16 June 2013

The Pope, The Gay Lobby, and The Only Reason to Have Sex

Of all the curious news items reported in any given week, it's hard to imagine one more fascinating than the Pope's mention of a "gay lobby" in the Vatican. It's cryptic mention raises more questions than it answers.

Frank Bruni does an nice job of addressing the church's odd stance towards homosexuality. But he quotes the Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, who clarifies what is allowed for homosexuals.

“You’re entitled to friendship,” he went on, laying out the ground rules for same-sex longings and pairings. As for sexual love, he added, “that is intended only for a man and woman in marriage, where children can come about naturally.”
What Bruni glosses over is, for me, really the most absurd dimension of the church's opinion on sex of any kind: sex is not meant as a tool for pleasure, intimacy, joy, or celebration. Sex is meant for procreation. Only. Gay sex is always wrong because they can never procreate. But what gets buried in that condemnation is this: heterosexual sex is also wrong if the couple is, for example, using contraceptives. 

To be fair to the church, this opposition to sex not that absurd in a world of medieval realities, when childbirth is so likely to end a mother's life, when children almost inevitably were conceived in numbers guaranteed to put a strain on any family. Sex for pleasure in the medieval world is absurd (and yet of course it happened).  The cost is simply too high. But of course times have changed.

This is probably the biggest reason the church's stance on homosexuality will change. It is based on an opinion of sex that is shared by almost no one - gay or straight - and based on a reality a thousand years old.  

15 June 2013

Fierce Individualism and Empathy, Like Waves in an Ocean

I've wondered about empathy in this country of fierce individualism. Elizabeth Cady Stanton gave this really fascinating speech in 1892 titled "Solitude of Self," and in it she argued that women ought to be their own persons, not merely relational beings who were defined only as mothers or wives. It's a perfectly persuasive argument, one that was, for its time, a matter of speaking truth to power, of stating what seems obvious now but ever so revolutionary then. (Women with their own lives, aspirations and goals?)

Her notion that one's life is one's own was not particularly novel; what was new was the notion that one's life was her own. I love that notion. I love the thought that, in the end, you are free to break with your religious leader or tradition, your head of state or type of government, even your spouse or parents if that is what it takes to become who you are waiting to be. That's the way of progress. We would all still be pagans wandering around in animal skins, lucky to make it to 30, if not for this impulse to break away from tradition and even our group to create something different and possibly even better.

But this tendency to separate us from others can also make us less empathetic. We're individuals, sure. Sort of. It's also true that humanity is some probabilistic smear of potential and we - in our own life - are just one sort of random manifestation of that. It seems to me that bad religion and bad philosophy and bad policy all have similar origins: the belief that "they" are different from us, don't aspire to the same things, conditions, and relationships that we do. So it is a weird thing to find the balance between defining our own life in solitude but still retaining a notion that we're not really different from anyone else. Maybe ocean waves are a way to think about that.

It is true that you are unique but perhaps only because of the inevitability of no two people's lives being caused by the same mix and timing of circumstances, genes, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, purpose, impulse, physical events. So perhaps the way one threads empathy and individualism is to be true to your own individual path, no matter how much that seems to bring you away from the crowd and to also realize that while your path may be different from that of another wave you are still a part of the same ocean. We're distinct from other people in the same way that waves are distinct from one another. And if thinking that we're a part of the same ocean doesn't give us a sense of empathy, it's not clear what would. It could give us empathy twice: once as we break away on our own path and again as we watch someone else do that.

And that's not just philosophical. It's practical. It does little good to be rich if everyone else in the neighborhood is destitute and it's not safe to go outside. We're in this together. And what is this that we're in on together? Well, it's not an ocean. Curiously, what we all seem to have in common is that fact that we find ourselves on individual paths that simultaneously break away from the group at the same time that we're defined by it. And that's the paradox of waves: no matter how violently it breaks away, a wave is always just the ocean.

14 June 2013

Democracy 2.0 - - or, what's wrong with Congress

In the 40 years that Gallup has been tracking confidence in institutions (e.g. the military, the presidency, small business, big business ...), they've never captured a number as low as this: only 10% of Americans have confidence in Congress.

