published in Jim Bracher's Integrity
Matters newspaper column on December 29, 2004
"Eight ways to relate"
Dear Integrity Matters Readers:
Week after week, we provide responses to many kinds
of "integrity-centered" concerns and questions.
Our answers intend always to apply tested and proven
principles that encourage constructive and productive
actions. Integrity-centered behaviors build strong
connections, both personally and professionally, reflecting
our Eight Attributes: character, honesty,
openness, authority, partnership, performance, charity
As this year, 2004, comes to a close, may all of
your relationships be improved, even
thrive, in 2005. Our sincere wish is that genuine friendships become
the center of all interpersonal, social, political
and spiritual transactions. Excerpts from a favorite
poem emphasize the friendship dimension:
I love you not only for what you are, but
for what I am when I am with you. I love
not only for what you have made of yourself,
but for what you are making of me. I love
for the part of me that you bring out.
I love you because you have done more
than any creed could have done to make me
good, and more than any fate could have done
to make me happy. You have done it just by
being yourself. Perhaps that is what being
friend means after all.
author unknown --
Friends see the potential of their friends and
cause the best of what is possible to show, more often.
Let' make 2005 the year to thrive in and through
various legitimate relationships.
To thrive in '05 may require
a few adjustments in cultivating, strengthening and
sustaining those all important interactions making
routine social encounters into substantive connections,
relationships, even friendships. Try these
- Transform superficial, even impersonal,
interactions by engaging with others.
- Be friendly, asking those who
serve you food and drink if they are
having a good day. This is a good reminder to listen
to friends and family, acknowledge in the same genuine
- Maintain eye contact and pay
attention to their responses. This
lesson applies at home with spouses, children, parents,
and family members. Yes, it applies in business settings
and community activities as well.
- Listen and offer encouragement
to others, those often taken for
granted such as ticket takers, popcorn servers, carwash
attendants,meter readers, newspaper
deliverers and a whole host of people we see (or
don't really see) almost every day. Stop talking,
reading, writing, and being busy, and acknowledge their presence
and then simply listen.
- Initiate contacts, personally,
using phone calls, emails, cards for multiple occasions,
handwritten notes of appreciation and encouragement
and be gracious even when your own efforts to "connect" with others are
ignored or appear to be undervalued.
- Treasure the positive responses
of others who are transformed by
revitalized integrity-centered relationships.
- Celebrate friendships and thrive in 2005! Integrity-centered relationships,
in addition to making life in general go better,
can be good for business as well. People like to
be around people they like, personally and professionally.
So . . .
- Thrive in '05!
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity
Matters newspaper column on January 5, 2005
"Look for first job where you can
What should I look for in a boss? As a college senior,
I need to assess the right employer and supervisor,
soon. I want to work in a good environment and have
a chance to succeed on a level playing field.
You have asked two questions: one about identifying the right boss and the
other about discovering the right place for you to work. What you did not
ask, but should, is how to convince a prospective employer that you are the
right person to be hired into their integrity-centered organization.
First, the right boss for you will likely have
expertise you currently
lack. You mentioned that
you are soon to finish
your undergraduate degree
and that usually means
you are still on a steep
learning curve, or should
be. So, give strong consideration
to your first jobs as
a valuable extension
of your more formal education.
Factor in this "value-added" dimension
and consider that these
bosses will be enhancing
your fund of knowledge
and that you will be "paying
them" for their
contributions by being
willing to demand less
cash as you build your "work" credentials.
The right boss, if you
choose to keep growing,
will have knowledge,
skills and abilities
that you desire to have.
As you think through
what you want to do (to
make a living) - look
carefully to make sure
that your prospective
supervisors enjoy their
work. Happy colleagues
are often more effective
teachers, making learning
easier. If fortune smiles
on you, you might even
like your bosses. However,
respect for them is even
more important. When
most job aspects are
about the same, choose
chemistry over dollars.
Second, the right
company or organization for you
will become clearer when
you answer these questions:
- In what size organization
do you best fit:
small, medium or
- Do other younger
move forward inside
or do they often
- Will you be proud
to introduce your
product or service
to those you know
- Are you confident
about the leadership
integrity of the
- Given an opportunity,
would you invest
your own dollars
in the organization?
If you are not comfortable
with your answers to
the above five questions
about a potential employer,
then you may be unhappy
working there. So, keep
Third, confirming to
a potential employer
that you are the right
employee is quite simple.
There is no faking integrity.
and the real person generally
shows through. So, get
a clear picture of who
you are and do not expect
to "fool" high-quality
interviewers. Even if
you are successful in "pulling
the wool over their eyes," remember
that the people you "outwitted" are
probably not the right
caliber to help you to
get where you want to
go. Be clear about your
strengths and vulnerabilities,
asking for help and always
seeking clarity while
built upon trust
and that means all
from the very beginning.
in Jim Bracher's Integrity
column on January 12,
always remains the best
What causes people to
lie, cheat and steal?
Ego, arrogance and greed drive integrity-destroying behaviors. Ego is that
little voice that whispers that certain individuals really are smarter than
most other people. Arrogance becomes the response that believes this ego-driven
"superiority message" and then acts upon the misinformation. Greed
is simply the over the top self-serving motive that is blind to social and
Individuals who believe they are smarter than those
about them are convinced that no matter what they do,
they will not be caught. Individuals choose to lie
because they conclude it is an effective way to get
what they want. Some use as their excuse that they
grew up in some kind of dysfunctional environment and
their sociological and genetic roots are what caused
them to lie, cheat and steal. If that were a solid
defense, arguably millions of people could blame their "upbringing" for
their irresponsible behaviors. However, such a justification
simply fails to hold water.
This ego, arrogance and greed explanation describes
all too common human behavior. But, what about the
circumstances that move ego and arrogance into destructive
behaviors like stealing, driven by greed? What causes
them to believe that they can "get away with
it"? Those who choose to lie, cheat and steal
have their own "reassuring" answers to
these three questions:
- Will I get caught? No, because my clever antics
will easily escape the naïve audits of those
in accounting; or, the salesperson who is so pre-occupied
that my shoplifting will go unnoticed.
- Will those in law enforcement, should I ever be
caught, be able to make the case to convict me? No,
because those folks will likely miss a clue; not
file their crime reports accurately and even when
they do, they will still fail to convene a perceptive
jury. Further, arrogance at this level believes the
imperfect justice system will be unable to convict.
The superior "gamer" will simply find
a way to wiggle free.
- Will others notice "illicit" actions?
No, of course not, because most folks, they believe,
cannot see or understand sophisticated conniving.
Egotists are convinced that their secret rendezvous
would never be observed nor their fast-growing bank
accounts and "living large" life-styles
be perceptively assessed and resented.
