Monday, December 13, 2004

December 12, 2004

December 9, 2004

Will Our Real Values Please Stand Up
I’m a bit confused over this whole “values” business. I’m more than willing to come to grips with the possibility that I have no values, or the wrong values, but first I need those who claim to know to explain a few things to me first.

Is it wrong to lie and cheat? If so why do we let people like Barry Bonds continue to earn millions of dollars a year? Why do we let our kids chase him and his kind around for autographs? He is a liar and a cheater. You know it, and I know it. We know it just like we knew Clinton lied when he said he smoked pot but didn’t inhale.

But you values guys do nothing about people like Bonds. Oh sure there will be laws passed against athletes using steroids, but Bonds and his fellow liars and cheaters will be allowed to go on earning millions and pretending to be role models for your kids. And you guys will let them do it. Some of you will even make money off these liars and cheaters.

So, are lying and cheating among the values you Red State folk want to discourage or encourage? I just want to know. Because if your really want to discourage such behavior then why not insist that the punishment for lying and cheating at least match what a liar or cheater can gain by lying and cheating? In the case of these high-priced athletes I would think that the least you'all should be demanding is that they be banned from the game.

But then you do the opposite. These famous, highly paid celebs actually seem to be rewarded for lying and cheating. Take Martha Stewart. When she finishes her five-month stay in jail she will emerge as a heroine. The groundwork for her reemergence was being laid on my TV screen this morning when a spokeswoman for Stewart’s company gushed, “Martha showed real class and bravery in agreeing to serve her five months sentence…” Right. Like she had a choice.

And, what is your values culture going to do to Martha when she gets out? Why give her her own TV show, of course.
Martha, From Slammer to Syndication
Jeff Zucker, president of NBC Universal Television Group, announced yesterday that reality TV impresario Mark Burnett will create for the company "the most exciting offering to come along in daytime television" -- development of which will get underway just as soon as the star gets out of the slammer. Jailed nesting diva Martha Stewart will host a one-hour daily syndicated daytime show for the General Electric division, debuting next fall and featuring a live studio audience and celebrity guests. The 14 NBC-owned TV stations, including Washington's WRC, have signed on to air the program.

The message here: Girls grow up to be a tough ass woman, work hard and, when necessary, break the rules. It's okay, as long you make enough money to hire the best lawyers and aggressively manage your image.

So, you see why I am a bit confused about just what kind of values you guys are nagging me to adopt. I was raised to shun liars and cheaters, not embrace them. So, can you help me a bit with that one?

Okay, I will wait for an answer on that. Can we move on to another values contradiction I need some help on?

Let’s talk stealing. I would think that stealing would not be a value you would want to encourage. At least on the street you seem determined to punish those who steal. But shouldn’t the punishment for stealing match the size of the crime? I thought so, but it doesn’t seem to work that way. In fact a look at the numbers tells me that if you are going to be a thief, be a big ass thief. Because, someone who sticks up a 7/11 for a couple hundred bucks will get thrown in the slammer for a couple of years, while a company and that steals millions of dollars gets off with no jail time, for no one. If they don't get caught they keep the money. If they get caught they just have to put the cookies they stole back into the jar, plus a little for the lawyers and the state, and they are allowed to go their way. Most of the time they don’t even have to admit they did anything wrong to begin with. Being a thieving corporation in American is a bit like being a Catholic; when they get caught sinning all they have do is go to confession, say a few prayers in private and, whalla… a clean slate.

Think I exaggerate? I just dipped into today’s business section for these little nuggets:

Fannie Mae Settles Case in Mortgage Scam
Fannie Mae yesterday agreed to pay the government $7.5 million to settle a case in which the Justice Department alleged that the giant housing-finance company knowingly accepted proceeds of a mortgage scam.

Inter-Tel to pay $9.5 to settle e-Rate fraud charges

Inter-Tel Inc. and its wholly owned subsidiary Inter-Tel Technologies will pay about $9.5 million in civil settlements and criminal fines under the terms of a plea agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice..

Between just those two stories we have $17 million in stolen money. Stolen by whom? Well no human apparently because no “body” is going to jail in either case. Of course a corporation does not commit a crime without humans acting in ways that aid and abet. But no, it’s the paper entity, the un-jailable “corporation” that takes the rap and the humans within are thereby allowed to maintain their Brooks Bros. patina of respectability. (And, don't even get me started on that rat's nest Halliburton!)

So, since you values folks are in charge now, are you going to change that situation? Or should I just start instructing my grandkids that, if they should decide to become a crook just don’t become a small-time crook - one with low values. Think big, aim high and be sure their crookery is shielded by an air-tight corporate charter.

Help me with that one would you? You gonna change that or leave it the way it is?

Okay, enough with bad values, let’s talk about values I thought you guys wanted to encourage.

Professionalism, honesty and fidelity.
I'd assumed that those three would be right up at the top of your Must Have Values list. But, look what happens to those who try to live by those very values. As you read these words there are three journalists facing jail because they followed those rules.

In New York: “The U.S. Court of Appeals judges here will decide whether reporters Matthew Cooper of Time magazine and Judith Miller of the New York Times can be jailed for refusing to appear before a grand jury investigating whether administration officials illegally identified a covert CIA operative to reporters in the summer of 2003. “

In Rhode Island: TV reporter Jim Taricani, 55, and the recipient of a recent heart transplant, faces six months in the slammer for refusing to reveal who leaked him a copy of video tape showing a local government official taking a bribe in one of Rhode Island’s perennial public corruption investigations.
Not one of these reporters mugged anyone, stole their life savings, lied or cheated. They were simply doing their jobs and keeping their promises. Work and fidelity – values I thought you Red Staters were hot to encourage. Was I wrong about that? Should I ditch my long-held values of keeping my pledges and adhering to the rules and standards of my profession? (Can I also make things up now? )

Then there’s the little matter of Robert Novak, the guy who started the troubles now facing Miller and Cooper. Neither of those two reporters received the leak in question, a leak that outted CIA agent Valerie Plame. No, Robert Novak did that. He got the leak and he broke the story. But wait, why isn’t Novak facing jail time for refusing to reveal the source? Could it be because he already spilled the beans? Seems a reasonable conclusion.

So, Novak, one your leading values advocates, broke both faith with source and his profession. And, is letting two other reporters hang. (Reminds me of the line from a Faulkner novel: "The louder he spoke of his virtue the faster we counted our spoons.")

Yo, CNN, why is are you allowing this value-challenged columnist to remain on your payroll or, for that matter, on the air? I would think your motto, “The Most Trusted Name in News,” would preclude such a despicable person being associated in any way with CNN? (FOX sure, but CNN?) What source is going to trust a CNN reporter to keep his/her promise of confidentiality after this?

So, values voters, help me out here. Do I have all this wrong? I’m totally confused and need to hear from you guys on these issues. Why is it you talk big and act small when it comes to weeding out the biggest liars, cheaters and thieves in our midst?

Those of us out here you are so determined to change await your answer – oh, and your actions. Because the older I get the less I watch people mouths and the more I watch their feet.

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