Morning Ethics Warm-Up, April 11, 2018: Caesar’s Wife At The EPA, Idiots On The Air, And Dreamers Demanding Discounts [UPDATED]

Good Morning!

1. Forgetting to heed the “Caesar’s wife” Principle. Whatever one may think about EPA head Scott Pruitt’s controversial policy directions as head of the environmental agency, all ought to be able to agree on this: he’s an idiot.

Here is a cultural literacy test: How many Americans under the age of—what, 45? 60? 104?—know what the term “like Caesar’s wife” means? When you have a target painted on your back because you are taking positions that are guaranteed to be anathema to powerful critics, like the news media, you are “like Caesar’s wife.” This should communicate something to you. In 63 BC, Julius Caesar, a man on the rise, was elected to the position of the Pontifex Maximus, the chief priest of the Roman state religion. The next year, his wife Pompeia hosted the festival of the Bona Dea (“Good Goddess”) in which no man was allowed to participate, at Caesar’s official residence. Publius Clodius Pulcher, a  rash young patrician, snuck into the celebration disguised as a woman, allegedly to seduce Pompeia. He was caught, prosecuted ( not for trying to shag Caesar’s wife but for the crime of sacrilege), and ultimately  acquitted. Nevertheless, Caesar divorced Pompeia, saying, “My wife ought not even to be under suspicion.”  Thus was born the saying, once well-known to educated individuals, that “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion.”

Either Pruitt doesn’t know the reference, or doesn’t understand it. He has made himself vulnerable and a political liability to the Trump administration by the kind of grubby ethics violations so many of the administration’s recruits from the corporate world have engaged in. (And what does this tell us about that culture?)

David J. Apol, acting director of the Office of Government Ethics, sent  a letter this week to Kevin Minoli, the EPA’s  top ethics official,  asking the agency to take “appropriate actions to address any violations.”

Among the issues raised were Pruitt’s $50-a-night rental  of a Capitol Hill condominium from the wife of an energy lobbyist (This may not have been market value, the letter speculates, raising the question of whether it was a gift, aka “bribe.” Ya think? You can’t rent a decent garden tool shed for 50 bucks a night…), Pruitt taking an excessive number government-funded flights home to Oklahoma and back (He’s about the 78th Trump official to be caught doing this kind of thing—do these guys read the newspapers?), and worst of all, reports that agency staff members who raised concerns about these and other actions creating “the appearance of impropriety”  found themselves transferred or demoted.

“The success of our government depends on maintaining the trust of the people we serve,”wrote Apol. “The American public needs to have confidence that ethics violations, as well as the appearance of ethics violations, are investigated and appropriately addressed.”

Why yes! And anyone who holds high government office is supposed to know that. Anyone holding high government office in this administration, which is in the position of the thug sprung from police lock-up on a technicality to which an angry detective says before he strolls out the door, “If you so much as spit on the sidewalk, I’ll be there to pick you up,” should know that especially. When they are gunning for you, you have to be like Caesar’s wife.

The President should fire Pruitt for these flagrant abuses. He won’t, because he literally doesn’t think ethics matter. I wonder if he thinks stupidity and unrestrained arrogance matter…

2. Speaking of idiots…Any talking head on television or radio who hears his or her co-talking head colleague say something certifiably false and idiotic has an ethical obligation to correct them, immediately and on the air, lest the public be misinformed. These people are there to make the public smarter and less ignorant, not the opposite. Yet this almost never happens, either because both talking heads are stupid, or the informed one values loyalty to a colleague over their duty as a professional, or because, as we have seen since February 14, when adult broadcast journalists sat mute as children uttered serial falsehoods regarding guns, they want to mislead the public.

Thus it was stunning to hear a commentator this week actually do his job, and flag utter nonsense even though it had been uttered by a colleague. The MLB channel’s Pedro Martinez and Harold Reynolds, both ex-ballplayers, were discussing possible reasons for the slow start by New York Yankee superstar Giancarlo Stanton, who has been striking out at a record rate early in the 2018 season. Reynolds, who is, oh, about a third as smart as Pedro, announced that he thought he had discovered Stanton’s problem: because he was playing in a new park (Stanton had been traded over the winter to New York by the Miami Marlins for a a couple of baseball cards and a three-way light bulb to shed his more than $300 million salary), he didn’t know where to stand in the batter’s box!

Pedro listened politely to this jaw-dropping silliness, and said, in essence, ‘That makes no sense at all. Home plate is the same in every park, and the chalk-line batter’s box is dictated by regulations and also identical in every game, in every stadium. Stanton’s been playing baseball all his life, and knows where to stand in relation to home plate. What baseball field home plate is on makes no difference at all.’

All Reynolds could do having been decisively told by a Hall of Famer, nicely, that his theory was the product of a stunted mind, was mutter, “Not necessarily!”

Below are the batters boxes in the Marlins stadium and Fenway Park, where Stanton played last night. Poor guy! No wonder he’s confused!

