Monday, November 24, 2014

A Coincidence of Spirituality

The experience recently of my oldest grandson and his mother brought to mind one I had by happenstance 47 years earlier when I was eight years older than he is now.

Due to the genes I inherited, I’m probably fortunate to have avoided, but September 1967 is the first time among a handful that I slipped briefly into that state.

Even as infrequent and relatively shallow as my experience has been, I can vouch for the argument made by Andrew Solomon that “the opposite” of depression “is not happiness but vitality.”

For anyone stuck with the impression this is only sadness, listen to Solomon or click here for a short video on the science of depression.

That first time, I was having a crisis of identity and spirit.  I felt strongly that I shouldn’t be in Lyon, France, but rather 8,000 miles further east fighting in Vietnam alongside side friends and family.

A both/alternative didn’t seem possible the state I was in.

When I finally found my way back home and tried that other path, it was betrayed by the seven inch scar down the right side of my left knee.

No matter how many times I tried to enlist in various branches of the military, or how successful the rehab had been in 1966 after a tear in my patellar tendon from playing football, the answer was always no-go.

I grew up a Mormon surrounded by a wide range of cultures in that Yellowstone-Teton nook of my native Idaho.

But I was not just Mormon.

I descended from sixteen lines of ancestors who, 120 years before my crisis of spirit, had endured incredible hardship and journeys of thousands of miles to congregate at various points on the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains.

I was born at the most northern outpost of this meridian of my DNA but carried the full length of its expectations on my shoulders.

Ironically, however, I found solace and rediscovered my spiritual center one bright late September day when a friend and I slipped into the very back pew of the darkened sanctuary of the Basilica de Fourvière and heard the Gregorian Chants of a midday service.France 1967

This link to the vocalizations of group formerly known as Anonymous 4, came closest to approximating what I heard that day high on Fourvière hill.

Another I listen to is the group Trio Mediaeval.  It is hard to say why these chants meant so much to an Idaho boy who had never set foot in a basilica before or since.

For nearly four decades, my church attendance has been walking through nature with music such as this playing in my headphones.

The official choir of that Lyon basilica is now Les Petits Chanteurs de Saint-Marc, a children’s choir that can be heard singing at this link and here singing the contemporary Pie Jesu, a segment in a requiem mass Andrew Lloyd Webber composed in memory of his father.

I experienced that level of depression three more times over the next twenty years, just enough to help me empathized with the 4.1% of Americans who suffer it deeply.

It was relatively mild each time but I understand those who describe it as a “slower way of being dead” or as Solomon writes, “a funeral in your brain.”

It wasn’t Les Petits Chanteurs de Saint-Marc I heard that day but more likely a more impromptu group such as the one heard at this link.

What is now called the Basilica’s children’s choir was formed two decades after we dropped into its sanctuary first as the focus of a two year practice choir at l‘Ecole Sainte Ursule, a part of Le Centre scolaire Saint Marc a Lyon .

It is three miles down the Saône River on the other side of Vieux Lyon  from where I lived that September in 1967 on rue du Bon Pasteur.

The Basilica is atop the steep Fourvière hill looming abover Vieux Lyon and you can see the panoramic views behind me in the image in this blog by viewing the video at this link.

It was hazy that day, but on other days I could see Mount Blanc, 140 miles to the east and the highest point in Europe.  It was one of the areas my dad skied at the end of WWII on leave from chasing down Nazis trying to escape through the Bavarian forests into Austria and Switzerland.

But the thing about depression even at the relatively minor degree I was experiencing it is that you don’t seem to care about anything anymore.

I didn’t mean to ramble on about that moment in time which lasted only a few weeks but seemed like a lifetime, but these essays are written, in part, as memoirs for my grandsons.

They have been attending the Madeleine Choir School, one of a kind in North America but patterned, in part, on choir schools like that one in Lyon.  It is a Catholic school that teaches a complete curriculum with the choir at its center.

It isn’t the first brush with Catholic schools for our gene pool.  My grandparents sent my mom 250 miles south from where they lived to a Catholic High School in Salt Lake in a failed effort to separate her from my dad in the months before he left for the war.

