I’m Just a Soul Whose Intentions Are Good

I’m just a soul whose intentions are good;
Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.

Don’t Let me Be Misunderstood, by Benjamin, Caldwell, Marcus 

So goes the song (written for Nina Simone, made famous by The Animals). Heaven forbid: Oh lord, please—don’t let me be misunderstood.

Being misunderstood is a terrible thing, we say. My intentions are what’s important, we say—look at my intentions, not at my actions. Then you’ll understand me.

The US criminal justice system, as we’ll forever be reminded from Law & Order reruns, has two parts: the police, who investigate crime, and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders.

At least in the TV version, cops who are interested in understanding intention—intention leads to motive. It helps explain behavior, and leads to discovery.

In the courtroom, the crime is partially defined by intent. Killing someone with intent is generally considered more heinous than killing with no intention to do so. Sentencing, too, is affected by intent, as in ‘he still shows no remorse.’

We fear being misunderstood, of having bad motives attributed to us. Yet we attribute bad motives to others all the time. He has it in for me…he never listens to us…he only cares about getting his own…and so forth.

There is a constant interplay between intent and perception. It’s the territory that’s inhabited by PR firms and political consultants. And it’s that interplay that heavily determines trust, among other things.

Big Oil and Its Intent

While consuming gasoline this weekend in the great American pastime of driving while radio channel-flipping, I heard John Hoffmeister, former president of Shell Oil, respond to a question (I’m paraphrasing here by memory): “If BP really didn’t want a massive spill like this, then how can you explain their failure to have adequate prevention mechanisms in place?”

Hoffmeister then spoke some truth (again, by my memory): “Of course I wasn’t there, but in such situations, it’s often not the equipment—steel is steel—it’s the human, managerial part of the equation that goes wrong.”

It usually is. I sincerely doubt that a single employee of BP wants, desires, intends to spew hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. I sincerely doubt that anyone in BP is indifferent to the pain and suffering of living creatures and the ecosystem in coastal Louisiana. Yet those motives and worse are easily attributed to Big Oil. And hardly without reason.

The face of evil is far more mundane than the conspiracy theorists suggest. The excellent Wall Street Journal series  documents, at a micro-level, how good intentions can co-exist with disastrous decisions.

You can also destroy good intentions with an ongoing climate of fear, confusing goals, and conflicting pressures; see David Gebler’s account of unethical behavior.

How Good Intentions Get Subverted

It’s hard to do good from bad intentions. But Eric Burdon’s plea notwithstanding, good intentions not only won’t keep you from being misunderstood, they are impotent in the face of failure to act on them. The road to hell, it is said, is paved with good intentions.

What are some of the most common ways in which good intentions go bad? Here are a few.

1. “It’s not illegal.” Those who invoke the law as a way to justify their good intentions are scraping the bottom of the ethical barrel. Laws are simply the extreme version of social sanctions. Their presence means some proscription has gotten so odious that society chose to ossify it in a law. The absence of such ossification is so distant from evidence of good intentions as to be absurd. We rightly shame people who try to make the connection.

2. “It’s our policy.” Variations on the theme include “I was just following orders,” and “that’s just how things work.” At its best, this an evasion of personal responsibility by blaming things on a ‘system.’

3. “I had no choice.” On the face of it, like number 2, but accompanied by an anguished plea of being caught between rocks and hard places—there was no time, everybody was yelling at me to finish the job, it’s been done before…”

It’s a basal human trait to desire to be understood. More evolved human traits include the ability to detach from that desire, and at the same time do things in a ways that ensure good intentions are in fact clear.

How do investment bankers defraud entire nations? How do oil companies poison entire ecosystems? How do companies come to be mistrusted?

One step a time. One small, innocuous, seemingly inconsequential step at a time. The devil may lurk in our hearts, but he lives in the details.

Career Limiting Moves: Are You Kidding?

Perhaps the most toxic thing you can hear in the arena of people management is “That’s not my job.” It should be grounds for firing. But at least it’s a declarative, first-person statement.

Unlike another leading candidate for management poison: “That’s a career-limiting move.” A passive-aggressive statement if there ever was one.

Let me be clear about my point of view on this: if you work in a company where “that’s a career-limiting move” is part of the vocabulary, you work in a career-limiting company. And if your company has acronymized it to CLM, then you probably have those stupid round-figured laughing cartoon characters saying “You want it when?” in the coffee room too. Bad signs all.

