Of Shoes and Socks, and the Soothing, Unethical Device of Lowered Obama Leadership Goals and Aspirations

shoes and socks

I had a friend in college named David, a talented musician and a funny guy, who one regaled me with his new theory of how to be a success and eliminate anxiety and stress in the bargain.

“See, we make ourselves miserable and guarantee failure by setting our goals impossibly high,” he said. “The secret to a happy, successful, care-free life is to set one’s goals extremely low. Last week, I was depressed because I had aimed at attending all my classes, writing 50 pages on my thesis, and finishing my reading assignments. I didn’t come close to accomplishing this, and I was miserable and guilty as a result.”

“Then I had an epiphany! Today I set my goal, my only one, as putting on my shoes and socks,” David explained. “That was it, the whole thing. Look! I did it! And it’s only noon!” He laughed and skipped away, not a care in the world.

I’m pretty sure he was kidding. Yet the Obama Administration, and its increasingly zombie-like, denial-motivated supporters, appears to have adopted this approach to leadership. Continue reading

The White House Scores A 2013 Jumbo Jumbo

There's no elephant. Do you see an elephant?

There’s no elephant. Do you see an elephant?

Just in time to make the 2013 cut-off, the White House achieved the Jumbo of the year, and simultaneously made me wonder if I am going to have to jettison all respect for my loyal Obama-supporting friends.

The Jumbo is an Ethics Alarms category lunched in 2013, designed to recognize individuals who engage in spectacular examples of unethical conduct I have always detested with a special passion: trying to wiggle out of a tight spot by stubbornly insisting that what is obviously the case isn’t really, a brazen exercise resting on the presumption that everyone else is either a dimwit or as corrupt as the speaker. The name derives from an iconic moment in Billy Rose’s 1936 Broadway musical extravaganza “Jumbo,” named after P.T. Barnum’s famous giant elephant, that starred Jimmy Durante. Caught red-handed as he tried to sneak his dying bankrupt circus’s major asset off the premises and away from creditors, the “Old Shnozzola” was confronted with a sheriff who belligerently inquired, “Just where do you think you’re going with that elephant?” Jimmy’s response, acting for all the world as if the massive pachyderm at the end of the rope he was holding didn’t exist: “Elephant? What elephant?” Another apocryphal equivalent is the old burlesque joke about the philandering husband caught by his wife as he frolics in their bed with a naked and luscious bimbo. The rake still denies anything untoward is going on, pleading, “Who are you going to believe, me, or your own eyes?” . In real life, the gold standard might be actress Lindsay Lohan’s insistence to police, when she was arrested for reckless driving and cocaine was found in her pocket, that she was wearing someone else’s pants.

The White House’s entry into the Jumbo Hall of Fame is pretty impressive, though. As figures showed that a million Americans had registered for Obamacare in December, bringing the total number to 2.1 million, well short of the 3 million goal, White House White House health care adviser Phil Schiliro told MSNBC yesterday that the frequently stated Administration goal of  7 million enrolled by the end of March, when the individual mandate (penalty, according to Democrats; tax, according to the U.S. Supreme Court) kicks in, was not really the goal after all. Continue reading

An Ethics Lesson From the All-Star Game

It really is one of the most enduring sports deja vus—every year, sportswriters and fans engage in thousands upon thousands of words of complaint regarding baseball’s annual All-Star Game, the 2011 edition of which will occur tomorrow night in Phoenix. This year was no exception, and as is always the case, no consensus or conclusions were reached, except that everyone agrees that the game is mishandled, mismanaged, unfair and illogical in every possible way.

I have been thinking of the game’s plight as an ethics case study that proves a core truth: you can’t do the right thing if you don’t know your objectives, stakeholders, and how to prioritize them. In the All-Star Game as it has evolved, there are competing interests and stakeholders with no clear agreement regarding which takes priority over the other. It is literally impossible to do be fair: somebody always will be disadvantaged, and because there is no single objective either, utilitarian balancing doesn’t work.

It was not always this way. When the All-Star game was first conceived in 1935, it was intended to raise money for the players’ pension fund, the players then being generally paid little more than grocery clerks.  Since the game had to draw as much of a paying crowd as possible to make money, the rosters and starting line-ups were constructed to include the biggest stars and most popular players. It didn’t matter whether Babe Ruth was off to a great start or not: it wouldn’t be an All-Star Game without him in the starting line-up, so he was the right-fielder. Managers picked the team that they thought would both be the “starriest” and that would give them the best chance to win the game. Continue reading