Somebody said we were allowed to think out loud. Pardon the mess.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Rate the ad

The teeny copy you can't read:
Ask for our Porter, Pale and Wheat Ales in Williamsburg's finer restaurants. Hugh Burns, Brewmaster. Nadia Burns, the one with the checkbook. Williamsburg Brewing Company. 1157 Ewell Road, Norge. 757-253-1547.
It's a small family business. The kids stir malt, wash bottles and run the label machines after school and on weekends. The marketing budget is invisible - these are run off at Kinkos in varying formats--point of purchase, poster, direct, small space community broadsheets. The challenge is to increase awareness with regional hospitality and F&B decision-makers in advance of sales calls.

Now, what does this ad do for you?

Addenda: Hugh Burns is an ex-F-117 pilot and college biology major who retired from the US Air Force and found his bliss at a brewing convention. He and Nadia and their kids are ideally situated in one of America's most "historic-minded" vacation towns. More on what we do for their town, Colonial Williamsburg later.

Friday, April 23, 2004

the little engine that could. and did.

And a little prideful horn-tooting ensues...

Here in the little burg of Richmond, Virginia some 2nd and 3rd graders today took on all comers in a regional "Mind Games©" (General knowledge, logic, construction) competition. Some comers were Goliaths, some were Davids. Some were deeper-pocketed and better socially situated, with demographics and genetics "on their side". Some were less able financially, less powerful in terms of zip code, but equal to the task and ferocious in their competition. All competed with gusto, brains and stamina. But only one was left standing. Ladies and germs, I present the Richmond Public Schools' 2004 Mind Games Champions, Grades 2 & 3:

Fisher Elementary School...

They won. They beat odds, and their own imaginings of what's possible. They learned that winners are born, then unmade--but only if you let it travel that far.

Way to go Fisher.

Next Thursday, 4th & 5th Grades. Boooyah!

[update] Yes, our company, Alchemy, coaches these kids. In our eyes, it's a natural adjunct to, and a way to keep fresh, what we do for businesses: help people achieve their statue-sense; become what they think they deserve to be: "A bigger, better me." We may seem different in our approach and our language, but consider... Architecture, marketing, knowledge, leading are all just tactics, too often regarded and practiced as disconnected. That's silly. They share one overarching goal: moving people forward and up, whether they're 9 or 99.

Burning desires.

I think books are great things. But they don't hold all the answers, do they? Individually, taken alone I mean. Of course not, why should they? Their best characteristic, the ultimate payoff I think, are the seemingly invisible connections between things that books allow us, and sometimes force us, to draw and see.

Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein connected the dots of a presidency gone awry that no-one else detected. James Gleick, standing on the shoulders of many before him gave, in his Chaos, a view into why not making sense makes sense. The Tipping Point, the Death and Life of Great Cities, Anna Karenina, Franklin and Winston, The Wealth of Nations, Good to Great, de Toqueville's Democracy in America, Harry Potter, even Harlequin Romances all weave and detail things out in their own fascinating ways. Great stuff, some far reaching and truly mind bending.

But one thing that persists for me when I read is the seemingly latent similarities and coincidences; the patterns of action and behavior, lessons learned, forgotten, relearned that appear over and over. Perhaps what I mean is the simple yet elevating sameness in the messages of wise people sharing their wisdom and their sweat.

You don't write a book without feeling you have something to say. You don't recognize you have something to say unless it pounds in your mind as being relevant, or urgent, or different. And again, you don't say something out loud, in print, to millions unless the urge to share and inform outweighs your worry for being shown a fool or a lightweight or a bore. For this, I am awed by the mere fact that a book gets written.

But books require similar risk and investment and willingness to suspend anxieties from a reader, don't they? Books are like bricks. You can collect them and stack them merely to say you have them, and perhaps, to infer you've read them all (God knows, I haven't read all mine.) Or, you can build something with them, a worldview, say. Or a fire. Yes, that's it. A fire. You can rub them together in your head, and build a fire. I much prefer fire over worldview. It feels more real, more in touch with the senses. A worldview seems more inert and abstract, more the way we might disinterestedly watch a child's ant colony--Us, and them; we observing, they doing. They committed to exploring and building, trying and failing and trying again, and us, taking notes, with no skin in the game.