Assuming ego, arrogance and greed are root causes
for lying, cheating and stealing, then what can be
done to make society better? People obey socially-acceptable
rules and regulations, personally and professionally,
for a variety of reasons:
- They simply "buy-in" to integrity-centered values. Nurture
- They fear being arrested, audited
or embarrassed. Remind them.
- Spiritual principles inspire
constructive behavior while holding destructive actions
in "check." Encourage them.
- They are simply too tired to "risk" getting
caught, knowing their memory will not
keep stories straight about their lying, cheating
or stealing. Confirm their self-doubts
Integrity is one of several paths and
it distinguishes itself from the others because it is
the right path and the only one upon which individuals
will never get lost.
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity
Matters newspaper column on March 30, 2005
"Don't let life be just about
Is everything about money? Television provides a cesspool
of programs that make big profits. Some sports superstars
are out of control and still make big bucks. Corporate
scandals have not hindered fat paychecks for unproductive
executives. So, where is the integrity?
Yes, in many circles, it is about the money. However, money has never been the problem.
The love of money is a different story. When individuals
and cultures are driven by the need to "show off" wealth and power,
which are often interchangeable in the eyes of observers, then values are
conveniently compromised and integrity suffers from neglect.
Our society often appears to worship those who "have
lots of money, celebrity and power." Check out
the list of top selling books and you will learn that
one at or near the top deals with the recent murder
trial and conviction of an unfaithful husband who killed
his wife and unborn child. The woman engaged in this
sordid affair with a murderer has now produced a top
selling book. How did this happen? Who spends money
for these "pulp" rags? Answer: a large
number of people.
Publishers, program directors, product developers
and advertisers know how to respond, profitably, to
the appetites of the marketplace. Millions cannot wait
to participate, vicariously, in the sick and despicable
behaviors of others, feeding on the lowest common human
denominator: being part of frenzy that enjoys the agony,
degradation and misbehavior of others.
If this were not the case, how does one account for
a mass media that appeared to be living off of the
Scott Peterson murder trial for months? Soon, the media
will turn their "money-grubbing" attention
to Michael Jackson, Robert Blake and others whose lives
mesmerize the masses. Do not forget that according
to journalist-historian Richard Reeves, real news is "the
news you and I need to keep our freedoms." We
do not need to know intricate details of the sleazy
behaviors of celebrities to keep our freedoms, yet
millions of dollars are spent to feed the frenzy.
Back to money, here is another "trust-breaking" illustration.
One more "bad example" is the Fannie Mae
scandal emerging from a private, shareholder-owned
company. This organization, operating under
a Congressional Charter, was created to increase the
availability and affordability of homeownership for
low, moderate, and middle-income Americans.
Recently, Fannie Mae ousted its CEO, Franklin D.
Raines, but not before he received $140 Million Golden
Parachute including $19 million severance, an annual
salary (lifetime) of $1.37 million. And the board approved
it all. So much for public-spirited executive accountability
and responsible board leadership! These ridiculous
exit dollars appear to be only about the money for
the privileged and very little about responsible board
stewardship or integrity.
So, what might individuals do? Identify quality organizations
whose integrity-centered priorities build trust and respect.
These companies put customers first. Let your dollars
to do the talking. Click off smut and dribble and boycott
culture-destroying products and programs. Your decisions
about spending can have a positive impact. Money can
shape society, constructively. Act now.
Herman Edwards, head football coach for the New York
Jets, was yelling at one of his coaches on the sidelines
last week-end in San Diego, California, in front of
millions of viewers. Did Edwards exhibit integrity
No, Herman Edwards made a mistake. He blew up. He allowed his frustration,
fear, or whatever drives people to act inappropriately, to take control of
his emotions. His management and leadership blunder was being televised, nationally.
How embarrassing for anyone. Regardless, what makes Herm's circumstances
different is that he has communicated his apology about his outburst with his
assistant, Bishop Harris, in front of millions of people, on television and
in newspaper interviews. Herm's acknowledgement is special because he
credits his wonderful mother, Mrs. Martha Edwards, for having reminded him
that he had allowed others to see the temper she had hoped he would control.
He failed and she reminded him.
What else would a loving and caring mother do? Mrs.
Edwards came through, again, being quoted as saying
to her son, shortly after the wild-card game was concluded
on Saturday, January 8, 2005: "They saw the other
side, didn't they?" Those of us fortunate
to be acquainted with both Herm and his Mom know that
she made the point, he got it and then he knew exactly
what to do, immediately.
Herm's error becomes even more powerful and
valuable because we know it would never occur to him
to make any excuses for his flare up. Right from the
beginning he has said, "It was not right, the
head coach is supposed to keep his composure. That's
the one thing I preach to our football team all the
time. I have high expectations on myself and I let
my guard down and I shouldn't have fallen into
the trap." He has vowed no more fighting. Then
he was further quoted: "The thing I hate the
worst about (the event) is that it distracted from
what happened on the field and I am sad about it. I
am sorry and it won't happen again."
Integrity is exactly what this Herman Edwards story
underscores. Human beings are imperfect. People make
mistakes. They growl, scowl, swear and yell at individuals
and situations that disappoint them. When pressures
build up in people's lives, judgment and self-control
can get lost. Tempers flare. Harsh words flow. Thoughtless
comments can escalate simple miscommunications into
verbal and sometimes even physical warfare. It happens
and it needs to be addressed maturely and effectively,
preferably in ways similar to the Herman Edwards approach.
- If a mistake is made, own it, immediately.
- When others are hurt, apologize, sincerely, as
soon as possible.
- Make sure commitments to change are made clear.
- Seek forgiveness and grant it when the "shoe
is on the other foot."
Listen carefully to the criticism of those who know you
best, recognizing that honest feedback is precious and
it is provided, caringly, because those who deliver it
know that integrity matters.
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity
Matters newspaper column on January 19, 2005
"Respect the time of others: Be punctual"
Why doesn't everyone come to meetings on time?
Whatever happened to notifying others when schedules
change? Am I expecting too much?
You are not expecting too much. Integrity-centered behavior builds strong
and dependable connections with others, personally and professionally. Substantive
relationships grow and prosper when all parties involved are meeting their
respective needs. Whether as partners in business, marriage, family, community,
society or global-culture, there are legitimate expectations to treat others
with courtesy and care. In addition, consistency, truthfulness, transparency,
encouragement, honor, accountability, generosity and respect are
also to be exhibited in integrity-centered exchanges, all the time. When, for
any variety of reasons, these mutual obligations are not met, one or more of
the participants owes an apology, immediately, followed by a commitment not
to repeat the violation of basic integrity principles. Accepting apologies,
graciously, is also important even when it may appear old-fashioned.