Americans keep voting for Congressional representatives who they love and getting a Congress they hate. It's like changing the actors for Othello and despairing that it's still a tragedy.

I find it fascinating that - from what I can tell - no one is talking about how they'd change the design of Congress, representation, the process of creating legislation, or how to involve citizens. There have been a few new technologies introduced since 1789, and I don't just mean hardware like smart phones that would allow daily polling of constituents. People like Michael Kaufman at Innovation Labs have developed processes that allow large group collaboration and innovation - something Congress or any body claiming to represent the interests of Americans could use.

It's time to realize that we've outgrown the very design of Congress in the same way that we have the Model T, 8-Track tapes, and powdered wigs. And it's time to begin a re-design process.

13 June 2013

Does High CEO Pay Suggest That a Country is Falling Short of It's Potential?

The ratio of CEO pay to that of average worker is considerably higher than it is in Europe.  By various estimates, CEO pay in the US is between 231 to 380 times that of the average worker. You might wonder if this is because the US is ahead of Europe on the path towards future prosperity or on an odd detour.

The Economist just published a chart showing how the median pay of workers compared to that of CEOs in various countries. (Article and chart here.)

Now it could be that the US is far ahead of Europe in economic development but the countries that have the highest ratios in Europe tend to be those in the former Soviet Union and troubled economies like Italy and Spain. Really advanced countries with higher per capita GDP, countries like Norway, tend to have lower ratios of CEO to employee pay. (Norway's per capita income of roughly $60,000 is considerably higher than the US's per capita income of about $50,000 and nearly double Italy's $30-some thousand.)

It is certainly possible that paying CEOs so much helps our economy by attracting the best and brightest to a company's most important position. This data from Europe, though, suggests that it might instead be an indication that a community is less developed, in the same way that countries that pay their heads of state more than anyone else (think Mubarak or Hussein) are less developed. Or it could be that a country that three times elected Berlusconi to be Prime Minister knows more about leadership than those Scandinavians.

12 June 2013

The Invention of the Cliffhanger - Scheherazade Civilizes a Despot with 1,001 Stories

The other day, my wife read her 2nd grade class a story about a dog who could not resist temptation. At the end, she told them that it was not a story about a dog. "Then what is it a story about," they asked. And in the question about that story, they begin to ask the questions that make a person conscious and not just reactive.

The cliffhanger, the chapter or episode ending that creates great suspense and demands resolution, may have been invented in the Orient about 1,000 years ago in a story that may best illustrate the civilizing power of stories.

Once upon a time, a powerful ruler returned early from a hunting trip to find his wife in the garden in the midst of an orgy. He was shocked. He was outraged, hurt, and angry. And he was a ruler who ordered his wife executed. He carried his betrayal with him, convincing himself that women were incapable of fidelity.He hit upon a solution to marriage that would not leave him vulnerable to further betrayal: he would marry a virgin and then have her executed in the morning, before she had a chance to betray him. Repeatedly. It's the story of excessive power, misogyny, and distrust. And had Scheherazade not come into the story, this despot would have remained a brute.

Scheherazade volunteered to marry this ruler to stop the slaughter of young virgins. At first it seemed as though she'd simply put herself into a parade of butchery, a parade in which she might at best be a speed bump. But she had a plan. Scheherazade knew how to tell a story. And she knew how to punctuate a story with a cliffhanger.

So, the first night the ruler made love to her and then, before he fell asleep, she told him a story. (The story of Ali Baba, the 40 Thieves and and magic words,"Open Sesame.") She did not finish the story, though, telling her new husband, "Wait until tomorrow," for the ending. The ruler - who was compelled to learn how the story ended - in turn told the executioner, "Wait until tomorrow." The reader is doubly hooked: first on the cliffhanger in Scheherazade's story and then on the cliffhanger in the form of her husband's executioner.

The second night Scheherazade finished the story but started another. Again the ruler could not bear the thought of not knowing how things turned out and again he ordered the executioner to wait another day.

