Goodbye, July, 2018!
(and don’t come back!)
1. Ethics translation time! Baseball’s current World Champion Houston Astros just traded for young, exciting closer Roberto Osuna from the Toronto Blue Jays. This raised some eyebrows, because the 23-year-old Osuna is just completing a 75-game suspension from MLB for allegedly beating his wife. The Blue Jays had decided that they wanted no part of Osuna, and that he would not be a member of their team going forward, despite the fact that he is regarded as one of the best late-inning relievers in the game.
Anticipating some criticism from Houston fans and baseball fans in general, who usually don’t like cheering for disgusting people,Astros GM Jeff Luhnow released a statement following the trade, saying,
“We are excited to welcome Roberto Osuna to our team. The due diligence by our front office was unprecedented. We are confident that Osuna is remorseful, has willfully complied with all consequences related to his past behavior, has proactively engaged in counseling, and will fully comply with our zero tolerance policy related to abuse of any kind. Roberto has some great examples of character in our existing clubhouse that we believe will help him as he and his family establish a fresh start and as he continues with the Houston Astros. We look forward to Osuna’s contributions as we head into the back half of the season.”
“Our team has had bullpen problems all season, and as of now we have no closer, even as the team has lost three games in a row [now it’s four], two of our best players are injured, and we’re beginning a series against the Mariners, who are just a few games behind us. So in the interest of winning and because the ends justify the means, we are suspending our “zero-tolerance” policy regarding “abuse of any kind” to tolerate a player who Major League Baseball has determined to be a very serious abuser. I don’t know how we’re going to tell another player who is credibly accused of less serious abuse that we won’t tolerate his presence on the team when we just voluntarily brought an abuser onto the team, but never mind: there’s a pennant to win. I’m pretending that Roberto has complied with all consequences related to his past behavior when he is currently pleading not guilty in his pending Canadian trial on battery charges, in the hope that most fans aren’t paying attention.”
2. Book Review ethics. The New York Review of Books chose, for its review of Mickito Kakatuni’s book-length anti-Donald Trump screed “The Death of Truth,” MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, who has contributed mightily, along with his colleagues at the network, to the current impossibility of gleaning truth from spin, fiction and fake news, For example, Hayes reported the President Trump was “literally” taking hostages when his administration followed current law and separated children from their parents when the latter were detained for illegally entering the country. I guess, since reviewers are supposed to have some special expertise regarding the topic of a book, it makes sense to have the likes of Hayes review a book called “The Death of Truth,” but it represents a very cynical and irresponsible approach to book reviewing. Once upon a time, the publication would choose a critic who presented at least a chance that the resulting review would be objective. In this case, it’s calculation seems to be that the potential audience for such a book is only those who already are foaming at the mouth with anti-Trump hatred, so a fellow hater should be employed to gauge whether the book is likely to satisfy them. Here is Hayes in his review:
The president is a liar. He lies about matters of the utmost consequence (nuclear diplomacy) and about the most trivial (his golf game). He lies about things you can see with your own eyes. He lies about things he said just moments ago. He lies the way a woodpecker attacks a tree: compulsively, insistently, instinctively. He lies until your temples throb. He lies until you want to submerge your head in a bucket of ice and pray for release….He is describable, almost fully, in a few short words: a misogynist, a bigot, a narcissist, a con man and a demagogue. And his behavior, like the woodpecker, feels instinctual and feral: a deeply broken man who hammers away moment to moment trying to repair his own brokenness, and leaving nothing but a hole.
Now there’s an objective position from which to begin a book review of a publication critical of Donald Trump.
3. Tit for Tat. So far, only three Democratic Senators have agreed to meet with Brett Kavanaugh, the otherwise completely normal conservative jurist nominated to fill the soon-to-be vacant seat of Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court, except that he is being cast as Satan by the Left in order to warp public opinion. The rest have refused, despite the fact that such pre-hearing meetings are a traditional courtesy and have been part of the Supreme Court confirmation process for nearly a century. The official excuse is that the Senators have to review a gazillion pages of Kavanaugh’s past opinions and writings first, but that’s a transparent lie: he is far from the first nominated judge with voluminous documentation of his views and theories.
This is payback for the unethical Merrick Garland strategem by the GOP, pure Sicilian Ethics and tit-for-tat, an attempt to break the system rather than try to repair it.
4. Meanwhile...Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, sick and far too old at 85 to responsibly handle the demanding requirements of her own job as a Supreme Court Justice, hopefully announced that she planned on staying on the Court for “at least five more years,” when she will be 90. (Her math is bit off: she clearly meant six, to quell panic that she would leave SCOTUS before Donald Trump could possibly appoint her successor.)
As with Senator McCain, as with Senators Feinstein and Leahy, the late Strom Thurmond and many judges and elected officials, past and present, Ginsburg remaining in a demanding job with tremendous influence on the nation and the law is indefensible: irresponsible, incompetent, unethical. She already nods off during oral arguments, and while she may be sharper still than many younger judges, she is not as capable as she once was. The only question is how far her skills have diminished. A mandatory retirement age for judges and elected officials should be in place to prevent such public debacles as Senator Thurmond drooling and babbling during Senate hearings as he approached his hundredth year.
A few years ago, “Law and Order” had an episode in which Ned Beatty played an aging judge who was controlled entirely by his law clerk, who secretly send him directions during trial via computer, because the judge could no longer function. Beatty was very sympathetic in the role, at one point explaining to a lawyer who suggested that he retire why he kept working, saying in essence, “My wife is dead; my son is an alcoholic; I have no hobbies. This is what I do. What would I do, if I stopped being a judge?”
Knowing when to quit is one of the most difficult ethical duties of a professional. The criteria has to be “Can I still do the job?” and not “Who will take my place?”