Tag Archives: humility

Comment Of The Day: “The Wake-Up Call And The Power Cord”

Nemisis pursues an arrogant mortal…

Here is slickwilly’s reflection on the breakdown of systems, human error, hubris and nemisis in his Comment of the Day on the post,The Wake-Up Call And The Power Cord:

The O ring failure had a great impact on young slickwilly, who was home on a rare sick day and watched the shuttle blow up live. The information that later came out made it clear that launching spaceships was fraught with danger, as there were so many things that could go wrong in such a complex system it was a wonder they ALL did not blow up.

My first and only brush with ethics (engineering: make sure the bridge does not fall down) was greatly reinforced by memories of that Shuttle disaster. (I still get chills when I think of the radio message “Roger, go with throttle up” which preceded that explosion.

The definition of hubris is “excessive pride or self-confidence” and comes from Greek Tragedy’s  “excessive pride toward or defiance of the gods, leading to Nemesis.” (NOTE: Nemisis was the vengeful Greek god who destroyed mortals guilty of hubris.)

Hubris caused the Shuttle tragedy. NASA (and their contractors) became complacent, and allowed less important considerations (like flight schedules, politics, and mission timelines) overcome important items like launch protocols and safety. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Comment of the Day, Government & Politics, History, Science & Technology, U.S. Society, Workplace

The Wake-Up Call And The Power Cord

As you may have noticed, your host has been involuntarily separated from Ethics Alarms for about 24 hours. Several things occurred that under normal circumstances would have had me dashing off a post while waiting for flights or preparing to check out of my hotel—and there were definitely several comments that had me reaching for a phantom keyboard—but I was without laptop, thanks to leaving the power cord behind in my previous hotel.

So I have a little story to tell. I stayed at a decent Boston hotel last night, not a 4 star hotel like the one I just left  in Atlanta (The Four Seasons), but a nice one, professionally run, dependable. Yet this morning this was my wake-up call, via recording:

“It’s 7 AM. This is your wake-up call for March 8, 2018.”

Almost at the same time, David Hogg was on CNN, explaining how darned easy it was to create a system that would prevent school shootings forevermore.

Wrong. Systems break down, you experience-free, arrogant, disrespectful, know-nothing puppet.  The belief that human beings can devise systems that will solve every problem, or any problem, and do what they are designed to do without failing miserably at the worst possible times and in the worst imaginable ways is signature significance for a fool, or a child. O-Rings fail. Police don’t act on warnings that a kid is violent. Obamacare raises health care premiums.  Political parties end up nominating Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Jack Ruby breaks past police security. Communism ends up killing hundreds of millions rather than creating a worker paradise. The Titanic hits the wrong iceberg exactly where it’s weakest. Hitler takes a sleeping pill during the Normandy invasion.

The T-Rex gets loose. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Marketing and Advertising, War and the Military, Workplace

No, Fergie’s Star-Spangled Banner Wasn’t The Worst Rendition Ever….[ UPDATED ]

Not even close.

This was…

The ethical problem in both cases is the same, however. The National Anthem is not, or should not be, an excuse for a performer to grandstand or make headlines by controversial renditions. The National Anthem is not about the singer. It is a musical declaration that the nation is strong and thriving, and that it is equal to whatever challenges it encounters. Performed respectfully and with skill and forethought, The Star-Spangled Banner can communicate this, and be stirring to all Americans irrespective of musical preferences and tastes.

Here is what a great rendition sounds like, just so you can get Rosanne and Fergie out of your brains…

[Be patient, however: the NFL won’t let any site play this but YouTube, so you have to click on the link, then listen to a gratuitous intro, then finally you get Whitney. Please come back afterwards: we’re not finished!]

 

That’s my favorite, but I have to say, Lady Gaga did great job in 2016. Here she is–same process as with the previous video. Sorry. You know…the NFL:

Just so you don’t think only female singers can knock the song out of the park, here is Chicago’s Jim Cornelison, a powerful tenor, whose rendition is fast, no-nonsense, and if this doesn’t get your blood pumping, nothing will.

UPDATE: All right, I’m going to have to post this, in my opinion the greatest rendition of the most dramatic and musically stirring of all national anthems, though it isn’t ours. The version in “Casablanca” is terrific, but this legendary performance is better:

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Citizenship, Etiquette and manners

Comments Of The Day (2): “Desperate Ethics Quote Of The Week: Louis C.K.”

There were two Comments of the Day  on this post.