Every other year, the “big” choir at Madeleine takes a week long concert tour to Italy singing in numerous Basilicas after studying their architecture, history and the geography surrounding them.

This year my oldest grandson, chaperoned by his mom, was eligible to take this extraordinary trip.

The capstone was singing mass at St. Peters Basilica in the Vatican, within earshot of the Papal apartments, and then watching Pope Francis give the blessing above the square outside.

The tour began in Venice, 28 miles south of where my second cousin and dad’s best friend growing up was shot down over Susegana, Italy when the B-26 in which he was a tail gunner was hit by AA fire and exploded during a bombing run to take out bridges across the Piave River supplying the German Army.

Edward Bowman was buried there and his dog tags hung over a cross in an orchard by a farmer, until my dad found the grave and brought his remains home for burial on our ancestral ranch.

He was only twenty-two years old.

The tour by my grandson’s choir also included Florence, Assisi and many other locations.  Given my memory of how I felt stepping into that sanctuary above the Roman ruins of Lyon, I can image the feeling of spirituality that permeated their trip.

A star soccer player, my grandson was a “walk-on” of sorts for the choir but by the conclusion of the tour he figuratively made the varsity and lettered.

Scientists have isolated a gene that is shorter in people who experience depression.  I think the one that I must have was much less severe than it was in my father and his mother.

Just like the one that results in essential tremor, which has yet to be discovered, both were probably handed down to my offspring.  My prayer that they skip the boys may be in vain but, if so, they have already been offset by other inherited traits such as grit, determination, and drive.

It is important to remember that inheritance is not destiny. It is how we express our genes that makes the biggest difference.

I can read the worry in letters to me from my parents and sisters during that time of spiritual crisis forty seven years ago.  It wasn’t the first nor the last time they probably felt helpless while watching me experience pain.

But I’ve lived a life well worth living and for that I owe them.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Finding Myself Going In Opposite Directions

As devices go, I find myself going in opposite directions.

For different reasons, my cell phone just got a lot bigger and my tablet smaller.  The iPhone 6+ is a lot easier to read and the mini-tablet is a lot easier to handle.

Research I will get to suggests I will soon be shedding some devices.

For me, the size of the keys on the keyboard of the 6+ is more important than making or receiving phone calls, partly because when I do, I am in the Jeep where it happens via the sound system or on speaker mode.

Very rarely do I raise the phone to my ear anymore and the larger size works just fine when I do.

Even for people north of age 65, such as me, only 18% use their cell phones a lot for phone calls compared to 38% of the general population, according to Gallup.

Among Americans overall, 18% rarely use cellphones a lot to make or receive phone calls, compared to 27% who rarely use them for text messages and 29% who don’t use them to read or send emails.

More telling though, is that more than half of Americans now rarely, if ever, use a landline.  More than 64% rarely, if ever, use a landline at work now.

Even among those in my age group, only 17% still frequently use a landline from home.  Of course, all but 7% of those under age 30 are probably looking up to find out what a landline is.

By the way, for anyone who wears a leather belt-loop holster to carry their phone when not in use, I have a recommendation for where to get one, especially for an iPhone 6 or 6+, and even more so if you use a protective case.

Alyssa Nott, an artist up in Fort Wayne, Indiana makes these to your specification and she does wonderful work.

In 2012, friends who learned I had read several books on my cellphone during one of my annual cross-country trips since retiring five years ago, thought I was crazy.

I didn’t realize I was among only 8% of people my age who read e-books, available from numerous apps including one from local bookstores, and even as loaners from some public libraries now.

But that same study showed that by 2012, a quarter of Americans who read e-books did so on a cellphone, including 41% of those ages 16-29.

I always read a bit before going to sleep, often just reversing the screen from white with black type to black with only the type backlit.  I have found myself, without realizing it, using the iPhone 6+ instead of the tablet.

It isn’t inconceivable that I won’t buy another television either.  I am one of the nearly 8 million Americans who only stream when it comes to television and I have to say, watching on an iPhone 6+ is pretty impressive.

