Fixing America – Ideas 1-3

Posted by Mack W. Borgen October 16th, 2019

Blog No. 106
October 16, 2019 

Fixing America – Ideas 1-3

By Mack W. Borgen , Recipient of Eight National Book Awards 
For a “cleaner” / non-email presentation of this and my other blogs, essays, and articles, please go to my website at https://www.mackwborgen.com/

Introduction 

          This is the first in my new series of Ideas Blogs. In this series of short articles I will present ideas which might help in “fixing America.”
          Some of the ideas are my own. A few of them are already well-kn0wn but deserve our reconsideration.  Most of them I have come across in the course of my research over these last now 12 years for my last two series of books – The Relevance of Reason (Vols I and II) (2013-2014) and Dead Serious and Lighthearted (Vols I, II, and III) (2018-2019).
          These ideas cover a wide range of subjects. I will present them without lengthy comment or recommendation, but I believe that you, like me, may conclude — like the title of my last blog – that many ideas are already percolating out  — some of them “are good … and some are brilliant.” Enjoy.

Idea No 1.

Consolidated Interstate Database for Reports of License Suspension or Revocation

Background Some professions have strict licensure requirements for practice. For example and with only very limited exceptions, health care professionals (e.g. doctors and nurses), psychologists, lawyers, engineers, and architects, have to be licensed by the state in which they practice. In some cases, these persons must also comply with mandatory continuing education or re-examination, qualification, and other licensure maintenance requirements.
          Most clients, patients, and other customers understandably want to know the qualifications and expertise of those professionals they retain and with whom they entrust their lives, monies, or businesses.
           While some states maintain easily accessible databases by profession, oftentimes the databases are not well-known. In some cases, they are not well-maintained. For that reason, clients, patients, and customers are left to unduly rely upon word of mouth or Yelp-type reviews in their selection of their professionals.
          Even worse, in mobile, right-to-travel, re-invent ourselves America, an individual who has had his or her license revoked or who has been disbarred or censured in one state, can relatively easily move to another state and start dangerously afresh,. In the new state, the disbarred or censured professional can start anew. This is unwise, unfair, and risky.
Idea:      Develop a single, high-quality, widely-known, and well-maintained consolidated national database for selected licensed professionals. America needs an “American Professionals” database.
Implementation Comments: Careful identification procedures should be put in place so that no information is incorrectly included (or omitted) from the database. Arguably, there could or should be some procedure whereby an individual who has been the subject of a suspension or license revocation can after X years (e.g. 15 years) have such reference expunged.
Source: Mack W. Borgen

Idea No. 2

Term Limits

Background: The concept of term limits has been debated for many years at both the federal and state levels. At this time some form of term limits exist in 36 states (albeit with some material exemptions such as limiting only “successive” terms). However, except for the constitutional limitation of two successive terms for the U.S. Presidency, there are no federal term limits. The concept of federal term limits for at least the U.S. Congress should be re-considered for several reasons. The first reason is in honor and recognition of the concept of “citizen politician.” The Founders did not anticipate politics as a career choice. Instead, they had hoped to design a truly participatory and representative democracy. Second, it is not obvious that additional years “as a politician” enhances one’s expertise, wisdom, objectivity, competence, or forthrightness in his or her voting. Thirdly, regular and frequent changes in the U.S. Congress are more for the first time in our nation’s history our country is “both blessed and burdened by the simultaneous presence of four generations…—in 1900 (there were) two generations; in 1960, three generations; in 2015, four generations.” Dead Serious and Lighthearted – The Memorable Words of Modern America (All Volumes) (2018-2019) p. 15. Thus, the periodic change and the age composition of our U.S. Congress should, to a degree, be assured via the use of term limits. Lastly, term limits could lessen the tortuous (and dangerous) influence of lobbyists. Lobbyists will not disappear as a profession, but because the legislative tenures of Congressmen and Congresswomen will be shortened, lobbyists will at least be retained more for their subject expertise rather than their legislative connections.
Idea:      Limit terms in the U.S. Congress to, for example, two terms in the House and one-term in the U.S. Senate.
Implementation Comments: Any statutory changes are, to varying degrees, disruptive. Thus, because (and in order recognize that) the adoption of term limits could greatly impact the careers of fine younger men and women who have already planned on politics as a “career” and who may have already invested years into positioning themselves to run for U.S. Congress, it may be acceptable – even advisable – to provide that term limits will only affect candidates under the age of X, e.g. age 45 years. Such exemption may also lessen the resistance of current members of Congress to adopting and accepting term limits. While this is a substantial exemption, it is useful to remember how quickly time flies by – it has been 50 years since the U.S. first landed on the Moon; 39 and 27 years,  respectively, since Reagan and Clinton were elected President; and 18 years since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan. Thus, even if term limits were adopted with this exemption, term limits would be “universal” and apply to everyone soon enough.
Source: Already well-known concept.

Idea No. 3

 – The Media –

Report Corporate Settlements, Awards and Fines as Percentage of Annual Net Profits

Background: Major financial settlements and judicial awards and fines of corporations and other business entities are reported almost every day in the media – The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, on the evening and in the Internet news. Oftentimes, in the case of settlements, the payor party is not required to admit any wrongdoing. Instead, it is expressly stated that the payor party “admits no wrongdoing,” and that the settlement was reached (“merely”) in order to bring “conclusion” to a matter. At first blush, many of these settlement amounts and imposed awards and fines seem to be very substantial — $25.0MM, $147.0MM, etc. However, without balance sheet perspective, dollar amounts – and especially large corporate dollar amounts — can be very deceiving. (See Mack W. Borgen Blog No. 59, “The Challenge of Perspective and the Burden of (So Many) Numbers,” https://www.mackwborgen.com/blog/  , June 16, 2015). What may seem like a large settlement may, in reality, be a chump-change corporate payoff.   For example, hypothetically, if Wells Fargo Bank settled its false-accounts dispute for a settlement sum of $350,000,000, such sum would seem substantial. However, such a settlement would represent a mere 5.7% of the bank’s 2019 reported net income of $6,100,000,000. Such entire sum could be entirely paid by Wells Fargo Bank with its net profits from a mere 20 days based upon last year’s reported net income.
Idea: In reporting corporate financial settlements, awards, and fines, the media — as a matter of routine practice — should identify the amount to be so paid both in actual dollars and as a percentage of the corporation’s net annual profits. The referenced net annual profits could be those reported for the prior year or, preferably, the average net annual profits for the last three years could be used.
Implementation Comments: This type of reporting cannot (and should not) be legally mandated. Furthermore, it will never be perfect (i) because of the corporation’s use of subsidiaries and affiliates and (ii) because such net annual profits may only be available for the about 4,000 reporting public companies in the U.S. Nevertheless, such companies represent a great portion of the U.S. economy and, in some instances, net profit data with respect to even private companies may be available.
Source: Mack W. Borgen

Added Blog Feature – The Fancypants Word of the Day

Abecedarian 1) Of or relating to the alphabet; 2) Arranged in alphabetical order; 3) Basic, rudimentary. Source and thank to wordgenius.com and Shawna Borgen.