The first is a lovely and compassionate one from Charlie Green regarding Louis C.K.’s eloquent admission of misconduct and appeal for forgiveness; the second, a reminder of the importance of forgiveness from Zoltar Speaks!, often at sword-points with Charles on other issues. Both are worthy of separate posts, and I hope Charles and Zoltar don’t feel slighted by being asked to share. In this case, I felt that the pairing was complementary.

First, here is the Comment of the Day by Charles Green on the post, Desperate Ethics Quote Of The Week: Louis C.K.

A friend said, and it rings true, “to be a comedian, you have to be afraid, confused, and conflicted; and all of them are very angry.” Indeed, it’s their confusion and anguished conflict that makes them so interesting to us.

The best thing Louis CK said in his response was, “It’s now time for me to listen.” Contrast that with Michael Richards’ anguished attempt to continually go public with his attempts at self-analysis and self-justification – an abject failure. When “there’s something happening here, and you don’t know what it is…” – apparently the case in for Louis CK – the one smart thing for him to do is shut up and listen. Deeply.

When you’re faced with a situation you honestly don’t understand, and your career depends on your continued inability to make sense of it, the dumbest thing you can do is to suddenly attempt public self-psychoanalysis.

Most comedians – think Joan Rivers, or Redd Foxx, Kathy Griffin or Sarah Silverman – have crossed the line a few times, and not just in jokes falling flat. That’s why they work out material in small late-night dive joints. We depend on, thrive on, their ability to walk just up to the line, and not cross over it. And some of them cross the line in their lives off-stage as well.

There’s no excuse for Louis CK doing what he did, and talented friends like Pamela Adlon will suffer collateral damage. He couldn’t see where the line was, and now he’ll bring down still more victims with him.

Among other things, it’s a shame.

***

Now Comment of the Day #2 on the same post, this time authored by Zoltar Speaks! Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks

An Epic And Unexpected Example Of How The Right Thing To Do Is To Undo A Bad Decision As Soon As You Realize that It Was A Mistake, And Not Worry About How Anyone Reacts, Who Says “I Told You So!”, Who Says You Shouldn’t Have Made The Mistake In The First Place, Or How Much You Are Tempted To Try To Make The Original Bad Decision Work Out Despite Knowing Deep In Your Heart That It Never Will…

I am referring, of course, to President Donald Trump firing Anthony Scaramucci as his Communications Director today.

For the first time, President Trump has given future Presidents a positive role model to emulate. Almost no Presidents, indeed, almost no executives anywhere,  have the guts and competence to do this. Of course, I don’t know if any President has made as unbelievably bad an appointment before. Lincoln appointing George McClellan as his top general for the second time comes close.

Donald Trump seldom admits mistakes. There is no other way to interpret this stunning act (I first saw it in a comment on Ethics Alarms, and I thought it was satire), no matter what the President says, other than “I screwed up big time, and I had to fix it.” Neither Obama, nor Clinton, nor either Bush, nor Reagan were ever willing to do this hardest and most humbling of management acts.

Apparently General Kelly told the President that “Mooch” had to go, and he went. This is excellent news on multiple fronts. I assumed that Kelly would eventually demand loose-cannon Scaramucci’s head—it was so, so obvious that he was a walking, talking pathogen in an already sick White House culture. I did not think Kelly would act so quickly. This speaks very well for him: Davy Crockett would have approved too. Davy’s ethics formula was “Be sure you are right, and then go ahead.” Kelly was sure, and saw no reason to wait. There was none. Every second Scaramucci remained wild and free was a second closer to the next crisis.

It is also a wonderful sign that the President took his new Chief of Staff’s advice. Wow. I now have hope that he may be persuaded to give up stream-of-consciousness tweeting.

We can use this event as yet another test to assess just how biased various pundits are.  How many will have the integrity to say, as I do, that firing a Scaramucci as soon as possible is a competent and courageous example of good management, even if it was made imperative by the President’s own  head-explodingly terrible, incompetent and irresponsible decision?  My guess is very few. What they want to do is bash Donald Trump, and this certainly gives them ammunition.

I would ask them this, however: how often have you hesitated to admit a mistake and fix it, waiting and hoping that somehow it would work out, only having to fix the problem later after the predictable catastrophe occurred? And you weren’t doing this in front of the whole nation, with a pack of hateful journalists just waiting to heap ridicule and abuse on you for doing the right thing?

President Trump deserves praise for this. And if his example is followed by managers everywhere, it will be a better world in too many ways to count.