Those who measure television viewership are scrambling right now to do a much better job of capturing metrics across all screens as well as digging deeper into things like engagement.

A report this month showed that mobile apps are surpassing television in minutes per day.  In part, this is because television viewership is “graying,” and nowhere more than cable.

Click on the infographic shown in this post to see an illustration.  Click on the chart at this link to see the growth in “app events” (action completed inside apps, not just opening and closing them) just since I retired at the end of 2009.

Time spent on mobile devices in the US grew 9.3% over the last nine months to an average of almost three hours a day, while time spent on television was flat at 2 hours and 48 minutes per day.

But a Nielsen executive last month noted that the drop in prime-time television ratings is the result of people watching on other devices.  It just hasn’t reached agreement on how that will be counted.

This sounds a little like newspaper executives a decade ago who were arguing that circulation has been level since 1991, just as advertising revenues, which translate more to the bottom line, were going into a free fall that continues today.

Millennials still watch television, just not traditional television and especially not television news.

By location, 98% view video at home on a smartphone as do 58% at a friend or significant others home.  Half view it on a smartphone while on vacation, more than a third while commuting, and a fourth will at a restaurant or bar.

They are watching television, just not on a television set, and just not live.  My career in community marketing reaches back to a time when it was important to note whether hotel rooms had a television, a color television.

I can now see the time when having an in-room television will be as obsolete as that landline telephone they still have.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Putting Disparities In Perspective

By happenstance, I did something the month after I arrived in Durham, North Carolina to jumpstart its community marketing that I would recommend to any newly appointed DMO exec.

This exposure came back to me as I used an interactive map about arrests broken down by community, including comparisons of ethnicity of the suspects, which I will get to in a minute.

At a small gathering that summer of 1989, I was introduced to Charlie Tiffin, who had served as a Durham police officer for ten years.  We formed a connection and he asked me if I would like to ride along with him one night on patrol.

It not only gave me a clearer perspective of what Durham visitors who were out late in various districts would experience, but it gave me a close up of what it is like to be a police officer including moments of boredom punctuated with sudden bursts of adrenalin while converging to apprehend suspects.

Office Tiffin had just completed his bachelor’s degree from Guilford College after attending Durham Tech following his military service, and was about to start a masters program at Duke.

A few years after we met, he was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship and took leave to study in England before earning a Ph.D., all related to policing, while he worked his way up the ranks before retiring to academia in 2005 after being passed over for Chief.

Our loss.  We’ve had some terrific police chiefs and he would have been among our best.

I always believed that contributing time - where possible - to help reduce crime and to put it into perspective was a part of my job in community destination marketing, a field of visitor-centric economic and cultural development.

In part, this was because crime coverage is such a dominant part of the news anywhere, but especially for communities heavily covered not only by local news media but those nearby, giving the misimpression of double the trouble when it is just twice the coverage.

But this is also because my philosophy of community marketing is that it must involve lowering barriers to perception as much as it does simple promotion, no amount of which can compensate otherwise.

Our involvement included playing a role in founding a Durham Crime Cabinet to detect and close gaps between agencies and resources throughout the judicial system.

This followed a model our organization had spearheaded to increase the volume of public communication made available by various agencies about the community including the Durham Police Department (DPD.)

We also began assembling and publishing crime data that compared communities in far more useful and accurate cohorts than the FBI has time to crunch, in part, to help the news media provide better context for local news stories.

As part of our work to track metrics related to the perceptions of both local stakeholders and external audiences, we also began including questions on annual surveys to measure community-wide residents’ perceptions of safety.

So it is with that background and interest that long after retirement I still find myself interested in reading studies about apparent racial bias in arrests and wishing that instead of just breaking ratios down by ethnicity that they could index to factors such as reduced criminal behavior and resident perceptions of safety.

But even in Durham, where those metrics exist, reports seem to fail to connect those dots.

Police officers are as human as the rest of us, especially when it comes to being engaged.  We all take far too much of our cues about police behavior from television and news headlines (not necessarily the full stories.)