What “Career-Limiting Move” Really Means

In my experience, the term doesn’t get applied to dumb stunts like mooning the chairman or emailing your bookie on the company’s email server. It gets used when you’re talking about doing something very right, that feels personally risky. Things like speaking the truth about an abusive partner; or about taking advantage of a customer; or about skating on thin legal/ethical ice. 

Usually there’s just enough truth in “career-limiting moves” to make it a scary proposition. After all, whistle-blowers often do get fired. But that’s not usually the case. Usually, “career-limiting move” just means speaking the truth where most people prefer to let things be unspoken. And more often than not, truth-tellers are appreciated, not punished.

Why People Don’t Speak the Truth

Human beings demonstrably mis-assess risk all the time. We are more afraid than we should be of doing the wrong thing; and we are less afraid than we should be of failing to the right thing. We constantly avoid the clear and present discomfort of speaking some truth, in favor of the faint hope that maybe someone else will speak up, someday. Meanwhile, things get toxic because of our failure to speak up.

Why ‘Career-Limiting Move’ is a Disastrous Concept

Every time someone invokes “that’s a career-limiting move” to justify a failure to act, their company sinks a little deeper into the muck. It means an organizational shortcoming has been fed, not stopped. That shortcoming will metastasize, since the more you refuse to speak the truth, the harder it is to do so the next time.

It means someone has put their own perceived self-interest ahead of the organization, and selfishness is the death of collective behavior. It means a failure to lead. When “leaders” invoke “career-limiting move” to justify their failure to act, it makes hypocrites of their claim to be leaders. 

It means a stake in the heart for collaboration, transparency, and innovation, because it punishes the risk-taking that is the fuel of those virtues. 

I can hear some of you saying, “But Charlie, you don’t appreciate the real-world situation; people have families, they have to earn a paycheck, they can’t afford the high principles you like to talk about. Get real.”

Fair enough. But we all have to live with our consciences, too. And we each have to draw that line by ourselves, for ourselves.

Where’s your line? When would you invoke the CLM clause rather than speak the truth? And are you sure about that?


Have We Learned from the Financial Crisis?

Most people would agree that something went awry with large parts of the global financial system.  Most would also agree with some broad-brush characterizations of just what went wrong.  A bit too much greed, self-orientation, short-termism.  A bit too little customer focus, ethics, regulation.

Hopefully some of the overheated sectors learned something, or were at least chastened.  Then again: don’t hold your breath.  Here are some anecdotal samplings from the home lending and the financial advisory segments.

Ethical Improvements in the Home Appraisal Business

In an April story the Center for Public Integrity reports:

In a 2007 study by October Research, a real estate news provider, 90 percent of more than 1,200 appraisers polled reported feeling pressure to change property values, usually from lenders, mortgage brokers or real estate agents.

How much pressure?  All too often, if appraisers didn’t come up with numbers that fit what lenders wanted, they found themselves blacklisted.  How overtly?

Amerisave, one of the largest online mortgage lenders, has close to 12,000 appraisers on its “ineligible appraiser list,” which was removed from the Atlanta-based company’s website after the Center made inquiries about it.

Actions taken?  NY Attorney General Cuomo did some vigorous investigation; one results was a Freddie Mac new “Home Valuation Code of Conduct” to go into effect May 1. 

Who opposed it?  Why, the National Association of Mortgage Brokers, of course. 

The same people who, when JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon said his failure to terminate the company’s mortgage broker business was the “biggest mistake of his career” responded by saying Dimon’s remarks “clearly reflected his poor understanding of the mortgage industry.” 

Uh, NAMB vs. Jamie Dimon? Tthat’s one you lose on credibility alone, NAMB.

NAMB’s excuse for its role in the mortgage debacles?  Others did it too.  So much for ethical learnings.

Ethical Improvements in the Financial Planning Business

There are principled, ethical, customer-focused financial planners; I’ve met many, and know a few well.  At the same time, I think few would argue that the sector is a hotbed of high ethical behavior. reports:

According to a recent study by Prince & Associates…15 percent of the wealthy left their financial advisors in 20087 and 70 percent took at least some of their assets out of the advisor’s hands.

Why?  False advertising, says Cerulli Associates in the same article: what an advisor says he offers and what he really does aren’t in sync.   Bill Bachrach, a respected (by me as well as by the industry) consultant in this space says:   

“It’s been way too easy for former stockbrokers to gather assets and dump them somewhere and call themselves wealth managers…If asset management is all you do and you can’t point to some other way you make money, you have nowhere to hide when performance goes south.”

