate Jews or Muslims or Buddhists, etc. any more than they can hate their own arms or legs or eyes or feet. We're all part of the same body--God's people here on Earth and are all subject to one of His greatest commandments--that we "love one another."

Friday, September 03, 2004

A History Lesson

Next time you go to Starbucks and are disappointed that your Mocha Java Capuccino is not frothy enough, here are some facts to consider about the 1500's:
  • Most people got married in June, because they took their yearly bath in June and smelled reasonably fresh during the month. However, "reasonably" is not good enough for some events, so brides began to carry a bouquet of flowers to hide their body odor.
  • Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the first bath while the water was clean; then, all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children -- last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it -- hence the saying, "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water."
  • Houses had thatched roofs -- thick straw -- piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the dogs, cats and other small animals (mice, vermin, etc.) lived in the roof. When it rained, the roof would become saturated with water and unable to hold its own weight and sometimes the animals would fall thru or off of the roof --hence the saying "it's raining cats and dogs."
  • Also, with thatched roofs, there was nothing to stop "things" from falling into the house. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could really mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That's how canopy beds came into existence.
  • Most people had dirt floors. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt -- hence the saying "dirt poor." The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on the floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they kept adding more thresh until opening the door caused it to slip outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entrancewayto hold in the thresh -- hence, a "threshhold."
  • In those days, people cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot making a stew to be eaten for dinner. All of the leftovers would left in the pot to get cold overnight and reused for the next day's meal. Sometimes the stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while --hence the rhyme, "peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old."
  • Sometimes people of the 1500's were able to obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, the man of the house would hang up the family's bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man "could bring home the bacon." They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and "chew the fat."
  • People of wealth had plates made of pewter. Food with a high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, often resulting in lead poisoning and death. This happened so often with tomatoes, that during this period, tomatoes came to be viewed as poisonous.
  • Most people did not have pewter plates, but had trenchers, a piece of wood with the middle scooped out like a bowl. Often trenchers were made from stale bread which was so old and hard that they could be used for quite some time. Trenchers were never washed and many times worms and mold got into the wood and old bread. After eating off wormy, moldy trenchers, one would get "trench mouth."
  • Bread was divided according to status. Household help got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or "upper crust."
  • Lead cups were used to drink ale or whiskey. The combination could sometimes knock one out for a couple of days--passing out along the side of the road. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a day and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up -- hence the custom of holding a "wake."
  • England is old and small and soon people started running out of places to bury their dead. So a common practice became digging up coffins, removing the bones and taking them to a "bone-house"--so that the grave could be reused. When reopening these coffins, several would be found to have scratch marks on the inside which meant that the individual had been buried alive. As a result, families began tying a string on the wrist of the corpse, threading it through the coffin and up to the surface of the grave--tying it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the "graveyard shift") to listen for the bell with the possibility that someone could be "saved by the bell."

Class dismissed!

Friday, August 13, 2004

Human Resources Management and the 4 Fundamental Forces of Nature

Most people are aware the physicists have identified 4 fundamental forces that explain every interaction in nature. They are: Electromagnetism, Strong Nuclear Force, Weak Nuclear Force and Gravity. But do they explain every interaction? How about Human Resources Management? Can we really make a connection between physical laws and those governing the interactions among people in the workplace?

A great place to start this blog is with one of the greatest physicists of all time, Sir Isaac Newton. However, starting with Newton can be difficult as he (and his theories) are much too linear. In essence, Newton stated (among other things) that "for every positive action there is an equal and opposing reaction"--he actually used the word "force" vs. "action" . . . but "action" is much more commonly used. In other words, Newton felt he could predict the nature of every action in the universe by applying his new theories and a new form of mathematics he invented called Calculus (now you know you have Newton to thank for having to study Calculus!). While his theories work exceedingly well at the macro level (for example: predicting the path of a fired cannonball, or the motions of planets), they break down and are inadequate to describe interactions at the micro (actually, subatomic) level because they are not able to predict the complex interactions between sub-atomic particles. This is much like, given our current technology, we can't predict the weather with 100% accuracy, or predict the outcome of elections, or the future state of the economy. There are just too many variables and complex interactions involved to predict the outcomes of elections, weather, or the future state of the economy, etc. In other words, Newton's theories are not adequate to the task of predicting complex reactions.

To this point, what could be more complex than human interactions? The number of variables attendant to human behavior and interaction are almost incalculable! Just think . . . are you able to predict with 100% accuracy the success (or failure) of every person you hire? Are you able to gauge precisely what your employees' reactions will be to a new policy that you've implemented? Of course not. The reason is that the variables of human personalities and perceptions are so vast and complex that we cannot with absolute certainty predict how people will behave using a linear set of rules (like Newton's); that is, for every action we take, we can accurately predict how it will affect and impact another person. Even after 26 years of marriage, I cannot predict with absolute certainty how Cindy (my wife) will react when I do something unexpected (which is frequent!).