This continued for 1,001 nights and in the end, Scheherazade had cured the ruler of his madness, his misogyny, his abuse of power and had even given him children. He had fallen in love with her and the world got a wonderful framework for stitching together a series of stories, a collection alternatively called Arabian Nights or 1,001 Nights, stories about flying carpets, magic lamps, genies and wishes come true, bravery, cowardice, calumny, the rise from rags to riches .... and a despot tamed.

I tell this partly because it is such a great story but also because it is illustrative of how stories tame us. The child told a story is first made to see the monster more clearly, and then to see it as fiction. The vaguely articulated fears about what is under the bed or in the closet become the well-told stories about what is vivid until the book is closed, dissolved until we pick up the book again. Through stories the child gains some control over feelings. More stories give us more nuance and in that we find more options. The ruler's one story of how women could not be trusted was replaced by Scheherazade's 1,001 stories about thousands of characters, places and situations. The one big - and wrong - idea gave way to a thousand smaller ideas. As he experienced the stories of so many characters, he began to see life as something richer, saw that lives came in many shapes and sizes and trajectories and in that he began to see that he, too, could be someone else. Life was not just one way and more specifically, his life did not have to be just one way.

Stories still tame us. It may have been the first myths and stories told around a campfire that turned frightened apes into the first humans. It is possible that stories are the vehicles through which we first learn empathy, learn not just to think of others but think and feel like others. And it's hard to imagine civilization without such skills. 1,001 Nights is not just brilliant story telling. It seems to be the first time story tellers became conscious of how stories turn animals into humans.

11 June 2013

Kauffman Foundation: Three Things Entrepreneurs Do

The Kauffman Foundation may be doing as much as anyone to popularize the ideas and importance of entrepreneurship. Here's a great video from them.

The Random Dance Theory of Stock Market Movement

Dancers might expend more energy than someone walking to market, but at the end of the dance they’re usually right where they started.

This month I decided to track daily changes in my portfolio, just to see what’s going on day to day.  During the first week, the daily average was a movement of 69 basis points (0.69%). You might think that all that movement would add up to a lot of change. If it all went in the same direction, it would have meant that my portfolio would have gone up or down by nearly 3.5%. But of course the market dances far more than it marches. Net for last week? My portfolio moved by 1 basis point, or 1/100th of a percent. All of that movement resulted in almost no movement.

Now before you think that this is an anomaly of last week or my portfolio, take a look at NASDAQ from 1999 to 2004 – a period of six years rather than six days. From 1999 to 2004, the NASDAQ moved by magnitudes of 85%, 40%, 20%, 30%, 50%, and 9%. During this time, the NASDAQ moved by an average of 3,933 basis points a year – or nearly 40%. Net movement for all that time? NASDAQ had dropped by 80 basis points, or less than one percent. As with my little portfolio in the space of a week, all that movement in one of the world’s most important capital markets over a span of years resulted in almost no movement.

Which makes me wonder why the random walk theory of stock market movement became so popular. It’s obviously not a walk. Instead, it’s a random dance, a dance we do to attract wealth instead of rain. Maybe someday we’ll better determine how to use our trillions in capital to create value rather than chase it. When capital stays in one place long enough to build a bridge or start a business instead of just pricing it, two things could happen: markets could become less volatile and returns could become more sustainable. Meanwhile, this morning, my portfolio is down by 110 basis points. I think they used to call this break dancing.

08 June 2013

How Banks Becoming Corporations Created the Great Recession of 2008

  • "We are always living far ahead of our thinking."
    - Marshall McLuhan

We still think about banks as if they were banks even though they're now corporations. Confusion about this simple fact is enough to make our legislation ineffectual at protecting us from big financial shocks.

One thesis in my book The Fourth Economy is that banks (or more broadly financial markets as represented by banks, bond markets, and stock markets) were the most powerful institutions from about 1700 to 1900. (The Bank of England was founded in 1694 and in an interview in 1914, Ford explained his policy of profit-sharing and explained that from the start they had decided to be their own bankers; the book reveals deeper reasons for rounding to 1700 and 1900 but these events seem illustrative of larger shifts). And after 1900, the modern corporation increasingly was the institution that defined the economy. There have been sweeping implications of that shift but one has to do with financial markets themselves. The corporate model was so irresistible that the bank became a modern corporation and that helped lay the foundation for the Great Recession of 2008.

