Saturday, July 23, 2005

Self deprecating Candor from Candorville

One of my favorite comics in the paper is Candorville. Written by an African American young man in California. He makes me laugh and wince at the same time. His series on blogging is humorous and humbling. Doesn't mean I'll stop any time soon. It does mean I'll do better, I hope. You'll have to decide.

The Gleaner (Mr. Gene Gleans) is off to Oklahoma to Glean some new things. Where's bunny rabbit and Mr Moose? I'll tell you all about it a week from now. Till then, enjoy Candorville.

Friday, July 22, 2005

How we Might Lose the Iraq War

I saw this picture in the Tribune. Here's the story.

That's her daddy. He was killed by terrorists (Not Insurgents) in Iraq. His job was guarding her school.

She don't know much about Shite or Sunni.

She knows her father's dead.

She doesn't know much about Saddam Hussein.

Those are her fathers feet who carried her as a baby. He won't do that again. Look at the pain in her eyes. This is never going away.

She won't have any opportunity to have daddy at her wedding. When she marries, as I hope she does, she will remember this day with pain.

When a despotic dictator emerges in Iraq who promises that he will get rid of all the bad people who kill little girl's daddies she will submit to his tyranny with willingness. She will do it because she will remember this day. This has happened over and over again in world history. Hitler is the most recent iteration. When the despot emerges the US will not have the collective political will to stop him. We as a country will be happy to hand off the mess that is Iraq of today..

She is the future of Iraq. The USA doesn't matter to her. Daddy did. Daddy was killed. In the old days Daddy wouldn't have been killed, she believes.

This picture is NOT good news to our efforts and the sacrifice of our troops.

Her heart and her mind will be hard to win. She wants her daddy back.

This is a pessimistic future. But it's more pessimistic if we don't win. We must win the war of the hearts and minds of people who have every chance of becoming our enemy. They have declared war. Look at this statement. We must win this war of the hearts and minds and offer this little girl hope and a future. Or Saddam will look like a peanut next to the despot that will follow. This really matters.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Bending Iron

My first real paying job was in a steel bending factory. I welded. Others bent. In Fargo. I liked it. Still do.

One key lesson I learned that has held me to this day it's if you want a 90 degree bend you have to go to 120. It;it will always try to spring back. If you only go to 90 you'll get 70 and it will be harder to get to 90. It's easier to come back a little than to stretch a little.


John Roberts. Not a full 120 degrees. But more than 90. I'm really glad we didn't settle for 70 and hope for a little more.


Tuesday, July 19, 2005

How to be a REAL Journalista or something.

A couple weeks ago I read a commentary by Charles Madigan of the Chicago Tribune. I wrote a responce in this blog and sent the link to him. He wrote back. He was very nice. He evidently recieved quite a bit of "Feedback". So I am publishing below his whole response to this. I must confess, I dearly love this kind of give and take. I don't want to argue, I just want to explore ideas. He does that well and his examples are very well done. Thanks Chas.

Handling discourse without the attitude

Published July 19, 2005

Last week we strove to clarify the problem between journalism and conservatives by strongly suggesting a lot of critics just can't handle bad news.

In the wake of way too many e-mails rife with anatomical references, I have decided to revisit the subject by presenting a journalism lesson on the difference between news and commentary.

The earliest archives and oral histories tell us that journalism has its roots in primitive time when a remarkable bird called the foo, tired of predators, decided it should lay its huge eggs while in flight. This doomed the bird, of course, and created history's first aviation hazard. A man named Noog was the first victim, killed by a blow on the noggin from one of the foo's basketball-size eggs.

His friend rushed from the scene and encountered a whole collection of other primitives debating the wisdom of eating oysters, which were slimy, suspicious but, somehow, enticing.

Waving his arms in the air, he shouted, "Noog, is dead!"

A primitive stepped away from the oyster debate.

"What do you mean Noog is dead? Who is Noog? What killed him? When? Where? Why? Are there other Noogs? Aren't we all really Noogs? And you don't need a comma between "Noog" and "is."

Within an hour, word had spread.

In another gathering of primitives, a man whose mate had been stolen by Noog announced: "Frankly, I think it is good Noog is dead. He was liberal, hedonist scum and he should have died long ago. Foo eggs are good." Another stepped forward and said: "Noog did not deserve to die, especially not that way. No one deserves to die that way. Eggs are bad for us."

And there you have it in a nutshell, the births of three important journalism disciplines: news, editing and commentary all in the same place, along with the earliest debates about a subject that remains important to us today, whether eggs might be bad for your health.

It's hard to believe that all of journalism flowed from that ancient incident and, truth be known, it didn't.

I made it all up. The foo bird is a plagiarism, lifted from an old joke in which what falls from the sky is not an egg and the punch line plays with the cliche, "If the shoe fits, wear it."

I can suggest that this is the history of journalism here in this blessed space, which we call "op-ed," because other rules apply in the world of commentary.

News is and should be different.

Critics will never believe it, but there is a delightful simplicity to much of news. Something happens today that didn't happen yesterday, you work it out as best you can and then write a clear, accurate account of it. That is the newspaper model. What you think about it doesn't matter. How you feel in most cases doesn't matter either. It's much more craft than art and I, for one, always loved it.

The problem is that news has become a very challenging subject over the last few decades and its presentation has changed.

Newspapers, television outlets, the Internet, magazines, they are all involved in a life-and-death war over market share. Everyone wants to become more interesting, more provocative, more enticing, as part of that process, and that has warped the way news is presented in many cases.