Therefore, what we need are new rules to understand Nature (and Human Behavior) completely. As indicated earlier, physicists feel that they are on to something in this regard with their formulation of the 4 Fundamental Forces of Nature. These 4 forces are:

1. Electromagnetism--the laws governing the interaction of photons and electrons. The principal/force of electromagnetism is what account for our ability to speak through a telephone, watch TV, power our houses, operate computers, etc.. It was discovered by British (a Scotsman, actually!) physicist, James Clerk Maxwell in the late 19th century.

2. Strong Nuclear Force--this is the force that binds sub-atomic (protons, neutrons, electrons, etc.) together. The strong force is why matter does not go flying apart. As an aside, the logo I use for my company, Smith, Scott&Associates, is derived from a Feynman Diagram (named after the late Nobel Laureate, Richard Feynman--the creator of the theory of Quantum Chromodynamics) which is used by physicists to represent the Strong Nuclear Force. In my case, I imply, by my logo, that my company is the "Strong Force" that binds two parties together--the candidate and the company. Pretty cool, huh? :) )

3. Weak Nuclear Force--this is the force that governs radioactive decay (why uranium will ultimately be transformed into lead as an example).

4. Gravity--this force is responsible for why the apple fell on Newton's head in the first place!

Scientists today are seeking a "superforce", that is, one basic force which will unify all of the 4 "fundamental forces" listed above. They have come very close in that they have succeeded in unifying the first 3 forces--only Gravity remains outside of the "grand unification". But it's a tough nut to crack! Physicists have attempted to use exotic concepts such as "superstrings" and 11 dimensional universe/s to rationalize their theories with what actually happens in our universe). In fact, even after the great success that Albert Einstein had in his 20's (relativity, special relativity, etc.), he spent the rest of his life trying to reconcile the force of Gravity with relativity (and in consequence, with the other 3 fundamental forces). Needless to say, it's a thorny problem that has kept many of humanity's best minds very occupied. This superforce, when discovered, will be a "theory of everything"! By applying it, we'll be able to understand every reaction in the universe! In fact, we'll be able to explain how the universe actually came into being, etc.! Very exciting stuff indeed!

"OK, sounds good, Gary", you say, but how does this apply to Human Resources Management???

My feeling is that we have come very far in our understanding of human interaction and human resources management--much like physicists today have come very far in their understanding of the universe and the fundamental forces that govern it. However, just as they (physicists) are many years away from uncovering a "superforce" or "grand unifying theory" (or colloquially, "TOE" or Theory of Everything) and its application, so are we from understanding the true nature of human interaction. In other words, companies that attempt to manage/lead their people through the application of fundamental principals and expect that all employees will react similarly are sure to be disappointed. The nature of human interaction is much too complex to be governed with 100% accuracy by the application of a linear, or one-dimensional way of managing/leading. People are just too different and complex. My thought is that for now, we'd be better off applying Chaos Theory (also being used today to predict the weather, elections, etc. that were referenced earlier) to predict human behavior--although even to do this we'd have to understand all of the intricacies of human behavior--again, a very tough nut to crack!

So, let's assume then, that because we are far away from understanding all of the variables of human behavior, that we have not yet developed a "one size fits all" philosophy of human resources management, or a "grand unified theory". We, therefore, must act for the good of the majority of our employees--knowing in advance that whatever we do will not be universally successful or liked. We must strive to understand the "fundamental forces" that govern interactions in our companies (maybe there's more than 4! :) ) as completely as possible, before attempting to predict how employees will react to things that we do. This is why I always spend so much time preaching about the importance of understanding Company Culture before making HR decisions. Understanding company culture helps the HR professional (and corporate management) to better understand the "driving forces" that govern how employees will react--based on what actions we take as managers and leaders. Just remember that unlike Newton, their reactions will not always be equal and positive! And remember also, that even understanding "culture" only allows you to predict approximately what an outcome will be. We must always allow for the fact that like physics, human interaction is highly complex, variable and difficult to predict. If we had more time, I'd talk about another principal of physics, Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principal (that is, that in subatomic reactions, "the more precisely the POSITION is determined, the less precisely the MOMENTUM is known") and it's impact on hiring/employment decisions. However, we'll have to save that for the next class. :)

If you'd like to do a bit a quick reading on the subject, try anything on Physics written by the late and great Isaac Asimov (I'd recommend a specific book, but he wrote over 300!) or The Dancing Wu Li Masters, by Gary Zukav. If I had to recommend only one book, it would be Zukav's. Zukav's book is 22 years old, but it is still a fantastic and compelling guided tour through the exotic and mind-boggling world of sub-atomic particles and physics. Reading it just may ignite your interest and passion for physics . . . as it did my own!

Thursday, August 12, 2004

The Law Review

Kobe=Not Guilty
Peterson=Guilty (but Amber wasn't the reason)