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My books are also available on Amazon etc., but your ordering direct from my publisher is greatly appreciated — and lowest prices.  In addition, a percentage of my receipts are donated each year to selected charities. 
Your buying of my books is appreciated beyond words — and they make good gifts!  Please spread the word …Books authored by Mack Borgen

 

Many Good — And a Few Brilliant

Posted by Mack W. Borgen September 30th, 2019

Blog No. 105
October 1, 2019

Many Good – And a Few Brilliant  

By Mack W. Borgen
Recipient of Eight National Book Awards 
For a “cleaner” / non-email presentation of this and my other blogs, essays, and articles, please go to my website at https://www.mackwborgen.com/    

Introduction 

Like all governments and all peoples, America and Americans have a lot of problems. But we have a lot of great ideas as well. 
Every day new ideas — sometimes great ideas percolate up.
But too many of them are lost amidst the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives, and our highly complex society creates numerous barriers to idea development, implementation, and refinement.
Some ideas are merely blocked or compromised due to naysayers, caution, and timidity. Some ideas are frustrated by legal barriers or concerns about risks and liabilities. Some ideas are burdened – and then buried — by the tedium of endless study and evaluation. And some ideas succumb to the relentless, project-deflecting search for reliable funding.
As a result, great ideas and noble efforts to often become abandoned or lost in the news.
And then there is the last category of lost ideas – those which have the mere life-span of a good conversation. Certainly some of the most creative ideas (and, admittedly, some of the stupidest ideas) arrive late at night — just before closing time. They are scribbled on cocktail napkins. Maybe they shared with a few friends. But then, they are left on the bar, toasted with a last round of drinks – only to be quickly discarded and forgotten in the morning. 
But there is another story contained in the Idea Blogs which are here described.
In the course of my research over these last now 12 years, I have been surprised, indeed overwhelmed, by the number of creative ideas which have been already offered up by the American people. Many of them are good. A few of them are brilliant.
I confess to the embarrassment of my own surprise. I should have known that despite the anger of our headlines and the acrimonious nature of contemporary America, many Americans were still working together to address the problems of American life — albeit oftentimes in small groups or within narrowly-defined communities. In a dream world, it would be greatly helpful if ideas did not become politicized and did not, in the process, become the province of one political party or the other. But that is for another day. That may be too much for which to ask. Yet.
The proverbial good news is that here are a lot of ideas already “out there.” The proverbial bad news is that America does not have the luxury of much time. As a nation, we can no longer afford to have good people with good ideas work in isolation. We can no longer permit good ideas to remain unknown or under- reported. Thus, the concept of this series of blogs — The Ideas Blogs

The Many Sources of New Ideas

The sheer volume of new ideas also may subtly remind us of the many sources of new ideas.
Remember — there are about 327,200,000 Americans, 27,000,000 corporations and employers, 275,000 large cities, 13,500 school districts, and 3,100 counties, parishes, and boroughs. In addition, there are thousands of universities and colleges, legislative bodies, public and quasi-governmental agencies and departments, think tanks, interest groups, religious congregations, social clubs and organizations, charities, business trade groups and associations, commissions, and study groups. Each of these is a source of new ideas, and in addition to all of the foregoing, the ideas (and experiences) of other countries will be added. 

The Many Types of New Ideas

The ideas which will be summarily presented in these Ideas Blogs over the next year will vary greatly. They will encompass a wide range of issues.
Some of the ideas are amazingly creative. Others are disarmingly simple. Some will be, admittedly, a bit technical and complicated. Some address defined aspects of our nation’s life such as our economy, our tax policies, securities regulation, and even our judiciary and legal system.
Some of the ideas relate to the media and our political process. They address how we can make changes to encourage (and reward) a stronger sense of ethics and public responsibility within the media and within politics. Other ideas address the problems inherent in our system of political elections and the methodologies of our campaign financing. Some of the ideas relate to our families, our children, and our communities such as ideas about teaching the meaning of education, the importance of life skills, and the tools and even skills of injecting more reason and civility into our American conversation.
And no matter what the subject, nearly all of the ideas will be fraught with the curse potential for unforeseen consequences. But some of these ideas may be worth our time.
Some are old ideas worthy of our reconsideration, but most are awaiting implementation or have as yet only been tried on a small scale or in a defined locale.
A few of the ideas are grandiose in nature — like President Kennedy’s 1961 challenge to put a man on the moon or President Reagan’s 1987 challenged to Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall. Big ideas; big results. However, with only a few exceptions; this author respectfully suggests that big ideas are not what this country now needs.
Instead, we need smaller ideas. And lots of them. We need to take small steps. And lots of them. Thus, most of the ideas relate to matters close to home. With that in mind, many of the ideas are narrow in scope or reach and are sometimes even community-tailored or community-specific. But, collectively, they may help to change America. Slowly.

The Concept of These “Idea Blogs”

– Presented with Comment or Recommendation –
In these Idea Blogs, I will present just 3-4 ideas each month. Collectively, these Idea Blogs may serve as a rough compendium of some of the best (or at least intriguing) ideas which this author came across in his research for his last two series of books – The Relevance of Reason (Vols I and II) (2013-2014) and Dead Serious and Lighthearted (Vols I, II, and III) (2018-2019).
Most of the ideas have been culled by me from the books, speeches, articles, columns, research papers, books and blogs of others. I found that many of the best ideas were mentioned almost as throwaway parts of books and articles written on various subjects. Too often that is where these ideas seem to stay – left to die buried within the books or to expire with the shelf life of an article or the brevity of a conversation.
 By their mere inclusion in these blogs, the ideas are, in the humble opinion of this author, worthy of our consideration or, in some cases, our re-consideration. However, the ideas will be presented very summarily and with little comment.
Please keep an eye out — my first Ideas Blog will be presented within about two weeks, and as always, your thoughts and comments will be welcomed.

Looking for a Great Christmas Gift?

Get a set of my books.  All books will be personally signed. Simple ordering and Special October prices at  https://www.mackwborgen.com/shop/ .

My books are also available on Amazon etc., but your ordering direct from my publisher is greatly appreciated — and lowest prices.  In addition, a percentage of my receipts are donated each year to selected charities. 

Your buying of my books is appreciated beyond words — and they make good gifts!  Please spread the word … Books authored by Mack Borgen

 

Ethics Cannot Be Saved for Sunday, Family, and Friends

Posted by Mack W. Borgen September 9th, 2019

Blog No 104
September 10, 2019

 Ethics Cannot Be Saved for Sunday, Family, and Friends

DEAR READERS:
FORTHCOMING NEW BOOK. The below article was prepared in the process of writing one of next books, So Much Worse Than You Think — Corporate Crime in America, which will be released in Fall, 2020. 
THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS, POD CASTS, AND CHRISTMAS ORDERING. Watch for my new advertisements in The New York Review of Books and my podcasts promoting relating to my award-winning Dead Serious and Lighthearted – The Memorable Words of Modern America. Great new prices – Order a Christmas set for your family and friends now. Information at bottom of this article.
EASIER READING OF THIS ARTICLE. For a “cleaner” / easier-to-read presentation of this and my other blogs and articles, please go to my website at https://www.mackwborgen.com/  Then, just hit the “Blogs” tab
By Mack W. Borgen
Recipient of Eight National Book Awards

This article is the first in a series about the ethics, morality, and manner in which business is too often (mis-)conducted in Modern America. More specifically, these articles are about how the obligations of our nation’s businesses are too often viewed too narrowly and how our nation’s businesses – especially our nation’s large corporations – too often and too routinely mislead their customers, ignore the needs of their employees, and abuse their leverage.