What’s the industry response?  Here’s Ken Fisher, a mega-marketer of financial services, responding to two former sets of clients who are suing him for failing in his fiduciary responsibilities:

The lawyers who are representing the clients in both matters are “similarly incompetent."  Both cases “will run into a concrete wall.  The person who will be sorry in the end is the client, who will wind up spending money on lawyers and getting nothing.”  [Fisher said he wanted to teach one lawyer] “a lesson he won’t forget.” 

Now there’s a client-focused kind of guy.  The kind you’d want out front promoting responsible behavior on behalf of your industry. Customer satisfaction?  Let them sue for it, then endear them to you through public insults and threats.  Great strategy, Kenny boy. 

Then there’s the case of Jeffrey Forrest,  fired by his broker dealer, sued by the SEC to keep him from working as an investment advisor.  He continues to run an RIA firm in California, and is licensed to sell insurance there.  In March, he and Associated Securities, for whom he was a top producer, were found guilty by a FINRA panel. 

Associated Securities—surprise surprise—is appealing.  Another great customer lesson: never admit you’re wrong.  Especially when you are.  Goebbels had that one down pat. 

Last but not least.  Finally, after all the Madoff hoopla—some concrete action:

SEC commissioners on May 14 voted 5 to 0 in favor of a proposal that would require the roughly 6,000 federally registered investment advisory firms that deduct their fees from client accounts to undergo surprise audits. The move is part of a wider effort by the regulator to crack down on advisers with direct custody over client holdings.

Exactly.  Bernie made off with all the money by skulking in the gray spaces between regulators: for example, he custodied his own investments and no one checked on them. 

So, surprise audits?  You betcha, right on, about time. The industry should applaud this effort to help improve its reputation.  Thank you SEC!

But, wait.  The proposal is opposed by the FPA, NAPFA  and the IAA

Why the resistance?  Here’s a taste:

A surprise audit would likely cost his firm about $3,000 a year, said Ben Baldwin…That fee would likely be passed on to clients, he said.

“There should be an uproar because it’s going to hurt a lot of consumers,” Mr. Baldwin said.

Others contend that the proposal would force smaller firms to stop deducting fees from their clients’ accounts — a move that would require them to wait for clients to reimburse them for their services.

A National Board member of NAPFA elaborates further:

“When you deduct your fee from the client’s account, you have no cash-flow problems.”

And that, I guess, would be why NAPFA opposes the SEC’s proposal.  Because it would force advisors to send invoices instead of directly deducting fees.  Thus slowing cash flow.

More Madoffs?  An occasional small price to pay if it helps protect advisors’ cash flow.

There are simply too many players like the ones quoted in this post who still see regulation as a hateful intrusion on their god-given right to extract cash from customers’ wallets unless expressly forbidden by federal law.

And there are simply not enough players who see regulation as the regrettable consequence of the presence of the former group of players.  They do business based on the simple idea that you should treat people, and most certainly customers, decently.  It can’t be easy for you to watch the first group so demean your industry’s reputation.

Many from that first group must have read a blogpost of mine from two and a half years ago: How to Get Your Industry Regulated in 6 Easy Lessons.  They’re executing the six lessons marvelously, and I have no doubt they’ll succeed beyond their wildest dreams very soon now.

25 Behaviors that Foster Mistrust

Please welcome Peter Vajda, a frequent commenter on this blog, and a respected thought leader, coach, writer, and co-founder of SpiritHeart.  I’m delighted to yield the floor to him for one of his many fine articles.

“Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly, and they will show themselves great.” —
Ralph Waldo Emerson  

All of life is relationship – even life at work. And the most critical, foundational building block of a team is trust. Without trust most teams are really disparate collections of individuals called groups. The element that creates or erodes trust is your individual behavior.

Trust can support teams to go the extra mile, work for the greater good of the team and the organization, foster open and honest communication and engender mutual respect and support.

Distrust, on the other hand, often stems from a “me first” mind-set that leads to destructive conflict, egoism, and a “going through the motions” attitude.

Trite and worn it may be, but “There is no ‘I’ in team”  is a fact of life at work.   When trust is lacking among team members, they spend inordinate amounts of time and energy resisting others’ inappropriate behaviors, reacting to others’ disingenuousness, playing politics, resisting meetings, and feeling reluctant to ask for, or to give, support.  In a culture characterized by mistrust, relationships suffer.  And when relationships suffer, performance, production and profits suffer.

