An intermittent blog about accountability — and everything else


This is the first actual post in the new “accountabilitybloke” blog site — and it comes a bit sooner than I planned (the design still needs some tweaking). Nevertheless, a local (Boston) news story I heard on my way home this evening is just too good to pass up….

I got a call this AM to make come comments about the state of presidential politics on “Greater Boston,” a local half hour public TV discussion program. (There were three of us in this segment — I was the academic expert to provide a different view from the perspectives of the other two who were invited because of their more partisan backgrounds). Taping ended at about 5PM and maneuvering through rush hour traffic I caught the local news segment on NPR which featured a story about a new 252-foot billboard unveiled just behind Fenway Park. As it happens, just as the story was aired I was passing that very spot, and sure enough there stood a huge (252 feet long) billboard which was painted to look like a giant ransom note with the message: “We have your president and Congress – NRA.”

Fenway Park Billboard

The story itself is fascinating, and it is part of an ongoing effort (click here and here) by John Rosenthal, a local resident who has used the same space to get earlier messages across.

While I admire the sign and its message, what was truly notable and worthy of a blog post was the response of the National Rifle Association who dismissed it as “shameless publicity ploy.”


July 10, 2007 Posted by | Boston, miscellany | 2 Comments

Switching over to WordPress….

I am in the process of making the switch to WordPress from Blogger.

More later…..

July 6, 2007 Posted by | Blogging | 3 Comments

Spare part….

Well, here is a rather extended post that was not intended as such.

Friend Domonic and I are in the process of putting together a newsletter for the Public Administration Section of APSA (which is main reason why I have not been blogging of late), and while doing so I came to the (mistaken) realization that this was going to be a rather thin issue — and one filled with more with obituaries than anything else. I tried some of my colleagues to see if they had anything of a controversial, Op-ed nature laying about that they wanted “out there”, but I had no takers (after all, it is academic summer time and many folks are hard to reach). And so I thought it might be worthwhile to start a new feature for the newsletter about new ideas that might impact on the field — and with that incentive I spent a day drawing up the following comments on two books that I have already blogged about here. In the meantime enough material emerged for the Newsletter to be consider now a bit too long — and something had to give. So, applying the principle of “waste not, want not” (as if that has anything to do with it…), here is the comment that will not be found in the PA Section Newsletter:

Idea-log-ical {that is what we were planning to call the new feaure]

A bit of Pop Management [catchy title, eh?]

I am always on the look out for the latest book or article that falls within the broad domain covered by public administration, but over the years I have developed an aversion to those titles that make it onto the so-called “Management” shelves at the local mass market bookstore (typically Barnes and Noble or Borders). You know the kind of books I am talking about: The First Time Manager, How to Become a Successful Manager, 101 Biggest Mistakes Managers Make and How to Avoid Them, The Art of Managing People, The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader: Becoming the Person Others Will Want to Follow, etc. Sure, there are some of those titles that may be worth reading for the PA academic, but I that I have been so put off by most of them that I typically wait until four or five of my colleagues mention the work in a positive way before I bother to use my Amazon One-Click to see what all the fuss is all about. Such instances are becoming rare indeed, but the titles of those that do make it onto my “read list” would be familiar to all: In Search of Excellence, Getting to Yes, The Gods of Management, almost anything by Peter Drucker, and (of course) Reinventing Government. I call the genre “Pop Management”, and with those few exceptions (which often also disappoint) I am not a fan….

Continue reading

June 26, 2007 Posted by | management | Leave a comment

Ignited memories….

A lecture point I made in tonight’s class and associated news story had me thinking about growing up in Brooklyn this evening.

The lecture point was about how leadership changes — especially sudden, unexpected ones — can alter the structure and behavior of organizations. No big deal as a bullet on one of my powerpoint slides, but it begged for an example and there were two ready made ones in today’s business news.

This AM’s New York Times had a story about the leadership transition at HBO when its CEO resigned after getting caught in a bit of a scandal. The second story popped up in my email just as I was starting class as a NYT news alert: Terry Semel of Yahoo! had resigned as CEO of that company under pressure from shareholders unhappy with the company’s stock value performance. Continue reading

June 18, 2007 Posted by | New York, reflections | Leave a comment

Bacevich on JCS…

This morning’s Boston Globe “Ideas” section (always a good read) leads with a piece by Andrew J. Bacevich on the need to reform — or, better yet, get rid of — the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). It is, he argues, a failed institution that is beyond salvation.

Bacevich — whose credentials to discuss this topic are professionally, academically (see here and here and here) and personally well established — is focused on this particular institution, but what we have here is part of a more significant problematic: the unitary executive theory (UET). Bacevich contends that the failure of the JCS is partly due to design flaws that have not been resolvable via reform, and in part due to the mediocrity of those who rise to the level of JCS chair. (He does note Chairman Colin Powell to be the major exception, but his “success” in the position was a major reason for the mediocrity that has followed….) I think it pretty clear that the institutional context of the unitary executive theory is a more critical factor, for it defines and drives the logic of accountability and responsibility for the JCS and other agencies that were designed to have some degree of autonomy and detachment from the White House. Continue reading

June 17, 2007 Posted by | accountable governance, Iraq War | Leave a comment

Mintz(berg)-ing his words….