3. If anything will stop the nation from descending into ideologically-triggered madness, it is the courts. The Arizona Court of Appeals unanimously ruled this week  that illegal immigrants, specifically the so-called “Dreamers,” are not eligible for lower in-state resident tuition levels at Arizona colleges and universities. The ruling overturned a lower-court judge’s 2015 Bizarro World decision that “Dreamers” were  legally present in the U.S. and therefore could qualify for state benefits, although they are, you know, not here legally. They shouldn’t get Arizona resident tuition rates, because they aren’t citizens of Arizona. Charging them less means that American citizens will have to be charged more. This isn’t hard.

The real question is how such an obviously warped policy lasted this long. Judge Kenton Jones wrote that the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program signed into law by President Obama did not confer legal residency. Arizona law bars in-state tuition for non-legal immigrants. The state challenged the tuition breaks in 2013 after Maricopa Community Colleges, Arizona’s largest community-college system, allowed “Dreamers” with work permits to pay in-state rates.

The reaction by the advocates for treating non-citizens as if they were citizens was typical and intellectually unconscionable. Rep. Ruben Gallego—guess which party— released the following statement:

“The Arizona Supreme Court decision issued today will slam the door on thousands of Arizona students who want nothing more than to pursue an education. These Dreamers grew up attending Arizona schools, and want to pursue careers that will give back to Arizona’s communities and boost our economy. But thanks to today’s decision, they will now have to pay triple what their classmates pay in order to achieve those goals – meaning many may not have the ability to attend college at all. This is a terrible blow to Arizona Dreamers who want nothing more than to pursue their American dreams.”

How dishonest can a single statement be?

  • Slamming the door=enforcing the law.
  • What people want is not a justification for ignoring the law to give it to them.
  • The Dreamers attended Arizona schools when they had no right to do so, not being in the state legally. One instance of excused misconduct is not a justification for allowing a second one.
  • Regarding “give back to Arizona’s communities and boost our economy”: prove it. Are the DACA kids going to be restricted to living in Arizona, since their education was paid for by Arizona?
  • No, they will be paying triple what legal citizen residents of Arizona pay, just like a classmate from Massachusetts, except that the Massachusetts classmate has a right to be in the country.
  • No, they do want something more. They want a tuition break they are not entitled to have.

Imagine: a national lawmaker arguing that the law shouldn’t matter, because of what illegal residents of the U.S. want, feel, and dream.


Sources (#3): AZ Central, Tucson News

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts, and seek written permission when appropriate. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work or property was used in any way without proper attribution, credit or permission, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at

26 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, April 11, 2018: Caesar’s Wife At The EPA, Idiots On The Air, And Dreamers Demanding Discounts [UPDATED]

  1. The Arizona Supreme Court decision issued today will slam the door on thousands of Arizona students who want nothing more than to pursue an education.

    Damn them! Damn those justices to Hell, I say.

    I want “nothing more” than to make sure my retirement accounts are full enough to get me through to my ultimate demise, but those pesky laws against fraud and theft are stopping me from achieving this laudable goal. I promise I would only target those who have lots of extra money to spare — promise! — but those evil people of both political parties are making that virtually impossible by enforcing their stupid laws. I’ll bet those justices would reject appeals from verdicts locking me up for that, too, the jerks.

    Damn them all. Don’t they know that we have a right to get what we want?? Can’t they read the Constitution — pursuit of happiness, all that? Up the little people! Down the Man!

    I hope you are all convinced now.

  2. #3 But if they want it really bad, do we really have a right to deny them anything? Sure they don’t care about the rule of law, sure they disrespect our country by ignoring immigration law, but their hearts are pure. Isn’t that we want at the end of the day, that everyone can dream together for the America we want and need. Sure some mistakes were made, by drunk driving without a license, or raping somebody, or whatever other frivolous matter. But this all because the Dreamers are under pressure, fear of being deported back to their “s**thole countries”, I mean utopias, that they have to lash out against our sexist, imperial, capitalist evil society. Can’t we give them a break? And can we send all the naysayers to a reeducation camp, where they will learn about the wrongness of their ways?

  3. I’m even more irked by “Dreamers” being accepted to and receiving scholarships from prestigious private and public colleges and universities. Not that I give a cent to any of the schools I attended. Why are alumni of any such schools supporting this? If those alumni aren’t supportive, why are the schools defrauding those alumni?

    But back to my home state. Yo, Ruben Gallego, it was the Court of Appeals, not the Arizona Supreme Court, that over-turned Art Anderson’s weird trial court ruling. (Art and I were classmates at the big firm where we both started out in 1981. Art’s a smart, level headed guy with a great sense of humor. I wonder what came over him. I wonder at times what going onto the bench does to people.)

    • Who knows, perhaps the statute only spoke to residency as whether or not a person had resided in the state for a certain period of time. These kids may have met the residency requirement even though they weren’t in the state (or the country) legally. So Art’s opinion may have been reasonable given the applicable statute. He’s no dummy. Maybe the legislature needs to pass a new law addressing this. The Arizona Supreme Court could very well overturn the Court of Appeals decision and re-instate Art’s ruling.