How might you be contributing to mistrust on your team?

Here are 25 behaviors that contribute to creating team mistrust:

1. You fail to keep your promises, agreements and commitments.
2. You serve your self first and others only when it is convenient.
3. You micromanage and resist delegating.
4. You demonstrate an inconsistency between what you say and how you behave.
5. You fail to share critical information with your colleagues.
6. You choose to not tell the truth.
7. You resort to blaming and scapegoating others rather than own your mistakes.
8. You judge, and criticize rather than offer constructive feedback.
9. You betray confidences, gossip and talk about others behind their backs.
10. You choose to not allow others to contribute or make decisions.
11. You downplay others’ talents, knowledge and skills.
12. You refuse to support others with their professional development.
13. You resist creating shared values, expectations and intentions in favor of your own agenda; you refuse to compromise and foster win-lose arguments.
14. You refuse to be held accountable by your colleagues.
15. You resist discussing your personal life, allowing your vulnerability, disclosing your weaknesses and admitting your relationship challenges.
16. You rationalize sarcasm, put-down humor and off-putting remarks as “good for the group”.
17. You fail to admit you need support and don’t ask colleagues for help.
18. You take others’ suggestions and critiques as personal attacks.
19. You fail to speak up in team meetings and avoid contributing constructively.
20. You refuse to consider the idea of constructive conflict and avoid conflict at all costs.
21. You consistently hijack team meetings and move them off topic.
22. You refuse to follow through on decisions agreed upon at team meetings.
23. You secretly engage in back-door negotiations with other team members to create your own alliances.
24. You refuse to give others the benefit of the doubt and prefer to judge them without asking them to explain their position or actions.
25. You refuse to apologize for mistakes, misunderstandings and inappropriate behavior and dig your heels in to defend yourself and protect your reputation.

By contrast, when you authentically show up in integrity, and allow your vulnerability to show, others see you as genuine, warts and all.  As such, your teammates will begin to trust you and gravitate towards you as you have created a personal container of safety in which others feel they can relate to you in an equally genuine fashion.

Communication and true teamwork are functions of trust, not technique. When trust is high, communication is easy and effortless. Communicating and relating are instantaneous. But, when trust is low, communicating and relating take effort, and are exhausting, and time and energy consuming.

Are you guilty of contributing to mistrust?

“The chief lesson I have learned in a long life is that the only way to make a man trustworthy is to trust him; and the surest way to make him untrustworthy is to distrust him and show your distrust.”
–Henry L. Stimson

When Well-Intended Mistrust Masks Oppression

Item 1. I went to my 40th high school reunion this weekend. We took a tour of the old gymnasium and the (new) pool. The women in the group were visibly touched. “Remember those stupid blue bloomers we had to wear?” “Look at all those trophies—we never got to play those sports.” “Thank god for Title IX, my daughters had these opportunities.”

Item 2. Some of you will know the name Kathrine Switzer. She was the first woman to officially enter the Boston Marathon; Jock Semple, who organized the event, tried to eject her, but some male friends body-checked him and she finished. She went on to run 35 more marathons, ranking as high as 3rd in the world.

Item 3. A black woman I know, now in her 50s, remembers the first paper she wrote for an advanced English class in her freshman year at college. She was talented, and worked hard on it. But the paper was graded an F. Upset, she went to the teacher to find out how she could have misjudged herself so badly.

“You obviously plagiarized,” the prof said. “No way you could have written this.” Dumbfounded, she was speechless, finally finding the words to deny it. “Don’t lie to me,” he said. “Affirmative action doesn’t mean you can plagiarize.” It took her days to convince him she had written it herself. (It shouldn’t be relevant, but she was not an affirmative action admission either). She became a successful IT consultant and telecoms exec later in life.

What these vignettes have in common is that they’re examples of excuses given to not trust people.

Most people—not all, but most—now believe that young women benefit from organized athletics as much as do young men. But that’s recent. The excuse given back then was that women were too delicate, and had to be protected. By the majority, of course—in this case, men.

Which meant my female classmates appeared in the yearbook in the Future Homemakers Club and the Home Economics Club; not in athletics. And my black woman friend could never avoid being reminded—usually in more polite, subtle ways—that she couldn’t be trusted to achieve at a level to which the majority (in this case, white) people were held.

