'The MBA Oath'

“Greed is good.” – Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko in “Wall Street” (a role he will reprise in “Wall Street 2”).

Yesterday the judge threw the book at Bernie Madooff, sentencing him to 150 years in prison.

Bernie Ebbers, Ken Lay, Leona Helmsley. A corporate criminal hall of shame. And, the big names are only the proverbial tip of the iceberg.

The extent of corporate crime would shock you – it shocks me. “The Top 100 Corporate Criminals of the Decade (1990s)” (LINK), a list compiled by Russell Mokhiber of corporatepredators.org exposes the depth and breadth of corporate crime.

Corporations on the list were convicted (and fined) for crimes in the following categories: financial crime, antitrust, fraud, environmental, campaign finance, food and drug, fake statements, illegal exports, obstruction of justice, bribery, tax evasion, public corruption, worker deaths, and illegal boycotts.

That’s the bad news: here’s the good news.

MBA candidates at Harvard Business School have composed a sort of Hippocratic Oath for future business managers. Of the 900 graduates of HBS' Class of 2009, more than half have signed the oath.

Let one of these graduates tell you - in her own words - about this positive development:

“Harvard University commencement took place earlier this month with all the requisite pomp and circumstance. Thousands of students paraded into the Yard, which was swathed in crimson. Graduates of the different professional schools carried symbols of their newly minted degrees. Doctors wore stethoscopes. Law students carried gavels. A few landscape architects wore caps brimming with flora. In years past, Harvard Business School graduates would distinguish themselves as the most dissolute of the bunch by waving $20 bills.

“This year, however, instead of dollars, hundreds of graduates – including myself – waved copies of The MBA Oath, a new Hippocratic-style pledge for business professionals, committing themselves to ‘create value, responsibly and ethically.’ Since the oath was published in May by a group of HBS students, more than half of the 900 graduates of the Class of 2009 signed on, along with hundreds of other MBA students and alumni from other business schools. The MBA Oath website has had thousands of visitors from over 115 countries, and business schools outside the US have requested copies of the oath translated into other languages.”

- Elaine Berkowitz, “Business graduates: do no harm,” The Guardian, 17 June 2009, LINK

So significant is this movement to take the path of moral responsibility in a field mired with corruption, I publish the oath here and hope readers will pass it along to business majors everywhere.


As a manager, my purpose is to serve the greater good by bringing people and resources together to create value that no single individual can create alone. Therefore, I will seek a course that enhances the value my enterprise can create for society over the long term. I recognize my decisions can have far-reaching consequences that affect the well-being of individuals inside and outside my enterprise, today and in the future. As I reconcile the interests of different constituencies, I will face choices that are not easy for me and others.

Therefore, I promise:

I will act with utmost integrity and pursue my work in an ethical manner.

I will safeguard the interests of my shareholders, co-workers, customers and the society in which we operate.

I will manage my enterprise in good faith, guarding against decisions and behavior that advance my own narrow ambitions but harm the enterprise and the societies it serves.

I will understand and uphold, both in letter and in spirit, the laws and contracts governing my own conduct and that of my enterprise.

I will take responsibility for my actions, and I will represent the performance and risks of my enterprise accurately and honestly.

I will develop both myself and other managers under my supervision so that the profession continues to grow and contribute to the well-being of society.

I will strive to create sustainable economic, social and environmental prosperity worldwide.

I will be accountable to my peers, and they will be accountable to me for living by this oath.

This oath I make freely, and upon my honor.


The MBA Oath Web site: LINK.

Related article: “ A Hippocratic oath for managers: Forswearing greed,” Peter Schrank, The Economist, 4 June 2009, LINK


Thanks to my friend Katherine for calling attention to this story.


Rush to judgment

Well, dear readers, I take a weeklong blog break, and my South Carolina governor goes, pardon the expression, ape sh*t crazy.

Don’t blame me, though. Rush Limbaugh’s got it all figured out.

In his own words:

LIMBAUGH: This Sanford business! I'll tell you, one of the first thoughts that crossed my mind, with Mark Sanford ... this is the first thought: What he did defies logic. This is ... more than being 180 degrees out of phase (BJ: possible transcriber error, probably “180 degrees about face”), because of lust or love. To split the scene for five days, and we know he's been separated, and he knows, by the way, that the newspaper in his state has the emails between him and his concubine down there in Argentina. He knows this. He knows that somebody knows what's going on. He knows his wife knows. So he ups and leaves for five days, doesn't leave anybody in charge of the state, in case there's an emergency.

This is almost like: I don't give a damn! Country's going to hell in a handbasket. I just want out of here!

He had just tried to fight the stimulus money coming to South Carolina. He didn't want any part of it. He lost the battle and said "What the hell? The federal government is taking over! I want to enjoy life!"

-End of transcript-

Right now, if you’re old enough, you’re probably thinking of Flip Wilson’s character Geraldine, and her memorable line, “The devil made me do it.”

In Rush Limbaugh’s twisted logic, the devil is Barack Obama.

Never mind that Sanford wanted to use the $700 million in stiumulus package funds to pay off state debts, that the people of South Carolina were on his case, that the state supreme court ordered the governor to accept the funds for their allocated use (LINK).

Rush pardons the governor’s infidelity with “The federal government’s taking over!”

Sanford, who stated Sunday he will not resign, has settled into a “business as usual” mode, hiding behind the cloak of Christian forgiveness. But, many state Republicans as well as Democrats are demanding he step down.

I’m with Jenny Sanford: Mark Sanford’s “political career is not a concern of mine.”

Both she and the state of South Carolina would be better off if he took the next flight out to Buenos Aires.