In part, these articles are based upon my long career as a business and corporate attorney. In one of the later articles in this series, I will also address how attorneys too often and too coldly assist corporate clients by the nearly-routinized abuse or misapplication of legal strategies and remedies.

Not about Politics  

But first. It is early Fall, 2019. And another election cycle is spinning around us. Thus, it is necessary to expressly state that this article is not about politics. This article has no intent to endorse any candidate, ridicule any party, or promote any agenda. But still, the impact of politics in this country is too everywhere. Politics sits like a weight upon our public conversations making disclaimers such as this necessary.

Political campaigns make things even worse because during such campaigns nearly everything becomes “political.” Every remark is scrutinized for secondary meanings and through the thick fog of politics. Every facial expression is examined. Every word is dissected. There is a heightened fear that all motivations are driven by agenda.

So, the disclaimer is again made. This article is not about politics. The elections will soon enough be over. And that is good.

Then we can go back to the more simplifying, almost unifying, rallying cries of many Americans that “enough is enough” and that it is time for the politics to calm down and the election process to be shortened. But those subjects are for another day. This article is about the role and boundaries of morals and ethics.

However, since this article is about how business is too often (mis-)conducted in America, it is also appropriate to loudly acknowledge, without doubt or reservation, that many businesses are decently, honestly, and well-run.

Many Fine Businesses and Corporate Officers But Certainly Not All

Over the course of my career, it has been my honor to work with and represent many fine, wonderful, and honorable business men and women and to serve as counsel to many well-run corporations. It is comforting to believe that America, as of now and in my opinion, rightfully holds the lead on the development, production and marketing of many of the world’s products.

But over the decades there have been changes. This author observed many clients (with varying degrees of willingness and, in a few cases, with almost cynical excitement) change their behavior and business practices. Similarly, these clients consistently lowered their expectations of others – of their suppliers, their employees, their customers, and even their own partners and shareholders.

This was partly because there have been tectonic (albeit subtle) shifts in the morals and ethics of businesses. Business has always been a tough game. A lot is always on the line. Competition can be fierce. However, it is time to recognize that the business environment in this country has been changing. Slowly. Steadily. And in the wrong, long-run direction.

Apart from the tighter reading of lengthier contracts and the generalized, arms-length manner of conducting business, these tectonic shifts are routinely articulated through the use of many defensive rationalizations and dismissive retorts.

“Everyone is doing it.”

“We have no choice.”

“Who will ever know?”

“I’m just doing what I was told.”

“It’s my job.”

“So sue me.”

 “If we don’t do it, someone else will.”

 “In America’s lousy, overly-regulated business environment (something about which this author partly agree)s, “we have no choice but to round the truth and cut the corner.”

Note: This spurning of “choice” was comfortably and conveniently reinforced by the passionate echoing of Reagan’s 1980’s belief that ‘the government is the problem not the solution’” and furthered by Milton Friedman’s narrow, naïve, and self-serving insistence “the sole purpose of businesses was the generation of profits for its shareholders.”

“In the world’s new global economy,

we have to follow the practices of other nation’s and other economies.”

And the worst:

“If it’s legal, then it’s o.k.”

And, most embarrassingly on behalf of my profession,

“My lawyers said that it was o.k.”

These articles suggest that all of the above school yard rationalizations can be short-sighted. They can be dangerous. Collectively, they diminish all of our lives. They lessen our community. Worse, they are self-perpetuating and wrong.

Know that this author is no saint – both heaven and a couple thousand people know that. And it is oftentimes neither easy nor rewarding to do the right thing. But to the extent these rationalization are over-used and abused, they have to be viewed for what they are: Rationalizations.

It is here humbly suggested that for the betterment of all of our lives and for the necessary re-direction of our society, ethics cannot be saved for Sunday, family, and friends. You cannot be a tough, ruthless, free-market-jerk Monday through Friday, and then get absolution on the weekends by going to church, donating to charities, or even by simply being a good family man or woman.

Strangely, it is at the same time both simpler and more complicated than that.

Focus Upon the Behavior of Major Corporations

These articles will generally address the conduct of business in the United States, but they focus especially upon the conduct of the larger of the nearly 1.7MM corporate businesses as opposed to the nearly 7.4MM partnerships and S corporations or the 23.0MM sole proprietorships.[i] The reasons for this focus are multi-faceted.

First, while admittedly debatable, the “tone” of this nation’s economic environment is oftentimes led, if not set, by the larger, more market-impacting corporations as opposed to the more localized small businesses. Second, because of their size, revenues, and budgets, it is the larger corporations which routinely use the services of legal counsels and which most readily retain marketing, advertising, public relations, and damage control specialists.[ii] Similarly, it is they which most readily have the means (and the inclination) to purchase the benefits and the insulating protections afforded from the 11,586 registered lobbyists in Washington, DC. (and from their many counterparts at the local and state levels). Thirdly, and most importantly, it is the major corporations which can most readily afford and have the capacity to move ethical lines.

And before this author enters the dangerous territory of ethics and morality,  it needs to be noted, indeed under-scored, that this author is a passionate believer in capitalism – albeit sometimes “restrained capitalism.”

The Dangerous Territory of Ethics and Morality

This author knows that he is walking into the dangerous territory of ethics and morality. The subjects addressed in these articles include the context of defining business success, the evaluation of certain business practices, and some rough suggestions for the establishment of certain ethical boundaries for the conducting of business in our society. Most importantly, these subjects are discussed in the hope of restraining the misuse of leverage and, very bluntly, the sometimes knowingly wrongful assertion of certain legal rights and remedies.

However, once again, this article is not written from a place of piety. I stopped counting my mistakes many years ago. Partly, I just ran out of numbers. Over my accumulated years, I, possibly like you, have look back and see my mistakes. I remember my opportunities lost and the roads not taken. I, to, reflect upon the things not said; thoughts poorly expressed, and words poorly chosen. And on and on it goes.

But personally and for my own preservation, I have stopped counting my mistakes and started counting my blessings instead. It is not a perfect system, but sometimes it works.

But despite the fact that ethics and morality are dangerous territories for any writer, it is here suggested that ethics and morality in our private and commercial business dealings – must be elevated.

All Might Be “Fair in Love and War”

But “Anything Goes” Cannot Be the Standard of American Business

 – Even in Our Darwinian Economy –  

Anyone who has read Carlos Baker’s biography[iii] of Ernest Hemingway knows that Hemingway was no prince. And he certainly was no St Peter. But in his later years, he was interviewed by a young reporter from the Kansas City Star. The young reporter asked Hemingway what his definition of “ethics and morality” was. After a long pause (and probably a few more glasses of wine), Hemingway said that he didn’t really have a definition of “ethics or morality.” But he said the closest he could come to a definition was that if he felt good after he did something, it was probably moral. If he felt bad, it was probably immoral.

