Thursday, November 15, 2012

2012 Election Roundup - Chapter 1

William B. Dixon III was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on
Christmas day in 1939. He was the grandson of a Methodist
minister who anchored the family including Bill's father
and mother, a pair of ne'er do wells who, once unfettered by
the death of the minister grandfather, rose to ever greater
heights of human malfeasance.

When I met Dixon in the 1970's he weighed in over 350 pounds,
an imposing physique for a man not quite 6 feet tall. Somehow
he had kept weight off long enough to join the US Navy and
serve a stint that provided him with funding for an education
at the University of Maryland.

Bill Dixon provides us with a wonderful example worthy of
use as an introduction to corruption. defines corruption as the abuse of entrusted 
power for private gain. It hurts everyone who depends on the  
integrity of people in a position of authority. They, of course,
have their own axe to grind but the definition, if extended  to
incorporate "entrusted power" to include all that we, as a
society, expect from the average person we meet socially or
pass by on the street, then it is suitable for daily use.

Dixon and I worked in a three story office building in Wilmette,
Illinois, in 1974. There was a lunchroom provided by the
building owners at that time, comprised of several tables
and chairs and a number of vending machines. This was well
before the dollar bill changer was developed and deployed in
such settings.

Dixon didn't eat lunch, but joined us in the lunch room rather
than sitting at his desk for that hour. Being his parents'
son, an apple that fell not far from the tree, Bill worked out
that by leaving all his change, save about 85 cents, in his desk,
he could profit those roughly 15 pennies by exchanging a
lesser amount for a dollar to anyone who was desparaate to
have something to eat from the vending machines. And he
had a taker every day until his reputation in the building spread
enough that the ploy became a trickle of one or two events a
week instead of the 5 that he had experienced in the beginning.

This example of corruption is a clear demonstration of how
cheaply some, perhaps many, people sell  their souls. At
the peak of his little scam, Dixon didn't accumulate so much
as $5 in a month, and the scam began to fail after a few
weeks. The number of people without sufficient change
dropped dramatically once they figured out the scam. But
then, his scam was obvious.

On the 10th of this month, on a dreary rainy Saturday, I
attended Angeli's Central Market in order to buy a few
food essentials. Since I had 13 items in my cart, I went
to the "about 12 items" checkout line, and my wife
Gloria, fell in second behind me with the three items
she had selected up.

After I unloaded my cart, the checker, somewhat
confrontationally, said, "You know this is the twelve item
line....." I answered, "I have 13 items, and if you like, I
can hand one to my wife who has the 2nd cart behind me.
Please let me know how you want to handle this." He
then checked me out without any more protest. Now I've
seen folks with 20 and 30 items occasionally checking
out in that lane in the past without comment from the
checker. So the corruption, if you will, arose out of some
emotion that the employee brought to work that day, not
the style of premeditated corruption that Bill Dixon
demonstrated. Or that's the way it appeared to me om
Saturday last.

Nevertheless the effects are similar, because good treatment
by those we encounter in daily life is expected and rarely
noticed, while poor treatment is remembered for long
periods. At this juncture, fairness dictates that I point out
that Angeli's ranks right at the very top for the excellent
"service model" they extend to customers, among all the
places I've done business in my lifetime. But this example
of what I consider poor treatment at the hands of that
employee will linger, and come to the forefront if ever I
encounter similar treatment in the future. I fully anticipate
excellent shopping experiences at Angeli's in the future just
as almost every experience in the past has been.

Of these two types of corruption, the example of Bill Dixon
was never correctable, and he died never quite achieving
age 60, some time back. The Angeli's example should be
self correcting because, one assumes, the employee was
having a bad day. But a periodic gentle reminder to all
employees of the reason they are there usually reinforces
an excellent service model such as Angeli's works to

The third type of corruption we discuss here today is that
of the electorate as a whole. It has occurred, in my opinion,
for two reasons. First, the public education system has failed
to impart in the electorate the sense of civic responsibility
being taught when I was in school. The second has to do
with societal changes. In the past, people used to gather
and discuss current events. Today that's been replaced by
television news, most of which, according to author and
commentator Bernie Goldberg, biased in countless ways.

The day after our recent national election,
reported that the most frequently used search term on
election day was "who is running." Just in case it isn't
clear to any of our readers that election day is far too late
to become involved in understanding the situations facing
our nation, I'll say it here. Election day is far too late to
start understanding the situation.

Even so, events in the week since the election demonstrate
that basic deception, dishonesty, and corruption were
involved in the news that was given to the electorate
during the campaigning season.

Unemployment, based on a trend only recently established,
was expected to have about 375,000 applicants, but instead
rose to more than 439,000 the week after the election, amid
much speculation that the earlier numbers had been cooked
in orde to present a better presidential image before the

The Dow Jones Industrial Average of certain, indicative,
stocks, fell by more than 12,500 points (dollars.)

The attack on the US by Islamist militants on 9/11/2012 at
Benghazi, Syria, was afforded a cover story to divert
attention, and responsibility, from the president, to such
an extent that two months later it requires congressional
hearings to get the real story, whatever that will become,
to the public. This, dear reader, is being done in the age of
instant communications with a 24 hour news cycle.

And the David Patraeus story achieved plausible deniability
through the efforts of a large group of people, all working to
provide insulation for the president from the negative aspects.

Two facts emerge clearly. The first is that with a huge  portion
of the electorate unaware of the situation facing all of us, the
election became one off Pied Piper Politics, partly attributable
to the electorate, and part to the president and his  adminis-
tration. The first part is, in your humble correspondent's opinion,
the ultimate corruption, because we, the electorate, have hurt
ourselves. That politicians, as a group, are often deceptive, is
to be expected, most especially when they are lawyers as well.

But as always, we deserve the fruits of our labor.  And, as it
turns out, voting isn't enough. It is no longer enough to sit back
and let those running for office tell us what's on offer.

We need to spread our own opinions in our communities and
make sure that out friends and neighbors have, at the very least,
a thorough exposure to the problems facing all of us, and our
take on them. No, I'm not suggesting peer pressure, but true
peership. Never has investing your ideas, hopes, and dreams,
in your friends and neighbors, been more important. It is
obviously too late to have an effect on the 2012 election, but
the next cycle has already begun, as has the time to participate
in it.

Bill Vajk

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