On his own dime, of course.


Michael Jackson, 1958-2009

Faced with foreclosure, Michael Jackson was forced to put his beloved Neverland Ranch on the auction block, but the dream was not for sale. In the end, Michael’s wish came true: he will never grow old.

I fell in love with The Scarecrow in “The Wiz,” convinced that this kid didn’t have a bone in his body, so limber and loose was his portrayal. More than that, the magic came through.

A generation of African-American kids who passed through my ‘hood adored Michael Jackson, bringing me blank videotapes to capture specials on MTV. Was this the last generation to love music as opposed to rap and hip-hop? Probably.

Behind the eccentric, the “Wacko Jacko,” was an innocence and a need to recapture the childhood he never had. Sitting with Oprah on the edge of a stage at Neverland, both with legs dangling, Michael made it clear he was captive to the superstar bubble surrounding him all his life.

As for the subsequent charges against him, I believe he was the victim of his own fame and fortune. No acquittal would erase what a public wanted to perceive.

In my video collection are two documentaries taped back to back. The first is Martin Bashir’s famous interview with and betrayal of Michael Jackson. In a stroke of brilliance, Jackson had his own camera crew filming the same program simultaneously. The second documentary by Jackson’s crew shows how Bashir’s skillful editors manipulated the interview, taking statements out of context, to shed bad light on Jackson. I kept these two documentaries as a classic example of how film can be doctored by skillful editors to distort a person’s meaning and produce a false effect.

Bashir ingratiated himself with Jackson, moved into his inner sanctum, then used him for financial gain. But, Jackson outsmarted him with his own film.

I believe Michael Jackson wrote no better eulogy for himself than the words of my favorite of his songs:

I'm starting with the man in the mirror;
I'm asking him to change his ways;
And no message could have been any clearer:
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change.

PHOTO: Statue of Michael Jackson in Eindhoven, the Netherlands


Read Frodo, Keeper of the Ring: “The Boy Can Play, Do The Walk On By.” LINK

Watch the “Man in the Mirror" video. LINK


Murphy's F-N Law

Computer techs have a term for people like me, people who have no business trying to do something on a computer when they don’t know what they’re doing and cannot see to do it.

The term is “PEBCAK” – problem exists between chair and keyboard.

I have a corollary: if you are trying to do something that makes you feel really good about yourself, the chance that Murphy’s Law will apply increases exponentially.

Chris and I woke early. I had coffee and fed him peaches and cream oatmeal. I then composed a letter to my U.S. representative, J. Gresham Barrett, which I thought I would fax with an “urgent” cover sheet.

When I had WindowsME, I sent a number of faxes successfully. WindowsXP is a different matter.

The urgency: my representative – a Republican – will vote today on a very important bill – “The American Clean Energy and Security Act” – which, if passed, will send a very strong message to the world that the United States is serious about the climate change issue. Its passage will carry a lot of weight as nations gather in Copenhagen in December to consider a climate change treaty.

I don’t anticipate Congressman Barrett taking my advice, but at least he will have, as he has often thanked me for, “the wisdom of my counsel.” Or, is that “the counsel of my wisdom”? I can never remember.

The new Fax Wizard on WindowsXP seemed simple enough. I entered the congressman’s Washington, D.C., fax number – 202-225-3216 – taken directly from his Web site and off the message went.

That’s when things got hairy. From my speaker came the voice of a sleepy-sounding woman, “Hello, hello, HELLO!”

Wrong number! But the number on the fax is the number on Barrett’s Web site. I have learned to triple-check such things.

Let me say at this point that Microsoft’s Fax Wizard is unrelenting. After three tries, with a very angry woman saying “hello” and hanging up, the Wizard began to report a busy signal.

Apparently the woman had taken her phone off the hook or had captured my number on her caller ID and was reporting me to the telephone company.

Here’s the rub. I had no idea how to cancel the fax. Chris stood behind me ready to spell out anything in blue font (not visible to me on my black background). “I’ve got your back!” he reassured me.

Nowhere could I find the magic “Cancel” button. Not in the Fax Wizard, not in the fax outbox, not in Control Panel. Microsoft’s ingenuous wizard had been set in motion. With robocall zeal, 22 attempts to send the fax were logged before my brain kicked in. I’m on a dial-up connection, and it dawned on me to go online, and the wizard would be unable to use my phone line!

Should you be caught in a similar situation, remember the most difficult problems often have the simplest solutions. Here’s what you do: in your fax outbox, right click on the recipient’s name, then click “delete.” That only took this wizard 45 minutes to figure out.

When the congressman’s Anderson office opens, I will call and demand an email address for him.

No more AT&T calls at 39 cents a minute!

Assuming the fax number doesn’t go directly into the good congressman’s Washington residence and the sleepy broad who answered wasn’t …

Wait a minute. I’ve been watching too much South Carolina news.


South Carolina State Song

DemWit wants your suggestions for a new state song for South Carolina.

My friend Bill Sumrall of Louisiana has suggested “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina.”

I submit “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?”

Get lyrical!


The little boy who could

Chris came to visit recently, and as we were cooking (he turned the pork chops), he told me about a new animated movie “Up.”

This, then, is the story of “Up with Chris.”

As many of my regular readers know, Chris is my mentally challenged buddy. I learned a long time ago that Chris knows what he’s talking about.

Through the years my love of movies has rubbed off on Chris. He told me once that he had asked his mom to buy him the movie, “Kung Fu Panda.” My response was, “Chris, you shouldn’t spend your money on junk movies like that!” Turned out the movie was one of the most popular in recent years.