And I suggest that even by that low definitional standard of ethics and morality, American society generally and many American corporations specifically are not doing well.

It will be a long, long way forward to a more ethical and moral society, but at a certain point we have to start unlocking our doors. As a society, we cannot long subsist on a diet of “Amber Alerts” and “stranger danger.” We cannot sit for hours trying to reach a human voice when we call the 1-800-Customer-Service line. We cannot endure sleeping at airports due to wrongly cancelled flights. We cannot have our health insurance claims routinely denied by the insurance companies because they know that only a small percentage will be appealed. We cannot spend our nights toiling over the fine print in our contracts. We cannot sign our lives away by God-knows-what-it-says “Click To Agree” terms and conditions. We cannot tolerate vaping companies marketing innocent-sounding Candy Crash, Watermelon, and Razzleberry nicotine to our children. We cannot allow drug companies to peddle drugs to our country through the mechanisms of thinly-veiled bribery schemes with our doctors. We cannot allow banks to bury service charges or open accounts in our name.  And on and on.

Furthermore, wrongdoing, even if technically lawful, must be called out. It must be loudly and consequentially condemned. Conversely, “good doing,” especially if not legally required, must be advertised, communicated, and commended.

The salvation of a supposed contract or a de facto “agreement,” sometimes should not be enough.

Even Contracts and Legal Codes Are Not Enough

Every law student, on or about day one, is taught that an oral contract is not worth the paper it is not written upon.

Every law student, on or about day two, is latined-up with the concept that caveat emptor (or “buyer-beware”) is the bedrock of all of our buys and sells and, basically, all contractual dealings in our life.

And I am a lawyer. I respect the need for written contracts. I know the importance of memorializing the details of our agreements. I appreciate the sobering significance of one’s signing upon the proverbially dotted-line. Over the years, I have even published articles on the importance of “boilerplate” provisions in contracts.

But even in our papered-up, buyer-beware, “as-is,” click-here-to-agree, no refunds, dog-eat-dog, Darwinian economy, capitalism needs restraints. And the cold legal codes of our many jurisdictions are not enough for us to live in a decent and fair society.

“Unfettered capitalism” has been rejected since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. “Unfettered capitalism” was feared even before Upton Sinclair, Ida Turbell, Frank Norris and the other muckrakers of the Progressive Era (1890-1920). The needs for the protection of the American workers were known long before the rise of the union movement in the late 19th and early 20th Century and before the formation of protective agencies such as OSHA in 1970. The paralleling needs for the protection of individuals, consumers, families, communities, and our environment are too numerous to name, but they have been known for decades as well.

But even with all of the laws, rules, and regulations (and I readily admit that there are too many of them) which supposedly define the minimum parameters of our business, employer, consumer behavior and inter-actions, legal codes (e.g. federal, state, and local) cannot be the sole basis for defining behavior. They should not even be the primary bases for defining behavior. They, at best, can serve as socially-defined minimum standards of behavior. They, at best, can define the baseline requirements for our societal interactions.

Why? Because our communities need more. Daily living needs more. Again, ethics and morality cannot be defined by our laws. Thus, it is one’s social duty to try to live within the admittedly hazy boundaries of ethical and moral behavior. And even in the context of our business dealings, ethics cannot be reached by one’s mere compliance with technical legalities; by the filing of necessary papers and reports; or by cold compliance with the fine-print portions of documents, contracts, and rules and regulations. It crosses my mind why United States Chief Justice Earl Warren shocked the world when, in the midst of oral arguments before the Court, he would routinely ask “but is it fair.”  Possibly you and I understood what he was getting at. The parties before his court too often and too sadly did not even understand the relevance of his question.

Stated again, ethics and morality cannot be saved for Sundays, family and friends. America has gone a long ways down its road, but the relentless divergence between our personal and familial ethics and our business ethics can no longer be tolerated. Like our echoing voices of our grandmothers, staying out of jail is not enough. Behavior matters.

Similarly, ethics and morality cannot be written off with a “nothing personal” remark. “It’s just business” cannot be allowed to whitewash inflicted pain. That line might have sounded good in Scorseses’ Goodfellas, but it does not work in our real lives.

In a community, even in our large national social and business community, ethics and morality are ideally required of every citizen. Ethics and morality have to be served up regularly and routinely. And ethics and morality should not be allowed to be monetized or supplanted by the mere making of (tax-deductible) charitable contributions. Charitable giving is are wonderful, but it is not enough. Think of it this way — rarely does even a large tip justify the loud and obnoxious behavior of a patron or assuage the feelings of an offended waiter.

So where does all of this go?

So what does all of this mean?

Simply put, the sad truth is that the world is tough place. But it would be good, and now I believe it is at a point of necessity, for handshakes to, once again, mean something. It would be good if one’s word would more often be viewed as sacrosanct. It would be good if corporations conducted their business and marketed their products (and in some instances even their prices) based upon ethics and morality rather than (mere) legal compliance.

America is not New Guinea. It is our behavior, not our physical environment, which is turning America into a jungle.

We Thought It Was Just a Movie Line

When we first heard Michael Douglas proclaim, in his role as Gordon Gecko in Oliver Stone’s 1987 movie Wall Street, that “greed is good,” we thought that it was merely, or at least mostly, a movie line. Few of us even then, mid-way through the boom-boom 1980s, thought it would become the over-arching ethos of our society. Heck, the movie also starred Charlie Sheen. Were we really supposed to take it all seriously? Were we really supposed to adopt this line as our mantra for conducting business; as our manner of conducting our lives?.

I suggest no.

It doesn’t help that ethics and morality can be so complicated. But, complicated or not, they are too often the missing ingredients in our communities and in the conducting of our nation’s businesses. Again, they are too blithely dismissed. They are too regularly ignored. Instead, lies are told. Rules are bent. And worst of all, too little is expected.

And so some of the articles which will be forthcoming over the next months will address many, more specific aspects of these issues. The articles will be humbly offered for your patient consideration. Examples of just a few of such future topics are as follows:

The Broader Obligations of Businesses.

The Obligations of Corporations. What are the too-often-neglected obligations of businesses towards this country, its peoples, its customers, and its employees?

The Dangers of Two Personas. Is it possible for a society to long survive when an individual can embody two personas — one for work and business and one for Sundays, family, and friends?

The Politicization of Our Courts. How is it that we have devolved from the famous “but is it fair” questioning of the Earl Warren Supreme Court (1953-1969) to the politicized, 6-3, 5-4 baseball scoring of our current Supreme Court? Why does every reporter feel a need to identify a judge as a “Bush-, or an Obama-, or a Trump- appointee?  It didn’t used to be that way.

The Ethical Obligations of Attorneys and The Abuse of Legal “Tools.”  What are the socially ethical obligations of attorneys as they craft documents, advise clients, and file or defend lawsuits?  What have been the real impacts of attorneys and businesses too readily using certain legal “tools” such as the threat of litigation or the filing of bankruptcy as mere mechanisms of leverage? Obviously attorneys seem not to live by the “do no harm” ethos of doctors, but should there not be some stronger ethical boundaries beyond the rampant demands of our clients? Are there and should there be moral limitations?

