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.
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