Michael Lewis, in his fabulous book The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, closes with an account of eating lunch with John Gutfreund, who was head of Salomon Brothers during the 1980s (and Lewis's former boss - or more accurately, something like Lewis's boss's boss). As CEO, Gutfreund took Salomon public, changing it from a private partnership into a modern corporation. Eventually, all the Wall Street investment banks did this. And that changed incentives in a way that introduced far more risk.

Private partners could be characterized as greedy but greed is overrated on Wall Street. Everybody wants big returns. Even little old widows. If you lost 5% last year, you'd like to make 10% this year. If that makes a person greedy than everyone is and greed is a constant -which means it doesn't explain booms or busts. Private partners want big returns but they also know that they're liable for the losses. One of the few rules in markets is that risk and return travel together. If you want bigger returns, you have to accept their traveling companion of risk. If you want to avoid risk, you also shun its friend return. Your savings account is insured but it pays less than 1%. NASDAQ is up 15% so far this year but there is no guarantee that it won't drop 33% on Monday. Partners who run an investment bank are looking for a return but they have their eye on its companion risk; it's not a lack of greed that keeps them from doing stupid things with money but instead an appreciation for risk. Four years in a row of 20% returns will be erased by a drop of 50% in the fifth year. This aversion to risk changes when the bank is a corporation and the money made is in the form of salaries and bonuses, when even the CEO is just another employee and the shareholder is the one putting up capital. A partner is more cautious about losing equity because it is his own.

Between 2000 and 2008, the CEOs of the 14 largest financial corporations made an average of $133 million each and then walked away with another $76 million in stock holdings - a bump in personal wealth of $209 million in the decade leading up to the Great Recession. This in spite of assuming risks they showed little evidence of understanding. Risks that, eventually, the American taxpayer and their shareholders had to bear.

Michael Lewis writes of the consequences of Gutfreund's much-criticized decision to take Salomon Brothers public.
The moment Salomon Brothers demonstrated the potential gains to be had from turning an investment bank into a public corporation and leveraging its balance sheet with exotic risks, the psychological foundations of Wall Street shifted, from trust to blind faith. No investment bank owned by its employees would have leveraged itself 35:1, or bought and held $50 billion in mezzanine CDOs [essentially bets on subprime mortgages with incredibly high probabilities of failing].
The US created legislation to regulate financial markets about a century ago. (First in 1913, about the time that Ford was changing the relationship between business and banking and then in the 1930s, in wake of the Great Depression.) That was a time when the modern corporation was becoming the new behemoth in the American economy and when banks were still banks. Banks are no longer banks. They are now corporations. They are no longer private partnerships managing their own capital but instead employees managing their shareholders' capital. We have not yet adapted our legislation to that new fact. Until we do, we're still susceptible to great crashes resulting from letting corporate employees - from bond traders to CEOs - split off risk to shareholders and taxpayers while keeping returns for themselves. Because it turns out that while you can't separate risk and return within markets, you can separate them within institutions.

07 June 2013

Privacy And the Virtual Evolution from Global Village to One Big City

My cousin lived in the Pacific Islands for a time. He told me that privacy was a gift in that environment. The little huts were built in a cluster and there weren't many private rooms or walls. You got privacy only if others looked away as you dressed, showered, or went about your business.

Marshall McLuhan introduced the term "global village," and it's worth remembering the dynamics of a village vs. a city. In a city, a person has anonymity. In a village, not only does everyone know you but they know who your grandparents are, where you are going, what your normal patterns are, and what you talk about with your spouse or kids. Privacy, really, got created on farms and in cities. It wasn't the product of a village.

But now walls that separated us into different enclaves are gradually coming down.

Zuckerberg's philosophy on Facebook is to push towards more sharing each iteration of changes. For him, you're the same person among work friends, church friends, neighbors, and old college buddies. Even the privacy of having different roles is eroding on the social media that is - at least for now - most popular.

The NSA is filtering all of our information to find threats. Anything that gets categorized as a threat - anything that is a trigger for concern - becomes the cause for knowing more about a person. The government respects your privacy only up to a point and various officials have argued that privacy is not included in the Bill of Rights.