A Matter of Choice. Most importantly, is it not a matter of our choice as to whether we would rather drift further into our Darwinian economic jungle as opposed to enjoying a national and more civil(ized) community? Tolerance and individualism are powerful component of American life. They have a rightful place. But so does leadership – by example or otherwise.

 Closing

– Maybe We Can Agree and Some Cautious Reasons for Optimism –

As noted above, this author certainly has no corner on the truth. Never had it. Never claimed it. But maybe we can agree that we don’t need to be right in order to be concerned. Maybe we can agree that it is time to step back and reflect – “to stand still until we really see.”

And though there are reasons for concern, there are also reasons for optimism — because we can do better.

My next article on this subject will focus upon the broader obligations of businesses and the meaning, the sometimes dangerous consequences of the current five-word mantra of American business life – “A deal is a deal. “

FOOTNOTES:

[i]     TaxFoundation.org and US Census Bureau.

[ii]     This is most frequently done by such major corporations either individually or through membership and participation in corporate or industry lobbying organizations.

[iii]    Baker, Carlos, Hemingway: a Life Story (1969).

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“Three Chords and the Truth” – The Amazing Ken Burns Does It Again

Posted by Mack W. Borgen August 21st, 2019

Blog No 103 
August 22, 2019 

“Three Chords and the Truth”  

 The Magic of Ken Burns’s Upcoming Documentary about Country Music

By Mack W. Borgen
Recipient of Eight National Book Awards  
For a “cleaner” / non-email presentation of this and my other blogs, essays, and articles, please go to my website at https://www.mackwborgen.com/

   Mack W. Borgen 

In multiple blogs over the last year, I have been presenting the best song lyrics of Modern America because it is this author’s belief that lyrics are the real poetry of Modern America. They roll around in our heads for decades. Almost unconsciously, every day we honor the words of America’s songwriters who said something in that perfect, poetic, or clever way.
In 2001, the amazingly talented Ken Burns presented a 10-episode documentary entitled Jazz, and now Burns will soon be releasing a documentary about Country Music. It is scheduled to premier on PBS on September 15, 2019.
Burns (B: 1953, Brooklyn, NY) is one of America’s foremost historical documentarians and, as stated in Jon Meacham and Tim McGraw’s recent article in Time magazine (August 26, 2019, p. 50) Burns is “(a)rguably the most influential interpreter of American history of the past three decades.”
In his documentaries, Burns presents an eclectic array of many aspects of America history through his brilliant use of pictures, music, script, videos, and voiceovers. Ken Burns’ works includes the following (listed chronologically):
Brooklyn Bridge (1981)
The Statue of Liberty (1985)
The Civil War (9 Episodes) (1990)
Baseball (9 Episodes) (1994) (Updated with The Tenth Inning in 2010, with Lynn Novak)
Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery (1997)
Jazz (10 Episodes) (2001)
The War (7 Episodes) (2007)
The National Parks: America’s Best Idea (6 Episodes) (2009)
The Roosevelts: An Intimate History (7 Episodes) (2014)
The Vietnam War (with Lynn Novick) (10 Episodes) (2017).
And now, Ken Burns is getting ready to present his Country Music – “three chords and the truth.”
But first, a few words about country music.
Some Americans still naively (and wrongly) believe that country music is the mere province of cowboys and rednecks. But it is much more. Country music has been expanding its reach and growing in popularity for decades. As stated in Meacham and McGraw’s article, Burns “makes it gracefully and implicitly clear that country music reflects not just red America but blue America too.”
In keeping with my presentation of the best songs lyrics of all times – and in my humble honor of Burns’ efforts —  I have set forth below a few excerpts of some of the country songs which will be included in Burns’ latest documentary.
Thus, here is Part 10 of my assembled list — done over the last nine years in conjunction with my research for my last series of books, Dead Serious and Lighthearted – The Memorable Words of Modern America.  For an explanation about the background of this Best Lyrics project, see below.

Please order copies of my books – NOW – just go to http://mackwborgen.com/shop/ .

The Best Lyrics of Modern America

– A Sampling of Country Music – 

Folsom Prison Blues (1953) (First Live Recording, Folsom Prison, CA – 1968) (Johnny Cash) (B: 1932, Kingsland, AK – D: 2003, Nashville, TN).

 “I hear the train a comin’

It’s rolling round the bend

And I ain’t seen the sunshine since I don’t know when

But I’m stuck in Folsom prison, and time keeps draggin’ on …

When I was just a baby my mama told me, Son

Always be a good boy, don’t ever play with guns

But I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die

When I hear the whistle blowing, I hang my head and cry.”

Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (1966) (Loretta Lynn) (B: 1932, Butcher Hollow, KY).

“Well you thought I’d be waiting up

When you came home last night

You’d been out with all the guys

And you ended up half tight

But liquor and love that just don’t mix

Leave a bottle or me behind.

. . .  

And don’t come home a-drinkin’

With lovin’ on your mind …

Just stay out there on the town

And see what you can find

Cuz if you want that kind of love

Well you don’t need none of mine ….”

What Is Truth (1970) (Johnny Cash) (B: 1932, Kingsland, AK – D: 2003, Nashville, TN). Author’s Note: This song was sung by Cash to President Nixon and his guests at the White House in 1970. Nixon had asked Cash to sing Guy Drake’s welfare-recipient-demeaning Welfare Cadillac, but instead Cash, who was at this point ambivalent about the Vietnam War, used this opportunity to sing this anti-war ballad.   

 The old man turned off the radio

 Said, ‘Where did all the old songs go?’

 ‘Kids sure play funny music these days!

They play it in the strangest ways

Said: ‘It looks to me like they’ve all gone wild.

It was peaceful back when I was a child.

Well, man, could it be that the girls and boys

Are trying to be heard above your noise?

And the lonely voice of youth cries

‘What is truth?’

 

A little boy of three sitting on the floor

Looks up and says ‘Daddy, what is war?’

‘Son, that’s when people fight and die.’

The little boy of three says, ‘Daddy, why?’

A young man of seventeen in Sunday school

Being taught the Golden Rule

And by the time another year has gone around

It may be his turn to lay his life down.

Can you blame the voice of truth for asking

“What is truth?” 

Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way (1975) (Waylon Jennings) (B: 1937, Littlefield, TX – D: 2002, Chandler, AZ).

 “Lord it’s the same old tune, fiddle and guitar

Where do we take it from here?

Rhinestone suits and new shiny cars

It’s been the same way for years

We need to change …

Ten years on the road, making one night stand,

Speeding my young life away

Tell me one more time just so I’ll understand

Are you sure Hank done it this way? ….”

Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue (The Angry American) (2002) (Toby Keith) (B: 1961, Clinton, OK).

“American Girls and American Guys

We’ll always stand up and salute

We’ll always recognize

When we see Old Glory Flying

There’s a lot of men dead

So we can sleep in peace at night

When we lay down our head.

… 

Now this nation that I love

Has fallen under attack

A mighty sucker punch came flyin’ in

From somewhere in the back

Soon as we could see it clearly

Through our big black eye

Man, we lit up your world

Like the 4th of July.

 . . .

Heh, Uncle Sam,

Put your name at the top of his list

And the Statue of Liberty

Started shakin’ her fist

And the eagle will fly

And there’s gonna be hell

When you hear Mother Freedom

Start ringin’ her bell.

