One More Time: Leadership, Moral Luck, Accountability, And Scapegoating, Baseball-Style.

Here is part of the statement released by  Boston Red Sox owner John Henry yesterday after the team fired its head of Baseball Operations, essentially the team’s General Manager, Dave Dombrowksi:

“Four years ago, we were faced with a critical decision about the direction of the franchise. We were extraordinarily fortunate to be able to bring Dave in to lead baseball operations. With a World Series championship and three consecutive American League East titles, he has cemented what was already a Hall of Fame career.”

Wait…HUH? He was hired four years ago, the team won three consecutive American League East titles (for the first time in the franchise’s history), a World Series Championship (following an epic 2018 season that saw Boston win 108 games) and he’s fired? What did he do, sexually harass players? Flash the owner’s daughter? Continue reading

More On The Acosta-Epstein Scandal: Leadership, Moral Luck, Accountability, And Scapegoating

Veteran commenter Glenn Logan expressed  doubts about the fairness of current criticism of the Secretary of Labor, Alexander Acosta (above right) for his approval of a ridiculously lenient plea deal for jet-setting sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein (above left). Glenn’s objections  prompted me to search for prior posts here on the ethics issue of high level accountability for disasters and fiascos. In this morning’s warm-up, #3, I discussed the reasons I feel the criticism of Acosta is justified (re Glenn’s complaint that journalists are determined to destroy Acosta because of his connection to their primary target, the President, my response is that  critics being biased and having unethical motives doesn’t mean their criticism is necessarily wrong), and concluded,

“Finally, there is the basic ethical issue of accountability. Prosecutors allowed Epstein’s lawyers to talk them into a ridiculously lenient plea deal with minimal prison time for a privileged criminal and sexual predator with endless resources and a high likelihood of recidivism. It was completely predictable that he would continue to harm women after his release, and the new charges against Epstein show that he did exactly as expected.It is appropriate that someone’s head roll for this, and Acosta’s is the logical choice.”

Glenn responded that this sounded more “like scapegoating than accountability.” “’Somebody must pay,’ he said, “is not convincing to me.” Hence my search of the Ethics Alarms archive. This is a topic of long-standing interest for me, in great part due to my military-minded father.

I also recently watched the Netflix series “Bad Blood,” about Montreal’s Mafia. The accountability of leadership is a recurring theme in that series:  we see the father of the future head of the powerful Rizzuto family telling his son as a boy that he is now responsible for caring for and cultivating several tomato plants. “If a plant produces good tomatoes,” the father explains, ” you will be rewarded. If a plant produces poor tomatoes, you will be punished.” Even if the reasons a plant fails to produce good tomatoes has nothing to do with the son’s efforts and were beyond his control, the father goes on to say, “I will still punish you. For that is the burden of leadership. When that for which a leader is responsible goes wrong, he must be accountable and pay the price whether it is his fault or not. Only then is he worthy of his followers trust.” Continue reading

This Explains A Lot, I Guess…

Here’s another planned post from those lost notes on a Sunday Times I just found from two weeks ago:

In  the New York Times Magazine,  the Times announced the results of an online poll of 2, 903 subscribers by its research-and-analytics  department. 72% Times loyalists would prefer to have done something horrible that only they knew about than to have everyone think they did a horrible thing that they really didn’t do.

Wait…what?

See, if you did a secret horrible thing, there really was someone hurt by your conduct. If people just think you did a horrible thing, you in fact hurt nobody, and did nothing wrong. This was a sneaky way of asking, “Are you a selfish and unethical human being, or not?”  Well, sneaky assuming that Times subscribers are incapable of thought, or that they let their 12-year-old kids answer Times research questions. About 3/4 answered, “Oh, I’m completely unethical!”

For the sake of clarity, let’s assume that both sides of the question involve the same horrible act, agreed? After all, if the real act is setting an orphanage on fire, and the wrongly believed act is farting loudly during a funeral service, or vice versa, the question is ridiculously easy.