Actually, with fewer and fewer resources for investigative reporting, I’m sure journalists feel like stories themselves have become more like headlines.

So Tuesday night, after returning home from a new production of Cinderella (I know I’m the authenticity guy but I’m also a good significant other and after all, the moral was “Ella” being herself) I was fascinated by an interactive map published by USA Today.

The headline read “Racial gap in U.S. arrest rates: ‘Staggering disparity’” but what caught my eye was the interactive map that permitted readers to drill down to look at state and community data.

Because I read only the Durham newspaper for local news, two things surprised me.

When you click on data for surrounding communities that are far less ethnically diverse, you see that they are roughly equally if not more disparate in the rate of arrestees who are black vs. non-black.USA Today Interactive Arrest Disparity

Raleigh, for example, has a ratio of 4.2 arrests of African-Americans for every one non-Black to Durham’s ratio of 5.

This is even though Raleigh has much smaller proportion of African-Americans which would have been useful to include in the index.  Cary, in the same metro as Raleigh, has an even lower proportion of African-Americans but arrests them at a ratio of 4.6 to 1.

Chapel Hill, which is in the Durham metro area also has a much smaller ratio of African-Americans, but arrests them at a ratio of 7.3 to 1.  Of course, people there who are ignorant to their own crime would probably dismiss this as arresting criminals who commute from Durham.

We’re rivals at more than just sports.  Of course, it took ten years for Chapel Hill residents to admit the tony Streets at Southpoint is in Durham, proving that this misperceptual rezoning is highly selective (smile.)

The fact is, we’ve been beating our police department up about this disparity for more than a year now but when news outlets as well as policing agencies fail to gather or share perspective, the stories and perceptions get skewed.

But the stats also tell another story.

Raleigh has an arrest rate per 1,000 residents for African-Americans more than 2 1/2 times greater than Durham’s (292.6 compared to 110.3).

Its rate for non-Black arrests is 3 times greater.  Stats for Greensboro, Winston-Salem and to a lesser extent, because it merges city and county statistics, Charlotte tell a similar story.

In a fair world, news outlets in these communities which don’t experience double news coverage might insinuate from this disparity that these communities must have more criminals if not more crime.

But what I see is that either Durham needs more police officers and the state needs to fund our fair share of magistrates, assistant DAs and judges or perhaps we as Durham residents also need to better balance our concerns for social justice with less ambivalence about enforcement.

See what you think but this further makes the case that in both official reports as well as news reporting about crime, local perspective is most important but should always placed in larger context.

While Durham must be ever vigilant about social justice and remain concerned about the disparity by race in arrests.  It must also take into concern data about resident perceptions of feeling safe.

While overall, 62.4% of residents feel personally safe, a positive-to-negative ratio of 3-to-1 and just above the average here for the past nine years, the percentage for Caucasians is higher, especially among Hispanics.

It may not be coincidence that the age cohort feeling least safe is the one that remains most likely to get information via a local newspaper or television station.

The perception of safety among Durham residents compared to those in other communities is high.  Across the nation, 64% of Americans believe there is more crime, including 41% who believe that is true in their local area.

But in Durham, the percentage of African-Americans feeling safe is nearly six percentage points lower than the average for Durham overall.

This may mean they don’t feel safe from the police but I suspect it means, that especially neighborhoods that are predominantly black may more frequently be the targets of criminals.

Addressing the needs of those neighborhoods may also be one of the reasons for the disparity in arrests.

Regardless, I suspect it is a whole lot more complicated than simple disparities.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wearing Symbols of Our Longing for Realness

There are other types consumption other than just destination travel that signals how deeply rooted the quest for sense of place is in many of us.

One of the examples I will touch on in this essay is with direct mail catalogues for apparel and accessories including why those that seize on authenticity aren’t just a trend.

Thumb through one from Orvis, J.L. Powell or Territory Ahead the next time it arrives, and look at how carefully the backdrops reflect the “realness” of places in hopes that it rubs off on the products.