That's the funny thing about books, especially the kind of business books that I see reviewed and read myself. They, like Anna Karenina or Harry Potter, are really how-to manuals in the art and technique of creating and understanding, using and abusing, passions and commitments and dreams. They presume an investment, an ambition. Yet we regard them as things apart from those senses and states of being.

We skin them of their humanity, harvest them for utility and in the process, they lose both. We're hungry for results, frustrated by failed prescriptions and processes and, yet, we return to same fount over and over, repeating the same skinning and separating, expecting perhaps that "this time, somebody's captured the magic in bullet form" that we can prune even further.

Wow. Again, I find my self using words that betray a sense of life and growth, of organic things, of being in the thing... Humanity, harvest, hungry, frustrated, magic, prune.

Maybe I'm being melodramatic, but it seems the more knowledge that gets shared, and is available, the more it takes on a commodity's presence, the sense that one idea's pretty much the same as another, and therefore none really deserves a special place on our own bonfire. Like I said, melodramatic, but this feels true to me. Perhaps bricks are not the only analogy for books, because they too seem inert, whereas maybe logs, fuel for a fire, still retain their organic nature, their evidence of themselves as the product of growth.

Fire. Growth. It brings to mind something I scribbled not long ago, an email, almost as a joke, to a friend who was frustrated--with business, with business books, with recalcitrant people, with everything:
....4. "Work, eat, sleep" is a self-imposed life sentence. Some leaders may think that little of their lives and their futures, but millions of employees and consumers are just dying to hear one say "Enough! I want more out of this for me, too! (No, not more money.)
5. Pick any two of the better, hot business books--Semler, Jack Welch, Collins, Sun Tzu--doesn't matter. But make sure one is diametrically opposed to what you "think" you already believe. Don't read them. Climb into them. Live them, like you're going to be shot if you don't live them. Tell your people you are doing this. Then, after doing exactly this for 6 months per book, ask yourself: Which did I feel like I would have written right out of school and not yet jaded to the working world? Keep that one. Buy copies of it for your people. Own it. Then take those assembled people into the parking lot and ceremonially burn the other book you did not choose. Bring a keg. Throw a party. Celebrate your freedom.

You'll be amazed at how good this feels and, how can I say this? Simple.
And that's it, isn't it? Feeling good, about what you are doing. Re-injecting the humanity and energy into rote and reductionism. Admitting, sharing the universal, communal reality that what we all want is a choice in things, preferably a better, more authentic road less traveled. One that fits. I've come to believe that that simple act of exposure, the willingness of a man or woman to really embrace an idea, to allow themselves to say "I'm looking for fire here"--that is the essence of growth and leadership, of one's self and of others.

The best books say this, over and over. Good to Great is The Fifth Discipline is The Lunar Men. They say the same things in different words. We nod at the answers when we read them. But not because we've had an epiphany, but because we recognize a pattern, a thread, a sensibility already parked in our heart and our head. We recognize, we aren't discovering.

We already had it. It was right under our nose. It wasn't "new."

Silly, isn't it?

Go on. Go "burn" a book.

update: Cleaned up for slapdash.Sorry. Posted this on my way out the door late for a morning meeting.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Small Business. Big Business. Beef. And Bullsh*t.

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
"Federal farm programs can influence, change and distort the price and supply of beef cattle. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association supports agricultural policy that is based on private enterprise, competitive markets and minimum government intervention. Government programs are sometimes necessary in disaster and emergency situations or to aid market access and expand information availability, but that is where it should end. NCBA encourages private enterprise in marketing and risk management as the alternative to government programs."
Our story continues....

UPI runs a story today finding that USDA's (and, by extension, Swift/Tyson/Smithfield/NCBA's) chief argument for opposing Creekstone Farms' bid to test 100% of it's herdstock is, appropriately enough, heavily laced with cow patty:
WASHINGTON, April 21 (UPI) -- A recent U.S. Department of Agriculture decision to block a private company from testing all its cattle under 30 months of age for mad cow disease runs contrary to its own records that show it has tested more than 2,000 animals in that age range, United Press International has learned.

The USDA rejected the Creekstone Farms testing plan on the grounds it was scientifically unsound. The Arkansas City, Kan., Black Angus beef producer wanted to test all its cattle for mad cow disease voluntarily so it could export its beef to Japan....