Political news, for example, is full of nuance, suggestion and, in some cases, manipulation, either on the part of the writer or on the part of the politicians creating the story. The latest arrival on the political writing scene is attitude. Newspapers haven't caught up with it yet, but it is the defining element on the Internet. You need a loud, aggressive voice there that people can either love or hate. And either response is just as valuable.

These are interesting developments on a political landscape on which the words "left" and "right" have no clear meaning, along with their polysyllabic, snootier descriptions, "liberal" and "conservative." They have mutated from actual descriptive words to nothing more than slanders people glue on one another when they hear, see or read what they don't like. And now they are defining criticism of the media. "Liberal" or "right wing" are easy labels to slap on unpleasant commentary or news.

But here's the truth of it. Most of journalism never comes near the world of politics and its hyperboles. Most of journalism is about mundane, local, important events such as zoning battles and tax rates and crime and weather. Most of journalism is still, "Noog, is dead."

As for the part that isn't news, the commentary part, I would suggest the more passionate the voice, no matter what the political slant, the better. That is what makes talk radio so compelling, the clarity of Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly, with whom I agree on just about, oh, Nothing! But I really value the way they do their work because it works so well for their listeners.

As for the rest of it, I'm still not sure about eggs, although I do, indeed, love them, and oysters always have been just fine whenever you can get them.


Charles M. Madigan is the editor of Perspective and writes The Rambling Gleaner at E-mail:

Monday, July 18, 2005

Free Bernie Ebbers

What? I can hear you clear over here.

Let me explain. All of the White Collar Criminal Convictions of the last couple year, Tyco, Dynegy, Enron, and all the other are a symptom of a couple cultural changes which may not be for the better.

Ebbers, Ken Lay, Koslowski and all the rest were greedy, stupid, and goaded into the behavior that brought them down. They got on a track and couldn’t get off.

Who put them there? Stockholders. Board of Directors not directing. The desire for a higher and higher PE in the market.

The Directors hire high priced executives, particularly CEO’s. 20, 30 million a year. I don’t want to say, no one is worth that, because I think I am. Of course I don’t have a line of people saying come on in at that kind of money. But is it too much to imagine a highly competent CEO who would do a good job at 2, 3 or 4 million a year. I’m available. When a person is paid that much it causes them to believe they are omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. They aren’t but the want to give the impression they are. Others believe they are. Boards of Directors believe they are. They still aren’t. Stockholders believe they are. It’s all smoke and mirrors. Consider what would happen to a stock if the CEO came out and said, “there are things going on here that don’t look right and I’m trying to get to the bottom of it but I’m having a problem getting information that I need. I don’t know what I can or should do right now. I’ll level with you as soon as I figure this deal out.” Directors would say, “You’re fired” and the stock wouldn’t find a bottom. The CEO in American business is the last messianic figure.

When you are CEO a lot of smoke and sand is pounded up where you don’t want it. People are tugging on you at all times.

I have done this job. I have been President or CEO of several companies. I know what it’s like to have someone lie to you and not know it. I have had to fire people for mistruth. Sometimes the people you decide to take into your confidence become the biggest liars. Before you know it you are in over your head. Then rectifying the situation takes months.

If you want to earn 30 million a year, put your own money at risk, not stock options, and build the value that way.

During the 80’s and 90’s till the .Com bust there was a go go mentality that required CEO’s to have VISION. If as CEO you reported to the Board and Stockholders an accurate conservative appraisal of next year’s sales and profits you were run out on a rail. You weren’t thinking positive enough.

If Bernie Ebbers and Ken Lay did anything wrong they didn’t tell themselves the truth first and then they bought the whole concept of Rah Rah Rah we are the greatest. Wonderful leadership. The cheering intensified as everything went down the drain.

So now we have Sarbanes Oxley. Now we imprison people for Greed, stupidity and hubris.

This has happened before. The French Revolution. The aristocracy was Greedy, Stupid and suffered from Hubris. So the Proletariat cut off their heads. Men Women and Children. If the mob mentality that pervades our courts and populace were allowed to run as wild as it could we would fire up the guillotine again.

Sending Martha, Bernie and Ken to Jail is storming the Bastille.

I’m not proud of our country in this area. I don’t believe a life sentence for Bernie Ebbers is appropriate and I regret supporting anything like this. It could have been me. No one who hasn’t lived this life of pressure and BS can understand the way you can be blinded to reality by the requirement to put on a happy face, not be bearer of bad news.

Put the Directors in Jail. Maybe that’ll help. Off with their heads.

Heads will ROLL!

Life Principles I believe #2

I do business with one of the nicest people you will ever meet. Gary. He is along in years. He has been a successful nurseryman. His people are slavishly loyal to him. Chris who was his manager for many years still sees him as one of the most decent men ever. What caused this incredible loyalty and success?

I know why. He is so thankful to everyone who works for him. He always ends a conversation with me by saying, Thanks so much or Thanks a million, or I really appreciate all your hard work. And he says it because he means it.

How does that make me feel? Like doing more. I go out of my way to do him a good job, to treat him right, to make sure I don’t short him in any way.

He never berates. He asks hard questions. But he always is appreciative.

Thank you, I appreciate you, you are really doing great here. They all get results none of us can imagine. I’m not talking flattery here. We can spot a phony right away. I’m talking HONEST and SINCERE. We can always find something to appreciate about everyone. I mean Hitler had Eva Braun. You can find something to appreciate about that so and so you work with every day.

There is ONE codicil. It must be sincere and sincerely delivered. Honest sincere appreciation. It costs nothing to give and it yields such huge dividends.

So, Give honest sincere appreciation and watch what happens.