Monthly Archives: May 2009

May 22

Torturing Christianity

By kevin | Current Affairs

I’ve been following the “torture debate” for some time.   In many ways the most interesting insight, and this first came out about two weeks back, is the extent to which people how describe themselves as Christians are in favor of torture.  A snip . . .

Rev. Ronald Kuykendall, an evangelical pastor in Gainesville, Florida, says that the question is difficult to answer because everyone has a different of definition of torture. He says he would support the torture of a terrorist if “the techniques used are lawful, necessary” and the ultimate purpose is to save lives.

Kuykendall says the New Testament (Romans 13:1-7) teaches Christians that “everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.”

“The NT [New Testament] is clear that God grants the right of the ‘sword’ to the state to be used against wrongdoers,” Kuykendall says. “Just as I believe I don’t have a right to vengeance personally, I do believe that I can seek justice through the state and call the police on a robber, or a gunman threatening my life.”

Chuck Colson, the evangelical pastor who once served as an aide to President Nixon, answered the same question in an on-line discussion conducted by the Washington Post “On Faith” Web site.

Colson said that Christians are supposed to obey the law, but there may be times when there is a higher obligation, such as ignoring a “no trespassing” sign to rescue a drowning man.

“So it is with torture,” Colson wrote. “If a competent authority honestly believes that this was the only way to get information that might save the lives of thousands, I believe he would be justified.”

I have a King James Bible right in front of me.  I hope that Kuykendall has been quoted out of context because Romans 13:1 – 7 has absolutely nothing to do with his assertion that the New Testament grants the state the right of the Sword. Quite the opposite.  During the period in history in which the events of the NT occurred, the state was Rome, and from Jesus on down, the whole lot of them were virulently apocalyptic with the specific understanding that the state and the sword would be eliminated, to be replaced by heaven on earth.

As to Colson’s comments, again, point to me a single passage in the Gospels that supports his point of view. I would challenge him or anyone to find that meaning in the New Testament.  Just keep reading Romans 13:8.  “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.” That hardly sounds like a rationale for torture (though it would be a good justification for trespassing to save a drowning person, a particularly lame analogy).

To Colson’s point about “a competent authority” . . . again, what Biblical authority does he have in mind to support this assertion?  Where in either Testament do we find an example where tossing the law, by which was always meant God’s Law, in favor of a “competent authority” was the recommended way to go?  Quite the opposite, I recall a story about some guy getting thrown into a pit with a bunch of Lions because he thought that idea daft (just to pick one of many stories).

I can think of lots of reasons why people might find “enhanced interrogation” techniques acceptable, but I think the idea does violence to any fair reading of the Gospels or even a passing understanding of what Jesus taught.  How you get from “Render unto Ceasar what is Ceasar’s” to “God granting the right of the sword to the State” or “a competent authority” is creating meaning where it isn’t.  So I find it interesting that so many people who describe themselves as Evangelical Christians, presumably the most Christian among us, find torturing anyone such an easy leap.

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May 13

Noticing The Nature of Order

By kevin | Decision Making

A friend sent me a something by thinking/computer/pattern language heavyweight Richard P. Gabriel, The Nature of Order: The Post-Pattern World.  Some wonderful thoughts.

[amtap book:isbn=0975257382] [amtap book:isbn=020172183X]

Roughness

Things which have real life always have a certain ease, a morphological roughness. It is not a residue of technically inferior culture, or the result of handcraft or inaccuracy. It is an essential structural feature which they have and without which a things cannot be whole.

Often the border of an ancient carpet is “irregular” where it goes round the corner—that is, the design breaks, the corner seems “patched together.” This does not happen through carelessness or inaccuracy. On the contrary, it happens because the weaver is paying close attention to the positive and negative, to the alternating repetition of the border, to the good shape of each compartment of the wave and each bit of open space—and makes an effort all along the border to be sure these are “just right.” To keep all of them just right along the length of the border, some loose and makeshift composition must be done at the corner.Continue reading

May 12

Run Notes: James Andrew, BCG speaks to SAMA

By kevin | Business

These are my run notes from an address by James Andrew, Sr. Partner, MD BCG, Head of Global Innovation Practice, to the 2009 SAMA annual meeting.

[amtap book:isbn=1422103137]

I learned about strategic accounts from an early age.  My father sold grease and oil for forty years.  I remember my introduction to big accounts and how not all accounts are created equal and what it takes to serve them.

I remember sitting at dinner one night.  My father had this territory that was the greater Chicago area and the phone rang.  It was US Steel in Gary.  His largest account.

If you know Chicago and what it took to get from the north of town to Gary, it’s not a pleasurable trip.  This meant he was going to be gone well past my bed time.  I made some remark like a ten hear old would do.

He pointed to my plate and said, “Do you like what’s on my plate?”

“Yes”

“Do you like your room?”

“Yes”

“Who do you think pays for that?”

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May 11

Run Notes: Anne Mulcahy, Xerox CEO Speaks to SAMA

By kevin | Business

These are my run notes from an address by Anne Mulcahy, CEO Xerox, to the annual meeting of the Strategic Accounts Management Organization in Hollywood, Florida.

I want to begin, I know there are lots of you who are good Xerox customers, and we want to thank you.  We take that very seriously.

My message is really simple.  We are passionate believers that innovation is the lifeblood of any organization: Xerox or our country.  That blood supply is in danger of becoming anemic if we don’t look after it.Continue reading

May 08

The Lessons Of Insurgency

By kevin | Decision Making


Another great piece by Malcolm Gladwell, this on the dynamics of refusing to play the game by established rules.  Here’s the hypothesis wrapped up in the story of David v. Goliath . . .