So…72% of Times subscribers would rather have murdered a child than have everyone wrongly think they murdered a child? Molested a child? Broiled and eaten a child? Committed adultery? Spousal abuse? Spousal torture? Buried a spouse alive? Keeping a spouse locked in a dungeon? Locking a spouse in a dungeon with rabid wolverines?

What does this poll result tell the Times? What were they trying to learns? What does it tell us?

I guess it might explain the continued presence of the likes of Charles Blow, Thomas Friedman and Paul Krugman on the Times op-ed pages.

Or maybe their presence explains why Times subscribers reason as they do.

Yu Darvish And The Ethics Of Unnecessary Apologies

TMZ reported that Yu Darvish, the highly-regarded Dodger starting pitcher who may have delivered the worst World Series performance for a hurler ever, apologized to Dodger fans following his early exit from Game 7. Darvish didn’t make it out of the second inning in either of his two starts.

To begin with, I don’t think he apologized. Darvish said, “Dodger fans … they expect we won the World Series. I couldn’t do it. I still feel sorry,but I did my 100%, so…” Of course he’s sorry that he stunk during the Series, lost two games, and was a major reason his team was defeated by the Houston Astros. He regrets tat he didn’t play better. That, however, is not the same as apologizing, which is how TMZ and—yecch–Breitbart headlined the story.  It is a social balm to say that you  are sorry that your best efforts weren’t good enough, but one should not apologize for bad results unless your conduct was wrongful in some way. An athlete not being at his best on a given day is not wrongdoing. It’s moral luck. If he performed badly because he was drunk, or tried to lose, or didn’t prepare properly, then he owes his stakeholders an apology for breaching their trust and his duty of competence. If, as Yu says he did, the athlete gave “100%,’ then there is nothing to apologize for.

Acting as if there is something to apologize for helps confuse the easily confused public on an important aspect of accountability. We are accountable for bad events when our actions lead to those events, but we can only be blamed for those bad events if some negligence misconduct or other variation from competent and responsible standards causes the  undesirable results, when such results could have been anticipated. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: The Chicago Cubs Organization

This was a wonderful gesture of kindness and reconciliation. It won’t mean much to those who don’t follow baseball, and that is Reason #478,653,222 why it’s a mistake not to follow baseball.

I’ve written about the Steve Bartman fiasco several times, both here and on the currently off-line Ethics Scoreboard.  I am not in the “Steve Bartman was an innocent victim of circumstance” camp, though he was a victim of moral luck. He was an  incompetent baseball fan, not paying sufficient attention to the game and interfering with it as a direct result. On the other hand, for members of the 2003 Cubs to use him as a scapegoat for their blowing a lead,  the game, and the play-offs, and for Chicago fans to hound him out of town and into hiding, was far worse than his negligence, the most disproportionate and vindictive treatment of a fan in sports history.

Here was my summary of the saga to date before the Cubs finally won the World Series after more than a century of failure:

Bartman, for those of you who have lived in a bank vault since 2003, was the hapless young Chicago Cubs fan who unintentionally interfered with a foul ball that might have been catchable by Cubs outfielder Moises Alou in the decisive game of 2003 National League Championship Series. In a perfect display of the dangers of moral luck, Bartman’s mistake—it didn’t help that he was wearing earphones and watching the ball rather than the action on the field—began a chain of random events  that constituted a complete collapse by Chicago in that very same half-inning, sending the Miami Marlins and not the Cubs, who had seemed comfortably ahead, to the Series. Bartman, who issued a sincere and pitiful apology, was widely vilified and literally run out of town. He then became part of Cubs and baseball lore, one more chapter in the sad saga has been called “the Billy Goat Curse,” the uncanny inability of this team to win it all.

Yesterday the Cubs announced that the team had privately awarded Bartman  an official Chicago Cubs 2016 World Series Championship ring as a special gift from the the Cubs organization. These things contain 214 diamonds at 5.5 karats, three karats of genuine red rubies and 2.5 karats of genuine sapphires, and are worth about $70,000. Even so,  the symbolism is worth far more.