As you browse the Internet, you leave a trail of cookies. Worse, if you do it on your Smart Phone it includes information about your location and travel patterns as you search for restaurants, travel routes, bargains or porn.

For now, the Internet has brought us back to the model of the village. People who know us know who we are whether we're playing the role of parent or employee, drinking buddy or church elder, political activist or cut-up. The city gave us different audiences for each of these roles. The village does not. And the community can more easily monitor us to determine if we're a threat or a potential source for sales and revenues. It knows when our patterns are in character or out of character, knows where we are likely to go and what we're likely to buy.

The question now is whether the village is an inevitable product of the Internet or if the city is still an option. Turning physical villages into physical cities was a slow, complex, and expensive process. It may be that McLuhan's global village is something we'll outgrow, a phase of our virtual development that mirrors the earlier development in the physical world. At least that's my bet. And if so, that means we'll soon be living in one big, global city. It sounds less charming than McLuhan's global village but the entertainment, education, and employment prospects in a city are more interesting and varied. Cities give us a broader array of options about who to be. And one thing that seems true of progress is that it always moves in the direction of more, rather than fewer, options.

06 June 2013

Good Catholic, Bad Catholic - Reconsidering That Whole CEO Vision Thing

The other day I met an interesting fellow. At one point he was arguing that CEOs earned their pay because it was their job to articulate a vision for the organization. For instance, he said, Jeff Smisek, United's CEO, had come on at the very beginning of our flight to welcome us on board and to remind everyone - his employees included - that United moved freight as well as people. "It's important to have that kind of vision held before people, to get people aligned and to continually remind them of what you are trying to create," he told me.

Earlier, he had said that while he'd been raised Catholic he was now an atheist. I thought, but did not say, "Well, you're still a good Catholic. That is, you still buy into the medieval notion of a pope whose revelation guides everyone else." And I would argue that this is the source of the late twentieth century CEO model, with its emphasis on vision.

Luckily for the West, this model gave way to empirical testing. "Truth" became something that anyone could theorize and test rather than something that the pope opined. We've known phenomenal progress since then.

I will admit that vision is sort of mystical. Someone gets an idea about a possibility or a future, the source of which isn't easily explained. But if that is going to be translated into the real world of business or any organization, it quickly becomes something akin to a testable hypothesis. And like a working hypothesis, to succeed it will have to be shaped by and respond to its contacts with reality.

Steve Jobs said that one big problem most CEOs have is the belief that "the idea" is the big deal. That idea or plan or vision can just be handed off to a team to work out. But the reality of creating a new product, he said, is that you are constantly trying to fit together 500 variables that shape and influence its success. Realities about the properties of glass or plastic, the movement of taste and markets ... all of these are changing and all of these shape your product.

Jobs, it seems, is describing a testable hypothesis. And one real benefit of such an approach is that it invites input from various sources. More data and more nuance on the hypothesis makes it more effective, more accurate, more likely to create results. By contrast, the model of a CEO whose unique insights are propagated out into the organization as guidance is one that is far more like the model of the medieval church than the modern R&D lab.

Fortunately, a growing number of organizational leaders have an approach to vision that's more like Jobs' than the pope's. My friend Daryl is the GM of the Houston Rockets. When he first took the role, an ESPN headline read, "Moneyball Comes to the NBA." Daryl avails himself of sports analytics. Essentially, his team of analysts is continually collecting data, developing, testing, and refining hypotheses, and running their ideas smack into the wall of reality. His organization still has hierarchy. There are still people who do better at data crunching than generating ideas about what data matters. In many senses it is probably no different than many organizations. But given his team's penchant for data, he can't just share a vision. He has to explain data, even though he's the GM. This management model is not about preparing for an ideal world. It's about dealing with this one. And curiously it is a model of management that is still considered the exception rather than the rule, one that makes headlines when it comes to town.

And while it sounds silly to suggest that a CEO might not be as subject to reality as anyone else, it happens. And perhaps inescapably so. But the continued embrace of the CEO as a source of vision rather than a catalyst for a working hypothesis just exacerbates that. Because it's silly to stop believing in God but continue believing in the pope.