In announcing the decision to reject Creekstone's proposal, Bill Hawks, USDA's undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs, said, "There is no scientific justification for 100 percent testing because the disease does not appear in younger animals" under the age of 30 months.

A more sound approach scientifically, Hawks said, would be USDA's expanded surveillance plan, which calls for testing 200,000 or more cows in U.S. herds that are 30 months of age or older.
Sampling from millions. Only in animals over 30 months. For a stealthy, volatile, "tipping-point" epidemic disease.
The department's mad cow testing records, however, which were obtained by UPI via the Freedom of Information Act, show over the past two years the agency tested 2,051 animals -- and possibly more -- that were under the age of 30 months.
The article goes on to somewhat clumsily detail a compromise solution crafted by USDA in conjunction with major packers such as Swift & Co., Tyson/IBP and Smithfield Foods. In this previous post and links, it was stated that the ostensible reason for all the wrangling over this issue is the implied "safety gap" between "premium" beef houses like Creekstone Farms and the more high volume, shall we say, less picky meat packers like Swift, Tyson and Smithfield. Oddly enough, the pilot 100% compliance program the big boys are endorsing, and the USDA is pushing for them, carries a tentative price tag of around $375 per tested head of cattle. Creekstone's state of the art program--read: more rigorous than USDA's--costs $18 per head. This reader, and others it seems, view this as a stalling tactic by more diversified (Pork, chicken) mega-packers in an attempt to stretch out the inevitable reasonable solution to the Japanese' complete ban on American beef without 100% testing.

Why? Because Tyson, Swift and cohorts can remain profitable on other meat products while the ban slowly chokes niche, regional and premium producers into bankruptcy. Agribusiness is using the thing it claims to hate--regulation--to winnow it's competition from the field. And they've gotten USDA to herd players like Creekstone to the kill-floor.
Larry Bohlen of Friends of the Earth, an environmental advocacy group in Washington [said] the USDA "offered a puny compromise to test older cattle for Creekstone farms when the agency itself has been testing some younger cattle for the last 2 years,"

Bohlen was referring to a compromise the agency offered Creekstone to test an unspecified number of its animals older than 30 months at USDA-approved labs. Creekstone rejected the deal because it has invested $500,000 in building a state-of-the-art testing facility and nearly all of its animals are under that age at the time of slaughter.

Bill Fielding, Creekstone's chief operating officer, said he would not classify USDA's offer as a compromise because it did not address the issues of concern to the company.

"As the USDA is aware, only about 1 percent of our animals are over 30 months, so testing them does nothing for our business and is not what our customers are asking for," Fielding told UPI.
Here, USDA walks into the grinder itself: Japanese health authorities have detected mad cow disease in animals less than 20 months old. They believe, and research supports, that it's only a matter of time--aided by a lax sampling system, rather than 100% testing--before it regresses down the maturity scale. They don't trust luck when it comes to Bovine Spongiform Encephalitis, the cause of variant Creutzfeldt Jakob disease, a fatal human brain disorder. Perhaps USDA has a hard time with Japanese Scientific Peer journals, what with all those squiggly characters n stuff:
USDA spokeswoman Alisa Harrison told UPI the agency's rationale for prohibiting Creekstone from testing younger animals is "the scientific evidence is there that you can't find it (mad cow disease) in animals under 30 months."

Asked why the agency tested thousands of animals under that age, Harrison replied, "I don't know."

It could be the animals were showing severe signs of central nervous system disorders -- a possible indication of mad cow disease -- or perhaps there was some "confusion on the age of the animals," she said. "I'm sure there's a good reason."

Harrison said she would look into the agency's rationale for testing the young animals and including them in official statistics, but she did not respond by presstime.

Bill Bullard, chief executive officer of R-CALF USA, a non-profit association in Billings, Mont., which represents independent ranchers, noted a 3-month-old cow looks like a calf, so it is unlikely animals in this age range were confused for 30-month old adults....

The USDA is just plain wrong in deciding against Creekstone," Bullard said. "I think their argument is extremely weak and unfortunately it is damaging the industry."

