Category Archives: Environment

Ethics Quote of the Week: Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV)

President Obama's leadership education progress: no change. Sorry.

President Obama’s leadership education progress: no change. Sorry.

“Now, that’s just not the way you do legislation. It’s not the way a democracy works. And it’s not the way the … three branches of government should work.”

—- Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat who supports the stalled Keystone Pipeline, referring to President Obama’s preemptive announcement that he would veto the bill before he knew exactly what the final bill would be.

President’s Obama’s supporters should pay attention to this episode: even if the President has a flat learning curve, perhaps they are more teachable. Manchin is right. Anyone with a passing familiarity of how Presidential leadership has worked in the past, is supposed to work, and is well understood by both scholars and practitioners to work, recognizes that this is a sparkling example of the obtuse refusal of Barack Obama not merely to master the skills of his job, but even to acknowledge them.

I really don’t care a fig about the pipeline. I think the President’s opposition is foolish—this is a bone thrown to the most extreme climate change activists, for there is no reliable research that shows that the pipeline will “accelerate global warming”—but my understanding of all the  factors involved is an inch deep. I really don’t care about it. I do care that the President doesn’t know how to do his job, and would prefer to make sure that Democrats can keep saying that he would have accomplished so much if Republicans hadn’t blocked his every brilliant plan.

A veto is a bargaining tool. Only Obama, of all of our Chief Executives, has failed to grasp that. The opposoition wants something. This means that you, as President, have an opportunity to get something you want. You negotiate. You horse trade. You bluff. Maybe you can’t come to an agreement. Maybe you can’t trade the pipeline, with some further limitations, for, say, your extravagant plan to make community college free for all, which otherwise has no chance whatsoever of ever happening. But you try. it’s called “being President.” It’s called “leadership.” It’s called “competence.”

And yes, it’s also called Democracy and the three branch system.

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Filed under Character, Environment, Ethics Quotes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Leadership

Is It Ethical For Professors To Date Students?

teacher-student datingProfsBlog asks the question regarding law professors and law students, but the question doesn’t change by narrowing the definition. The question is really, and only, “Is it ethical for teachers to have romantic relationships with students?” The answer is, has been, and forever shall be, “No.”

The answer to an ethics question sometimes becomes obvious when it is apparent that every argument on one side is either a logical fallacy, an unethical rationalization, or the application of an invalid ethics principle. Such is the case here, and thus I somewhat question the motives of the author of the post, Kelly Anders. Wishful thinking, perhaps? Asking the question creates the illusion that there is a real controversy. In this case, there isn’t.

I addressed this question a long time ago, in an early post here barely seen at the time but among the most frequently visited since. I wrote:

[P]rofessors [are] obligated to maintain a position of authority, objectivity and judgment as mentors and teachers of the whole student body, and [have] a duty to their schools not to allow their trustworthiness to be undermined by having intimate relationships among the same group that they [are] supposed to be supervising and advising. Dating a student is a professional breach of trust, and one that adversely effects the integrity of the entire educational institution…. The appearance created when a supervisor/manager/leader indulges in intimate relations with someone over whom they have authority, status and power—and every professor has authority over every student, in class or out— undermines the institution and the profession, by sending the false message that such relationships are standard, approved, and implicitly desirable in the culture where they occur…A professor has a potential teacher-student relationship with all students at a university, not just those in his or her classes.

Dating a student who happens not to be in one of those classes is what lawyers call “a distinction without a difference.” Many students and professors will reasonably assume that the pairing arose out of the student-teacher relationship, and in some ways it almost certainly did. A teacher always has superior power over any student by virtue of his or her position of authority, and it is an abuse of that power to use it to entice students into dates or bed…

[It] is naive to ignore the extended conflicts such relationships create. Might the professor’s best friends on the faculty be more generous when grading their friend’s significant other if he or she is one of their students? Will the professor consciously or subconsciously be easier on the friends of his student lover if they are in his class? The fact that the question can be asked shows that the situation should not occur where it can be asked.

Students, all students, must be off-limits as romantic partners for professors and administrators in universities, regardless of what rules are in place.Professors who date students risk their jobs because a student body is not their sexual smorgasbord, and it is a breach of trust and duty to treat it like one.

I wouldn’t change a word, except that typo I just noticed, and just fixed in the original. Nor is anything I wrote then revolutionary or new. These are the realities of authority, professionalism, leadership and power. It’s just that sometimes people really, really wish they were not. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Environment, Gender and Sex, Professions, Workplace

Getting Eaten Alive By A Really Big Snake Ethics: The Rest Of The Story

My guess: Paul tastes like chicken...

My guess: Paul tastes like chicken…

When we left naturalist and filmmaker Paul Rosolie, we were told that he journeyed  to the Amazon, donned a special suit, slathered himself in pigs’ blood, and allowed himself to be swallowed whole by an anaconda on “Eaten Alive,” in a two-hour special produced by  the Discovery Channel that would air December 7.  Rosolie would be removed from the snake by a cord attached to his suit, presumably before he was digested. Animal rights groups and zoologists objected, quite accurately, that this was cruelty to animals for sport.