05 June 2013

The Evolution of Evolution - Competition of Genes Gives Way to Memes

My daughter casually mentioned that if fertility is a measure of success, the elites aren't doing so well. Birthrates are lower for wealthier and better educated people all over the globe.

Genghis Khan might be the clearest example of prolific elites.  Khan got his first choice of the most beautiful women after conquering an area. His grandson, Kublai Khan (the Emperor Marco Polo met whose conquests created what we now know as China) added 40 new virgins to his harem each year. The Khans were genetically prolific. Studies suggest that Genghis Khan has about 16 million living descendants. But genes are no longer the big arena for progress.

After he'd cured polio, Jonas Salk had a blank check to do whatever he wanted. What he wanted to do was open the Salk Institute and bring some of the best minds from around the world to La Jolla to focus on social evolution. (These best minds vetoed that idea, sadly.)

Salk was not the only one to believe that an interest in progress meant looking more at social than biological evolution. And if he's right, it would explain why the elites have turned from attempts to propagate their genes into future generations and seek instead to capture attention through successful products, companies, software, movies, theories, books, and ideas.

If social evolution does more to define progress than biological evolution, it makes sense that elites would shift their focus to this new kind of propagation. 16 million people on earth carry Khan's genes; at least 100X that many carry John Locke and Thomas Jefferson's idea of representative government. Mark Zuckerberg has yet to father a child but about a billion people use Facebook.

Elites are still wildly successful in propagation. It's just that they've slipped into the medium of memes, putting their effort into shaping social evolution instead. That, it seems to me, vindicates Salk's belief that social evolution has become more important, more defining, than biological evolution. As it turns out, even evolution evolves.

04 June 2013

L. Ron Hubbard's Rather Baffling Visions Manifest as - unsurprisingly - a Rather Baffling Organization

Lawrence Wright wrote a fascinating account of L. Ron Hubbard and the Church of Scientology with his book Going Clear. Given Scientology has used litigation, lies, and lobbying more effectively than any other organization, he's also terribly brave to have published it.

Here is some of his reporting that I found mind boggling.

While official sources estimate there are only 25,000 Americans who call themselves Scientologists, the Church has enormous wealth. Their $1 billion in liquid assets is worth just a portion of their real estate holdings, about 12 million square feet of property that includes landmark buildings near key locations, such as Music Row in Nashville, Dupont Circle in Washington, DC, and Times Square in New York City.

L. Ron Hubbard Jr (L. Ron Hubbard's son) said, "What a lot of people don't realize is that Scientology is black magic just spread out over a long time period. Black magic is the inner core of Scientology - and it is probably the only part of Scientology that really works."

In the late 40s, Hubbard lived in a household with Jack Parsons, who had a goal of producing a "moonchild" who would grow up to become the Antichrist. Hubbard presided over Parsons' attempts at conception.
"Dressed in a hooded white robe, and carrying a lamp, Hubbard intoned "Display thyself to Our Lady; dedicate thy organs to Her, dedicate thy heart to Her ... whereupon Parsons and Cameron [the woman Parsons planned to impregnate with the moonchild] responded, 'Glory unto the Scarlet Woman, Babalon, the Mother of Abominations, that rideth upon the Beast.' Then, as Hubbard continued the incantation, Parsons and Cameron consummated the ceremony upon the altar."

L. Ron Hubbard's claim was that the "technology" in Dianetics helped him to heal himself from a broken back and multiple injuries sustained during World War II. The military has no record of such injuries.

L. Ron Hubbard - and thus Scientology - has a creation cosmology.
Seventy-five million years ago there was a Galactic Confederacy, which was composed of seventy-six planets and twenty-six stars, "The world we live in now replicates the civilization of that period," Hubbard said. "People at that particular time and place were walking around in clothes which looked very remarkably like the clothes they wear this very minute .... The cars they drove looked exactly the same, and the trains they ran looked the same, and the boats they had looked the same. Circa nineteen-fifty, nineteen-sixty."
A Tyrannical overlord named Xenu ruled this confederacy with a few evil conspirators - mainly psychiatrists - and lured the population into centers for income-tax investigations. ... They were attacked and the frozen bodies of these people were loaded onto space planes, which resembled the DC-8 jetliner. "No difference - except the DC-8 had fans - propellers - on it and the space plane didn't." In this fashion, billions of thetans were transported to Teegeeack, the planet now called Earth, where they were dropped into volcanoes and then blown up with hydrogen bombs.
These thetans are immortal and float around Earth now and attach themselves to living people. Ridding yourself of these hitchhiking thetans is a major task of Scientologists who are working to be clear of such obstructions to spiritual progress.