As for “Up,” it’s been a big box office hit with rave reviews, a few suggesting it’s a shoo-in for a best picture Oscar.

I first met Chris, now 26, when he was nine years old. I was sitting on my front porch reading, when a skinny, red-haired boy came up and leaned over the porch rail. At that time, he had a serious speech impediment and kept talking about “Cha-wee.” I figured out he was saying “Charlie,” so I asked, “What does Charlie do?” The kid responded, “He cuts people open and takes their guts out.”

Charlie is his mother’s soulmate, and Chris had given me a perfect job description. Charlie is county coroner.

I learned that if I really listen to Chris or ask him a few questions, everything he says makes sense.

A keen sense of self-worth comes from having helped Chris through the years to better understand the world around him.

Once when we were preparing to watch the musical, “Brigadoon,” I sent him upstairs to get the “T” encyclopedia. Turning to a full page featuring the various tartan plaids of the Scottish clans, I explained about the gathering of the clans in the movie’s enchanted village.

“I know about some people like that,” Chris chimed in. “They’re bad people. They wear white, and they’re called the Ku Klux Klan.”

Master of the remote while here, he once watched a St. Jude Children’s Hospital telethon, and all he could talk about was how he wanted to help. So, I copied down the information, and his mother gave him money to send along. To this day, he believes he contributed to a cure for cancer. And, he did.

Through the years Chris and I have worked on building his vocabulary, and when his teacher gave him low marks in an awareness of what’s going on in the world, his mother asked me to help him with current events. I got into trouble when Chris once told Charlie not to “patronize” him, and again when he told them not to vote for “that damn Republican Bush.”

Growing up, Chris excelled at Special Olympics events, bringing home a handful of blue ribbons every year. He once pitched the first ball of Clemson University’s baseball season after being nominated by his teacher and winning a local TV station’s “Terrific Kid” contest. I embarrassed his mother when I broke the rules and yelled “Go, Chris!” at his high school graduation. At age 21, when law required he leave the public school system, he marched in cap and gown and received a special diploma. A very special diploma.

As Chris entered adulthood, still with the thought processes and innocence of a child, and as I began to have vision problems, the tables turned, and now he helps me. My mantra for him has always been, “Can’t never could do anything!” Now, I say that to myself on a daily basis!

As small a thing as it might seem, I cannot make it down the way to the apartment complex dumpster, so Chris takes my trash out. Imagine if I didn’t have him to do that for me. He loves to help me cook and helps me “see” when I’m doing household chores.

This young man, who never learned to read in all those years in school, never leaves home without a big stack of books. “My life is books,” he has said so many times.

Several years ago I was in the kitchen, and Chris was sitting in the living room looking at the pictures in his books. I heard him saying, “Once upon a time …” Tears ran down my cheeks to hear him “read.”

Last summer he had a new book, a beautiful, thick collection of the Dick and Jane stories from my own first reading experience. As I was telling him I learned to read from these stories, he said, “I can read.” So, we sat down, and read he did. The moment was one of the single most thrilling of my life. If I had only thought to tape it as he carefully pronounced words I didn’t think he could get past, like “something.”

I asked, “Chris, who taught you to read this book?” “I did it all by myself!” he exclaimed. He then told me he was sounding out the letters just as he does helping me find items at the grocery.

Since high school, Chris has been in a special training program through the Walgreen’s Distribution Center here in Anderson. The Center has been featured on national TV for its program to hire the mentally and physically challenged.

As we ate our meal that day, Chris explained that “Up” is an animated film about an old man who ties balloons to his house and ascends into the clouds to fly away to the dreams of his childhood. He then said he was reminded of the beautiful little film, “The Red Balloon.”

And, I was reminded, once more, that from the day I met him, the only direction Chris could have gone was up.


Chris comes this afternoon and will stay with me through June 26 while his folks are on vacation. Since Chris has never “read a big book,” we will listen to John Grisham’s “A Painted House” on tape. I will be taking a blog break until June 27 to better enjoy our time together. Please check back then! Thanks!


Grave injustice

Ed Cates died again in Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman.

This week marks 26 years since I experienced the strangest day ever in a daily newspaper newsroom.

Let me take you back to that time.

On May 14, 1983, a badly burned body was found in a charred car on a rural road in Madison County, Miss., just north of Jackson. Came the shocking news that the car and its body had been identified as belonging to prominent Jackson attorney and former city commissioner Edward L. Cates. He was buried May 17 with full military honors.

One month later, having arrived in the Jackson Daily News newsroom at 4 a.m., I was editing Associated Press world news wire stories when crime reporter Greg Kuhl ran into the newsroom shouting, “Ed Cates is alive!” Stunned, all I could think of to say was, “Send a photographer to get a shot of his tombstone!” (That photo ran accompanying the breaking story.)

Cates was found alive in Lawrenceville, Ga., after sending his “widow” a letter of condolence. Using a fake name, he told Mrs. Cates that her husband had been “the best.”

With such a sensational revelation there were bound to be rumors:

When law enforcement closed in on him in Georgia, they found Ed Cates hiding in a tree. The condolences he sent to his wife were coded to reveal to her where the money was stashed. Some said he wired her money from Lawrenceville.

And, the inevitable “gore and gallows” humor: “Is the ‘L’ for Lazarus?”

My friend Bill Sumrall, a walking Wikipedia, informs me that John Grisham based his novel “The Partner” on this bizarre case.

The New York Times began its story, “As short as life is, ‘death’ was even shorter for Edward L. Cates … “

A few days after being returned to Jackson – to a family and a community still in shock - Ed Cates was arraigned on charges of murder, arson and embezzlement. He faked his own death after embezzling $223,000 (in 1983 dollars) from a client.