Some folks believe openness can weaken one's
power and control. Professional behavior demands integrity
and that includes respect for the time of others. Missing
an opportunity to compliment another person, simply
by being on time, is a huge waste of relationship-capital.
Every encounter is an opportunity to build or tear
down operating processes that communicate trust and
respect. Listening is essential. Follow-up in timely
ways is important. However, if the easiest part of
the connection is ignored, namely, not showing up on
time, then what message is being communicated? Here
the answers are complicated. If an individual is sloppy
or late about time commitments, once or even twice,
and has apologized, there may be no issue. However,
if the pattern persists, think about this:
- Being late suggests that one
person does not respect the time of others. Who wants
to be in a relationship, business or otherwise, when
not respected? Getting fired, divorced and "not
chosen" are expensive consequences.
- Not apologizing communicates
others are not important or that fundamental social
graces are unimportant. Being a "bull in the
China shop" is about stubbornness and ego.
Behaving insensitively is more about being a clod.
Who wants to hang around a clod? The answer is that
other clods and they are unlikely to make life better
for anyone, interpersonally or financially.
- Repeating any rude behavior ,
even a seemingly minor one, for whatever variety
of social or cultural reasons, will not build trust.
Rudeness, such as being late, is difficult to justify.
When individuals choose to ignore basic and commonly
accepted social rules of engagement, they erode confidence.
With most people, insensitive behavior is simply
self-centered, condescending and inconsiderate. However,
taken to an extreme, the words egotistical and ruthless
describe sociopaths whom our culture defines as
irresponsible, violent and criminal. When sociopaths
fail to conform to social norms by refusing to plan
ahead and showing no remorse - they are constrained.
It is bad business to frustrate those on whom we
depend, personally or professionally.
Respecting time, our own and that of others, is an act
of integrity and it matters.
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity
Matters newspaper column on January 26, 2005
"Personal attacks threaten true justice"
As you may know, the lawyer for Bernard J. Ebbers,
former chief executive for WorldCom, accused of securities
fraud, won the right on Tuesday, January 18, 2005,
to introduce personal details about the prosecution's
main witness. Judge Barbara S. Jones of United States
District Court in Manhattan said the defense would
be allowed to introduce details about the "marital
infidelities" of Scott D. Sullivan, WorldCom's
former chief financial officer, because it would help
the jury determine his reliability as a witness. In
corporate fraud cases, is an executive's personal
life a valid avenue to pursue in terms of determining
guilt or innocence? Is the executive's private
and personal behavior a legitimate area to document
when looking for ethical deviations?
Crystal clear responses are always preferred. However, there are times when
either yes or no appear impossible to divine.
Such is the case regarding vetting and discrediting witnesses. The bigger issue
is the process our society has decided to "take to the extreme" and
risk immobilizing the very structures, both public and private, that enabled
America's successes with democracy and free enterprise. Based on the
willingness, even eagerness, of many citizens to "embarrass, trivialize
and root out the rascals who are imperfect, who have made mistakes" -; it
could come to pass that no one will seek public office, serve on a jury, be
a witness in court cases or even stop along the roadside to lend a helping
The "self-righteous" litmus tests, becoming
ever-more rigid in the name of openness and tolerance,
extend from political correctness and religiously-driven "rightness" to
ecological oneness and cultural-racial-sexual-life-style
sensitivities. In very legitimate efforts to improve
all aspects of life, there could be a tendency to set
the bars so high that compliance, in all areas, is
not achievable. Even the Ancient Greek Tragedies created
a place for fatal flaws for their heroes. Today, one
might say that "they cut them some slack" and
were appreciative of their assets, willing to live
with certain frailties. Even so, this column is not
advocating the philosophy of the former powerful House
Speaker, Texas Congressman Sam Rayburn, who suggested: "To
get along, you must go along." Somewhere between
the extremes exists both intelligence and integrity.
Here are challenges related to the zealous assessment
of human behavior and sustaining a legal, intelligent
and integrity-centered justice system:
- Can valuable lessons about life be learned from
a convicted felon?
- Might an alcoholic be a legitimate witness regarding
the destructive behaviors of an out-of-control drunk?
- Does a scoundrel of a husband (cheating on a wife)
still retain enough intelligence and judgment to
identify securities fraud behaviors of a boss?
- Is the way rape victims have been treated (delving
into their private lives and intimidating them into
silence) what we are continuing by allowing (even
encouraging) "scorched earth" practices
by aggressive attorneys and private investigators?
- Are these perfectly legal "inquisitions" another
easy way to short-circuit justice?
- Must someone be above reproach to offer a reproach?
- Might a drug user still be a legitimate witness
against a drug dealer?
One of my legal advisors offered this. For a testimony
to provide probative value, it must be relevant and pertinent.
It is time for citizens to stand up and ask those who
administer our justice system to be clearer about what
is simply legal (and possibly destructive) and what is
moral and more likely to sustain the integrity of our
culture and our values.
Should corporations have spent $40 million dollars
on inauguration parties when the money could have been
used to further business goals or help tsunami victims?
The Inauguration of the President of the United States of America is a global
event. It celebrates the peaceful transition of authority from one administration
to another, formally confirming the power of the position. Events of this magnitude,
with all of the associated parties and gatherings, require a great deal of
money. Costs must be underwritten privately, because taxpayers would refuse
to absorb all of the expenditures.
Herein lays the challenge. Who will pay for the event?
And what do those who write the checks want for their
money? A few months ago, retiring South Carolina Senator,
Mr. Fritz Hollings, explained how the political system
operates. He said that the government officials (specifically
those who have been or want to be elected) depend upon
the financial contributions of those who support them.
He then mentioned that those who donated large amounts
of money to his campaign stood a much better chance
of securing his time and attention. The short-hand
summary is this: those who give generously expect access
and often get it.
Now, what about those individuals and institutions
responsible for the $40,000,000.00 donations that helped "defray" some
of the expenses of President George W. Bush's
Second Inauguration Party? Based upon the comments
by Senator Hollings, one might assume that they expect
direct "access." For many who donate these
dollars, it is simply an investment, making sure that
they get a "hearing" from those in power.
Senator Hollings also stated that the pressures to
raise funds for his re-elections demanded that he work
at fundraising daily and weekly, attending multiple "coffees" and
luncheons and dinners, with an ever-growing demand
to up-the-ante, year after year. He said the he feared
that dollars drive decisions more often then judgment
Many years ago a local mayor was asked to explain
the large amount of dollars that had been raised to
help with his campaign. When challenged to justify
the costs versus the benefits, he offered the following, "Yes,
I saw fit to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars
to secure the mayor's office that pays not quite
$100,000.00 to me annually. It was necessary. That
is simply the way the system works." He made
no attempt to defend the process, only describe it.
