Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/31/18: Labor Day Weekend Edition

Good Morning.

This was in some respects the worst month in Ethics Alarms history, and I won’t be sorry to see it go. This weekend I will be spending more hours trying to cover ethics issues and developments while  knowing that an even smaller group of readers will bother to consider them, as they will off at beaches and mountain retreats, or sweltering at backyard barbecues. I have to admit it’s discouraging, and makes what needs to feel important and stimulating feel like an unsatisfying slog instead. Well, if you’re reading this, it’s not your fault.

1. Ethics estoppel. I couldn’t believe I read more than one local account of last night’s Detroit-Yankee game, a crushing loss for New York, complaining that Tigers DH Victor Martinez’s game-tying homer in the 9th “wouldn’t have been a home run in any of the other 29 Major League stadiums.”  Wow. The unmatched dominance of the New York Yankees over all of baseball has been significantly aided by its uniquely short right field fence ever since the original Yankee Stadium was built to provide cheap right field home runs to Babe Ruth, who hardly needed any help. Even though the shot to right isn’t as easy as it used to be (those old Yankee Stadium dimensions are illegal now), the Yankees still build their offense around that fence, and it is substantially responsible for the fact that the team leads all of baseball in home runs, and games won by cheap home runs.

Yankee fans and media are estopped from complaining when an opposing player benefits for a change. What utter gall!

2. Worst management ethics ever. President Trump is again tweeting about what a lousy job Attorney General Jeff Sessions is doing. Is he trying to make Sessions resign? Why? Why doesn’t he just fire him? This is a guy who became famous using “You’re fired!” as a trademark. Undermining a subordinate in public can’t possible make him or her perform better. It also signifies a dysfunctional organization and chain of command. In Sessions’ case, it makes the target look like a pathetic weenie devoid of self- respect. If my boss complained in public about me, I would resign that very day, with a brief statement that no professional should have to endure such gratuitous abuse from a superior, and that I would not.

Sure. Sessions is a lousy Attorney General. It was idiotic, with the Russian probe looming, for Trump to appoint a member of his campaign to the job. It was idiotic to appoint a man who, fairly or not, had accusations of racism clouding his past. Whatever deficits Sessions has, Trump is accountable for accepting them, and now he’s actively working to make his own Attorney General’s job even harder.

Shut up and fire him.

3. I just fought with the %$#@%*&! NY Times to get the access to this article I pay for every month, so I’m posting on it, dammit…A lawsuit is challenging the practice of universities of sending students who admit suicidal tendencies home rather than trying to help them on campus. The class action suit accuses Stanford of accusing the university of discriminating against students with mental health issues by coercing them into taking leaves of absence, rather than trying to meet their needs on campus. This suit is the latest in a series of similar challenges to mental health leave policies at  Princeton, Hunter College, Western Michigan University, George Washington University, Marist, Quinnipiac, and others.

Bad law suit, and bad theory. If there is one thing the past several years have made clear, colleges and universities perform horribly one they start trying to do anything other than teaching—and they don’t even do that so well, in too many cases. Students with serious emotional and mental problems should be put into the hands of professionals, and such decisions should be the responsibility of the family, not educators. Stanford’s website says that a leave may be encouraged or required for a student whose psychiatric, psychological or medical condition “jeopardizes the life or safety of self or others, or whose actions significantly disrupt the activities of the university community.” I don’t see how anyone can argue with that. When I saw signs that a young person I knew was slipping into depression and despair, with hints of suicidal tendencies, I called up her parents and said, “Pick her up and take her home. Now. There is no time to lose.”

That is exactly what a university should do.

4. “My Way” Ugh. Jon McCain apparently picked the awful Paul Anka translation known as “My Way,” Frank Sinatra version, as his exit song. I guess we should have expected that, but its an unethical song, an asshole anthem, sung by a bona fide, mobbed up, entitled, arrogant, corrupt creep. Here are the amateurish lyrics, in case you have been lucky enough to forget them:

And now, the end is near
And so I face the final curtain
My friend, I’ll say it clear
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain
I’ve lived a life that’s full
I traveled each and every highway
And more, much more than this, I did it my way

Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do and saw it through without exemption
I planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway
And more, much more than this, I did it my way

Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all, when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out
I faced it all and I stood tall and did it my way

I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried
I’ve had my fill, my share of losing
And now, as tears subside, I find it all so amusing
To think I did all that
And may I say, not in a shy way
Oh, no, oh, no, not me, I did it my way

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught
To say the things he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels
The record shows I took the blows and did it my way
Yes, it was my way.