But, who was buried in Ed Cates' grave?

Although Cates was denied bond on the multiple charges, reporters began to see him in local restaurants, chatting it up and shaking hands with fellow diners.

In January 1984, Cates entered a plea of guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter and was sentenced to 20 years in the prison known simply as “Parchman,” for the small town it occupies in the fertile Mississippi Delta.

He died there before his sentence was up. Shortly before his death a local TV news anchor Bert Case (who still reports for WLBT-TV) traveled to Parchman for a final interview with the prisoner.

But, Ed Cates went to his second grave never having revealed the identity of the corpse who occupied his first.


Sources: various archived newspaper accounts. Thanks to the Mississippi attorney and the former Mississippi reporter who helped jar my memory after a quarter of a century.


A Republican Ice Age?

“Well, in practical politics the only move you have, shamelessly attack. Because the truth is in most elections you don't want to debate the past.”

- Mike Murphy when questioned about how Republicans can challenge Barack Obama fiscally, based on the Party’s own record.


A hot topic across the blogosphere and on political talk shows is the future of the Republican Party.

How can the Party prevent, in Murphy’s words, entering an Ice Age?

That subject came up in a round-table discussion on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday morning when moderator David Gregory talked with two men he described as “reform-minded Republicans.”

Gregory’s round-table guests were, in his words, “Republican strategist and John McCain's chief strategist during the 2000 presidential campaign, Mike Murphy; and former Congressman Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC's ‘Morning Joe’ and the author of the new book ‘The Last Best Hope.’ "

I found the discussion intriguing, coming from champions of the GOP, and one worthy of DemWit readers’ attention. To-wit:

MR. GREGORY: … (L)et's talk about where the Republican road map picks up in terms of reaction to the Obama administration.

(Discussion follows commercial break.)

MR. GREGORY: And, we are back with our roundtable: Mike Murphy, Joe Scarborough.

Joe Scarborough, the new book is called "The Last Best Hope" (BJ: full title is "The Last Best Hope: Restoring Conservatism and America's Promise”), and it is a real thoughtful examination of where the Republican Party is and where it should be going. This is what you write, page 234: "I told [2006] Republican candidates that if they wanted to remain in the majority, they would have to admit to voters that the [Bush] White House had been reckless with taxpayer dollars. ... Our president was wrong to believe that the United States could fight two wars, cut taxes and increase federal spending, all at once. Once again, Republican candidates choose Republicanism over conservatism. They chose instead to remain silent. The result was a political and economic disaster we will be paying for over the next generation."

What's that difference between Republicanism and conservatism?

MR. SCARBOROUGH: Well, conservatism believes in restraint; believes in restraint in federal spending, believes in restraint in foreign policy. We don't engage in military adventurism, we don't try to do everything all at once. Conservatism is about choices, tough choices. My first book I wrote back in '04 that Republicans hated I talked about it. We got to make a choice.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MR. SCARBOROUGH: That's what conservatives do, they conserve. And so, George W. Bush didn't make those tough choices, and now we find ourselves - because of our mistakes, now we find ourselves in an era where we've got another administration making no choices. They are - they are getting the federal government more involved. They're trying to do everything all at once, and they're taking a bad situation left by Republicanism and making it twice as bad, making it a lot worse.

MR. GREGORY: Well, that's an interesting point because, Mike Murphy, how, if you're a Republican right now, do you mount ...

MR. MURPHY: Right.

MR. GREGORY: ... the challenge to President Obama on the backs of that record and say, "Oh, no, but you guys, you should trust us again with the country's finances?”

MR. MURPHY: Well, in practical politics the only move you have, shamelessly attack. Because the truth is in most elections you don't want to debate the past. The Republicans should say, "We made these mistakes, and we've learned from them." He has taken our mistakes, and he's put them on steroids. Because he has. You can fight out that case and win it on the facts. He is going to explode the federal debt like we could not even have imagined in American politics a decade ago. And so, I think the Republican Party still has fiscally conservative instincts. The problem is, as Joe said, all politicians like to appropriate and nobody likes political pain when it comes to spending cuts. But, I think we've reached a tipping point in American politics where the Republicans can start to define themselves as the party with the courage to say “no.”

MR. GREGORY: Right. But, here's the thing: this is a - this still is a nuance game, you know, because the conservatives now say, "No, no, no, we got to be a free market people. Get out of the market."

MR. MURPHY: Right.

MR. GREGORY: "All this intervention, you're owning the economy, this isn't capitalism anymore." Sarah Palin says it's an approach towards socialism. There has to be a balance here.


MR. GREGORY: And, the question is: is the balance out of whack? Joe?

MR. SCARBOROUGH: Well, there has to be a balance. And, that's the problem over the past eight years, you had Republican appropriators giving a Republican president absolutely everything he wants.


MR. SCARBOROUGH: Now, you've got Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank giving Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel everything that they want, and it's very frightening. There is no balance, there is no restraint, and it's very dangerous. And again, just very quickly, I criticized George Bush from doubling the debt from $5 trillion to $10 trillion. Barack Obama's going to double it from $10 trillion to $20 trillion, according to his own numbers. Using 4 percent, talk about 4 percent growth, it's the rosiest of scenarios.


MR. SCARBOROUGH: We are in dangerous, dangerous times.