Regardless, access is one powerful motivation for those
who are supplying cash to political organizations,
local, state or national.
This is the way the system works. Those spending
the most dollars have the easiest access to the politically-powerful
who then help them to achieve their objectives. The
in-the-know contributors will likely continue to support
those who will keep this "pay-as-you-go" process
exactly as it is. It is about the money.
Even so, let's hope these "economically-powerful
political-patrons" will respond generously to assist
those most at risk, domestically and globally, because
they do understand that integrity matters.
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity
Matters newspaper column on February 2, 2005
"Use your eyes and ears when starting
I have recently accepted a significant business promotion,
in another state, with a new company. What is the most
effective way for me to get started, with my new team,
quickly and effectively?
To maximize your productivity, you will need to listen. Obviously, you intend
to "hit the ground" running, while functioning productively with
your new company's people. Immediately, you must demonstrate knowledge
and respect for your new corporate operating culture. Remember the wisdom of
baseball Hall of Fame player, Yogi Berra. The retired New York Yankee, catcher
and coach, offered sound counsel, so remember that "you can see [and
hear] a great deal by observing."
You would not have been selected for the position
unless you had developed a strong and successful track
record and were effective in selling yourself. Organizations
do not move people across the country unless they possess
credentials, capacity, motivation and communications
skills. So, it is safe to assume that you have what
it takes to do the job.
The key to your successful assimilation into your
new role can be managed around seven purposeful and
constructive actions: Listen, Ask, Observe, Acknowledge,
Wait, Exhibit Integrity-Centered Behaviors and Avoid
- Listen to those who know the ground rules, the
issues and the history of the organization you have
chosen to join. It is true that others seldom care
how much you know until they know how much you care.
Take the time to listen to the stories of those who
have worked in your new organizations. Understanding
corporate folklore can go a long way in speeding
- Ask for help from new colleagues, in a whole variety
of legitimate ways. Thanking those who guide your
orientation will make them your partners in the assimilation
- Observe, with appreciation, how tasks are accomplished,
how decisions are made and communicated. Watch behavior
and customs carefully. Seek understanding first.
Learn the traditions. Find out the reasons for celebrations
that may not be obvious when first encountered.
- Acknowledge that you are eager to learn about
your new environment and will very much appreciate
input, including timely and forthright feedback especially
in areas where you are making mistakes.
- Wait for the real "hiring moment" to
happen. Appointing individuals to positions is the
work of managers, executives and boards of directors.
However, getting hired is what happens when those
around you decide that you are worthy of their trust,
respect and admiration.
- Exhibit integrity-centered behaviors by modeling
character, honesty, openness, authority, partnership,
performance, charity and graciousness.
- Avoid lamenting about relocation challenges, including
corporate policies that require certain personal
adjustments. Solve your own personal "moving
problems" including securing all utility hook-ups,
relying upon your realtor or other professionals
outside of your company. [ ] One possible exception,
and this is a judgment call, would be the person
who selected you. This person is likely to be highly
motivated to help you be successful. Everyone else
wants to work with you to increase their own personal
and organizational productivity, and their impact
upon you. Seek their help on company-related issues.
One executive asks each member of his new staff to
prepare a presentation intended to bring him up to
speed, presenting the three most important issues facing
their organization; three of his or her recent accomplishments,
three organizational strengths, three organizational
vulnerabilities, and three action priorities for the
future. It worked beautifully to help him get on board.
This gave him a chance to compliment the staff, become
current on their issues and opinions, and to observe
their ability to demonstrate grace under pressure.
Never, never, say things like, "At my former
company, we did it this way..." Instead,
use the expression, "In my judgment..."
Now that you have accepted your new position, you are
expected to assimilate, personally and professionally,
with enthusiasm, efficiency and integrity. In a word,
Listen, Listen, Listen. You won't get a second
chance to make a first impression.
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity
Matters newspaper column on February 9, 2005
"Enron's leadership will pay
Disgraced Enron leadership has been discovered to
have been involved in sinister plots to steal money
from California citizens. How criminal and sick were
those allowing fraudulent schemes to drive up prices
by creating unnecessary and risky rolling blackouts,
falsifying transmission schedules to inflate prices?
Enron leaders, so it appears, used information to dupe the public, even those
in government positions. The firm's leaders lied, cheated and stole in
order to increase electricity prices for millions of Californians and fatten
profits for their firm, creating incredible bonuses for those at the top of
Enron. Some of the memo's that have been recently released confirm, in
writing, that those in power at Enron knew what they were doing and compounded
their criminal activities knowingly. Certainly, this is bad news.
However, the good news is that something is being
done about it. Our justice system is addressing the
issues and those responsible are being prosecuted.
Now that these illegal behaviors can be traced to the
desks (and the emails) of Jeffrey Skilling, John Lavorato
and Tim Belden, it follows that penalties will be assessed,
in dollars, jail time and tarnished, even ruined, reputations.
It's about time. Perfection has not been achieved
by those who oversee the scales of justice; however,
a time of reckoning has come for many who would manipulate
laws and regulations for self-serving purposes. Even
so, there seems to be a growing and eager anticipation,
along with the sobering expectation that there are
more shoes to drop, that justice will prevail. The
scoundrels are being rounded up and prosecuted, finally.
As a California businessman, these rolling blackouts
and brownouts were unnerving. Elevators sometimes stopped
at inconvenient times. For claustrophobics, the stress
was real. Hospitals and their patients were at risk,
especially if the electrical crisis came at a crucial
moment during surgery. What kinds of statistics would
one need to trace totally unnecessary deaths to medical
device malfunctions, caused by reckless and greedy
Enron energy marauders? For elderly individuals, who
depended upon air conditioners to maintain a safe and
cooler environment, what were the costs in health and
safety, even death?
To learn even more about the Enron debacle, read The
Smartest Guys in the Room: The
Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron by
Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind. The Enron collapse
is "fundamentally a human drama - of
people drunk on their own success, people so ambitious,
so certain of their own brilliance, so fueled by
greed and hubris that they believed they could fool
A young Fortune magazine writer
named Bethany McLean wrote an article posing a simple
question: How, exactly, does Enron makes its money? - and
the company's house of cards began to collapse.
Though other business scandals would follow, none has
had the shattering effect of Enron's bankruptcy,
which caused Americans to lose faith in a system that
rewarded top insiders with millions of dollars while
small investors, including many Enron employees, lost
According to the authors, "Wall Street knew
about Enron's shenanigans and chose to look the
other way. Just as Watergate was the defining political
story of our time, Enron is the biggest business story
of our time."
Recently, the question was asked of this Integrity
Matters column about the causes of lying,
cheating and stealing. The response was then and is
now: ego, arrogance and greed. What other explanation
makes sense when we live in a free society that has
enforceable laws designed to protect everyone from
fraud, injustice and corruption? Though the wheels
of justice may grind slowly, they can work effectively.
