Thursday, April 20, 2017

Career derailment

Yesterday was a big news day for career derailment.

Annie Dookhan is/was a chemist. Oh, she’ll probably never work as a chemist again, not after her terrible stint working in a Massachusetts state lab that police departments and prosecutors relied on to test drugs. Unfortunately, Dookhan didn’t test all the drugs she claimed she had, sometimes substituting visual inspection for an actual lab test. Which doesn’t work all that well. Didn’t folks used to get duped into buying oregano thinking it was pot? But, hey, that powdered sugar could be cocaine.

Sometimes Dookhan forged her co-workers’ initials on forms. And sometimes she tried to cover up her activities by mixing drug samples.

For her troubles, Dookhan spent a couple of years in prison. (She was paroled last spring.) And prosecutors, it was announced yesterday, got to throw out 20,000 cases that relied on evidence that Annie Dookhan had her hand in on.

Of course, Dookhan derailed her career a number of years back, but yesterday’s announcement isn’t going to get it back on the right track any time soon.

It’s not clear what motivated Dookhan. Was she trying to get dealers off the street, whether they were dealing or not? Did she want gold stars and brownie points for getting her work done more speedily than her colleagues? Was she bored on the job? Or was it nothing to do with motivation and everything to do with mental illness?

In any case, it’s doubtful that Dookhan will ever work again at what had been her profession for more than a dozen years.

Former Patriots’ tight end Aaron Hernandez was also in the news yesterday. On a day when a number of his former teammates were at the White House celebrating their Super Bowl win, Hernandez – who had been serving life without parole for murder – hung himself in his cell.

Last week, a jury failed to find Hernandez guilty of two counts of murder. It’s not that there’s all that much doubt that he was involved in those murders. It’s just that the state’s prime witness was a thug who struck a deal. The prosecutors might as well have been presenting evidence worked on by Annie Dookhan.

Anyway, it can be argued that Hernandez’ career was on the way to derailment early on, as he’d been in plenty of capital-T Trouble since he was a star athlete in college. But it began to serious derail in June 2013 when, shortly after signing a $40M contract with the Pats, he was arrested for what turned out to be murder #3. Speculation is that Odin Lloyd was killed because he knew that Hernandez was responsible for the deaths of those two other men.

Aaron Hernandez is now dead and gone, and while this is mostly a case of sigh of relief and good riddance, he added a complication – or was it an F-U? - on the way out the cell door. In Massachusetts, if you die while your conviction is being appealed (as his was for the Lloyd murder), you go back to “innocent until proven guilty status.” Because of this, the families of his victims will have a hard time pressing civil suits against his estate. I suspect that, given the two trials Hernandez had gone through, most of that estate is already in his attorneys’ hands. Still…

Some commenters argue that Hernandez, knowing about this quirk in the law, killed himself so that his family would get whatever’s left behind. I doubt that he was that smart, as there’s been not a scintilla of evidence that he had any intelligence whatsoever. I’d put my money on his realization that he really was in the stir for life and just couldn’t take it.

(The big excuse for Hernandez’ throwing away a lucrative career and opting for the thug, gang-banger life instead, is that his father died when he was a teenager. Yep. That’s plenty awful, plenty sad. But just off the top of my head, I can think of four people I know and love – my husband (11 years old), my father (11 years old), and my brothers (15 and 18) – who also lost their fathers young and who didn’t turn out to be punks. Just sayin’ this looks to me like a pretty BS excuse.)

Anyway, Aaron Hernandez is gone, and all that’s left are some remnants of his career: jerseys and autographs that collectors jumped on eBay to sell, now that their presumed value had increased.

Yesterday’s third career derailment story was, of course, that of Bill O’Reilly.

In the face of all those advertisers abandoning the not-so-good ship BillO, Fox decided that he would no longer factor in their network lineup, where he will be replaced by the smarmy and odious Tucker Carlson.

O’Reilly came of age in an era where versions of his office playbook, while never exactly acceptable, were accepted. Sure, O’Reilly’s behavior – given his power – was worse than that of most men. But harassment, crude banter, etc. were widespread. They were objectionable. They were irritating. But women mostly shrugged and figured it was the cost of entry into a man’s world. When Senator Orrin Hatch, during the Clarence Thomas hearings, said that he couldn’t imagine anyone uttering the words “pubic hair” in the workplace, everyone in my workplace just laughed.

But the times have been a changin’, and women no longer put up with this kind of crap.

The downfall of O’Reilly is pretty sweet, given his pious rants about how the world would be a better place if we could just hold the calendar steady at 1952. And his latest book in which, I gather – I certainly haven’t read it/won’t read it – he talks about the importance of gentlemen treating women like ladies.

Sorry, Bill. Old school is out. Forever.

He won’t starve. I’m sure he’ll set up some online presence for his audience. He’ll keep best-selling his books. But he’ll no longer be pontificating on Fox, which would apparently like to expand its audience beyond aging white males.

So. Annie Dookhan. Aaron Hernandez. Bill O’Reilly.

Three pretty good-sized career derailments for one day…

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