Tom Ricketts, the Cubs owner, issued a statement: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/14/17

1.  I am wrestling myself to the ground to avoid making any assumptions about the shooting this morning (about three miles from my home in Alexandria, Virginia) of two Republican Congressmen and an aide while the GOP baseball team was practicing for tomorrow’s annual Congressional baseball game for charity. When Rep. Gabby Giffords was shot (and a judge killed, among others) in Tucson, Arizona, the news media, pundits and Democrats leaped to blame Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh for so-called “eliminationist rhetoric,” defined in Palin’s case as using cross-hairs on an electoral map to indicate which Democrats could be defeated in 2012—you know, as in “he’s in my cross-hairs.” This was a transparent effort to stifle political speech. In 1995, when a Federal building in Oklahoma City was blown up in a domestic terrorist attack, “violent anti-government” rhetoric from the Right was also blamed, though there was no evidence that Timothy McVeigh would not have done exactly the same thing if political discourse had been all John Lennon and rainbows.

The Giffords explanation was cynical and contrived; the Oklahoma City response a bit less so, but in neither of those cases were violent imagery and hateful language (no party officials and member of Congress used “fuck” back then, late night TV hosts were largely apolitical and couldn’t call Presidents “cockholsters” without being fired, the “resistance” in 1995 consisted of fringe militia groups, not recent unsuccessful Presidential candidates with a large following, and nobody was giving standing ovations to Central Park theatrical productions showing a doppleganger of the President of the United States being assassinated. In other words, if Rush Limbaugh had held up a prop bloody head of Barack Obama prior to Giffords’ shooting, I would not have derided the critics who argued that irresponsible partisan rhetoric was at least part of the cause. But he didn’t. Nobody did. Nobody would have thought of doing so. Then.

So when my wife told me, the second I woke up, about the shooting this morning, my immediate thought was, “I wonder who the shooter is, an illegal immigrant, a Muslim, or a member of “the resistance?”  This was unfair, and I knew it. The shooter might have been, as it was in Tucson, a wacko. It might have been moral luck that it was the Republican baseball team that was attacked and not the Democrats, just as it was moral luck that nobody was killed. Continue reading

Ethics Verdict: Hillary Clinton Is The Worst Loser In US Presidential History (PART II)

You read PART I here.
As I was saying…
Following Clinton’s invention of a fake reason for her defeat for New York Magazine readers, she told Wellesley grads,

“When people in power invent their own facts and attack those who question them, it can mark the beginning of the end of a free society,” Clinton said. “That is not hyperbole, it is what authoritarian regimes throughout history have done.”

OK, technically Hillary is not in power, even though she says she won the election. Nonetheless, she is throwing around alternative facts like confetti. The news media was biased against her. “Voter suppression” cost her Wisconsin. My personal favorite was when she gave the cheering, indoctrinated Wellesley fems the alternative history that Richard Nixon was impeached. No, Hillary, your husband was impeached. Nixon had the requisite respect for the office to resign.

Yet I was willing to let bygones be bygones and let all of this go, until yesterday’s head-blowing interview. At Politico, another Hillary booster during the campaign, it was written that while Hillary “made a point to say that she took responsibility for her campaign and ‘every choice’ she made,” she then proceeded to blame everything and everyone else for her fate. This has been her pattern since the Benghazi hearings. Clinton uses some bizarre definitions of “accountability” and “responsibility” that allow her to believe she is being accountable while maintaining that nothing was her fault.

I’ll highlight her most outrageous statements yesterday, noting that neither of her interviewers had the professionalism or integrity to say, “Wait, WHAT???”

“[T]he use of my email account was turned into the biggest scandal since lord knows when. And you know, in the book I’m just using everything that anybody else said about it besides me to basically say this was the biggest nothing-burger ever. It was a mistake, I’ve said it was a mistake, and obviously if I could turn the clock back, I wouldn’t have done it in the first place, but the way that it was used was very damaging. Well, if you went all the way back, doing something that others had done before was no longer acceptable in the new environment in which we found ourselves. And there was no law against it, there was no rule, nothing of that sort. So I didn’t break any rule, nobody said, “Don’t do this,” and I was very responsible and not at all careless. So you end up with a situation that is then exploited, and very effectively, for adverse political reasons. And it was maddening, because in the middle of a hard-fought campaign, it’s hard to stop and say, “Wait a minute, what you think you know about this is not accurate, let me tell you.”