Today, many communications are subject to monitoring
including emails, phone calls, memos and conversations.
It is naïve of these sophisticated "wheeler-dealers" to
think that they are that much wiser than everyone else.
Their egos and arrogance have taken control of their
judgment. Greed has replaced conscience and seemingly
any sense of fair play, while completely ignoring integrity.
However, justice will prevail because in our hearts
we know that Integrity-centered leadership is the only
reliable foundation for long-term success.
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity
Matters newspaper column on February 16, 2005
"Steroid scandal sends wrong message
What's the Canseco flap about steroid use by
baseball players? If no league rules were being broken,
then what's the big deal?
Professional baseball has been very slow to adopt a tougher steroid-testing
program, and then only after the sport came under increased scrutiny about
drug abuse. Barry Bonds, Gary Sheffield and Jason Giambi testified before a
federal grand jury investigating the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative known
as BALCO. When young people observe that one pathway to superstardom comes
from chemical enhancements and when these same adoring fans begin risking their
own health to enhance their athletic performance, using chemicals, as early
as junior high, then something must be done, immediately.
Jose Canseco's "tell all" book
is about certain superstars and cheating and is titled: Juiced:
Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits & How
Baseball Got Big. Some observers comment its
roll out appears to have been strategically timed with
his television interview with Mike Wallace of "Sixty
Minutes" on Sunday, February 13, 2005. Canseco
indicts baseball for drug abuses and cheating. Regardless
of his motivation, he surfaces important issues.
The big deal about steroid abuse is major league
baseball's irresponsible leadership. How awful
for millions of youngsters, and adults, to learn that
record holders might not have been playing competitively
by working hard to improve their skills and their strength.
Little League players must be confident that cheating
and lying are the pathway to failure, not to the Hall
of Fame. Canseco's book is about fraudulent behavior
and he is making powerful enemies, risking substantial
personal financial exposure. Integrity needs to be
restored throughout the baseball world among players,
owners, agents, including writers and publishers who
make their living from the sport.
According to Mike Downey, sports writer from the
Chicago Tribune, February 14, 2005:
"It took a Jose Canseco, someone with
firsthand knowledge and the courage to name names,
to make baseball squirm.
If the names named don't like it, they are
free to file lawsuits. Canseco is not hiding. He
stands behind his words. Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro,
Ivan Rodriguez and Jason Giambi are free to sic their
attorneys on Canseco and his publishing house any
minute now, as any truly innocent man would. He is
not a man in the right. He is a man in the know.
Any player with an ounce of integrity will
go to his union and demand that each player be willing
to take a drug test at the drop of a hat. Any man
who votes ``no'' is a man with something to hide.
Canseco...could become the man who cleaned
up...our national pastime."
Jose Canseco's blunt and sometimes ugly illustrations
are stirring controversy, generating strong reactions,
possibly lawsuits. Innocence and guilt have yet to
be determined. Regardless, the best result will be
when the "National Pastime" cleans up its collective
professional act, publishes responsible performance
standards of integrity and then equitably enforces
constructive and competitive regulations.
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity
Matters newspaper column on February 23, 2005
"Bad taste shouldn't stop free market"
Should tasteless gifts, like teddy bears wearing
straitjackets, saying "crazy for you" be
sold? I think a Valentine's present like this
is morally reprehensible.
You can refuse to purchase what you determine as tasteless in the same way
that you have the choice to change television channels and radio stations when
something offends your set of values and priorities. You can boycott filthy
talk shows, on radio and television. Likewise, those who create "offensive
gifts" - including products and services - have the right to market
and sell them. However, simply because you dislike a product, or find it offensive,
you do not have the right to deny others their privileges in the free market
Be assured, however, that your frustrations are shared.
Governor James Douglas, of Vermont, joined the complaints
by mental health groups condemning the company's
lack of sensitivity in marketing the Valentine's
Day teddy bear. The $69.95 brown, furry bear comes
with a straitjacket and commitment papers that read: "Can't
Eat. Can't Sleep. My Heart's racing. Diagnosis:
Crazy for You." When confronted by the controversy,
Chief Executive Elisabeth Robert said that her company,
Vermont Teddy Bear Company "was not in a position
to be told what it could or could not sell."
A spokesperson for the Center for Business Ethics
at Bentley College in Waltham, Massachusetts, has said
that he may use the "bear" as a case study
in one of his seminars on business ethics. He wants
his students to ponder whether the "Bear" company
was in error by addressing two questions:
- Does the company need to be more sensitive?
the fact that the bear sold out mean the company
was right to put it on the market?
This issue should remind us of what our freedoms
mean. Tasteless products have been around for a long
time. Integrity-centered leadership challenges thoughtful
individuals to be, if not patient and understanding,
at least tolerant to the preferences of those around
them. Obviously, this insensitive, controversial and
profitable "fad" related to a teddy bear
for Valentine's Day will end. However, some of
the controversy suggests that society needs to remain "mature" in
My personal opinion is that you may be right that
the marketing and timing of this product has made money
at the expense of tastefulness and civility. However,
the company simply created the product which captured
cash-paying customers. The buying public has made the
purchasing decision. So, with whom should one be upset?
No one is making folks buy the "bear."
The bigger issue is the integrity of our freedom
and the autonomy of the capitalistic system. With apologies
to Voltaire, here are his words slightly modified: "I
may disapprove of what you design, build, market and
sell, but I will defend to the death your right to
participate in the free market that so many thousands
and millions of Americans have died to preserve."
Cultural integrity and economic freedom matter.
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity
Matters newspaper column on March 2, 2005
"Integrity conversation has plenty
of room for all"
Twenty-five years ago, March 1, 1980, our executive
effectiveness consulting business, Dimension Five Consultants,
Inc. was founded. Our work centered on restoring integrity
through insight, with a vision to expand the integrity
conversation to help build a world in which people
do what they say, are forthright in their communications,
and a handshake solidifies any promise.
On December 4, 2002, this Integrity Matters column
was launched in The Salinas Californian and was followed
in May of 2004, with the publication of our first book, Integrity
Matters. Three concerns drove this integrity
in leadership emphasis: fear, uncertainty and doubt.
- Fear that society's values
are eroding, in business and in private lives.
- Uncertainty that the next generation
is being provided substantive guidelines by which
to avoid self-destruction.
- Doubt that without constant reminders
of the need to think seriously and behave responsibly
both political and economic freedoms will disappear.
As we move further into the Twenty-first Century,
the excesses of a few appear to have punished the whole
of society, especially the economy. A world has been
created where the prevailing structures promote the
politics of convenience over the commitment of leadership.
