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Question: (E-161)
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 and graciousness.

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 you
not only for what you have made of yourself,
but for what you are making of me. I love you
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 a
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 nine:

  • 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 way.
  • 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 . . .
  • Smile.
  • Thrive in '05!

Question: (E-162)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on January 5, 2005

"Look for first job where you can grow, advance"

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 various early-career 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:

  1. In what size organization do you best fit: small, medium or large?
  2. Do other younger workers ordinarily move forward inside the organization or do they often flame-out, routinely moving on?
  3. Will you be proud to introduce your product or service to those you know the best?
  4. Are you confident about the leadership integrity of the organization?
  5. 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 searching.

Third, confirming to a potential employer that you are the right employee is quite simple. There is no faking integrity. Working environments demand concentration 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 communicating honestly.

Effective business relationships are built upon trust and forthrightness and that means all transactions are integrity-centered, from the very beginning.

Question: (E-163)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on January 12, 2005

"Honesty always remains the best policy"

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 moral constraints.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

  1. They simply "buy-in" to integrity-centered values. Nurture them.
  2. They fear being arrested, audited or embarrassed. Remind them.
  3. Spiritual principles inspire constructive behavior while holding destructive actions in "check." Encourage them.
  4. 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 and smile.

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.

Question: (E-164)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on March 30, 2005

"Don't let life be just about the ‘Benjamins'"

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.

Question: (E-165)


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 or graciousness?

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.

  1. If a mistake is made, own it, immediately.
  2. When others are hurt, apologize, sincerely, as soon as possible.
  3. Make sure commitments to change are made clear.
  4. 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.

Question: (E-166)
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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Question: (E-167)
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 hand.

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.

Question: (E-168)

"Inaugural Parties"

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 or conscience.

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.

Question: (E-169)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on February 2, 2005

"Use your eyes and ears when starting new job"

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 Lamenting.

  • 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 your acceptance.
  • 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 process.
  • 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.

Question: (E-170)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on February 9, 2005

"Enron's leadership will pay for behavior"

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 the world."

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 everything.

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.

Question: (E-171)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on February 16, 2005

"Steroid scandal sends wrong message to youth"

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.

Question: (E-172)
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 system.

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:

  1. Does the company need to be more sensitive?
  2. Does 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 its reaction.

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.

Question: (E-173)
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 will.

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?

Question: (E-174)
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 to integrity?


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 various communities.

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 and spiritual.

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 talent.

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 to:

  1. Understand all people and their circumstances;
  2. Appreciate the importance of including all constituents in the building of stronger and more effective teams and partnerships; and,
  3. Accommodate and leverage complementary talents, without regard to differences, obvious or subtle, embracing the new mosaic.

Question: (E-175)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on March 9, 2005

"Host's language takes from Oscars' grandeur"

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 that much?

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.

  1. 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?
  2. 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?
  3. 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.

Question: (E-176)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on March 23, 2005

"Baseball, McGwire strike out with steroids"

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:

  1. Baseball is on trial, but so too American society.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 governments will.

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 integrity.

Question: (E-177)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on May 11, 2005

"Accountability should be rule, not exception"

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! 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 way.

Question: (E-178)
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, excellent driving.

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 road."

Question: (E-179)


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 concerns:

  1. personal safety (crime and how it is being controlled and reduced)
  2. security (domestic and international and how those in authority are making neighborhoods and the world better places to live, travel and conduct business)
  3. 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 freedoms."

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 balanced" information?

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 public."

Make sure you remain informed.

Question: (E-180)
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on April 13, 2005

"Cell phones, airlines could make noisy pair"

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 and quiet.

"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.

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