Ignore, if you can, the terrible text-setting—“If not himself, then he has naught”; “not in a shy way”; “saw it through without exemption” (which does NOT rhyme with “mention”); “I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain”— screaming incompetence  that should be in a book of how not to write songs, and just ponder how unethical the philosophy being posited is. There  is nothing intrinsically virtuous or admirable about defying standards, conventions or societal norms, unless the reasons for doing so are justifiable, selfless and valid. The song argues that just doing what you want is something to be praised all by itself. It is one, long, narcissistic rationalization for being an unapologetic jerk.

It’s also one of President Trump’s favorites. What a surprise.


34 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/31/18: Labor Day Weekend Edition

  1. I have to admit it’s discouraging, and makes what needs to feel important and stimulating feel like an unsatisfying slog instead.

    We appreciate what you do. It is worthwhile, in my humble opinion, even if only one person learns from it. You are a teacher, Jack. You make a difference.

    1. The New York Yankees (and indeed, most New Yorkers I have experienced, including our beloved POTUS) are unethical assholes who would not know how to spell ‘estoppel’ (looking at Jack’s spelling to avoid an embarrassing typo) much less what it means and how it applies to them.

    And they know better than I how to run my life. Just ask them.

    2. The theory runs like this: Fire Sessions, and it is obstruction of justice (and plan ‘T?’ ‘U?’ for impeachment)

    Long form: The new person would fire Rosenstein, (whose fingerprints are all over the fake Mueller Investigation) who is overseeing Mueller. The next person (presumably because they would see the investigation has run amuck) would close down Mueller, and wallah! Obstruction!

    If Sessions quits, Trump is immune from those charges. Hey, it is what I read… and the guy did not have a shiny head that I can see.

    I will comment, though, that it seems someone has something on Sessions, as he is not pursuing the Deep State for all of the leaks and other lawlessness at the DOJ we see every day.

    3. Getting those with mental health issues OUT of the crazy pressured college environment is the smartest thing I have seen academia do in decades. College shootings usually involve someone with such issues. Even SJW Progressive Tenured Professors and college staff don’t like being shot at.

    4. Still holding fire on McCain until he is safely vacuum wrapped, packaged in wood or metal (family’s choice) and planted firmly underground for eternity.

    • I second your opinion. I’ll go a bit further. Even if no one agrees with you, writing one’s ideas is valuable to society by creating some pushback to groupthink It is also highly cathartic such that you know you just did not surrender your principles to merely avoid the task.

    • Slick – you said “I will comment, though, that it seems someone has something on Sessions, as he is not pursuing the Deep State for all of the leaks and other lawlessness at the DOJ we see every day.” We can never forget that Sessions had become a creature of the Senate – what real incentive does a Senator have to restrict the “Deep State” power – after all, it is a source of a good bit of a Senator’s power.

  2. 1. Yankees are nine games ahead of the Mariners for the second wild card spot. If they can’t hold onto that lead….

    2. Not sure why Trump doesn’t act as if he’s the chief executive. Maybe the fact he’d probably be enjoined from firing Sessions by a District Court judge in Hawaii or somewhere acting sua sponte?

    3. Remember in college in the ’60s when “parietals” were deemed absolutely unacceptable and paternalistic? Now, colleges are being sued to act like parents?

    4. A brilliant college buddy considers Frank Sinatra God Incarnate. I’ve never understood why even our parents’ generation admired Sinatra, never mind why a baby boomer would do so. But the Sinatra thing for people like McCain and Trump is the “Chairman of the Board” baloney Sinatra cultivated in his later years.

    • 2. Plus, Carl Bernstein would be leading the media chorus shouting “Saturday Night Massacre” 24/7 for two or three news cycles. Which would be really annoying and almost justifies keeping Sessions on.

  3. One point one I agree wholeheartedly. During a class I was teaching I once found mysely having to deal with a person with serious issues. Without going into too much detail the student erupted by saying (redacted pronoun ref) was tired of being abused when asked a question. Thinking the accustation was being leveled at me I asked the dept chair who happened to be outside to intervene. It turned out the student felt the person sitting at the next desk was stealing that student’s thoughts.
    This created a real problem because the statement was made in front of the class. None of us are prepared to effectively deal with abrupt individual crisises in a public setting.

