Archive for January, 2011

There has never been a revolution in the middle east that has led to a western style democracy.



We see a revolt and immediately think, okay they are seeking to be free. Well, yes, maybe but not as we know it because as we have seen over the years, it does not lead to this.

It did happen in India. Both India and Pakistan (originally part of British India) have a parliamentary style government.

Israel was created by the UN after World War Two. Yes, the Israeli’s had to immediately defend their independence against Jordan, Syria and Egypt.

But if you look at the core of the Middle East, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Syria and Egypt, none of them has ever had a democracy. Not ever inĀ  their history. Israel has a democracy but it started this way and has remained this way since 1948. The surrounding dictatorships have consistently tried to demolish the Jewish State but have failed consistently. Israel is the best at fighting short quick wars. Weaker when getting drawn into longer conflicts. So far outside of the Yom Kippur War in 1973 and the Invasion of Lebanon in 1982, that has been pretty much all it has taken for Israel to survive.

So far at least.

There are levels of freedom in the Middle East and neighboring countries. The map below illustrates this.

So if Mubarak steps down will he be replaced by a democracy?

Possibly however at best, I believe that the transition will look a lot like the Russian Revolution of 1917 where for a time there was a democracy of some kind which was quickly overthrown by the Bolsheviks and a succession of eternal dictatorships. Or so it seemed at the time.

Think Oligarchy.

Not democracy.

The USA loses if the present regime falls. The Egyptians see the USA as the force that help prop up the present government. So if things fall, then what moves into the power vacuum may ultimately be fundamentalist in nature and the enemy will be the United States.

It would be nice if this didn’t happen but there is nothing in Egypt’s history to indicate that they can evolve to this level. It’s not the Egyptian people. It’s a combination of their experience and the USA’s penchant for supporting oppressive dictatorships.

No, no matter what happens, No More Will A Prince Come Out OF Egypt, certainly not seeking true democracy.


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I was having lunch with a friend today. Another Human Resources guy like me. We were talking about doing value added work. Like me his strategy is to build close relationships with his client groups and help them solve business problems. We chatted this up for about an hour and then he suddenly turned to me and said,

“You know I am getting tired of HR people.”

I knew exactly what he meant. I had reached the same point a few years back.

“Most of what HR does could just be outsourced,” I replied.

Who needs another policy, I thought to myself. And then that reminded me of an old movie with Clint Eastwood.

The Enforcer one of the Dirty Harry flicks circa 1976.

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Four Blow (off) Jobs

I got blown four times in less than a week.

Blown off I should say.

On Wednesday my lunch blew me off. A sudden meeting was called. The two top people in the company were “leaving to pursue other opportunities.” My Dinner blew me off too. The meeting she was going to attend was canceled and so she had no reason to be in the area.

On Friday I showed up to take my lunch date out. Her request.

I called when I got there. I am out in the parking lot.

Okay be right out.

Doesn’t show.

I call again 15 minutes later.


I’ll be right out, she says.

Another 20 minutes pass. The sun is nice. I work on my tan. Finally I send a text.

I am leaving. Let’s reschedule.

Today I have a meeting with a CEO of a company I am advising..uh er..whatever that means.

I am there on time. No show. I leave.


A friend said, this all sounds very rude on their part. He is referring to the last two blow off jobs.

I don’t feel that way even though I am mildly annoyed.

But I am in one of those bend don’t break mindsets.


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Bright Shiny Things

I have never marketed my services. Not really.

What I do is leave myself open to having coffee, breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks with people in my network. I rarely talk work with them. But for some reason this generates work. The more I do this, the more work I get.

This week was strange though.

On Wednesday I had lunch and dinner canceled. On Friday I went back to the company I was an actual employee of and met my boss for lunch. I called her cell when I arrived at 11:25 am. She answered and said she would be right out. I stood in the parking lot enjoying the bright warm sunlight. At 11:45 I called her again. She apologized and said she would be right out. I could hear voices talking in the background.

She was still in some sort of meeting!

At noon I texted her and said I was leaving and that we could reschedule.

After awhile, she texted back and apologized profusely. She was still up for lunch but by that time I was goners. Halfway up the highway. Can;t text while driving. Later on I told her (via text) that she gets easily distracted by bright shiny things. In this case her boss and one of his other employees. I worked for her and with her. She has always been like this. She is always saying that she doesn’t get invited into the tent. This is part of the reason why. Act like a servant and you’ll be treated like one.