Bullard and Fielding said they know of other companies that would like to emulate Creekstone's plan and test all their cattle as a way of tapping into the export market. Creekstone plans to appeal USDA's decision, and the other companies may come forward as the debate continues, they said.
I'll try the Creekstone Filet, Pittsburg, Sour Cream and plenty of Horseradish.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Way cool.

Baskin Robbins Free Ice Cream Night is Wednesday, April 28th. 6-10 pm.

From Worthwhile
This is cool. For the fifth year, Baskin-Robbins is holding Free Scoop Night next Wednesday, and the good news is that needy kids will be the big winners. Here's how it works: When you go into Baskin-Robbins, you get free ice cream; for each person who stops in, the company makes a contribution to First Book, an organization that donates books to children in low-income families. What a neat way to help underprivileged kids. For more about First Book, click here.

I love The Economist, but sometimes...

...they do take on airs of the proverbial Seagull manager: Flutter in, squawk a bit, crap on a few things, and flutter out:
Changing Minds: The Art and Science of Changing Our Own and Other People's Minds
THE “science” of management is largely derivative: a mix of military strategy, the economics of the firm and the engineering of processes. Less frequently than it should, it takes ideas from the field of psychology, and some of them have had considerable influence..... Two other influences may lie behind management's new-found enthusiasm for the science of Freud and Jung. The turmoil at the turn of the century, when stockmarkets' and businesses' fortunes rose and fell like boats in a force eight gale, increased managers' awareness that they live in a world that is not just ever-changing, but is changing ever more quickly too. “Change” is a buzzword in management literature today. Among other things, companies realise that they have to change, frequently and radically, the attitudes and practices of much of their workforce. For help they are turning to psychology.

The other influence comes from the spate of corporate scandals in America and Europe, and the subsequent soul-searching about the corruption of leadership. The study of leadership has, in the view of many of its more traditional exponents, gone “soft”. Out are the sturdy reminders of how the likes of Alexander and Shackleton led their men through impossible hardship; in are the exhortations to executives to examine their inner selves. “Get thee to a personal trainer,” is the fashionable advice.

A recent issue of the Harvard Business Review recommended that its high-flying readers “learn to navigate the twists and turns of their emotions”. (It is assumed that the leaders of Enron, Tyco and the like threw away their emotional compasses before they ever came close to a boss's chair.) “When there's dissonance between an executive's inside and outside,” the journal warned, “he's got trouble.”
Uhhh, Economist?

"Change" has been a buzzword since hair, one that's belatedly getting a serious look from some people because it keeps chopping them off at the knees.
The study of leadership has...gone Soft?
Jeebus. Leadership is precisely the study of how to get soft, squishy, self-interested things called people to commit "hard," worthy, unconventional acts of selflessness. Call it propagating courage and ambition. Unsolicited advice: You're posing. Supplement those World Bank seminars with one on Drucker or The Group Dynamic in Recruit Drill Instruction every once in a while.

Hmmm, what does Amazon's reference have to say:
Publishers Weekly: ....While the discussions and real-life examples are intriguing and do clarify Gardner's theories, the book doesn't fully deliver on its promise. Although Gardner does offer suggestions on how someone can influence others, he doesn't include a detailed prescriptive strategy for decision makers in the business world. Readers must draw out insights on their own, which, given the complexity of the material, may be difficult.
I bet I know why he doesn't offer up prescriptives....
[Boyd] absorbed the writings of great military theorists, like Sun Tzu, Clausewitz, and Jomini. He analyzed campaigns of the master practitioners, like Genghis Khan, Tamerlane, Belisarius, Frederick the Great, Napoleon, Grant, Manstein, T. E. Lawrence, Lettow-Vorbeck, Mao, and Giap. Beginning with the Peleponnesian War, he studied conventional battles and guerrilla warfare.

....he [scoured] books on physics, mathematics, logic, information theory, evolutionary biology, genetics, cognitive psychology, cultural anthropology, sociology, political science, economics. Between 1973 and 1976, he poured his intellectual energy into producing a 16-page double-spaced, type-written paper describing his theory. Entitled "Destruction and Creation," this abstract treatise describes how a dialectical interplay of analysis and synthesis destroys and creates our mental images of the external world. It describes what pressures drive this mental process, and how internal phenomena naturally regulate it in a never-ending dialectic cycle, which takes on the outward manifestations of disorder turning into order, and order turning into disorder.