    On point 2 I cannot fathom why Sessions stays unless these tirades are choreographed to permit Trump to rail against the “deep state”. Sessions does not need the job. If not simply a show firing Sessions would give the more ammunition to the opposition that claim it is an attempt to obstruct justice and Rosenstein would become the defacto AG for a long time. Rosenstein seems to have created a nice position for himself to facilitate broader inquiries into past Trump activities.

    3. You nailed it.

  4. Seems that colleges these days want to do a bunch of things other than teaching. Maybe that’s why students want them to solve their problems for them and make the world safe and fair for everybody.

    • No kidding. When I was in school, students wanted college administrators out of their lives. Coed dorms and bathrooms. Now, college administrators are supposed to eliminate “rape culture.” Maybe cultural amnesia is at least part of the problem?

  5. 2. TRUMP seems to be playing a game of chicken regarding his impeachment. Why in the hell would he practically guarantee that ZERO federal employees would vote for Republican candidates in November, by saying yesterday (or, what day?) that federal employees would have ZERO for a pay increase in 2019? Talk about sabotaging current officeholders! (Republican officeholders in Congress, I mean.) Is THAT his way of unifying voters against DEMOCRATS?! And, I wonder: how does he expect to bump-up military pay, while denying pay increases to federal civilans who work side-by-side with the troops? That’ll be one special magic trick.

    So, I am already nearing the point that I did not expect to reach until sometime in October, where I would say, for my own reasons, and despite agreeing with and supporting many of TRUMP’s policy moves, of the impending impeachment of the President: BRING IT ON.

    Bring on the reign of the Kamikaze commies.

    • Actually, “Kamikaze” is far too flattering of the wrong people.
      A new term is called for. But what? Something akin to suicide bombers in a truly losing cause, because these “bombers” have no principles, unlike the WWII Kamikaze pilots – just “the ends justify the means”…

      Maybe “blind suicidal” commies is enough…

        • Had to come back, just to argue. Other Bill, I believe you’re mistaken. They’re not all Dems. Probably been overall majority Dems since the late 1980s, though. Probably closer to 50-50 R vs D in the federal workforces that are (1) in current “red” states AND (2) more than 50 miles from any “deep blue” big city. That would be a wonderful exit poll, if it could be trusted – the R-vs-D-vs-other splits on how the feds vote, I mean.

  6. I read it, just usually delayed so I can get work done… This week had a multiple day networking issue, so sometimes quiet has nothing to do with the issues. It’s good stuff, consistently.

    4: I never thought much about Sinatra’s personality, my doubts started in the late Rat pack period. But I highly respect his talent and performances. He worked to remake himself several times, a good example there. I prefer his earlier performances during the big band era, and they are fine.

    He was an entertainer of his era or several eras, and he’s been dead for twenty years. As has been discussed here for others from baseball and politics, attacking their legacy reveals less about him than the ones dissing them. That Trump likes him should have no more relevance than other people liking Wagner. He was a self-made man and narcissism is so prevalent in entertainment. Signature songs are not guarantees of value, I’ve read enough of singers who grew to hate theirs, and Sinatra had multiple signature songs. I prefer “Blue Skies,” and “Three Coins…” far more than the late songs like “My Way.” Even as a kid, those lyrics reminded me of someone I wanted to punch. But his career and art is more than a song that’s too popular now.

  7. Jack. I think you wrote somewhere that you wanted to make people think about ‘right and wrong’ and implied ‘but not necessarily like you do’. I see no absolutes in ‘ethics’. You (as others) have no authority to dictate ‘right and wrong’, which of course may be very different from ‘legal and illegal’. It is for me an ultimate responsibility of adulthood to establish a framework, to act consistently with it, to be prepared to justify it, and to amend it in the light of experience and interaction with others. You play well in that space and thank you for doing so.

  8. coercing them into taking leaves of absence, rather than trying to meet their needs on campus.

    In the nanny state-of-mind, though, the safe spaces are supposed to be on campus. Parents are there to pay tuition, but the student’s manner of thought (i.e. sanity) now belongs to the educational arm of the government.

  9. re Cheap Homeruns… I believe Charles O. Finley addressed this many decades ago, when his As were still in Kansas City, by building an addition to the right field seats shortening the distance to the wall and calling it a “pennant porch”.

  10. “Yankee Stadium dimensions (which were illegal but grandfathered in)”

    Of course they were. The Yankees never saw an unfair advantage they did not like… unless someone else thought of it first.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.