Too large a part of the business community enjoyed
the excesses of luxury as it drifted from quick deals
to devastating dishonesty. It is time to address our "shortcomings" because
it should be common knowledge that society must regulate
itself, one person and one action at a time, or governments
Here are some of my concerns. Perhaps they will challenge
your thinking, prompting you to submit questions.
- When will the public demand that civility replace
rudeness on television, radio and between and among
elected officials? Edwin J. Feulner, President,
The Heritage Foundation, suggests that civility is
not an accessory one can put on or take off like
a piece of clothing. It is inseparable from character.
When civility breaks down in the marketplace of ideas,
the law is powerless to set things right.
- Will sports fans demand that professional athletes
cease their circus antics of performance-enhancing "shows" and
return to honest competition and admirable behavior,
on and off of the playing fields?
- How can a multicultural society, as is the United
States of America, succeed unless integrity influences
how we evolve from what has been a melting pot culture
to an even more powerful mosaic, where individual
differences are retained in the midst of common goals
and mutual appreciation?
- Just this week, in Chicago, a federal judge's
husband and mother were murdered, possibly in retaliation
for her decisions that thwarted the objectives of
a convicted felon. What must be done to restore respect
for public servants? If something is not done, who
will be willing to become officers of the law?
- What happened to the reporting of news? Is it
now simply about entertainment, market share and
selling advertising? How does the public demand the "real
news" -- the news needed to keep our freedoms?
Will you please contribute to the Integrity
Matters dialogue, send us your questions
and help address fears, uncertainties and doubts?
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity
Matters newspaper column on March 16, 2005
"Integration, productivity are related"
You were on a television show recently talking about
integration and productivity. How does that topic relate
By respecting differences, capitalizing
on similarities and leveraging combined talents
and energies, a new, more powerful and globally-engaged
American society emerges. The United States is
moving "from melting pot to mosaic©." The
mosaic of the new American landscape incorporates and
engages all of its unique partners. They are not
reluctant participants in the national effort, resisting acculturation,
but are strong, proud, and increasingly-successful
contributors. These partners are capable
and comfortable retaining their distinguishing
differences. They know themselves already to be substantive,
complementary and value-adding assets to their
Integration, nurtured by integrity-centered leadership,
presents fresh and constructive ways to embrace
differences and leverage them productively The various
stakeholders in the 21st Century American mosaic,
while proudly retaining distinctions between and among
their various partners, create an even more powerful
and effective presence in the global community.
Integration focuses on ways to legitimately communicate,
relate, motivate and utilize everyone with whom we
associate. Integrity is integral for integration because
it takes seriously the proper treatment of everyone.
Integrity-centered behaviors will require all those
involved to behave with character, honesty, openness,
authority, partnership, performance, charity and graciousness.
Integration is a more inclusive activity than being
politically correct when addressing diversity in terms
of language, race, sex, culture, physical circumstances
or political balance. Integration encourages productivity
and profitability through listening, respecting, communicating
and collaborating. Integration creates understanding,
appreciation and accommodation. Integration overcomes
differences, identifies complementary skills and deploys
abilities in such ways that productivity and impact
improve in all of our life-encompassing activities:
personal, professional, social, educational, cultural
Integrity is the keystone of leadership, holding
the enterprise together at its most critical junction,
where ideas, products, services and people meet the
customer. The keystone enables the arch to fulfill
its supportive function. Similarly, integrity, by sustaining
operational trust, enables an organization to achieve
its mission. Integrity is the strength, unity, clarity
and purpose that upholds and sustains all of the activities
of the enterprise. Integrity provides this stabilizing
dimension by never, ever, compromising. Integrity recognizes
risks and assumes responsibility. It drives the realization
of vision toward the enterprise's destination. Whether
in a small organization, a gigantic corporation, a
not-for-profit institution or a nation-state, everyone
needs to be engaged: to think and plan, to lift and
carry, to measure and monitor. Wise leaders and prudent
participants demand that all organizations reach across
various divisions, exuding integrity and leveraging
Integration for productivity is about integrity because
it takes seriously the changing landscape of our world.
Now, more than ever, it is incumbent upon each person
- Understand all people and their
- Appreciate the importance of
including all constituents in the building of stronger
and more effective teams and partnerships; and,
- Accommodate and leverage complementary
talents, without regard to differences, obvious or subtle,
embracing the new mosaic.
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity
Matters newspaper column on March 9, 2005
"Host's language takes from Oscars'
Do you think that host of the 2005 Academy Awards,
Chris Rock, was tasteless with his opening remarks?
His response to receiving a standing ovation from adoring
fans, who happened to be stars in the entertainment
industry, was to use a crude phrase of "set your
(!@#%&**) down!" Has society deteriorated
Yes to both of your questions.
The Oscars were, once upon a time, an elegant event
celebrating the creativity and celebrity of Hollywood.
The majesty of the movies was matched by the mystery
and mystique of those who wrote, produced, directed,
acted, edited and distributed Tinsel-town's celluloid
magic-carpet ride. Replacing the traditional grandeur
is all too often the gross. The "olden days" of
even the pretense of sophistication have been displaced
by classless crudity more reminiscent of choreographed
characters from the world of wrestling. The Oscar's
traditional red carpet for "bigger-than-life" superstars
has become a media feedlot for gossip and bickering.
If that is what it takes for Hollywood's most
important celebration to garner ratings, then peddle
that program in someone else's home next year.
We will be playing dominoes that evening.
Now, let's talk about integrity by answering
a few important questions that address your concerns
about tastelessness and cultural deterioration.
- If you choose to get upset with Mr. Rock because
he used crude language, then you might want to figure
out who made him a star commanding big bucks and
the Oscar podium. He has responded to what his marketplace
demands. How else would he be able to sell tickets
to his brand of entertainment?
- What causes millions of people to stay tuned to
the Oscars television event when it is being hosted
unprofessionally? Not too many years ago, adoring
movie fans expected hosts to be clever, behaving
in good taste. Language was appropriate for all age
groups. Marginal and crude behavior had no place.
Foul language and gross sexual innuendo were taboo.
What has happened? Did the Hollywood moguls, or at
least those who wrote and approved this year's
program, offer the television audience anything not
already welcomed by their ticket-buying fans?
- Isn't it time to ask how far we are willing
to allow behaviors to go until mature adults say "enough"?
Censorship is unnecessary when individuals and groups
behave responsibly. Demanding taped broadcast-delays
is not be required when self-control is being exercised.
Graciousness and judgment are needed, now.
