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.