If you are teaching a course on organizations (as I am), it is all but impossible to avoid using the work of Henry Mintzberg. Starting with his groundbreaking attempt in the early 1970s to study what managers really do and his comprehensive textbook treatment of organization structure in the 1980s,(e.g., here and here) through his extensive critique of strategic planning in the 1990s (e.g., here and here) (see cv here), Mintzberg is on track to become as important a “guru” in management and organization studies as the late Peter Drucker. The difference is that while Drucker has been treated as Buddha-like, a fount of wisdom whose every word was (and is still) to be taken as authoritative, Mintzberg is perceived as a brash critic who has used his intellectual pulpit to take on the management powers-that-be. Continue reading

June 14, 2007 Posted by | management | 1 Comment

Sweating bullets of chili joy…

I am continuing my “busman’s holiday” in New York City, and at the moment I am sitting at Señor Swanky’s (no kidding) Mexican café on Columbus Avenue off 85th Street eating some surprising good southwestern chili. It is a rare find on the east coast – you can find so-called chili, but nothing in substance or “heat” to match what those of us from the southwest have come to expect. Typically the eastern attempts are watered down or not quite as “hot” as they ought to be – but I have been sweating bullets of chili joy from the first spoonful. Very nice! With a bottle of Corona and tortilla chips, I am good for the rest of the day….
Randi was down here for the weekend but has now trekked back to work, and I am spending most of my time enjoying the open schedule during the day that allows me to do some catching up as well as prepping my course at Baruch.
On Sunday we had traveled to the New Jersey town of Sparta for a party held at another terrific restaurant – a very out-of-the—way place called Zoes By The Lake that serves French cuisine. We went there for a special occasion, but ordered off the dinner menu and found it to be as good as anything in the Boston-New York area we’ve eaten. Tough to get to, but if you are in the Delaware Water Gap region along I-80 really worth the stop. To make things better, and as noted in the name, it is located right on a small lake, adding to the great atmosphere.
Continue reading

June 12, 2007 Posted by | New York, reflections | Leave a comment

NYC Subway Saga….

This is the second week of my summer teaching adventure — a “gig” at Baruch College that involves five weekly commutes to and from New York. Last week (the first) went so well that I was quickly lulled into the belief that things are really quite different (improved, that is) in public transport services in Boston, New York City and in between.

That judgment was challenged yesterday by the folks of the New York City subway system.

This was going to be (and still is) a special commute not only because it began on Saturday (I would normally head in on Mondays), but also because spouse Randi joined me so we can have an anniversary day dinner in Manhattan last night (39 years!) and then attend a family gathering in New Jersey today (an aunt is celebrating her 90th birthday at a restaurant operated by one of her grandkids… should be nice). Continue reading

June 10, 2007 Posted by | New York, reflections | Leave a comment

Confessions of a gillyspitkin!

Among the many things I am, I can now add the label “gillyspitkin”!

Starting on May 23 I began injecting lizard spit into my stomach twice daily — once when I get up and then just before dinner.

Lizard spit” is the term used by the blogosphere’s “Byetta” community — folks like me with Type 2 diabetes who have shifted from one medication to another over the years in an effort to avoid having to take insulin. It is called lizard spit because the basic “chemical” in exenatide (its generic name) is derived from the saliva of the Gila Monster. And so folks who take Byeta call themselves “gillyspitkins.

With all the news about Avandia, Actos, etc — and with the growing numbers of folks suffering from this malady — one ought to be a bit anxious about taking this new drug. There are, after all, side effects to consider.

There is, for example, the possibility of nausea and other “gastrointestinal” issues, but none have proven widespread or serious.

And since it is typically taken in conjunction with other meds intended to lower glucose levels (in my case, glipizide, a sulfonylurea class drug), there is the possibility of a hypoglycemic episode. (I had one last night when I took the injection too late — that was a bummer….) Continue reading

June 7, 2007 Posted by | diabetes, reflections | Leave a comment

Acting on Actos….

At yesterday’s House hearings on the ongoing “Avandia affair”, the FDA commisisoner announced that stronger warning labels had been ordered for Avandia (see yesterday’s post) and Actos (generically, pioglitazone). These are two of three drugs under the class of thiazolidinediones (we are really now regretting falling asleep in our high school chemistry class), the third being troglitazone which was taken off the market in 2000 for its link to increased risk of hepatitis.

Hmmmm. While I was rather gleeful that I had not really been taking Avandia all that long, I had been on Actos for quite awhile prior to the switch to Byetta (again, more on that later) and it was a bit of a surprise to hear that they are concerned enough about Actos to order the enhanced warnings as well. Continue reading

June 7, 2007 Posted by | diabetes | Leave a comment