It is why when some lose this connection with realness and roots when they fall under private equity owners and then have to scramble to get it back such as has periodically seemed to happen over the years with Eddie Bauer, Lands End and Woolrich, even L.L. Bean and Plow & Hearth.

Drifting away from roots and authenticity is usually first manifest online not because the design and functionality isn’t good but because the sites begin to take on a generic quality.

This is far too evident in my former field of community destination marketing.  Even those depicting communities that still retain aspects of sense of place are not immune.

In fact, the drift of marketing materials toward generic may be a sort of graphical “Freudian slip,” unconsciously betraying the deterioration of the “there” there in a particular community.

Research shows that even the so-called “selfie-generation” holds authenticity as one of the top five attributes for brands of any type.  This is inspiring some historic brands to return to its roots with its 1816 catalogue.

The founder of a newer entry in that apparel and gear market is Guideboat Co. and he comes by his sense of authenticity honestly.

Steven Gordon also founded Restoration Hardware when he was restoring an old Queen Anne Victorian house in Eureka, California more than three decades ago.

The inspiration emerged as he started collecting source material for authentic items such as door knobs and then began finding similar emblems of authenticity for other folks.

In 1980, Gordon opened the first Restoration Hardware store in Eureka’s Old Town District which is where I saw it during a stop while driving up along the Pacific route linking the old Spanish missions in September 2001, the day before 9/11.

But I was learning about the company in reverse, spotting the store first along 23rd Avenue in the village-like Northwest District of Portland, Oregon where my daughter lived during the mid to late 1990s.

The year after that 2001 road trip up U.S. Route 101 is when one opened where I live in Durham, North Carolina at The Streets at Southpoint, and by then the chain was a long way from its Eureka roots.

In 2005, Gordon left the company for others to run.  In his words, he missed the trenches but I think he was also beginning to miss the link to authenticity.

Lacking the authenticity sensibilities of Starbucks, Restoration Hardware closed that first store in 2008 just before I retired, stating ironically that customers could find alternatives in the suburbs.

The company’s stores were rapidly becoming high-end design studios for authenticity “wanna-bees.”

For a time after he left RH, Gordon ran Sundance, a lifestyle direct mail catalogue that had been started in 1989 by actor/director Robert Redford and named for the mountain resort he developed using sense of place principles up Provo Canyon from BYU.

I would still like to find a photographic essay book I saw in Salt Lake City while visiting to attend my daughter’s college graduation.  It was centered around quotes from Norman Maclean’s sense-of-place masterpiece, A River Runs Through It.

But ever since it was taken public a decade after Redford imbued its sensibilities, the catalogue has strayed far, far away from that sense of authenticity.

There are some things private equity firms just can’t grasp.

One of them seems to be the importance of sense of rootedness and authenticity that research shows is appealing to at least 7-in-10 consumers and preferred as a backdrop by the remainder.

So unable to sustain or transfer sensibilities that come natural to him, some say from his background growing up in the Adirondacks, Gordon started from scratch last year, literally going back to his roots as an entrepreneur with an uncanny grasp of sense of place.

He started Guideboat Co., first by restoring two 19th century buildings including an original mercantile store and an old hardware store followed by a direct mail counterpart filled with sense of place images.

Business associations such as chambers of commerce often struggle to understand sense of place which is the forte of community marketing counterparts with that as a focus.

As one exec in Eureka noted when stunned by shuttering of the first Restoration Hardware, for many the demise of sense of place is an inevitable “national trend” 

But sense of place or being authentic and real, is not a trend.  Americans have been longing for rootedness and heritage since the day we first steps on these shores more than 500 years ago.

The idea of clothing that looks vintage or pre-worn goes back to the 1950s, a fashion so prevalent that it is sure to be a source of heartburn for archeologists one day as they seek to discern what is really authentic from our yearning for authenticity.

DMOs still clinging to sense of place in the communities they promote understand that marketing a brand is important but in the words of Starbucks’ relentless CEO Howard Schultz, “it is authenticity that makes them last.”