Scientologists claim that the religion is a form of science, relying on things that can be proven. This would be more credible if they seemed aware of the difference between a testable hypothesis and a Galactic Confederacy from 75 million BC equipped with DC-8s.

S. I. Hayakawa, later one of California's senators, said that Dianetics was neither science nor fiction but something else: "fictional science."

The Church essentially puts members in the equivalent of a prison, a place where they have to work off penance for offenses real, imagined, or even incurred during a past life. They might work 20 hours a day and have no contact with the outside world (other than being allowed to call home on Christmas). They have no days off. The Church spends less per meal on these people, 75 cents, than the State of California spends to feed prisoners. The Germans refer to these places (Rehabilitation Project Force, or RPF) as penal colonies, and the reported practices of confinement, forced confessions, and punishing physical labor they said amounted to brainwashing. "This is not a church or religious organization," claimed one German authority. "Scientology is a machine for manipulating human beings."

The Church of Scientology hit the Cult Awareness Network with 50 lawsuits, eventually bankrupting this major critic of their continual abuses of human rights. An individual Scientologist purchased its name and assets at auction. Soon after that, the reorganized Cult Awareness Network sent out a brochure lauding the Church of Scientology for its efforts to 'increase happiness and improve conditions for oneself and others."

David Miscavige, who became leader of the Church after L. Ron Hubbard's death, was not named by Hubbard as his natural heir. But, like Renaissance Popes who saw the incredible wealth and power that flowed from being positioned as head of an organization that demanded obedience (like Catholics with their pope, Scientologists are taught that every word of L. Ron Hubbard's is true revelation), Miscavige made a power play that involved the use of force. Eleven former Scientologists, including a number of executives, reported to Wright that they'd been assaulted by Miscavige. 22 told Wright or testified in court that they witnessed Miscavige assault other church members one or more times. Miscavige's own wife has now disappeared.

With all this, it is unsurprising that L. Ron Hubbard wrote that psychiatry was the source of all evil in the universe. Psychiatrists are so old-school about perceptions of reality that they would likely conclude that neither Hubbard nor Miscavige should be running an organization.

Dismantling SAIC (Or, a Quick Example of the Failings of Traditional American Management)

A poignant blog post went up about a month ago. It reads:

I was surprised to read in today’s Washington Post that SAIC has decided to sell off the Tysons headquarters complex. It appears to me that SAIC is being dismantled piece by piece in anticipation of the split into two separate companies. Depending on the terms of the sale, there will likely be a short-term boost to the bottom line of both SAIC and Leidos which may help ease the transition to two companies, at least in the eyes of shareholders. This boost won’t last. The present dismemberment of SAIC is a great disappointment to me; it is very difficult for me to watch. – Bob
"Bob" is Robert Beyster, the founder of SAIC. Not only does Beyster offer a new vision of employee entrepreneurship but in SAIC he founded one of the largest employee-owned companies in the world. 
In Beyster's disappointment in the dismantling of SAIC I think that we see a major disparity between two kinds of managers.  Beyster knew how to build a company whereas traditional management seems better suited for getting the best price for it. Traditional management seems more versed in the tools of Wall Street, knowing how to price assets, than the talents of an entrepreneur, knowing how to create assets.
But of course Beyster wasn't just an entrepreneur. He enabled employees to become entrepreneurial. And the results he got were stunning. From the time that Beyster founded the company to when he retired, revenues and profits had grown an average of 35 percent per year for thirty-five years, an amazing feat of business growth that may have never been replicated in modern times. It wasn’t until his thirty-second year at SAIC that he failed to increase both revenues and profits over the previous year.
The new management does not have the same talents as Beyster. Worse, they don't even seem to have the same inclination or vision.