MR. GREGORY: This - we're talking about ideas, but we also have to talk about the faces who are going to carry this forth. This is what you write, Mike Murphy, in your Time magazine column: "Despairing Republican friends have been asking me what I think we should do to rebuild the GOP and begin our certain and inevitable comeback. My answer disappoints them: `Build an ark.' ... The numbers tell a clear story; the demographics of America are changing in a way that is deadly for the Republican Party. A GOP ice age is on the way."

And, before you address inside the numbers, I was at my son's soccer game yesterday, a guy approaches me, and he said, "What are you doing having Newt Gingrich on? This guy is the past. We don't want to see those guys anymore." And yet, is he among those who's really influencing the way forward?

MR. MURPHY: Well, yeah, he is a powerful force. We're kind - it's kind of Russia in 1919. You know, you have 20 warlords in the Republican Party running around, and nobody is really in charge. That's the consequence of losing an election. And, we're going to have a big discussion now about the future of the Party, which can be a very good thing. What I'm trying to do as a practical pol in all this is get the discussion focused on the reality of America. The demographics are changing. The Hispanic vote, the fastest growing vote, 2 percent in 1980, 9 percent now, heading quickly to 15, is totally anti-Republican. We lose it 2-to-1. Number one male baby name in Texas now, Jose. That's the - Texas is the key to our Electoral College numbers. So, the point is: I don't want to dilute conservatism, but I want to modernize it. And, I think everybody having this discussion needs to understand that the country's changing. The young vote doesn't like us, it's much more social libertarian than we are. The anti-immigration stuff has been a big mistake. You can't alienate the fastest growing vote in the country. So, I want all of us who are trying to figure out what kind of conservatism to present to the country, the idea is not just - spokesmen come and go.


MR. MURPHY: It's the big ideas that count. To understand that we have to evolve with the country, or it will be a ice age.

MR. GREGORY: Right. Right. But, spokesmen come and go, you need a candidate. And, one of my ...

MR. MURPHY: Yeah, and we'll get one. I mean, we're having primaries.

MR. GREGORY: Right. Sarah Palin, I mean, one of the - this week she made news taking on David Letterman over his joke against her daughter. Is that what she wants to be doing right now? Is that a smart move to put herself front and center?

MR. SCARBOROUGH: Well, no, I don't think so. I, I also don't think that we win the middle of America again by being intemperate, by calling Barack Obama a communist or by calling Sotomayor a racist. I mean, what we've got to do, we find the middle of American politics by talking about ideas, conservative ideas. I, I, I differ a little bit with Mike Murphy, who I think should be put in charge of rebranding the Republican image. Good luck. Put a nice logo on ...

MR. MURPHY: I've retired. I work in Hollywood now.

MR. SCARBOROUGH: Put a nice logo on the side of the ark. But, we, we need, we need to understand that we, we've got to go back to first principles.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MR. SCARBOROUGH: And again, that's restraint. Restraint at home, restraint abroad. We'll, we'll write the script again, and then we'll figure out who Murphy wants to put in to be the lead actor for that play. But, we, we can't run around, again, picking fights with late-night comics or calling Sotomayor a racist. That's going to lose votes for us.

MR. MURPHY: The ...

MR. GREGORY: Real, real quick, Mike.

MR. MURPHY: The pain is: it's going to get a little worse before it gets better.


MR. MURPHY: Because our politicians are from safe Republican areas, they tend to see the world through the Republican primary. That model's going to have to break and rebuild.

MR. SCARBOROUGH: But, but, I don't think so. You look at Connecticut.


MR. SCARBOROUGH: Republicans are ahead in the Senate race in Connecticut. New York ...


MR. SCARBOROUGH: ... ahead there, Illinois ahead there.

MR. GREGORY: And, who knows, Republicans could be up against Joe Biden after Barack Obama is through ...

MR. MURPHY: Good ammo.

MR. GREGORY: ... based on his answers today. Thank you both very much.



Return of the Freepers

Regular readers know if they stick around long enough I always return to the subject of the U.S. media.

My longtime ideal, as a journalist, of a noble Fourth Estate, you know.

Yesterday it came home to me why the first things seized after a coup d’etat are all communication outlets. Why Goebbels was Hitler’s favorite henchman. The answer is simple: control communications and you can control minds.

I went over to Papamoka Straight Talk where Michael Boh is gallantly filling in for Mat O’Keefe, aka Papamoka, during his time of trouble. Michael’s own blog is Our Rants and Raves!, and he is pretty adept at getting things off his chest.

It’s been a long time since I encountered “freepers” on a liberal-leaning site. “Freepers” is a term applied to persons admonished by freerepublic’s Web site to go out and wreak a little havoc on the “opposition.” It's become a generic term for all such persons. I've got better things to do with my time!

I once belonged to a political forum which freepers managed to shut down, and I and fellow forum friends learned well their techniques. Most of these people, hiding behind screen names, were working the forum ‘round the clock, and one could only assume they were well-trained “hired guns.”

On Michael’s last two posts, there were two freepers (yes, freepers) leaving one comment after another. You really would have to read the comment threads for yourself to understand the full impact of media influence on their thinking.

I support free speech, but these two were “yelling fire in a crowded theater,” so to speak. I cannot comprehend how Americans who should think for themselves can be so hoodwinked.


I left the following comment on Papamoka this morning, and you may check out the referenced comments via the links at the bottom of this post.

My comment:


After reading the comments from yesterday and those on this post, here are a few observations:

1) “Lisa” and “Machinist” apparently don’t work. If they do work, they are seriously neglecting the jobs they are getting paid to do. Volunteering to help fellow Americans less fortunate might be a better use of all that apparent free time. But wait, maybe they do earn their money as “hired guns” for some right-wing group, using propaganda skills aimed at disrupting legitimate discourse and goading anyone whose opinion differs from their own. Hmmm. Lots of that coming out of Texas.