Hollywood is the home of dream makers and the Oscars,
the Annual Celebration of Success, remains its fairytale
event. Oscar-night enables "the rest of us" to
catch a glimpse of what "could be" - if only
in our dreams. The time has come to ask of Hollywood's
tremendous talent, for a few additional hours, only once
a year, to "remain in character" so that
we might enjoy "suspending our disbelief" and
bask in the magic that is the movies. There is something
quite comforting about an energizing "two-hour" vacation
that can be taken in a movie theatre.
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity
Matters newspaper column on March 23, 2005
"Baseball, McGwire strike out with
Where is Mark McGwire's integrity? When asked
if he had used steroids when hitting so many homeruns,
his response to a Congressional committee was: "I'm
not here to talk about my past."
Potential "Hall-of-Famer" Mark McGwire appeared before a special
committee of the Congress of the United States and did little to improve his
stature as a "stand-up" person exemplifying honesty, fair play
or integrity. We may never know all of the people associated with baseball
who encouraged and supported the violation of the rules of fair play. However,
the current Congressional investigation of Major League baseball can teach
us a great deal:
- Baseball is on trial, but so too American society.
- The phrase "only fools pay retail" suggests
that for an increasing number of people, cutting
deals is smart business, regardless of who gets hurt.
Fans wanted to see more homeruns and baseball's
decision-makers made it happen.
- Justification sounds like this: "If the 'deal' runs
on the ragged edge of integrity, so what!" Performance
needed to be enhanced, including baseballs and players.
- Finding the "edge" encourages the
misguided to bend, even break, rules to attract ticket-buyers
and increase profits, because, many embrace that winning,
at all costs, is everything.
- Congress has found a comfortable "target" to
accuse and humiliate. Who is not moved by heartbroken
parents describing the suicides of their own sons?
These promising athletes wanted to perform like professionals
who were blasting tape-measure homeruns late into
their superstar careers.
Does contemporary American Society need for the Congress
of the United States to pass laws to regulate performance-enhancing
drug use among professional athletes? Should not baseball
owners and the athletes who take the field for them
(and their fans) be capable of competing fairly with
intelligence and judgment? It should be common
knowledge that free markets- in this case Big League
Baseball organizations - must regulate themselves or
Congress is now evaluating the "junkie" traits
of baseball. Junkies exhibit a compulsive habit or obsessive
dependency. Television programs cater to watchers demanding
data stimulation in so many areas that even news reporting
is presented with written "crawls" to attract
and retain viewers. The news is now produced in a "show" format,
more akin to a soap opera intended to stimulate than
a report intended to inform. So, what is the big surprise
when professional sports succumbs to the demands of the "attention-deficit-disordered-public" and
gives it what it wants? Baseball chose to provide a bigger-than-life
circus performance to satisfy stimuli-seeking fans craving
nerve-numbing activities, on the field, from the scoreboard
and even through the deafening sound system. Yes, the
excesses of a few appear to have punished the whole of
society. The Congressional "indictment" of
baseball is really about the integrity and the maturity
of contemporary culture. It is time for parents to turn
off the television and talk with children - before
the need for "junkie" stimulation destroys
more lives. It is time to listen and teach - with
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity
Matters newspaper column on May 11, 2005
"Accountability should be rule, not
New York's Attorney General, Eliot Spitzer, in his
April 5, 2005, Wall Street Journal op-ed, suggests
that only law enforcement works to restore confidence
in the "integrity-challenged" system beset
by scandals. His perspective is rigid, one-dimensional
and potentially destructive of the society he intends
to defend. The time has come for accountability - at
all levels and across many walks of life, even beyond
the business community. Certain behaviors are no longer
acceptable, legal or appropriate. Winking is not the
right response when describing the inappropriateness
of sexual harassment issues. Those all-too-common knowing
nods regarding "insider deal-making" are
being carefully policed along with self-serving behaviors
that take unfair advantage of others. Society is speaking.
Enron and WorldCom have become business clichés
for big shots living the high life while cheating hard
working employees and uninformed investors. And where
is this leading us? Enforcement of laws is long over-due.
According to Landon Thomas, Jr. of the New York Times,
in his story On Wall Street, a Rise in Dismissals
over Ethics, March 29, 2005, the business environment
is changing. "With regulatory scrutiny heightened,
there has been a wave of firings as corporations move
to stop perceived breaches of ethics." Thomas
then quotes Ira Lee Sorkin, a senior white-collar crime
lawyer, who describes the current business environment
as "a regulatory frenzy. Corporations are acting
out of fear and they don't want to take a chance that
employees did something wrong under their watch, so
they are basically cleaning house. Someone has to say
Enough! Enough! We must not forget
that in New England, in the Colonial Period "witch
hunts" saw innocent people "burned at the
stake" in the name of religious purity. In the
1950's, all across the United States of America, "McCarthyism" was
a terrifying term for hate-mongering and a rush-to-judgment
approach that destroyed careers, families and lives,
often abusing the very rights and freedoms it purported
to support. Are we heading down the very same pathway
again? Litmus tests are being drawn up in such rigid
ways disqualifying just about anyone "those designing
the tests" might choose to exclude, including
public servants, religious leaders, business people,
and the like. If only "perfect" people were
salvageable, who would be left to do anything?
Mistakes are inevitable. However,
a broken trust does not need to remain forever. Leaders
across society need to face the real issues: credibility
and integrity. The current "in thing" - at
least on Wall Street - of terminating folks who are
even "perceived" to be involved in a breach
of ethics is irresponsible and destructive. Presuming
guilt is not a part of the justice system of the United
States, presuming innocence is. Rushing to create "photo
ops" of these accused may make great theater,
but it does little to restore confidence in the entire
structure of our society.
Standards and behaviors seem to be improving. Over-reacting
and operating out of fear will discourage courage and
encourage cowardice. Whistle blowers are prevailing.
Crooks are serving time. It is time to build constructive
relationships, across the board. Integrity throughout
the economic system will emerge when relationships are
rebuilt, one imperfect step at a time. Human beings make
mistakes and they can fix them. Let's try trust, again
not forgetting to monitor, one another, all along the
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity
Matters newspaper column on April 6, 2005
"Integrity is alive and well"
With all of the cheating in corporations, the sports world and in marriages,
is integrity becoming an "old school" relic? Who still honors commitments?
A construction company has this as its motto: "If you're not
happy, we're not done." Their words imply they mean what they
say about quality work and customer service. Since they have been in business
for 60 years, there is no way they could survive unless these nice-sounding
words translated into real-time behaviors. Integrity is important and many
businesses honor commitments.
Despite the statistics about broken marriages, tens
of millions of couples make their relationships work,
year after year. Mutual respect is the foundation of
their communication with one another, whether at home
or in public. They share responsibilities and "weather" the
inevitable tough times that are a part of human relationships.
Perfect marriages don't happen to perfect people,
but caring individuals place needs of a partner above
ego and pride in ways that allow forgiveness to overcome
heartache and a sense of humor to dissolve anger and
frustration. Marriage partners honor commitments.