Boyd did not read books, he devoured them — marking them up, cross-correlating information in the front with information in the back, seeking out contradictions with every turn of the page, gleefully tearing each author's argument to pieces. After only six months, his copy of Clausewitz looked as if it were 100 years old. He never attempted to publish his work, but assembled all his research into a 15-hour briefing called a "Discourse on Winning and Losing." He gave the briefing to enlisted men and generals, congressmen, newspaper reporters, scientists, futurists, academics, anyone who would listen.
And they weren't yawning. I know Gardner's past work, haven't read this new book yet, but grew up Air Force, knowing "Ghengis John's" legend and learning a lot of the fact of his OODA loop. Guess what? Boyd's, like Gardner's work and approach, doesn't "bullet point."

In that 15-hour lecture he weaved an accellerated scientific, pyschological, cultural and historic tapestry. He slammed you through a true liberal arts approach to strategy, the world, it's inhabitants and their quirks. At it's conclusion, out pops you, a changed, chastened yet reeenergized individual with a new definition of clarity. And a broader understanding of the reasoning of people and their organizations. Boyd's ideas changed the way we think about situational awareness. He was a renaissance fighter pilot and the father of 4th Generation warfare and strategic thinking.

And he was a maverick. If you couldn't sit still to unlearn all the "mush" traditional, linear strategists like Clausewitz had palmed off on you--if you asked for bullets or an elevator speech--what I believe he termed "pre-chewing your food for you"--he'd butt his cigar out on your tie.

You don't "own" bulletpoints, was his message. And change makes those kinds of bullets moot the minute the crap hits the fan.

But--a strategic philosophical framework? Now that you can own. And climb into. And fly.

Still need bullet points? Okay, I'm game. Or engaged. (Yeah, it's the second one.) More on this later.
It's nothing personal folks...

Business Evolutionist relates a great story from a recent speaking trip:
It's nothing personal folks

That was the first slide of a Power Point presentation I saw someone putting together on the airplane the other day, seriously.

I wasn't trying to eavesdrop or pry or anything, but I couldn't help glancing over a couple of times...

"It's nothing personal folks..."

That is just wrong on so many levels.

First: Okay, then why are we here?

Second: Yeah, actually, it is personal.

Third: So, you don't care about me... then why should I care about you, this presentation or this company?

I wanted to lean over to the guy and suggest another approach: Get rid of the Power Point and instead take a boom box into the meeting and play that song "We're in this love together, we've got the kind that lasts forever."
Yes! Just imagine. A sense of humor and sense of humanity along with the necessary task of bearing what seemed to portend bad news. Not happy talk. Not covering your "people skill bases," but actually exercising your people skills.

One of the commenters to Jon's post offered a mea culpa--
I'll admit it--I use that line, too. I guess it's a matter of tact--it's the disclaimer that says "the following comments may sting a bit, but I still value you as a person."
Sounds lovely, but research shows that people's ears are far more tuned to negatives, than positives. It's that pesky R-complex again, always suspicious and looking for inauthenticity; always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Around here, we've learned from client/employee surveys on reorgs and M&A projects that "the following comments may sting a bit, but I still value you as a person" is not the takeway.

Everything one says after something like that disappears into a black hole called "What's wrong with me?" which quickly mutates into a vortex of resistance called "Who is this asshole?"

Kind of like saying, "To be honest with you, I think..."

Why fight reality? Everything's personal, work especially. Who wants employees who abstractly observe that your company's going down the tubes in some way, and then move on to passionately wondering what new lure they're going to use while fishing this weekend? Candor works wonders, well presented. It also flushes out the passive/agressive obstacle builders and the clock-punchers.

"It's not personal, it's business" is their weapon and excuse.

Take away their tools. Disarm them.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

He's not being naughty he's an ODD child

London Telegraph
Children who behave badly are no longer described as naughty but suffering from Oppositional Defiant Disorder - or ODD syndrome.

The condition, which was established by scientists in America, is said mainly to affect children under 10 and result in a number of disruptive symptoms including defiance, provocative conduct and disobedience.

Literature on the subject says that sufferers "argue persistently with adults", "actively refuse to comply with adults' requests or rules" and "often deliberately annoy people". Other ODD children are said to "consistently blame others for their own misbehaviour"....