David’s victory over Goliath, in the Biblical account, is held to be an anomaly. It was not. Davids win all the time. The political scientist Ivan Arreguín-Toft recently looked at every war fought in the past two hundred years between strong and weak combatants. The Goliaths, he found, won in 71.5 per cent of the cases. That is a remarkable fact. Arreguín-Toft was analyzing conflicts in which one side was at least ten times as powerful—in terms of armed might and population—as its opponent, and even in those lopsided contests the underdog won almost a third of the time.

In the Biblical story of David and Goliath, David initially put on a coat of mail and a brass helmet and girded himself with a sword: he prepared to wage a conventional battle of swords against Goliath. But then he stopped. “I cannot walk in these, for I am unused to it,” he said (in Robert Alter’s translation), and picked up those five smooth stones. What happened, Arreguín-Toft wondered, when the underdogs likewise acknowledged their weakness and chose an unconventional strategy? He went back and re-analyzed his data. In those cases, David’s winning percentage went from 28.5 to 63.6. When underdogs choose not to play by Goliath’s rules, they win, Arreguín-Toft concluded, “even when everything we think we know about power says they shouldn’t.”

Hmm.

As usual, Gladwell combines many stories into one, in this case, David v Goliath, a fun story about 12 year old girls basketball, a contemplation on why more basketball teams don’t press, Lawrence of Arabia, and the Traveller Trillion Credit Squadron tournament.

One of the big lessons is the vast superiority of operating in “real time.”

Insurgents, though, operate in real time. Lawrence hit the Turks, in that stretch in the spring of 1917, nearly every day, because he knew that the more he accelerated the pace of combat the more the war became a battle of endurance—and endurance battles favor the insurgent. “And it happened as the Philistine arose and was drawing near David that David hastened and ran out from the lines toward the Philistine,” the Bible says. “And he reached his hand into the pouch and took from there a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine in his forehead.” The second sentence—the slingshot part—is what made David famous. But the first sentence matters just as much. David broke the rhythm of the encounter. He speeded it up. “The sudden astonishment when David sprints forward must have frozen Goliath, making him a better target,” the poet and critic Robert Pinsky writes in “The Life of David.” Pinsky calls David a “point guard ready to flick the basketball here or there.” David pressed. That’s what Davids do when they want to beat Goliaths.

The second less is to change the rules in ways that are completely beyond the comprehension of the dominant player.

Insurgents work harder than Goliath. But their other advantage is that they will do what is “socially horrifying”—they will challenge the conventions about how battles are supposed to be fought. All the things that distinguish the ideal basketball player are acts of skill and coördination. When the game becomes about effort over ability, it becomes unrecognizable—a shocking mixture of broken plays and flailing limbs and usually competent players panicking and throwing the ball out of bounds. You have to be outside the establishment—a foreigner new to the game or a skinny kid from New York at the end of the bench—to have the audacity to play it that way. George Washington couldn’t do it. His dream, before the war, was to be a British Army officer, finely turned out in a red coat and brass buttons. He found the guerrillas who had served the American Revolution so well to be “an exceeding dirty and nasty people.” He couldn’t fight the establishment, because he was the establishment.

Click here to read the entire article.

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May 05

From BAI: Charlie Scharf talks to Tom Brown

By kevin | Business

These are my run notes from a conversation between Charlie Scharf of JP Morgan Chase and Tom Brown of bankstocks.com at the BAI Mavericks in Banking Conference.

Charlie Scharf: Head of Retail Financial Services at JP Morgan Chase

Tom: Talk about when you came into Bank Ones’ retail and then Chase . . . what did you do.

Charlie

We were lucky we started with Bank One.  It wasn’t that complicated a job to do.  We had a great franchise . . .  First Chicago or Valley Bank . . . we had wonderful franchises but terribly managed.  Seven deposit systems.  Five loan systems.  People just couldn’t agree on what systems to go to.  It was just politics.  Lots of motivation towards the internet and being like a retailer, people forgot we were a bank.  We can’t be Nordstroms.

So we went at it methodically. There is no silver bullet.  A series of decisions.

We had to get on one platform.  Introduced new technology across the board to make it easy to do business.   You can talk all day long about customer service and if people don’t have the right tools, we won’t get there.  People need to see where we’re trying to go and how to get there.

We talked about growing the underlying customer checking base.  People come to us not because they want a card or a mortgage, it’s because everyone needs a transaction account.  Getting a growth mentality into people’s minds and then it’s all about relationships.

The single biggest thing we did was a “controllable P&L.”  If the can’t control, we don’t put it in: no overhead, pricing etc.  We want Branch Managers to act like they’re the local President.  That’s still true today

The thing that’s so fun about retail banking is that the people are wonderful.  “What mountain do you want to go up and how do we get there.”  If the plan is a good one and you don’t change it all the time, you’ll get there.

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May 05

From BAI: Doug Lebda from Tree.com

By kevin | Business

These are run notes from a conversation with Doug Lebda, Chairman and CEO of lendingtree.com and Tom Brown of Bankstocks.com from BAI’s Mavericks in Banking Conference.

Tom: Start by talking about the founding through IPO

Doug

I’m not a banker.  I came at it from the standpoint of a frustrated consumer. I was attriting.  The rates were never what people said they were.  You had to go to the back of the bank and sit and apply.

I wasn’t the best bank customer.  Why can’t we consumers turn the tables?  Why is this so inefficient for the bank?

Customers want to comparison shop.  They want to know the real price that they can close with.

For bankers, this can’t be efficient.  You put an ad out there and you get all comers.  So we created a filtering mechanism.  We created a marketplace.  The pitch to the lenders: I’m going to put you in competition with your competitors.  They didn’t like that.  We said we’d only charge when we closed.  And we would cut your marketing costs in half.Continue reading