2) Throughout the comment threads, all they seemed to be able to do is regurgitate what they have heard from their mentors:

* David Horowitz: If you are educated, you are “the elite,” you are out to destroy America, and you think you are smarter than “the rest of us” and believe we are “rednecks.” You hate us because we are the true patriots. Colleges which impart a well-rounded liberal education are hotbeds of anti-American activity, so stay away from such colleges (otherwise you might see through this propaganda).
* Sean Hannity: “The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers” prove Obama is anti-American and out to bring this country down - and you with it, blah, blah, blah.
* Bill O’Reilly: “George Soros, ACLU, moveon.org, Bill Ayers,” blah, blah, blah. Now, go out and shut down some left-wing blogs, Factoids!
* Rush Limbaugh: Liberals hate America; they want a socialist society to help, you know, “piglets at the nipples;” and Obama simply cannot be allowed to succeed as president, blah, blah, blah.
* Fox News: “Thanks for tuning in and lapping up our lies. The profits are great. Sincerely, Rupert Murdoch P.S. You’re doing a heckuva job, Ailes.”

3) Did anyone count how many times “Machinist” said he would leave the comment zone if Michael said the word?. Did anyone hear Michael ask him to leave? Did he really go away?
4) Did you catch that Lisa took Infidel753’s comment to task over his use of the term “religious fanatics” just a couple of comments after she asserted that all Muslim mosques in America are hotbeds of terrorist activity?
5) Finally, I believe these two people love their country, which is probably more respect than they would give me. Throughout their comments, it is evident that their only sources of “news” are right-wing outlets which support their beliefs. They don’t want documented news: they want validation. The declaration that the Republican Party is the “party of law and order” nearly made me fall off my chair. That one statement alone tells me they neglected facts about the Bush administration.

Do they realize, according to all major U.S. polls, they are in a small and – thankfully – shrinking group of about 20 percent of Americans? “Look it up.”

The fact is: Truth always surfaces, and Americans are fed up with their right-wing BS.




“The Decline and Possible Fall of the Republican Empire,” Michael Boh for Papamoka Straight Talk, 9 June 2009: LINK

“The Confusing Nature of Terror and Extremism in America,” Michael Boh for Papamoka Straight Talk, 11 June 2009: LINK


Murder, He Wrote

Longtime friend Bill Sumrall, an Agatha Christie aficionado, expressed chagrin that none of the lady’s books appear on my “books” sidebar list.

I’m a true-crime buff, much preferring nonfiction to fiction. Since I had never read anything by the Queen of Crime, the Mistress of Mystery, the Duchess of Death, Bill suggested some titles, as did the nice lady on the State Library’s Talking Books Services toll-free. (She, too, said she’s “read them all.”)

If truth is, indeed, stranger than fiction, coincidental timing can be equally compelling.

Seven books into a seemingly endless game of Clue, I received the following email from Father Tim Farrell, Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Farmington, New Mexico – my old college buddy who happened to be Bill’s dormitory roommate as the three of us pursued journalism degrees. Father Tim, if memory serves, also loves a good murder mystery.

Here’s what he wrote:


In my continuing journey through life, I thought I'd share with you my recent trek to Los Angeles. I rode by Amtrak’s Southwest Chief from Gallup, New Mexico, to Los Angeles' Union Station. I was heading out for the 50th Anniversary of Sister Josephine, one of my parish's Franciscan Sisters.

I had a sleeper car on the train, so I had had a wonderful night's sleep and arrived in LA around 7:15 a.m. Then, I realized (and this might sound peculiar for a priest, but I was a bit disoriented) that I had not gone to Sunday Mass. So, I asked the rather grumpy man at the baggage claim if I could leave my bag with him for a bit and find a church. He asked me what religion I was, and I said, "Roman Catholic." “Oh,” he answered, and then smiled just a little. "I'm Catholic, too." He told me there was a Catholic chapel right up the road, and he thought they had a Mass around 8 a.m.

Sure enough, I found the chapel (restored from the late 1700s), and I went to Mass with mostly a congregation of Mexican-Americans. It was a small crowd of perhaps 30, but the friendliest group I have met in a long, long time. The people run a little gift shop and even a restaurant in the tiny courtyard outside the church. So I got gifts for my staff AND breakfast before heading back to Union Station.

One thing I had always wanted to do was visit the sites of the most infamous crimes in LA history (and certainly well-known throughout the world): the Black Dahlia murder scene, the murder scene of Nicole Brown-Simpson, the home of O.J. Simpson, the sites of the Tate-LaBianca murders by the Manson gang and, finally, the site of the assassination of my favorite politician of my youth -- Robert F. Kennedy.

You might ask why a Roman Catholic priest would be roaming all over these peculiar and troubling sites on a trip to LA. I am not sure myself. It is perhaps the reporter blood flowing through my veins. But, it is also the fact that many of these sites (except the Black Dahlia murder scene) are fixed in my memories from childhood and early adulthood.

The first site I visited was the Bundy location of Nicole Brown-Simpson's and Ron Goldman's murders. It is an upscale neighborhood, obviously, but much busier than I had imagined. Nicole's condo is right at a very busy corner that during the day is filled with people walking dogs, riding bikes and shopping at the stores at that corner. Life has certainly moved on. People walk past the gruesome site with no sense of what happened there, it seems. I did see one young man show a young woman the site, but that was all. I took no pictures. That would not be appropriate. I blessed the site from my car and moved on to Rockingham and saw the gates of O.J. Simpson's mansion (which I understand has actually been torn down and a new home built since he sold the property and moved away). I blessed that site as well.