Psychologists and child specialists, however, question the use of such labels and say that the problem lies with the shortcomings of the adults who care for them, not the children. Attributing bad behaviour to a medical "disorder" allows parents to abdicate responsibility, they claim.

Dr Gareth Vincenti, a consultant psychiatrist and the medical director of the Harrogate Clinic, a mental health hospital, said that the over-use of medical terms gave many children an excuse to run riot. "You're medicalising behaviour by saying, 'Oh, you've got a condition', then straightaway it is not the child's fault or the parents' fault," he said.....

ODD is one of about 300 classified mental disorders - most identified in the US - that doctors and psychologists use to explain bad behaviour. Some of these "conduct disorders" are considered to be treatable with drugs such as Ritalin. [emphasis mine]
ODD. How perfect. One more acronym: P.H.A.R.M.A. Can't write a prescription for "naughty" or "latchkey".

Stop the merry-go-round, I want to get off.

Monday, April 19, 2004

William James was a damn smart man:
The most violent revolutions in an individual's beliefs leave most of his old order standing. New truth is always a go-between, a smoother-over of transitions.

The point I now urge you to observe particularly is the part played by the older truths . . . their influence is absolutely controlling. Loyalty to them is the first principle; for by far the most usual way of handling phenomena so novel that they would make for a serious rearrangement of our preconceptions is to ignore them altogether, or to abuse those who bear witness for them. [emphasis mine.]
Memo: Technique matters. But Reality's the bitch, not the messenger.

Case in point... Slate:
Capitalists for Hillarycare
Look who's supporting universal health care now.

In the early 1990s, big business largely opposed Hillary Clinton's ill-conceived effort to establish a government-run universal health insurance plan. But over the past several years—and especially in the past year—large corporations, and the trade groups that speak for them, have been subtly changing their tune.....

That interest in more government health care is spreading from automakers to other manufacturers. In December, a study released by two business establishment trade groups, the Manufacturers Alliance and the National Association of Manufacturers, found that when it came to structural costs—environmental compliance, taxes, and employee benefits—American companies pay more compared to many foreign competitors. Structural costs add 22.4 percent to the price of doing business in the United States—more than in Canada, Britain, or South Korea. The largest single structural cost borne by the American private sector is health care. The clear implication: Unless society (read: the government) does something to relieve manufacturers of their health-care burden, the sector will suffer further....

HCA's profit warning points to several other reasons why big business will eventually accept a Hillary-like scheme. First, because it's the largest hospital company—HCA has a market capitalization of about $20 billion—HCA's uninsured problem is Wall Street's problem. Expect more of the analysts, bankers, and credit-rating agencies who have a vested interest in HCA's future to start commenting on the need for a national solution to the health-care crisis. Second, because it was founded by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's family, HCA's problems are also Washington's problems. [emphasis mine.]
Hmmm. I suppose it goes without saying that Canadian, British and South Korean Tax Structures and Environmental Compliance policies are far more "onerous" than those in these United States. All those nasty taxes and regs and they're still kicking our hiney's Structural Cost-wise. What gives?

Perhaps another William has the answer, this time, Bill O'Neill, founder of Investor's Business Daily. 20 rules of investing:
#18: Don’t try to bottom guess or buy on the way down. Never argue with the market. Forget your pride and ego.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Small Business. It's what's for dinner.

Washington Post:
To Creekstone Farms manager Bill Fielding, his company's idea does not seem unreasonable. In order to satisfy its very important customers in Japan -- customers the company needs to survive -- Creekstone wants to test for mad cow disease every one of the cattle it slaughters....

But there is a big obstacle in the way of Creekstone's mad cow initiative: The U.S. Department of Agriculture will not allow it.
Whoa there, free-market cowboys. Holster your six-shooters. The black hats in this Rodeo ain't who you want them to be.
"That the USDA is standing in our way makes no sense," Fielding said. "Their position flies in the face of the basic rule of business -- that the customer is always right, and our job is to meet their demands."
Yeah. Why would they do that?
As a small, upscale slaughterhouse and meatpacker, Creekstone already does for its domestic and foreign customers many things that competitors do not do. It specializes in premium-quality Black Angus beef, accepts fewer and fewer animals that have been fed antibiotics or hormones, and can trace the origin of each animal it receives....