We know to condemn sexism and racism. But when they’re served up as good intentions, we can get confused. Poor Xs; we can’t expect as much of Xs as we can of Ys. In fact, to even allow them the chance is just setting them up for failure and hurt; we can’t trust them to know their own limitations. We’ll just have to manage that for them.

Years ago Herbert Marcuse wrote about “repressive tolerance,” the idea that majority tolerance of a minority was an effective form of repression. This is something akin. To distrust a minority—using the language of altruism—is a form of repression.

Girls’ athletic programs have made progress (though are constantly threatened by demands for lower taxes). Progress against racism has been made (though the majority culture is always in a big hurry to over-state just how much).

But what are the new frontiers of repressive mistrust? Here are a few starters. What do you think?

  • Doctors and corporate lawyers who mistrust paraprofessionals “for the sake of” the paraprofessionals and the customers.
  • Ditto for teachers and teachers’ aides, and for those involved in real estate closings.
  • Consumer protection laws that substitute reams of language for common sense.
  • National trade laws that decry “shoddy foreign goods” as a cover for protectionism.
  • Politicians and media who rationalize least-common-denominator sound-bites by appeal to market demand rather than taking responsibility for talking up, not down.

What do you think? From the standpoint of 40 years from now, what will appear in the rear view mirror to have been aother case of repressive mistrust?

Wall Street and Broken Social Trust

I’m hardly the first to cast the financial meltdown in terms of broken trust. But usually that means something like "we can’t trust they’ll still give us credit." There is a much deeper, distinctive pattern that leads to broken trust, and it works the same personally as it does socially and economically.

That pattern is the fragmentation of relationships. When relationships are turned into transactions separated by time or space—the predictable result is a lowering of trustworthy behavior, resulting in a lowering of trust.

Here are a few examples:

• Marriage researcher John Gottman says that couples who argue can be quite successful—they remain engaged, in relationship. It’s when the parties disengage, withdraw, refuse to interact, that the marriage is doomed. The relationship is fragmented—trust disappears.

• The airline industry in the 60s (if I recall my corporate finance cases) was funded largely by insurance companies, which lent money to the industry at large, thereby restricting competitive binges of excess capacity. When banks took over the lending, they championed specific carriers. This quickly led to over-capacity, with airlines returning to their customary unprofitable ways. A relationship of industry to industry, fragmented into competitive bank-airline duos, resulted in systemically bad results.

• If you let your teenager stay out at all hours of the night, your teenager will probably get in trouble. A family system fragmented, results in untrustworthy behavior.

• The US regulates banks and stocks. The CDOs which lay at the heart of the mortgage-driven meltdown were not regulated. No one had purview or a common interest across the entire range of financial products. A fragmented relationship, and resultant low trust.

• 30 years ago, the mortgage industry was a system of brokers, banks, and homeowners. All had a common long-term interest in that system, and all had long-term relationships with each other. With the fragmenting advent of specialized brokers, securitized loan packages and the like, no one had to relate to the whole picture, nor to each other for any length of time. Result—abuse and breakdowns of trust.

• The game theory classic Prisoner’s Dilemma pits our fears and aggressions against another player. If you both give in to fear, you both lose. But if you give, and the other person takes, you suffer the worst of all outcomes. The “trick” to successfully playing the game is to increase the number of times it is played—to create a relationship over time.  Which creates trust.

• Another prisoner’s dilemma winning strategy is to make each play more personal—face to face, looking each other in the eye, handshakes. A relationship as opposed to an impersonal connection. Resulting in more trust.

• Pure economic competition is unstable, because all competitors strive for their competitors’ elimination—the absence of relationship. Some form of social interference—rules, regulations, time-outs, referees—is necessary to keep the game going at all.

• Jonathan Knee’s book The Accidental Investment Banker tells of the cynical investment banker acronym IBGYBG—I’ll be gone, you’ll be gone, let’s do the deal. Fragmented transactions, no long-term relationships. And no trust.

• When Marie Antoinette said “let them eat cake,” she articulated a deeply riven society. Which turned out to be untenable, especially for her. No relationship, no trust.

Fragmenting relationships can lead to growth and to scale economies. Teen-agers grow up and learn to handle freedom. Outsourcing business processes can result in larger scale and lower costs. Fragmenting the mortgage industry did result in lower costs and more liquidity. The flip side, of course, is untrustworthy behavior.

Wall Street is just one example of a broader dilemma we face in an increasingly inter-related, interconnected world. How do we balance the scale economies of fragmented business relationships, industries, and business processes, with the trust-creating power of some kind of integrative force?