When we first cranked up community marketing for Durham more than 25 years ago, one of the most popular publications we distributed via the front desks in corporations and other local businesses as a means to encourage visitor circulation was the Downtown Durham Walking Tour.

The most common comment we heard back from surveys was that it was cool because the urban village-like character and scale of downtown made it seem so familiar to visitors.

In essence it evoked where they grew up or felt they had grown up.

That it was all deserted and boarded up back then is urban myth.

The fact is, it wasn’t.  Festivals frequently filled the streets on weekends.  Durham Bulls games filled the old DAP.  Thousands walked the streets to and from businesses and agencies each day.

One side of Main Street rivaled Brightleaf Square for nightlife, and people who worked four miles away at RTP were already populating second story lofts.

There were numerous artist studios Downtown including one for an artist named Tim O. Walker who decorated store fronts below his downtown Durham loft with modernistic furniture designs before leaving for Miami where he took restoration and custom cabinetry to the level of sculpture.

Another had been converted into a boutique theater that was packed for micro productions such as Greater Tuna, a la the way performers used storefronts down Mason Street in San Francisco at the time.

A brewery and a ravioli factory were building on Durham’s already emerging local foods movement.

But two of the most popular downtown businesses back then were places like that first Restoration Hardware, and drew crowds of hobby restorationists from as far as several surrounding states.

Rick Morgan has a similar operation here now called The Reuse Warehouse taking to an entirely new level what his parents who own Morgan Imports, did for decades on the side.

Steven Gordon would feel right at home there but there isn’t room now for that kind of business in Downtown Durham as it sheds its realness in exchange for higher property values.

Developers who fancy themselves as resurrectionists don’t have the restorationist sensibilities of the Morgan’s.  City planners and permit issuers would be well advised to have Richard vet all downtown projects for sense of place and authenticity.

He grew up just across the tracks from where Morgan Imports is today in the historic Durham Laundry complex.  After attending Duke, he served in Vietnam.

When he got home in 1969 he established a gift shop like the ones he had seen on leave in Okinawa.  It was in the former Stephenson-Wilson Pontiac Dealership which was on Morgan St. where the entrance to parking for Brightleaf Square is now.

The building burned and the store became an anchor in Brightleaf, which had been created in 1980 from two historic tobacco warehouses, before the Morgan’s renovated for adaptive reuse first the old Laundry and the building where Parker & Otis is now.

The first time I met him, he took me to see a stash of “heart of pine” flooring he had rescued from warehouses being demolished.

Richard also represents the heart Durham’s sense of place and someone Stephen Gordon would feel right at home with.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

When Ignorance Feels So Much Like Expertise

You come across people in life who because they happened to get one thing right, begin to fancy themselves as an expert at everything.

It’s only annoying until you realize these people are often also consummate lobbyists, not in the professional sense, but individuals with an ax to grind and expert at bending ears.

Typically, they also secretly despise data-driven decision-makers or anyone really who prefers to be strategic.

You would think anyone whose ear these people seek to bend especially those in every level of governance would have their “B.S.-O-Meter” dialed to deflection mode.

Fortunately many do.  But far too many seem to embrace these B.S. artists as kindred spirits, particularly among those who never seem to be able to hold information, detectible because they fail to see the humor in  Jimmy Kimmel’s Lie Witness News.

It’s probably because they are candidates ripe for a guest appearance.

During my long-ago concluded career, for some reason I always got on the wrong side of people like this, maybe because by nature, the threshold of my B.S.-O-Meter is set pretty low.

Unfortunately, the nature of my job meant that I couldn’t entirely ignore them.  It doesn’t excuse it in the extreme, but none of us is entirely immune from masking reactions to our own ignorance.

Never having to bother with listening, reading, having to learn from mistakes or providing evidence to back up their claims, and often in league with those who are similar, these folks have a lot of time on their hands in which to wreak havoc.

They are beloved by journalists, not because those in that profession can’t usually see through it, but because people such as they perpetuate conflict, and conflict often gives story ideas a life of their own.