Japan's intense sensitivity over the issue began in 2001, when mad cow disease was first detected in an animal there. Since then, universal testing there has found 10 more infected animals, and few have had the characteristics that normally put an animal at high risk.....
Universal testing? Examining every animal, instead of some compromise profiling or aggregate sampling regimen cobbled together by USDA and the packing industry? If the Japanese want 100% testing for $50/lb premium beef, not a problem. Creekstone would test for Martian Pathogens if that's what its customers wanted. Then what is the problem?

Ladies and Gentlemen, meet "The Money":
While all American beef exporters have been hurt by the ban on sales abroad, Creekstone is especially vulnerable because it is small -- with less than 1 percent of the market -- and it only packs beef. The big players in the business -- companies such as Tyson Foods, Swift & Co. and Smithfield Foods -- also sell pork and chicken and can weather the beef ban much better.

If Japan will not buy their beef, the more diversified companies can sell pork, which they are doing now at a tidy profit. As a result, Fielding says, the beef export ban works to the advantage of the big firms and could end up squeezing many small operations such as his out of business.
Now, meet "The Mouth" of The Money:
The largest and most powerful meat-packing companies are dead set against Creekstone's proposal, as is the group that represents ranchers and feedlot owners, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

Association President Jan Lyons said that allowing one company to test all its cattle could quickly snowball into a situation where all companies would have to do similar testing. "If testing is allowed at Creekstone and other companies, we think it would become the international standard and the domestic standard, too," she said. "But it's a standard that's not based on science, would be very expensive and so is something our government definitely needs to resist."
Not based on science. Very expensive. Both of those PR statements are patently untrue. They lack not only fact, they abrogate integrity.

Wampum finds a concurrent article in the Miami Herald with real numbers: USDA approved bare bones standards testing, under long term study, costs $375 per head of cattle. Creekstone's Tiffany Science testing? $18 per. Notice the "long-term-study"? That's Greek for Stalling. It's also the favored approach of the Beef industry--rather than endorse a free-market solution that costs an additional 0.1 of X, they'd prefer to sit on the fence, book that extra 0.1 profit for a few more years, then claim shock and threaten mass economic woe when the eventual Industry-USDA study says it'll cost 30*X to test every animal.

Avarice, Pride and Sloth? Meet strategic decision-making. Strategic decision-making? Meet Avarice, Pride and Sloth.

The funny and sad part? The industry "leaders" are the sheep. The real leader, Creekstone and Bill Fielding, they're being led to the slaughter.
In southeast Kansas, the issue is being closely watched. Kevin Gallaway, owner of Gallaway's steak restaurant in Winfield, a buyer of Creekstone beef, said the USDA should approve the testing:

"If our government keeps the company from testing the animals and it goes under as a result," he said, "I can tell you that people around here would be plenty angry about it."
And so they should be. But why isn't Kevin just as pissed at NCBA, Tyson, Swift and Smithfield? That's whose water Anne Venneman, the head of USDA, is carrying--water that's gonna drown Kevin's neighbor and favored supplier.

Why? Because that would be "counter-intuitive," I guess. Goverment is always dysfunctional. But "Free markets" keep business efficient and pure. That's it. Ubetcha. Yessiree.

I'm not certain about others, but me, I'm insulted when fed Spam and told to think "Great Filet!" It seems conservative pro-business firebrand Christopher Caldwell feels the same, citing CBS/Gallup: "Do you think U.S. executives are honest?" No - 67%. Yes - 27%.

Kind of hard to say those answers are skewed by a biased or confusingly worded question.

True or not, unfair or not, perception is reality. And it's pretty damn hard to sell when your customer is gripping his wallet and scanning for a policeman, just in case.

Substitute seat belts, pasteurization, air travel, flouridated water, or whatever for Creekstone's 100% Bovine Spongiform Encephalitis-Free beef and, once again, we see organizations public and private close the wagons, then camp outside the circle. Public and private. Nobody has a franchise on virtue. Or common sense.

Too bad the Business Roundtable doesn't round up a posse over that one.

Read the whole Washington Post article, or visit Wampum, who far better flays this tale of small and big business in detail.

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