Billions of individuals from around the world are
in mourning the loss of Pope John Paul II, the spiritual
leader of the Roman Catholic Church, whose life, sacrifices
and death have touched many lives. Respect for this
2000-year-old tradition has captured headlines. Something
about the integrity of a person, even when his ideas
were in stark contrast to more "popular" stances,
challenges the strongest of personalities to pause,
pray and even shed a tear. Pope John Paul II, 1920
-2005, embodied integrity and changed the world he
inherited, by honoring his commitments.
Recently, a near-fatal crash was avoided, about 20
feet in front of me, at the four-way stop at Munras
Avenue and Soledad Street in Monterey at 7:05 a.m.
A pre-occupied driver accelerated through the intersection,
heading north, after the light had turned red. Parked
in the left turn lane, I saw the automobile fly by.
From the right, driving west on Soledad, another driver
was nearing the middle of the intersection, only to
swerve left just as the intruder made a similar movement.
The cars may have missed by more than inches, but if
so, then only by a little. No horns honked. No screams
or threats were heard. No road rage. Everyone proceeded.
Both drivers showed restraint, respect and forgiveness - and,
My response was a silent prayer of thanksgiving while
wiping the perspiration from my forehead. Thankfully,
no one was hurt even though a life-and-death mistake
was made. Adults reacted appropriately, driving their
cars professionally, while managing fears well and
their reactions even better. Two adults behaved maturely
and the remainder of my day was better. Obviously,
integrity still matters in business, sports, marriage,
religion, and, in day-to-day encounters, including "forgiving" a
thoughtless driver. Integrity involves understanding
and tolerance in business, at home and "on the
The Terri Schiavo situation, horrible as it was,
displaced important news coverage of Iraq, Afghanistan,
North Korea, Iran, corporate scandals, pedophile priests,
murders, gang violence, social security reform and
the high cost of fuel. How can this happen?
News outlets (television, radio and print) make money selling advertising,
based upon their viewer-ship, listener-ship and reader-ship. Their economic
success depends upon market penetration and market share. What the "public" wants
to know, not necessarily what the public needs to know,
is the driving factor. Blaming the media for the reporting it provides is akin
to overweight people blaming their problems on the availability of ice cream
and cookies. Individuals are responsible for what they "take in" intellectually
and physically. Most of the time, people get what they want. If you are unhappy
with the news, you can ignore what is "tossed at you" and search
the worldwide web for current events and updates. Unfortunately, such efforts
are time-consuming and can be as frustrating as current inadequate offerings.
More of our friends are choosing not to have televisions
in their homes. Others are electing to not read newspapers
or even listen to news. This seems drastic, but their
explanations are sounding more and more convincing.
They argue that what they want to know is often difficult
to find. They want and need information related to
maintaining and improving their lives in ways that
make sense to them. They are looking for legitimate
information that will enable them to more effectively
face, understand and then responsibly address their
- personal safety (crime and how
it is being controlled and reduced)
- security (domestic and international
and how those in authority are making neighborhoods
and the world better places to live, travel and conduct
- freedom (how to live with confidence
knowing those who are elected and appointed will
be responsible stewards of the political and economic
structures of society)
Frustrated by the news being "beamed" at
them, an increasing number of concerned individuals
simply give-up and tune-out. As you may recall, from
my previous comments about the media, there are serious
issues that need to be addressed. Journalist-historian
Richard Reeves was asked by a college student to define "real
news" and he answered that real news
is "the news you and I need to keep our
What portion of the news you are seeing and reading
is essential for the retention of our freedoms? What
percentage is entertainment, posing as news? What amount
is editorial and biased opinion, masquerading under
the banner of "news" that is "fair and
Freedom and democracy require the public dissemination
of information. Print and broadcast media are essential
partners for the continuing success of the democratic
and free-enterprise system. Please, write to those
who operate your media and demand real news.
Remember: "Free and responsible government by
popular consent just can't exist without an informed
Make sure you remain informed.
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity
Matters newspaper column on April 13, 2005
"Cell phones, airlines could make
What kinds of chaos will be created with unlimited
cell-phone usage on airlines?
In May, 1992, while working feverishly between flights, in an airline "club" at
Chicago's O'Hare Field, a fellow-traveler was speaking loudly
on his cell phone, making my concentration impossible. After staring at him,
hoping he would lower his voice, I noticed others doing the same thing. He
continued his abrasive noise-level. Other business-types were also making
phone calls, writing notes, but quietly. This individual was oblivious or
ignorant; insensitive or simply a clod. Friday nights, after intense work "on
the road", when folks are heading home, it is unwise to be loud or rude.
I bit my lip, approached the "noise-maker" and
whispered: "I know you are under time pressures
to get your calls made. I have stresses too. Your powerful
voice overwhelms my ability to concentrate. Please
speak softly. Thanks." I turned and walked away.
The hush in the large room was deafening as all eyes
watched to see if I would get hit in the nose. My heart
was pounding. Fortunately, he accepted my comments
and lowered his voice. Suddenly, about 40 folks - when
he was not looking at them or me - flashed the "high-sign" and
nodded approvingly. A crisis was avoided, no punches
were thrown, work proceeded again and "everyone" lived
happily ever after. But that was then and this is now.
Try that same approach today at 30,000 feet, in a
cramped airplane and there will likely be confrontations.
Flight attendants are already overwhelmed "sorting
out" travelers' frustrations. Cell phone
noise will be blamed when folks are unable to sleep,
read or converse with seat mates. Decent people will
become testy, feisty and belligerent. Fights will follow.
Arrests will be made. Tensions will rise because young
children will we awakened with jarring phrases akin
to "can you hear me now?" and parents will
react. Instead of one person creating the deafening
noise, there will be hundreds on every flight. If you
have not traveled lately, it is already semi-organized
mayhem in the air. Planes are dirtier, service is surly,
food is approaching inedible and more travelers emit
foul odors while flight crews will be expected to referee
screeching callers, without the necessary authority
to do so. Because there is no "cellular-sheriff-in-the-sky" - you
can expect "vigilantes" to fight for peace
"Cellular freedom" is not simply about productivity
and staying connected. It also illustrates the self-centeredness
of today's air-traveler and the greed of cell-phone
companies and airlines seeking additional revenue streams.
Integrity demands that free markets, including individuals
who demand cellular phone access throughout flights,
regulate themselves, using sound judgment, discretion
and graciousness or chaos will prevail. When the fights
break out, and they will, violated travelers will demand
that governments establish stifling regulations. Cellular-abuse
must be stopped before it gets started. Air travel used
to be for reading, thinking, writing, conversation and
sleeping and it should be again.