Blow up those myths

Thomas R. Temin

If your Thanksgiving table is anything like mine, you'll face the usual divisions along belief lines'animated by the results of recent national contests.

The past couple of months certainly have seen the debunking of conventional wisdom:
  • No baseball team can come back from a three-game deficit in the playoffs.

  • The Boston Red Sox will never win the World Series. (The Sox certainly will never sweep the series.)

  • No one can win the Tour de France six times in a row, especially not on 32-year-old legs.

  • No president with a controversial war on his hands and a troubled economy can win re-election.

  • Exit polls have always been reliable indicators of the actual vote. Ohio will be this year's Florida.

  • Electronic voting can't be trusted; the machines will crash, the vote will be lost, there's no paper trail.

And so on. Here in Washington, a myth that was spread on talk radio: If the Redskins lose at home before an election, the incumbent also loses. They did; he didn't.

Such conventions always end up shattered because they aren't really hard-and-fast rules. A $128-million payroll, coupled with unique team chemistry and a winning attitude, never before figured in the Boston Red Sox equation of woe.

The makeup of the electorate and a million other details have never been precisely what they were in this particular presidential election. People mess with exit pollsters.

So as the government moves into 2005 under a retooled administration and management agenda, I urge agencies to exorcise a few of their own seemingly intractable laws of nature. Here are three I'd like to see upended:
  • It's impossible to balance security and privacy in shared data environments.

  • Enterprise application deployments are always over budget and late.

  • The Labor Department will never fix the American Indian trust systems mess.


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