And it’ll feel like the whole wide world is raining down on you

Oh, brought to you Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue.”

  Old Town Road (2016) (Lil Nas X) (B: 1999, Lithia Springs, GA).

”Ridin’ on a tractor

Lean all in my bladder

Cheated on my baby

You can go and ask her

My life is a movie

Bull ridin’ and boobies

Cowboy hat from Gucci

Wrangler on my booty.

. . .  

Can’t nobody tell me nothin’

You can’t tell me nothin’…

I’m gonna take my horse to the old town road

I’m gonna ride ‘til I can’t no more….”

. . . . . . . 

Explanation and Background of Mack W. Borgen’s 
“The Best Lyrics of Modern America” Blogs
Song lyrics are the real poetry of Modern America. The lyrics of our favorite songs roll around in our heads for decades. Almost unconsciously, every day we honor the words of America’s songwriters who said something in that perfect, poetic, or clever way.
About nine years ago, in 2010, when I started my research for my books, Dead Serious and Lighthearted – The Memorable Words of Modern America. I spent much of the initial year assembling, sorting, and selecting those “memorable” song lyrics to be included in my books.
However, I eventually decided that it was necessary to exclude song lyrics from my books. This was done in deference to the needs of book brevity and in bowing recognition to the unavoidable subjectivity of making such selections. But it was also done because most songs are almost definitionally “intra-generational” in that they remain the separate and proud province of each generation. They are a part of each generation’s formative and collective memory – but not beyond that.
Nevertheless, as a result of that year of research, I assembled a relatively massive collection of what may be, by some measures of broad consensus, the greatest song lyrics of Modern America.
I have decided to start presenting them here for your remembrance and enjoyment. I confess that this is partly triggered by the fact that I have already done the fun, but painstaking, work of such assemblage. However, these lyrics blogs are also triggered by the fact that America needs – maybe now more than ever — to reach back and enjoy something or, as best said in 1967 by the Beatles in their song A Day in the Life” — “I read the news today, oh boy.”
Thus, starting on October 9, 2018 with Blog No. 83, I have started posting some excerpts of this author’s humble suggestions of The Best Lyrics of Modern America.

Get Copies of My Books

Now Recipient of Eight National Book Awards

Best Nonfiction Book of the Year in Three Separate Categories! 

— U.S. History, Current Events, and Reference —  
Best prices. Fast shipping. Just go to http://mackwborgen.com/shop/ . Signed by the author and shipped within five business days. My books are, of course, also available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.
All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical without the prior written permission of the author.

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You Are Invited – Mack W. Borgen on Dr. Elizabeth Stewart Radio Show – Third Interview

Posted by Mack W. Borgen July 4th, 2019

July 5, 2019

Author Mack W. Borgen

. . . You Are Invited . . . 

Another Radio Interview

with Mack W. Borgen

His Latest Books

and

His New Presentation of

The Best Song Lyrics of Modern America

 — 

The Dr. Elizabeth Stewart Radio Show

Today, Friday, July 5, 2019

10:00 AM

KZSB AM 1290

Get Your Set of All 3 Volumes

Dead Serious and Lighthearted

The Memorable Words of Modern America

Order directly from Amazon.com or go to mackwborgen.com for Direct-from-Publisher prices (at “Book Ordering” Tab) (Visa, PayPal, or Check).

Buy One Volume or a Full Set of All Three Volumes

Hardback or Paperback

Best Songs Lyrics of Modern America – Part 9 – Bread – Lovin’ Spoonful – Gordon Lightfoot – Bon Jovi

Posted by Mack W. Borgen June 24th, 2019

Blog No 101 
June 25, 2019 

The Best Song Lyrics of Modern America- Part 9

– The Poetry of Modern America –

By Mack W. Borgen

Recipient of Eight National Book Awards  

For a “cleaner” / non-email presentation of this blog and to review my other blogs, essays, and articles, please go to my website at https://www.mackwborgen.com/    

 

 Introduction and Background

Song lyrics are the real poetry of Modern America. The lyrics of our favorite songs roll around in our heads for decades. Almost unconsciously, every day we honor the words of America’s songwriters who said something in that perfect, poetic, or clever way.

Here is Part 9 of my assembled list — done over the last nine years in conjunction with my research for my last series of books, Dead Serious and Lighthearted – The Memorable Words of Modern America.  For an explanation about the background of this Best Lyrics project, see below.

To order copies of my books, just go to http://mackwborgen.com/shop/ .

But, now, … The Best Lyrics of Modern America (From 1957 through 2015) 

The Best Lines and Short Riffs from Lighter Times and Memory Lane

The Little Old Lady from Pasadena (1964) (Jan and Dean) (Years Active 1958-2004) (William Jean Berry (B: 1941 – D:2004) and Dean Torrance (B: 1940)).

The little old lady from Pasadena

(Go granny, go granny, go granny go) …

Well, she’s gonna get a ticket, sooner or later,

‘Cause she can’t keep her foot off the accelerator.”

Goodbye Girl (1978) (David Gates) (B: 1940, Tulsa, OK) (Co-Lead singer of the group Bread).

“I know it’s hard believin’

The words you’ve heard before

But darlin’ you must trust them

Just once more.” 

The Sixties

Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind (1966) (Lovin Spoonful (Group)) (Years Active

1965-1969, 1979, 1991 – Present).

“Did you ever have to make up your mind?

Pick up on one and leave the other one behind.

It’s not often easy, and not often kind

Did you ever have to make up your mind?

… 

Did you ever have to finally decide?

Say yes to one and let the other one behind.

There’s so many changes and tears you must hide

Did you ever have to finally decide?

Sometimes you really dig a girl the moment you kiss her

And then you get distracted by her older sister

When in walks her father and takes you in line

And says ‘Better go home, son, and make up your mind.’” 

The Seventies

Sundown (1974) (Gordon Lightfoot) (B: 1938, Ontario, Canada).

“Sundown, you better take care

If I find you been creepin’ ‘round my back stairs …

Sometimes I think it’s a shame

When I get feelin’ better when I’m feelin’ no pain …

Sometimes I think it’s a sin.”           

The Nineties

Blaze of Glory (1991) (Bon Jovi (Group)) (Years Active – 1983 – Present (Except 1990-1991

and 1997-1999).

“I wake up in the morning

And I raise my weary head

I got an old coat for a pillow

And the earth was last night’s bed.

… 

I don’t know where I’m going

Only God knows where I’ve been

I’m a devil on the run

A six-gun lover

A candle in the wind.

… 

When you’re brought into this world

They say you were born in sin

Well, at least they gave me something

I didn’t have to steal or have to win.

You ask about my conscience

And I offer you my soul;

You ask if I’ll grow to be a wise man

Well, I ask if I’ll grow old.”

AND IN HONOR OF INDEPENDENCE DAY, THE 4TH OF JULY

 Country Western

Independence Day (Martina McBride) (B: 1966, Sharon, KS).