Regulation is one obvious integrating force. There are also industry associations, and a sense of honor (personal, professional or societal).

We’re running a little low on self-regulation just now (see for example How to Get Your Industry Regulated and Great Moments in Self-Regulation—Financial Planners). And how’s the world doing these days on ethics, public service, and collaboration?

Personally and institutionally, the more we are linked, the more trust flourishes. The more we are disconnected—structurally or personally—the more we distrust.

Turning systems into fragmented markets can increase scale, power and performance—and raise the risk of untrustworthiness. Linking relationships is the countervailing force—the more we view ourselves and our institutions as in relationship, the more we create trust.

As the world gets smaller and more linked, we need to shift more toward the latter.


When Trust Betrayal Keeps Coming Back

Cobalt57 has a half-life of 257 days. The half-life of a bad divorce ranges from a few years to a lifetime.

And the half-life of betrayed trust is somewhere beyond that.

In fact, trust betrayed has a way of regenerating. Call it Zombie trust: when trust is trashed, it has a way of never really dying—it just keeps on coming back to get you.

Trust Betrayal and the Black Community

Two cases in point. From the early 1930s until 1972, a government sponsored study of syphilis in Tuskegee, Alabama systematically and intentionally lied to poor black sharecroppers about the “research” being done to help them. In fact, their infection was left untreated, so as to study the ravaging effects of the disease.

The study is pretty well-known in the black community, and is a powerful story about the depth, depravity and reality of racism in the USA.

Powerful enough that it has made black people afraid of taking part in medical clinical trials. It’s not hard to understand why. And yet, we have this news story:

In a report to be published in the journal Medicine online Jan. 14, experts in the design and conduct of medical research found that black men and women were only 60 percent as likely as whites to participate in a mock study to test a pill for heart disease. Results came from a random survey of 717 outpatients at 13 clinics in Maryland, 36 percent of whom were black and the rest white.

"The survey is believed to be the first analysis showing that an overestimation of risk of harm explains why blacks’ participation in clinical trials has for decades lagged that of whites. The results come at a time of increased recognition of racial differences in disease rates and treatments. Researchers point out that some kidney diseases, stroke, lung cancer and diabetes all progress more quickly in blacks and kill more blacks than people of other racial backgrounds.

"There is enormous irony that without African-American subject participation in clinical trials, we are not going to have tested the best therapies we need to treat African Americans," says study senior researcher, Hopkins internist and epidemiologist Neil R. Powe, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A. "So long as the legacy of Tuskegee persists, African Americans will be left out of important findings about the latest treatments for diseases, especially those that take a greater toll on African Americans and consequently may not have ready or equal access to the latest medicines."

The Zombie of Trust Betrayed is at work here. The past abuse of trust was so horrific that it continues to wreak havoc, even when—ironically—researchers could be of help.

Robert Zogby and the Polling Debacle

Here’s another case. After the New Hampshire Democratic primary polling debacle, Jon Stewart’s Daily Show invited famed controversial pollster Robert Zogby as a spokesman for the polling industry.

Zogby held his own in the unwinnable format—but the Zombie of Trust Betrayed got him—bad—a week later.

In a post on January 16, Rick Rottman recounts a first-hand story from 1992, when he took a European history course from Zogby at Utica College. Long story short, as Rottman tells it, Zogby offered to raise everyone’s grade a point if they came in and volunteered for an 8-hour shift at his polling business.

At first, everyone agreed to it. Later, everyone reneged. Pressed as to why, they all said they felt it was unethical. Zogby, as Rottman recounts it, blew a gasket.

Worse yet, says Rottman, he had gotten an A on his midterm before these events. He never saw the results of his final exam (on which he thought he had done well), but his final grade was a C—implying an improbable F on his final exam. Understandably, Rottman is inclined to wonder why.

That was 1992. Now, 16 years later, Rottman is in the blogosphere saying “John Zogby is the reason I don’t trust polls.” And it’s not hard to understand why.

Note: I want to be very careful about spreading critical comments like this. If Zogby has something to say, he’s got white space here in this column to do so. And if he convinces me Rottman is a nut job, then I’ll strip his story entirely out of this blog. Until then, however, Rottman is writing quite clearly about a first-hand experience which sounds credible to me—or I wouldn’t be citing and linking to him here.

Final examples of the half-life of mistrust: look to the Russian-Chechen conflict; the feelings between the Sunnis and the Shia.

Trust lasts a long time. Trust betrayed appears to last longer.