Finally, just as I was starting the final decade in my career, cognitive researchers zeroed in on this behavior which was christened the Dunning-Kruger Effect for which they were awarded a Nobel Prize.

A lead-in to an article by one of the researchers, Dr. David Dunning, quipped last month in one of my favorite journals, Pacific Standard, “The trouble with ignorance is that it feels so much like expertise.”

Dunning notes at some level none of us are immune from feigning to know more than we actually do, but, as in my experience, there are some who take it to an art form.

They propagate what he terms “purpose-driven misconceptions” or “motivated reasoning.”

What I call our “B.-S.-O-Meter,” a term I coined in my previous life, was a tool to give ratings to those who promoted inaccuracies about one of the communities for which I was guardian.

Our personal “B.S.-O-Meter,” actually kicks in before our second birthday.

Unfortunately, that is also, according to Dunning, when we begin to accumulate misbeliefs.

Education is meant to set things straight but no amount is a guarantee that someone won’t be susceptible to those who deliberately promote misinformation for agenda purposes or even just because they have an ax to grind.

Often those who exhibit Dunning-Kruger Effect are also more vulnerable to being unethical and have a way of getting to elected officials who may, at some level, share that trait and be prone to be unethical.

An example in current events today is the corruption among those governing major sports events.  The latest manifestations are the decisions by FIFA officials regarding the selection of two future World Cup venues.

I know firsthand that this problem permeates sports events down to the local level and it all starts with public officials who insist on going along with demands from promoters for cash subsidies.

I wasn’t in Durham a month before a sport event in a community nearby came knocking with its hand out.  Fortunately, that is also about the time I met the late Dr. LeRoy Walker.

Doc was an officer then with the U.S. Olympic Committee and soon to be its President.  He was also very unpretentious, a trait common among Durhamites, and would, until I retired, swing frequently by my office, sometimes weekly, just to talk.

He embodied all that is so honorable in sports but he hated the corrosive effects that cash underwriting and subsidies had introduced into sports event venue selection at every level.

Fortunately, subsidies weren’t permitted by our organization’s legislative mandate and Doc taught me much more effective ways to draw sports events without handing them cash.

But that didn’t stop powerful interests including a few elected officials from doing everything possible to try and corner our organization into “pay outs,” even though we always managed to outperform communities that walked that slippery route when it cam to sports.

One end run involved subterfuge regarding nomenclature that even clerks in the Secretary of State’s office failed to detect.  Local officials chose to look the other way, even playing along when they saw advantage or to appease special interests.

So I am not at all surprised that FIFA officials are attempting to whitewash an investigative report.  Corruption and cover-ups are oxygenated when as many people as possible are splattered with blood.

Some otherwise very honorable people get caught up in this stew of unethical behavior.

It all starts when they allow their ears to get bent by individuals, who might also be otherwise honorable, but who hoodwink them into thinking subsidies are harmless.

A famous 2007 study by researchers including Dr. Daniel Kahneman found elected and government officials are no more rational than the rest of us when it comes to this kind of decision-making.

They are as irrational as any of us even when they have so much better information at hand, such as the fact that there are plenty of groups that don’t have their hand out, that the economic value added rarely covers the costs of the handouts, and that providing cash subsidies leads to unethical behavior.

Often they get caught up in decisions that make no sense in order to make less transparent past decisions that made even less sense.  But the real culprit is a faulty B.S.-O-Meter.

During my career stretching over four-decades and in each of the three communities I served, I had a front row view of how corrupt decisions got made.

Whenever I protested, either my well-being or that of people I cared about was threatened, three times in Durham alone.

The news media that society relies on to expose this corruption either doesn’t see it or is too caught up in “he said, she said” to give whistleblowers cover, perhaps because their B.S.-O-Meters burned out a long time ago.

Ironically, some of the most corrupt are often also the highest vote getters.

Even incorruptible officials who are peers become enablers when they fail to call this out perhaps for the same reasons I couldn’t.

The genesis of this “legalized” corruption is not within government but because we fail as voters to keep our B.S.-O-Meter turned up.