Then, I drove to Cielo Drive, which is actually not that far from the first two sites. On Cielo I drove up the winding hill and saw the infamous gate where the Manson gang crawled over, shot the friend of the groundskeeper as he sat at the gate in his little truck. Inside that property Sharon Tate, Abby Folger and several others met their doom at the hands of maniac killers. The gate was closing when I went by, a rather creepy moment as I blessed this horrific site. Then, I moved on to the LaBianca murder site where a husband and wife met their doom at the hands of Manson and his thugs. This site is on Waverly, and it seems the LaBianca home was torn down, and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles has built a house of prayer there as well as a noviate for a religious order. So, it is nice that prayer takes place there on a constant basis.

At this point, my heart was sad. I visited the site where the Black Dahlia’s body was found, though that is a busy neighborhood, so I stayed very little time there, blessed the site and moved on.

Finally, on a warm, hazy Los Angeles afternoon, I visited Wilshire Boulevard at the site where Robert Kennedy was assassinated in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel. The hotel is gone now, and there is only a rather sad chain-link fence left surrounding the property. Oh, what might have been! I blessed that site and then headed back to my hotel.

In a real sense, I felt I had exorcised some ghosts from my childhood and early adulthood. These infamous sites had been a sad blight on my consciousness, and they still are. But, I offered my blessings for peace and healing there. I wondered if anyone else had done so. Probably. But, it never hurts to add my own small blessings that these places of violence be cleansed by God's almighty love and mercy.

In all these places, life has moved on. No one seemed the day I visited these sites to be there visiting as well. No, life moves on. But, for just a little while this one odd, middle-aged priest visited these places of infamy and said a few prayers. In the City of Angels, I simply prayed, as Abraham Lincoln once said, for the "better angels of our nature."

Well, Betty, I promised I would keep you updated on my journeys, so there it is. No more travels this year. I am just going to spend a nice, quiet summer at the parish. It is beautiful here: 80 degrees and 20 percent humidity. Cool, beautiful mornings. We had tons of snow last winter, so things are green and bright.

Have a great day.



Thanks, Father Tim, for allowing me to share with my readers the consolation that these places of horror have felt the healing power of prayer.

PHOTO: A chain-link fence is all that remains at the site of the Ambassador Hotel where Robert Kennedy was slain by Sirhan Sirhan. Photo by Father Tim Farrell, 2009.


Read Father Tim’s “Mass on a Sacred Summit,” DemWit, 20 February 2009: LINK


Brick wall headache

Shame on you if you have not yet taken 55 minutes to watch the video of President Barack Obama’s speech to the Muslim world – indeed, to the world – at Cairo University yesterday. In my opinion, this is one of the most important speeches ever delivered by an American president. It would be a shame to depend on soundbites and the opinions of others and deny yourself the experience of this remarkable plea for peace.

I watched the speech live on C-SPAN early Thursday morning. Throughout, the speech was met with thunderous applause, and as Obama ended by quoting from the Holy Qur’an (Koran), the Talmud and the Holy Bible, the audience of 2,500 leaped to its feet in a sustained standing ovation.

Immediately following the speech on C-SPAN, “Washington Journal” callers – Democrats, Republicans and Independents – praised the president’s remarks, and many who called in were “weeping with joy” over what they had just heard.

For me, it was a genuinely moving experience.

This was a major speech by the president of the United States on one of the most critical issues facing the world. According to a Washington Post reporter stationed in Cairo, the city's streets were empty as its citizens gathered around bar TVs in muted and rapt attention.

So, why won’t Americans take the time to hear what their president had to say?

I was recently invited to join a “friends group” on Facebook. This is a site where someone can type "I joined a pottery class," and get a multitude of in-depth reactions such as “Way to go!” It's a text-messaging, "tweeting on Twitter" one-liner world. So, this is what it's come to.

Following what I truly believe to be an historical moment, I checked network morning shows for reaction to Obama's words. Just the usual celebrity gossip, chitchat and recipes. So, this is what it's come to.

I read the Associated Press roundup of world reaction to the speech - a report seemingly skewed negative. So, this is what it's come to.

The network news shows Thursday night managed to devote about five mnutes to the speech. So, this is what it's come to.

The radical right had its “talking points” ready – “siding with the enemy” and “naivete” and “a break with reality.” So, this is what it's come to.

And, still you haven’t listened? So, this is what it’s come to?

Beating my head against a brick wall.

To quote an episode title from “Cracker” with Robbie Coltrane: “One day a lemming will fly.” One can hope.


At the top of DemWit’s left sidebar are links to both the full transcript and the video of the Cairo speech. Let us know your reaction. Thanks!


'The evil that men do'

Friend, Fellow of the Ring and frequent commenter Frodo suggested in reference to yesterday’s post that “Dick Cheney is yesterday’s news.”

Yes, last week’s news, yesterday’s news, today’s news and probably tomorrow’s news.

I understand what Frodo meant, though: this former vice president, who left office with one of the lowest approval ratings ever, had his chance as White House puppetmaster nonpareil. There seems to be the same mentality behind Cheney being out in force hawking “The Bush Legacy” for a former boss incompetent to do so.

Cheney, who had no higher political aspirations during his eight-year tenure, will eventually fade away. How many former vice presidents can you name? Although, I dare say few who did not go on to serve as president have had his impact of U.S. policy.

The problem America faces, though, is: the evil that men do does not fade away. As Shakespeare said it “lives after them.”

And, there will always be evil men – and women.