[I thought this was over-kill, however…]

 

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership

Ethics Observations On The Scaramucci Attack Interview Aftermath

1. We are told that President Trump was thrilled with Anthony Scaramucci’s vile, obscene, threatening, vainglorious interview attacking his own colleagues and making Samuel L. Jackson’s movie rhetoric sound relatively refined. Incredible. An individual who represents the White House expresses himself in a published interview like a preening teenage gang member, breaches all existing standards of management and professionalism, throws red meat to the stalking news media writing the narrative that the President’s office is a den of narcissists, assassins, jerks and nut-jobs, and the President is applauding.

This is a level of irresponsible leadership not just unprecedented in U.S. history, but seldom equaled in the history of national leadership world wide. Incompetent and irresponsible don’t begin to describe it.

2. We are also told that the President was disgusted with Reince Priebus’s failure to “return fire” at the White House’s thuggish communications director. Wait, what? What kind of leader wants his staff to have public pissing matches? That’s a rhetorical question; the answer is obvious: a bad leader.

Yes, Priebus is a weenie: Ethics Alarms marked him so in 2015. Trump knows he is a weenie: if Priebus hadn’t been a weenie, he would have stopped Trump from getting the Republican nomination. He sold out instead.

Priebus is  a professional however, who knows, as Scaramucci and Trump do not, that a warring staff at the highest levels of government makes the public nervous and that government look like a Three Stooges short. As I wrote in the post about the Mooch’s outburst, Priebus and Steve Bannon should have presented their letters of resignation unless Scaramucci was disciplined. If Priebus was a weenie, so was Bannon. “Returning fire,” however, would have been disruptive and destructive. The President is angry with Priebus for  for being prudent, exercising restraint, being responsible, and being professional—in short, for conducting himself ethically. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Leadership

Observations On That Disturbing Trump Cabinet Meeting

Yesterday’s weird, televised segment of the Cabinet meeting was troubling in many ways. If you missed it, and I am envious if you did because it will haunt my nightmares for a long time, here is what happened:

Trump began by giving a positive assessment of his first 143 days and said,”Never has there been a President….with few exceptions…who’s passed more legislation, who’s done more things than I have.” Bad start. Trump, in fact, has signed very few bills. “Never—with few exceptions”—is classic Trump-speak, aka gibberish. This is also the kind of statement Trump’s Furies call “lies.” This was not a lie. In some convoluted way, the President thinks its sort of true. THAT’S the problem, not that he’s lying.

This was just the appetizer, though. The full course was the Cabinet officials, one by one, around the table, taking turns praising their boss.  This could not have been spontaneous. It reminded me of “King Lear”s” opening when the old, fading monarch requires each of his three daughters to tell him how much they love him as the price for getting a piece of his kingdom.

The charade began with Vice President Pence, who called it the “greatest privilege of my life” to serve in the Trump administration. Then Attorney General Jeff Sessions said it was an “honor” to serve Trump, and the rest of Trump’s Cabinet more or less aped what Pence or Sessions had said. Maybe they had all been given talking points. As a final inducement to projectile vomiting, Lackey-in-Chief Reince Priebus gave us a suck-up for the ages:

“On behalf of the entire senior staff around you, Mr. President, we thank you for the opportunity and the blessing that you’ve given us to serve your agenda and the American people And we’re continuing to work very hard every day to accomplish those goals.”

And may I fellate you here, sir, or later?

Disgusted and depressed observations:

1. This is exactly the kind of self-destructive fiasco  a top Chief of Staff who has a proven record running successful government operations on the state or national level could and would prevent. Instead, Trump has a Chief of Staff who actively made it worse. In February, Ethics Alarms featured my post calling for the appointment of such a figure as “the single most ethical thing President Trump could do.” That was four months ago, and this is more desperately needed now than ever.

2. Since this horrible display did happen, we now can say with certainty that none of the President’s inner circle has the influence, guts or common sense to stop him when he yields to his worst instincts.

3. We can also conclude that not a single member of the President’s Cabinet possesses  sufficient integrity, courage, principle or self respect to be trusted by the American public. These are billionaires and generals, and not one said to Trump, “I’m sorry, Mr. President, but this will make you look weak and me look like an ass-kissing yes-man. I won’t do it, nor will I remain in a Cabinet stocked with lapdog sycophants who would debase themselves and their high offices by doing it.  Do you discard this idiotic charade, or do I resign now?”

Shame on them, every one. Continue reading

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Filed under U.S. Society