“Well she seemed alright by dawn’s early light

Though she looked a little worried and weak

She tried to pretend he wasn’t drinking again

But Daddy left the proof on her cheek

And I was only 8 years old that summer

And I always seemed to be in the way

So I took myself down to the fair in town

On Independence Day. …

Let freedom ring

Let the white dove sing

Let the whole world know that today is the day of reckoning 

Let the weak be strong

Let the right be wrong

Roll the stone away

Let the guilty pay

It’s Independence Day.”

Explanation and Background of These

“The Best Lyrics of Modern America” Blogs

Song lyrics are the real poetry of Modern America. The lyrics of our favorite songs roll around in our heads for decades. Almost unconsciously, every day we honor the words of America’s songwriters who said something in that perfect, poetic, or clever way.

About nine years ago, in 2010, when I started my research for my books, Dead Serious and Lighthearted – The Memorable Words of Modern America. I spent much of the initial year assembling, sorting, and selecting those “memorable” song lyrics to be included in my books.

However, I eventually decided that it was necessary to exclude song lyrics from my books. This was done partly in deference to the needs of book brevity and in bowing recognition to the unavoidable subjectivity of making such selections. But it was also done because most songs are almost definitionally “intra-generational” in that they remain the separate and proud province of each generation. They are a part of each generation’s formative and collective memory – but not beyond that.

Nevertheless, as a result of that year of research, I assembled a relatively massive collection of what may be, by some measures of broad consensus, the greatest song lyrics of Modern America.

I have decided to start presenting them here for your remembrance and enjoyment. I confess that this is partly triggered by the fact that I have already done the fun, but painstaking, work of such assemblage. However, these lyrics blogs are also triggered by the fact that America needs – maybe now more than ever — to reach back and enjoy something or, as best said in 1967 by the Beatles in their song A Day in the Life” — “I read the news today, oh boy.”

Thus, starting on October 9, 2018 with Blog No. 83, I started posting some excerpts of this author’s humble suggestions of The Best Lyrics of Modern America – The Poetry of Modern America..

Get Copies of My Books

Named Best Nonfiction Book of the Year in Three Separate Categories! 

— U.S. History, Current Events, and Reference —  

Best prices. Fast shipping. Just go to http://mackwborgen.com/shop/ . All books will be signed by the author and will be shipped within five business days. My books are, of course, also available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. and at select independent book stores.

All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical without the prior written permission of the author.

“An Unprecedented Clean Sweep” – 3 MORE NATIONAL BOOK AWARDS – FREE BOOKS CELEBRATION SALE

Posted by Mack W. Borgen May 27th, 2019

Blog No. 100 

PRESS RELEASE

May 28, 2019 

For Immediate Release:  PLEASE FORWARD TO APPROPRIATE EDITOR, REPORTER, OR FEATURE WRITER.
For more information or to schedule an interview or speaking engagement:
Schmitt, Schmitt & Brody Publishers, 3655 Montalvo Way, Santa Barbara, California 93105
Telephone: 805-450-2602  /Author Direct Email: mwborgen@live.com /  www.mackwborgen.com

THREE MORE NATIONAL BOOK AWARDS

“An Unprecedented Clean Sweep” for MACK W. BORGEN’S

DEAD SERIOUS AND LIGHTHEARTED

– THE MEMORABLE WORDS OF MODERN AMERICA –

May 28, 2019 – It has been announced that Mack W. Borgen has just received three more national book awards for his books Dead Serious and Lighthearted – The Memorable Words of Modern America (Vols I-III). 

Borgen’s Volumes I and III were named Best Book of the Year and received 2019 National Indie Excellence Awards — WINNING BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR IN 3 SEPARATE CATEGORIES  –  Current Events, U.S. History, and Reference. 

In competition with contestant authors from hundreds of other independent presses, Borgen’s Volume I (Years 1957 – 1997) was named Best Book of the Year in both the U.S. History and the Reference categories AND Borgen’s Volume III (1994-2015) was named Best Book of the Year in the Current Events category.

These awards were announced just six weeks after Borgen’s Volume III  received the Silver Award from the Independent Book Publishers Awards which included contestant authors from university presses, independent publishers, and self-publishers. Previously, Borgen’s Volume I was recognized by the San Francisco Book Festival (Runner-Up – General Nonfiction Category) and the New York Book Festival (Honorable Mention – Best General Nonfiction Book of the Year).

Mack W. Borgen is a resident of Santa Barbara, California and a graduate of Harvard Law School and the University of California at Berkeley (Honors in Economics).

FREE BOOKS

AWARDS CELEBRATION BOOK SALE

NEXT 10 DAYS ONLY

UNTIL FRIDAY, JUNE 7TH

 For every set of Borgen’s 3-Volume, easy reading Dead Serious and Lighthearted you purchase (just go to at https://www.mackwborgen.com (Book Ordering) ….

You also will receive a FREE SET of Borgen’s first books, The Relevance of Reason – The Hard Facts and Real Data about the State of Current America (Volume I – Business and Politics) and Volume II (Society and Culture).    

Order a set or sets of Hard-Backs of Dead Serious ..Get matching FREE Hard-Back Set(s) of The Relevance of Reason

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 Details:  Orders must be placed by on or before Friday, June 7th. Your FREE Books will not show on the standard Book Ordering Page, but YOU WILL AUTOMATICALLY RECEIVE YOUR FREE SET or SETS right along with your ordered set(s). NO Extra Shipping Cost. Schmitt & Brody Publishers will pay for the shipping of your FREE set or sets of Relevance of Reason books for all orders received by June 7th at mackwborgen.com (Book Ordering). 

Books authored by Mack Borgen
FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT AUTHOR OR BOOKS
More information about the author, these award-winning 2018-2019 books, the author’s 2013 national award-winning series The Relevance of Reason, or to order a Media Kit (with the books’ respective Fact Sheets), please see www.mackwborgen.com. Borgen’s books are available from Amazon or Direct-from-Publisher at https://www.mackwborgen.com  (Book Ordering).
FOR REVIEW COPIES OR
TO SCHEDULE A MEETING, SPEECH, OR INTERVIEW
For complimentary review copies or to schedule a meeting with or speech by Mack W. Borgen, please contact Schmitt & Brody Publishers at SchmittBrodyPublishers@gmail.com or contact Mack W. Borgen directly at 805-450-2602 or mwborgen@live.com.

DEAD SERIOUS AND LIGHTHEARTED

The Memorable Words of Modern America –

Volumes I (1957-1976), II (1977-1993), and III (1994-2015)

“A herculean task … Packed with cultural highlights and pivotal moments from a

                       wide array of sources.” Kirkus Reviews 

“An expansive and eye-opening collection.” Clarion Reviews 

“Opening this book feels like unlocking a time capsule” U.S. Review of Books 

“Teaches the history of Modern America … in a captivating way.” Reader’s Favorite 

“A ‘must read.’ The brilliance of Borgen’s books lie in their breadth … and his

                        powerful page-by-page commentaries….” Michael Levin, New York Times                                                              Bestselling Author

“Deserves a place in our higher education curriculum.”   Reid A. Olsen, Education and

                         Business Consultant, Chicago, Illinois

My special and sincere thanks and gratitude to all of my family, friends, associates, distributors, consultants, and editors who have helped and encouraged me over the last years or who have written and posted reviews of my works.   

