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Some Things Said… (August 07)

Unfettered by incidental considerations like national interest or, as Elder Jimmy Carter put it, “very intense pressures from our own constituencies,” the Council aims to tackle “conflict, AIDS and global warming.” Somehow, Islamic terrorism escaped this list of major world problems, though Carter has offered his services as a mediator between Hamas and Fatah in the Palestinian conflict.

Other Council members include former Foreign Minister for Communist China Li Zhaoxing, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and Muslim economist Muhammad Yunus. Branson claims the Council will be “above partisan politics,” but Conan O’Brien offered the more immediate observation that “The Elders will be like the Fantastic Four, but with bladder problems.” –from The Patriot Post and as submitted by Mark Zaveson.

Having a soul

Remember: the most perfect machinery of government will not keep us as a nation from destruction if there is not within us a soul. — Theodore Roosevelt, as submitted by Muriel McConnon

Barry Bonds and the Egg – They say celebrity scandals are about “integrity.” Where do you get that?

Two eternal puzzles: What came first, the chicken or the egg? What came second, Barry Bonds or numbskull celebrities?

Much as we’d prefer to ponder the miracles of the egg, life insists that we instead decipher Mr. Bonds, Mr. Vick, Ms. Lohan, Mr. Donaghy’s NBA and the drug-addled messieurs of the Tour de France. Wall Street Journal style prefers the prefix “Mr.” for all but famous men of history, an admirable but perhaps quaint bow to an era when the world was not filling so fast with individuals content in disrepute.

You can begin to guess where this is going, but some qualifying pushback is in order.

Barry Bonds is being booed across Mr. Aaron’s home-run record at the same time Tom Glavine is gutting out his 300th pitching victory, an Everest not likely to be scaled again in modern baseball. Michael Vick and the details of the dogs indictment are off the charts, not even close to routine knifings in strip bars. The price-fixing allegations against NBA ref Tim Donaghy are one man’s fall. Lindsay Lohan is a celebrity gone nuts. Ah, almost forgot the real world: The FBI this week searched the Alaska home of seven-term U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens.

Yes indeedy, we’ve been this way before. But the celebrity breakdown cycle has ramped up from once a year to once a month to once a week. At this rate their behavior will be the norm, and you’ll be the weirdoes…

How did this happen?

I now take it as an article of faith that marketing rules the world. Marketing is an ancient business tool, but unlike some other artifacts of the past, product marketing is a perfect fit for the age of electronic mass media. The Web has been marketing’s Manhattan Project, and like Iran, everyone wants access to marketing’s mysterious, sometimes dark powers.

Professional sports of course have always been a business. Babe Ruth was no role model, but Mr. Ruth’s great charisma and celebrity–the Ruthian “brand”–pulled baseball into the big time. Even so, baseball operated for decades as a nice family business–with the fame of the game’s stars largely limited to televised games and sports writing.

Back then, an egg was just an egg. Barry Bonds came into the game in a time of cloning. All sciences advance, including business science. Sophisticated new business techniques of marketing and branding names across platforms, powered by the rocket fuel of electronic media, made it possible to “stretch” a sport far beyond the last out or buzzer. The seer Charles Barkley once said: “You got guys who can’t even play that got jerseys, shoes and everything.”

The players became platforms outside the game for selling shoes, brands “and everything.” …Professional athletes were tutored that part of the deal was they had to pump extra hang-time into their personalities. And if they couldn’t do that, the guys making the Nike commercials would do it for them. In the early days, journalists derided this as “hype,” but even the press eventually signed on, and suddenly lumpen athletes and entertainers had “attitude” and “edge.” This was now admirable.

…Do we want more of this behavior, or less of it? The problem with more on its current upward trajectory is that they besmirch colleagues and circles of life beyond their own personal catastrophes. And to the extent we all “get the news” from the wonderful Web, it is hard to avoid the sense that one is living in a shameful time.

Now comes the part the thousands of high-IQ people buying all those the God-Is-Dreadful books don’t want to hear.

Marketing and branding don’t force anyone to cheat. A zillion commentaries on these sports scandals have said it’s all about “integrity” and “character.” But where does that come from? You have to learn this stuff somewhere. It isn’t in the water. It has to be reinforced through repetition, the same way the real Barry Bonds practiced his way to phenomenal ball-contact skills. Better behavior through repetition? Maybe Barry Bonds and the Tour de France cyclists should drop into a church more often than never to get “don’t cheat” reinforced. Got a better way to learn it?

Perhaps we really could slide by without religion if the schools, the traditional incubator of civic virtues, hadn’t been rendered values-neutral by court decisions and anti-virtue ideologues. Parents? Where are they supposed to get it? Watching the Discovery Channel?

…Commenting in the New York Times last Sunday, former pro cyclist Joe Papp, now serving a two-year drug-violation ban, summed up the predicament: “You are so focused on the travel, the training, the money and what a wonderful life you are having that you don’t realize how far down the slope you have slid.” That is a world without ballast… –excerpted from an article by Daniel Henninger in The Wall Street Journal 8.2.07

Abortion #1 killer of blacks, says Tennessee pastor

The pastor of an African Methodist Episcopal church in Tennessee says blacks in America need to know that an enemy much more dangerous than the Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups snuffs out the lives of more blacks than do violence, accidents, and all diseases combined.

Joseph Parker is pastor of Campbell Chapel AME Church in Pulaski, Tennessee, birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan. Parker says most blacks would agree that the Klan is viewed as the number-one enemy of blacks. Yet despite all the violence that group has committed over the years, the Tennessee pastor says it “pales in comparison” to the violence and killing committed by the world’s largest abortion-provider, Planned Parenthood. –excerpted from an article by Rusty Pugh as found at 8.6.07.

Moral clarity

Those who seek to move the earth must first, as Archimedes explained, have a place to stand. Moral clarity provides us with a place to stand, a reference point from where to leverage our talents, ideas, and energies to create a better world. –Natan Sharansky

More on moral clarity

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.

You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.

Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. —Matthew 5: 13-20

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