I move on. I can’t take it too personally. That too doesn’t work for me. By the time I arrive home I am almost past this.

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Death Surrounds Me

Death surrounds me.

In my last year at Sun Microsystems I was the HR Director for a newly hired VP who was starting up a new business unit. His name was John McFarlane. John didn’t really fit into the tribal state that was so much a part of the culture of the company. I left Sun for a startup and John followed me out the next year.

I liked John. He tried to get business units to work together. That was hard at Sun. Divide and conquer was easy at Sun. Pillage and raid and fade was easy at Sun. Getting war lords to work together was hard. I loved the way Sun was but for John it was tough.

After we had both left Sun we had breakfast in a noisy cafe in Cupertino. Regrettably I missed most of what John was saying. I caught maybe every third word. That’s my best guess. It was so loud in this place. The food was good and it was crowded and popular. Too popular for two guys trying to talk.

We parted promising we would do it again some time.

John was that sort of earnest guy. A straight shooter.

He died last week after a year-long battle with cancer. I didn’t even know he was ill. We had lost touch.

The Valley buries it’s dead and moves on rather quickly. No viking funerals.


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Tuscon Deconstruction

Is anyone outside of me getting tired of the deconstruction of the events in Tuscon.

We should have known.


There are plenty of folks walking around in the world who act strangely but are never going to whip out a gun and start shooting innocent people. They guy in Tuscon was one of a few.

In the mid 1970’s I worked in the food service at Stanford University. I was a manager. We hired a varied group of people to work for us ranging from students to a few food service professionals. I was neither. I was a guy passing through from one career in real estate property management to human resources. It was a bridge job that turned out to be a very one bridge.

Anyhow, one of our employees was a very popular guy. He was well liked by the staff. Friendly, outgoing and always showed up on time and did his work. You couldn’t help but like the guy.

But one day he didn’t show up for work.

Later on we found that he had been arrested.

He, his brother and a friend had kidnapped 31 school kids and a bus driver and tried to hold them for ransom. The whole thing unraveled fast when the driver and several kids escaped. It was all over the papers and the TV news. The perps came from well off families and had no priors. But we should have known so everyone at the food service began to deconstruct the events. This was in parallel to what the media was doing.

But all I could remember was this nice guy.

Somewhere things went wrong in his thinking.

He has been in prison for 35 years along with his brother and friend. Parole denied over and over again.

I stopped deconstructing this a long time ago. He made one big mistake. He has spent his life paying for it. None of the kids or the driver was harmed. They all lived. But the price for kidnapping in my state is life in prison.

Things went wrong in Tuscon. The media will blame guns, parents and Sarah Palin. But in the end it was one decision. To pull a trigger and start shooting.

Stop deconstructing this. There is nothing to understand. It was a back swan event. One we didn’t see coming. If we had, the shooter would never had a chance to pull the trigger.

But something in our psyche wants to understand, to deconstruct. We always fail when we do this. But we keep on going. Deconstructing and blaming.

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Elephant in the Room

I went to a client offsite for 2 days. I was meshed in with the exec staff. Nice group of people, frankly. No complaints. I was there as the elephant in the room. I was the truth if they wandered away from the path. But mostly they didn’t. They stayed the course and even though I had a few things to say mostly I observed and assessed. That was my real role.

It was strange. The last one of these I attended about a year ago, I was the organizer. Sat for a whole day and said little or nothing.

“I believe lunch is here.”

“Let’s take a five-minute break.”

Thundering statements from me.

This time I just showed up. No deliverables. Just the truth. No take aways or things to do.


I think I made peace with the other consultants. We each had our separate views but they merged at the near horizon rather neatly.

I slept at night in a king-size bed with many pillows. I didn’t turn on the TV once. I was either in the conference room or in my hotel room. I was either listening or on the computer or sleeping. I was right near one of my old running course. One of my favorites but I didn’t run either day. No getting up early in the frigid dawn and bootstrapping in a workout. I ate and slept and attended meeting instead. I watched power point slides that went on and on. This was a power point meeting but I had to admit. For once the slides were interesting and pertinent.

I was at peace in the world of business.

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