A Beg for Humility – The Phrase That Could Save America

Posted by Mack W. Borgen May 20th, 2019

Blog No 99
May 21, 2019 

A Beg for Humility

and

 The Phrase That Could Save America 

By Mack W. Borgen
Author, National Award-Winning Dead Serious and Lighthearted – The Memorable Words of Modern America  (3 Volumres); The Relevance of Reason – The Hard Facts and Real Data about the State of Current America (2 Volumes)

Certain things are clear and crisp. They are beyond dispute, disagreement, or debate.

Alaska is big. Rhode Island is small. Rivers are wet. We’re out of milk. Baby needs new shoes. This author can’t dunk. And so it goes. On and on.

But many things are not. Many things such as the role of government and most social and political issues are not clear. They not easily resolved. Instead, they engender strong disagreements which too often degenerate into heated debates. And for that reason, it is time that we — as a people, a community, and a nation — re-learn how to work our way through our disagreements and re-learn how to conduct productive debates.

Hopefully, this brief article may help. Hopefully, the use of one small phrase might help to save our country.

Recently, I wrote about America’s steady drift from a place of frustration to a place of anger. And that drift must likewise be reversed and re-directed. The use of this one small phrase might help get our country going in the right direction.

The bad news is that something must be done. The good news is that something can be done. However, there must be a common and committed willingness for us to re-tool the style and manner of our social and political discussions. We can no longer communicate through stares and glares. We can no longer wait and listen for code words. We can no longer sit quietly with our arms folded in thunderous silence.

Instead, slowly, we must change the nature and tone of our national conversations. I am well-aware, as Butch Cassidy once said, that “there are no rules in a knife fight.” Fortunately we are not (quite) there yet, but it is high time for the pendulum to swing back.

Blind intransigence and the relentless display of personal or political party allegiances can no longer be viewed either as acceptable or honorable. They can no longer be bragged about as some kind of silly proof of one’s resolve or ideological commitment.

Please know that I enter upon this subject with trepidation. Arguably, the rules of debate are themselves matters of tactics, strategy and even philosophy — all far beyond my simple mind to understand. Thus, I enter upon this subject gently and with caution. I rely only upon my perception that most Americans are well-aware that the current style of our public discourse and the tone of our civic discussions are non-productive. Oftentimes, they are even counter-productive.

Before proceeding, it should be noted that there are some instances where adamancy is necessary; where crispness of style is expected and necessary; and where voices may need to be raised. For example, in the context of emergencies or in the giving of military orders, there is no time for debate or discussion. Thus, this article is limited to our social and political conversations — those conversations held in Washington, at the statehouse, at our town meetings, over our dinner tables, and in our backyards.

Certainly, the place to begin is to remember that sometimes each of us may be wrong – about almost anything. I make 13 errors a day — and that is just out of habit.

It is a stubborn reality that almost nothing is simple. Sometimes, even what we may believe as the simplest of rules aren’t true in any particular circumstance. I mean, let’s face it.

Sometimes the early bird does not catch the worm.

Sometimes a penny saved is not a penny earned.

Sometimes disputes, even honest disputes, cannot be amicably resolved

without litigation and lawyers.

Sometimes we do not have the luxury of standing still until we really see.

Sometimes peace cannot be preserved and wars are necessary.

And regardless of one’s religious beliefs, it is hard to imagine that God is really a Democrat or a Republican.

We also must remember that every answer and every idea abuts other powerful laws of the universe such as the Law of Unintended Consequences and, of course, Murphy’s Law.

But there is more. Wholly apart from maters of complexity, unintended consequences, and Murphy’s Law, in any given conversation and at any given moment, we could be suffering from errors of facts, interpretation, or misunderstanding. We may be suffering from an issue of poor timing or from too brief or too lengthy a presentation. And lastly, we are always and definitionally speaking with people who through no fault of their own have had different experiences — people who are burdened by their own biases and demons; who may be members of a different generation; and who were raised in different places and environments. We may all live in America, but there are limits to our “shared history.”

Talking can thus be difficult. Influencing others can be challenging. And the risk of being wrong is always with us. For these reasons alone, real leaders are hard to find. But chanting followers are everywhere.

And for all of these reasons, disagreements should rarely necessitate anger.  Disagreements should not become the building blocks of hate or the basis for the endless Hatfield-McCoy grudge feuds which seem to be everywhere.

With great fear of sounding preachy, I humbly suggest that now — almost as a matter of our national preservation — we remember that we could be wrong about nearly any position we take, any idea we float, any agenda we push, or any compromise we reject.

To close-mindedly believe otherwise is costly from another perspective as well. For even if tact and patient listening run counter to our instincts or our emotions about a given subject, a conversational environment of displayed respect must be maintained. This is the only means of reasonable discussion, persuasion, influence, and social and political progress.

Be assured that this article is self-directed as well. For I, probably like you, have passionately held opinions. I, like you, have strong likings and dislikings of certain individuals, agendas, and policies — from the offensive words and behavior of some politicians to the miserable state of our health care system; from wealth inequality to the monetizing of our political system. My list, probably like yours, is endless.

Nevertheless, we cannot exercise the arrogance of “knowing” that we are right? There is oftentimes a possibility that we may be wrong? The truth may actually be somewhere in that sticky-mucky middle?

So, apart from the phrase that can save America which is discussed below, the following seven quick remembrances could be useful in affecting our national conversation.

         1 . Style is substance;

         2 . Discussion is valuable;

         3 . No one has all the answers;

         4 . Things are rarely simple;

         5 . Respect is a tool which can lead to reciprocation;

         6 . Open minds always hear more and hear better; and

         7 . We are all in this together.

And while proposing ideas for the conducting of our national discussions is tricky and plagued by risks of both error and unintended condescension, it is hardly a new subject.

In variant forms, this subject has been recurrent in American history — from Dale Carnegie’s 1936 How to Win Friends and Influence People to the shallow but bestselling lightness of Anthony Harris’ 1967 I’m O.K. You’re O.K and its minions of progenies of similarly titled books — admittedly my favorite being I’m O.K. You’re Full of Shit.

But, seriously, it is time for Americans to take stock once again. It is time for us to reel it in. Hiring damage control firms to protect for our companies is not enough. Scrolling for comforting memes and like-minded tweets will not ease our thoughts. Clenching our fists and biting our lips will not contain our anger. And retaining life coaches to guide our lost souls is not going to do the trick.

So how about some shared and common humility? And thus, this article is offered as a raw beg for humility. We Americans need to swallow some of our self-serving and self-deceiving sense of exceptionalism and start our discussions with the simple phrase, “I could be wrong, but.” More precisely stated, I could be wrong, but we must start our discussions with the simple phrase, ‘I could be wrong, but.”

I could be wrong, but this short prefatory phrase might help our discourse. At first, it will be burden. Eventually, however, it should become as common as “good morning,” “what’s happening,” “another round,” and “till later.” 

 I could be wrong, but I believe that by any measure it is better than “up yours,” “eat (whatever).” “f*** (you or off),” “shut up,””whatever,” and the indignant “not in this lifetime” closer.It will take a lot more than a phrase to save America, but this may be one place to start.

And so, how does one end a linguistic rant such as this?

How about …

I could be wrong, but … 

I could be right.

Thank you

– –

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