The anatomy of an apology

June 29, 2009 1:53:18 PM PDT
"Sorry." What a complicated word.

Not sure how many times I've said to my son or daughter, "Please tell your (sister/brother) that you're sorry." (Although I'm not sure the word please was in there.)

And they say, "Saaaawww-reeee."

Did they mean it? Sometimes I think they did.

And think back to your own experience with the world. Did you mean it, or did you bring it up after the fact?

Seems to me that the real test for "I'm sorry" is whether you say it proactively, or only when you think it will lessen the ramifications.

I thought about this after reading the statement in federal court this morning from Bernie Madoff. His apologies before his sentence sounded - out of context - sincere. But in context, they rang hollow, especially when stacked up next to the testimonials of some of those he ripped off in his $65 billion Ponzi scheme - the largest stock swindle in history.

It must have seemed hollow to the judge as well, who meted out a 150-year sentence. The prison term itself, rather meaningless in terms of real years; Madoff is 71, and behind bars is where he will certainly die.

As the betrayed investors talked, I couldn't help but think of the betrayed investors in all those giant American corporations who lost everything they had - their 401k's, their savings, their dreams. All the while, the corporate chieftains lived quite the life, with their bonuses and stock options and large salaries.

The corporate execs aren't charged with intentionally defrauding people; Madoff already pleaded guilty to that. So I'm not trying to at all draw a connection to the people at the top - only to the people who lost everything.

We'll have the latest on the Madoff case - and reaction from decimated investors, tonight at 11.

Also at 11, we're in the Jamaica section of Queens, where three workers trying to clean a sewer were trapped and killed in a manhole.

And we're in Los Angeles for the latest on the Michael Jackson case. And where to begin? With the cause of death? Was it prescription drugs? And if so, who gave it to him?

With his 3 kids, and who should get custody of them? Temporarily, his mother, Katherine, will have the children. But Jackson's relationship with his parents, especially with his father, is troubled at best.

And what about the money? Jackson, in death, might very well turn out to be as wealthy as Jackson was at the height of his career. His music is selling better than it has in 20 years. What to do with this money? Jim Dolan and Nina Pineda are covering the story on the West Coast for us.

Two items of note:

The first is that health officials have now confirmed a case of swine flu that is resistant to Tamiflu, the preferred drug against the virus.

The resistant case is in a patient in Denmark. So far, it's just one patient.

The other item, is the funny line of the day. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, talking about Iraqis taking over their own country, quipped that, with her broken elbow, she's now "engaged in a different form of arms control."

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Sade Baderinwa (in for Liz Cho) and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER


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