VOLUNTEERING
TO BE MR. MARTHA

One of the college classes that I have taught for years is HUMN-205, Technology and Ethics. DeVry University believes that it is essential for their Electronics and Computer Technology students learn about ethics before they graduate lest they jeopardize their valuable education and career by making unethical decisions in the workplace. Most students confess that when they signed up for this required course, they weren't excited about the class. However, after a semester of reviewing ethical horror stories, many of which are in the nightly news, they were happy to have taken the class.

During the semester, we look at examples of unethical conduct within technology and the broader ethical issues in corporate America. For example, we delve into ethical issues surrounding genetic engineering, weapons systems, and universities hacking into each other's computer systems. We also study corporations like Arthur Andersen, Enron, WorldCom, Halliburton, etc.

However, this semester's class has nominated Martha Stewart as its poster child even though Martha's problems go back several semesters. When the FDA told Imclone that they weren't going to approve their drug for use as a cancer treatment, those on the inside dumped their stock. Martha saved an estimated $45,000 by conveniently unloading her stock just before the stock tanked. However, insider trading or lying about it is a felony. Martha's frugality has cost her over $400 million. In addition, she is facing fines, court costs, legal fees, and jail time-all because she wanted to save $45K. Even my novice students can see this unethical and pennywise and dollar foolish modus operandi isn't smart. Therefore, Martha has become the poster child for the class. More importantly, she will serve as a reminder of unethical practices.

Recently, Martha said that she was "puzzled by the public's delight" at all her troubles. Well, I wish that she had taken my class. She would have learned about ethics and also about Taoism. One of the basic tenets of Taoism is that "the ax falls first on the tallest tree." Lao Tzu wanted his followers to understand that if you act like a tall tree towering over all the lesser trees, you might impress yourself and others for a while, but you also are at greater risk of impressing a lumberjack who will cut you down. (For an article about Dick Grasso, the former head of the NYSE, http://www.wolverton-mountain.com/articles/taoism_tall_%20trees_grasso.htm.) I would have gladly tutored Martha privately for a contribution to DeVry University's scholarship fund.

Since I wasn't able to help Ms. Martha, perhaps my calling is to help America. I'm volunteering to fill in for Martha. Today, I am announcing that I am the new Martha Stewart. Initially, I was going to call myself Mr. Martha. I thought that the name association would be good. However, when I tested my idea locally, I raised some concerns among some of my homophobic friends who warned me that my new name might sound transsexual. They said that in the highly charged climate surrounding gay marriages, that this wouldn't be a good marketing idea. I argued with them for a while. I told them that this whole gay debate is a tempest in a teapot. I can't figure out how two gay people getting married is going to hurt marriage in America-as if that is such a successful institution anyway. However, that's another article.

Therefore, fearing homophobic backlash, I have decided merely to call myself, Guido. I, as Guido, will fill in the gap that Martha left us. Perhaps, by the time she gets out of jail, I'll be established and we can merge our corporate enterprises. In the meantime, check out some of my work. I did these floral creations on the very day that Martha was found guilty on all four counts. Boy, tell me that isn't a wondrous and fortuitous omen.

In future articles, I will be presenting cooking instructions, lawn and garden ideas, and other Martha-esque information to make your home into your aesthetically well-appointed castle. In the meantime, check out my floral technique with sunflowers:

This article appeared in the Dixon Telegraph on 4/30/04.