  4. Dammit, this is really pissing me off! SECOND try AGAIN…

    2. I have to believe that Reynolds was just failing to articulate clearly his critique of Stanton’s hitting approach. I trust that Reynolds was not saying the batter’s box has different dimensions in every park. After all, Reynolds had to be a successful hitter in the big leagues, too. The “new park” context suggests to me that Reynolds was thinking (or, perhaps, even, he had correctly observed) that Stanton had adjusted his position in the batter’s box – perhaps, with the aim of leveraging the environment of the “new park” for maximum effect of the pitches he hit. Stanton’s adjustments or attempted adjustments could very well be the cause of his striking out more often.

    On the other hand, hitters, even the best of them, do go through periods like Stanton has been experiencing. Sometimes the extra whiffing is easily explicable, and sometimes it isn’t. Slight variations in the mound height (they do exist), the background the pitch is coming from (do vary, and can be extremely impactful), even the set of the defense vis-a-vis the outfield dimensions as viewed from the batter’s box, can affect a hitter’s ability to see the ball and make good contact. I know those things. I was a hitter, too.

    My speculation is that Stanton is just going through a bout of “cognitive dissonance:” swinging to make contact where he thinks he is seeing the ball, while the ball is actually not at that spot. Once he overcomes that confusion, I expect him to put dents in the walls like Aaron Judge did.

    Jack, I think both you and Pedro are being unfair to Harold Reynolds.

    • I said all that, and now, having thought some more about it, am wishing I had some historical stats on Giancarlo’s batting performance in the “new park” – but especially, stats on his striking-out.

      • Well, last year’s MVP and homer champ in the National League has struck out out 22 times in only ten games, and the record for April is 40. He has struck out 5 times in a game twice this month, There were 5 such games all last season, and the season record is three. The career record is six.

        • I knew those recent K numbers on Stanton. I’m talking about, how did he do in the past, in the “new park?”

    • I wish I could show you a video, but I’m sure it was burned to eliminate the evidence. No, Reynold really was saying that Stanton was disoriented at home plate by his new park, and that Harold had noticed that sometimes he was standing closer to the plate, and sometimes farther away. Before Pedro said what I was thinking, it was clear that this was his “theory.”

      It is not the first time Reynolds has done this sort of thing.

      • Like Althouse, Harold can be pretty goofy at times. I think it’s part of his brand. Lot’s of times I think he’s just pulling people’s legs.

        • I would feel a lot better if I though he was just playing the role of the “traditional baseball guy who doesn’t get stats,” sort of like Mike Kinsey pretended to be a knee-jerk liberal on “Cross Fire” when he’s anything but. Nobody is THAT good an actor, though. Harold believes his nonsense, like his argument that shifting is bad because it demoralizes pitchers.

          • You’re probably right, but I suspect Harold’s a pretty darned smart guy. Smart like a fox smart. That grin of his is just too sly. But maybe it’s just his incredibly pearly white choppers. I just think he’s a really interesting character.

      • Well Jack, it’s still one hitter (Reynolds) analyzing another (Stanton). So he DID talk in terms of where Stanton was standing in the box. That isn’t so crackpot at all. Okay, I’ll pay even closer attention to what Reynolds says from now on, while striving deliberately to limit my deference to him – staying on the lookout for “crackpot theories.” I still give him a pass on what he’s saying about Stanton. (But, I want to hear Stanton say in his own words, in past tense at some time in the near future, what if anything he did to reduce his striking-out. I expect Stanton will succeed at that.)

    • I have to believe that Reynolds was just failing to articulate clearly his critique of Stanton’s hitting approach.

      I disagree. Reynolds is a moron, and this proves the point. And the DH is an abomination before the Lord.

      -every baseball fan ever

  5. It appears that 20 states allow illegal aliens to get in-state tuition. Many of the states are like New York, Texas, and Wisconsin, that allow illegal aliens to pay in-state tuition, but deny it to many legal aliens. New York even denies in-state tuition to many legal aliens who meet the NY high school attendance requirement. I’m sure man of the other states are similar.

    Now, the 1996 Illegal Immigrants Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 prohibits this. Part of the act states “…an alien who is not lawfully present in the United States shall not be eligible on the basis of residence within a State for any postsecondary education benefit unless a citizen or national of the United States is eligible for such a benefit…”. The 20 states have written laws that override the federal law. So, state laws override federal laws? It has been a long time since I had my American Government class. I wonder if this is why only 18% of our students score as “Proficient” on our national civics assessment data. When our lawyers and judges refuse to follow the law, why should any citizen have respect for the law?

  6. Trump’s appointments do follow the example of Caesar’s wife. Not IVLIVS but CLAVDIVS though. See vol X of Pliny the Elder’s ‘Natural History’.

  7. The level of erudition on the internet just rose by 90%. It will have fallen again by the time I finish writing this sentence, but just for a byte or two there ……..

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