KABOOM!

Speaking of Big Lies…Clinton is even lying about her lies, and going back in time to repeat her false denials when the secret server story broke in 2015. I’m not going to re-hash why her e-mail machinations were unethical and incompetent, how we know that they violated her own department’s policy, and how the “it was done before” and “it was just a mistake” are transparently false. I made myself nauseous writing about it: you can look up the posts and all the supporting links if you have a masochistic streak. But for Clinton still to be selling this spin to misrepresent her deliberately endangering U.S. security so she could hide her personal schemes from the Freedom of Information Act is an act of self-parody.

“The other side was using content that was just flat-out false, and delivering it in a very personalized way, both sort of above the radar screen and below. And you know, look, I’m not a tech expert by any stretch of the imagination. That really influenced the information that people were relying on. And there have been some studies done since the election that if you look — let’s pick Facebook. If you look at Facebook, the vast majority of the news items posted were fake. They were connected to, as we now know, the 1,000 Russian agents who were involved in delivering those messages. They were connected to the bots that are just out of control. We see now this new information about Trump’s Twitter account being populated by millions of bots. And it was such a new experience. I understand why people on their Facebook pages would think, “Oh, Hillary Clinton did that, I did not know that. Well that’s going to affect my opinion about her.” And we did not engage in false content. We may have tried to put every piece of information in the best possible light, and explanations, but we weren’t in the same category as the other side.”

What fake news items on Facebook caused people not to vote for Hillary? The Russian hacks, if they were Russian, merely reveled the ethical rot within the DNC, Hillary’s campaign, and the Clinton Foundation. These were not “lies.” They were inconvenient truths, like the fact that Donna Brazile was using her position at CNN to give Hillary debate questions in advance.

I get the nomination. So I’m now the nominee of the Democratic Party. I inherit nothing from the Democratic Party. I mean it was bankrupt, it was on the verge of insolvency, its data was mediocre to poor, nonexistent, wrong. I had to inject money into it …Donald Trump, who did nothing about really setting up any kind of data operation, inherits an RNC data foundation that, after the Republicans lost in 2012, and they thought they had a very good operation with the setup that Romney did called ORCA, they thought that was really state of the art, they lose.

So they raised — best estimates are close to a hundred million dollars, they brought in their main vendors, they basically said, “We will never be behind the Democrats again,” and they invested between 2012 and 2016 this hundred million dollars to build this data foundation. They beta tested it. They ran it … somebody was able to determine about 227,000 surveys to double check, triple check, quadruple check, the information.

So Trump becomes the nominee and he is basically handed this tried and true, effective foundation.”

The GOP also thought their data system was sound in 2012, too. No Presidential election data foundation is “tried and true” until it works in the election. Meanwhile, Clinton is blaming her party for her loss, though her campaign vastly out-raised and out-spent the Republicans.

“Seventeen agencies, all in agreement, which I know from my experience as a Senator and Secretary of State, is hard to get. They concluded with high confidence that the Russians ran an extensive information war campaign against my campaign, to influence voters in the election. They did it through paid advertising we think, they did it through false news sites, they did it through these thousand agents, they did it through machine learning, which you know, kept spewing out this stuff over and over again. The algorithms that they developed. So that was the conclusion. And I think it’s fair to ask, how did that actually influence the campaign? And how did they know what messages to deliver? Who told them? Who were they coordinating with, or colluding with?…so the Russians — in my opinion and based on the intel and the counterintel people I’ve talked to — could not have known how best to weaponize that information unless they had been guided…Guided by Americans and guided by people who had polling and data information.”

This is pure conspiracy theory ranting. The most damaging information that came out were the actual e-mails showing the DNC’s and Clinton’s campaign’s corruption, and the transcripts of Hillary’s speeches pandering to Wall Street. Any idiot could see that these things would be damaging to Clinton without “polling and data information.” How much polling does one need to know that corruption, lying, influence peddling and cheating are bad?

Continue reading