The difference between the hobbit Frodo and your blog author (aka Merry of the Fellowship of the Ring) lies in his propensity for idealism and my strong tendency to be a realist.

Beyond that, the difference between those of us on the left - liberals, progressives, Democrats - and so many on the right is that they are willing to play dirty, while we make nice.

Never underestimate the potential for harm of an ideology willing to lie or go to any measure to promote itself, willing to put its money where its mouth is.

Let me give you a case in point:

Sunday morning following “Meet the Press,” NBC aired a 30-minute (that’s 30-minute, not 30-second) program, clearly marked “paid programming” but coming across as a news documentary. Featured on the program was a man previously investigated for fraudulent healthcare practices. Producers were that same group who gave us the “swift boat” ads which derailed John Kerry’s 2004 bid for the White House. The proven lies in those ads led to a new word in the Americcan lexicon: "swiftboating."

The purpose of this half-hour “program” was to misrepresent current efforts at healthcare reform and, in the process, scare the hell out of Americans.

Strategically timed, this infomercial was not aimed at “preaching to the choir.” Most diehard opponents of such reform would have been in churches across the land, where they were, no doubt, praying for the sick in their flock.

This “big lie” campaign was aimed at a broader audience.

I believe that every man, woman and child in this country deserves the “equal protection” of healthcare. Won’t you take a few minutes to read a little more about the battle to deny it?

“Swiftboating Health Care Reform,” The Progress Report, 1 June 2009.

Lives might depend on it.


Please read on. A brief post follows.


From Gallup poll, 3 June 2009:

“Two-thirds of Americans (65%) oppose closing the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba and moving some of its prisoners to U.S. prisons, and 74% oppose moving the prisoners to their own states. The public is far from convinced that Guantanamo has weakened U.S. national security - just 18% believe this.”

We don’t all think alike. Nor are we all equally informed. That 18 percent puts me in the “fringe,” and that is a first!


The problem with blogging

Feeling inadequate to convey one’s deepest convictions is a systemic malady of the political blogger.

The realist in me is so often drawn to the lesson in Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War:” “Know your enemy.”

I wish it were not so.

As President Barack Obama embarks on a Middle East mission of extending an olive branch, he himself has said there are “big misapprehensions about the Muslim world.”

Indeed, those with scant knowledge of Islam fail to distinguish the religion from the fundamentalism of “Islamic Jihad.”

A few days ago a friend sent me a forwarded email – an example of radical-right propaganda being circulated in advance of Obama’s trip. Her efforts to inform the sender of the email’s falsehoods were met with a sincere defense of the email’s “truth.”

An amalgam of mystical Muslim and Obama dates, the email claimed proof that 1) Islam is evil and 2) Obama is a Muslim out to destroy America.

How does one begin to address such claims in the confines of a blog post?


What I really wanted to convey to readers today brings further feelings of inadequacy.

Do I really have to explain to faithful readers how I feel about former Vice President Dick Cheney?

I caught a C-SPAN rerun of Cheney’s appearance June 1 at the National Press Club luncheon in Washington, D.C. The superlative nature of his performance sent me searching for a transcript. This was Cheney most evil, Cheney at his smarmiest.

A written or visual record of his performance is available only to Press Club subscribers. A written transcript could never convey his sense of superiority as Cheney chuckled at each tough question from the moderator.

9/11. Weapons of mass destruction. Claims of a Saddam-al Qaeda connection. The invasion of Iraq. Torture. Each question met with a sneer and a chuckle. “He thinks this is funny,” I said out loud, never more convinced of how very dangerous this man is.

As to the fight against international terrorists, Cheney said, “Obama doesn’t have a clue.”

I wish I had access to direct quotes as this man laid claim to the best administration this country has ever had, to saving lives, to an omniscIent vision for America’s future.

And, always the fearmongering.

Chilling that he believes he’s right.

In a phalanx of media appearances, Cheney, who left office with an abysmal approval rating, has become the spokespersonn of the radical right of his party – a position that demands our attention.

And, maybe a second reading of Sun Tzu.


Millvina Dean

When I was a child I couldn’t get enough of stories about “those in peril on the sea.”

After reading Walter Lord’s “A Night to Remember,” I felt an affinity with every imperiled soul who took that fatal first-and-final voyage on the H.M.S. Titanic.

I devoured everything from Herman Melville to Joseph Conrad’s “The Secret Sharer.” Melville’s “Benito Cereno” remains the most chilling story of mutiny ever written.

Those of us who have reached a certain age measure the passage of days by recalling certain historical events in our lifetime and declaring, “I cannot believe it’s been that long!”

Occasionally, a movie will come along that introduces a whole new generation to such events. James Cameron’s “Titanic” was one.

We now mark a passage of time and the final fading of a gilded era with the sad announcement of the death of Millvina Dean.

Millvina (2 February 1912 – 31 May 2009) was the last survivor of the sinking of the Titanic that fateful night of 15 April 1912.

She was two months old when she and her mother were rescued. Her father - a handsome, moustached young gentleman - drowned. I remember crying when Robert Ballard, scientist emeritus of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, presented Millvina with her father’s gold pocket watch, salvaged from the ship’s wreckage.

Reportedly, the stars of Cameron’s “Titanic” provided funds for nursing home care in Millvina’s last years.

Even with her death, there can be no closure to a story that will never die.

Rest in peace, Millvina.


As I finish typing this post, there is breaking news that an Air France jetliner en route from Rio de Janiero to Paris has disappeared from radar over the Atlantic - with 228 souls aboard.


“Eternal Father, strong to save
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep,
Oh, hear us when we cry to thee
For those in peril on the sea.”