What did viewers see on December 7? (I’m sorry: my sock drawer desperately needed organizing that day. I’m basing this on published accounts.) Rosolie found an appropriately large and hungry  snake and attracted its attention in the water. The 20-feet long reptile attacked, wrapped around him and then began to constrict. Then the snake started to try to eat the naturalist head first:  Rosolie’s helmet camera provided a lovely shot of  the anaconda’s gaping throat.

At that point, Rosolie did a terrific imitation of Gene Wilder as “Young Frankenstein” after he had himself locked in a room with the Monster with instructions that nobody should let him out no matter how much he begged. (“Let me out! Let me OUT OF HERE!!! GET ME THE HELL OUT OF HERE!!!….Mommy!” ) Rosalie’s team rushed in and pulled him away, disappointing the snake. Continue reading

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Filed under Animals, Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Character, Environment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Marketing and Advertising

Note To The Discovery Channel: Animal Abuse For Entertainment Is Not Made Ethical Just Because the Abused Animal Is Scary

green_anaconda

From The Christian Science Monitor:

Audiences can see [naturalist and filmmaker Paul Rosolie] don a special suit, slather himself in pigs’ blood, and then be swallowed whole by an anaconda, the largest snake species in the world, on “Eaten Alive,” Dec. 7 on the Discovery Channel….According to trailers for the show, Rosolie and a Discovery Channel team venture into the Amazon rainforest to search for an anaconda, then prepare for Rosolie to be eaten alive by the snake, the largest of which can measure 30 feet long. After putting on a “snake-proof suit,” and covering himself in pigs’ blood to make himself more palatable (to the anaconda), Rosolie kneels next to the snake. …According to reports, Rosolie is later removed from the snake by a cord attached to his suit, after having been swallowed whole.

What? Naturally PETA is up in arms (Dear PETA: If only you didn’t complain about harmless animal spectacles like Ground Hog Day in Punxsutawney, people might pay attention when you have something legitimate to complain about…), but so are rational, serious zoologists and animal activists. The stunt has outraged officials at The Columbus Zoo & Aquarium, for example. “If this snake would ingest something very large, like a human, and then have to regurgitate that prey or that food, that obviously could be harmful to the snake,” said Tom Stalf, CEO and President of the Columbus Zoo. Some believe, given the Discovery Channel’s reliability, that this is a hoax rather than a cruel stunt.

If it is going to be unethical, I suppose I would prefer that the network engage in the hoax rather than really traumatize the big reptile for the amusement of 21st Century equivalents of side-show gawkers.

Yechh.

_____________________________

Sources: CSM, Snopes

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Filed under Animals, Arts & Entertainment, Environment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee

Ethics Quote of the Week: Prof. Robert Kolter

"Miss me? I'm baaaack!!!"

“Miss me? I’m baaaack!!!”

“The scientists doing this work are so immersed in their own self-aggrandizement, they have become completely blind to the irresponsibility of their acts.”

-Robert Kolter, professor of microbiology at Harvard Medical School, condemning the work of Professor Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his research team, which managed to recreate the Spanish Flu virus that killed an estimated 50 million people in 1918.

The reincarnated 1918 virus was recreated from eight genes found in avian flu viruses isolated from populations of wild ducks. Using a technique known as “reverse genetics,” Kawaoka’s team rebuilt the entire virus so that it was 97 % identical to the 1918 strain, identified from viruses recovered from frozen 1918 corpses.  Said Kawaoka: “The point of the study was to assess the risk of avian viruses currently circulating in nature. We found genes in avian influenza viruses quite closely related to the 1918 virus and, to evaluate the pandemic potential should such a 1918-like virus emerge, identified changes that enabled it to transmit in ferrets.”

And, in order to assess that risk, the research created a completely unnecessary one that if mankind proves fallible again, could, as various Stephen King and Michael Crichton novels and movies have shown, kill us all.

Eventually, one of these hubris-warped and ethics-free fools might just eradicate humanity…all in the interest of scientific inquiry, of course.

 

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Filed under Character, Environment, History, Research and Scholarship, Science & Technology

Congratulations, Sen. Reid: Abusing Government Power To Stifle Political Speech And Participation Works!

 

Nice choice of role models, Harry.

Nice choice of role models, Harry.

From the Washington Post:

“Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid’s relentless attacks on the billionaire Koch brothers are having an unforeseen impact: spurring other wealthy Republican donors to give more money to groups that keep their supporters’ names secret. Several prominent pro-Republican advocacy groups say they are benefiting from a burst of cash as some donors — fearful of harsh public attacks such as those aimed at the Kochs — turn away from political committees that are required by federal law to reveal their contributors.”

What a surprise. Citizen participants in the political process who see others like them engaging in no illegal or unethical conduct. other than taking positions with which the leader of the U.S. Senate disagrees. being called “un-American” and having their reputations and names savaged by him in speech after speech on the Senate floor, decide that it is no longer safe for a citizen to openly contribute to political causes in the U.S.

Democrats who use this development to attack the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, eliminating financial limits on the expressive activities of domestic advocacy groups and legal entities in political campaigns, will reveal themselves as beneath contempt. Reid, primed by President Obama, who has also crossed that line that must not be crossed by using his high elected office to call down the public’s disapproval on private citizens for their political views, has engaged in conduct that deserves the label of “McCarthyism.” Fair Americans, pundits, journalists and politicians of all political stripes ought to be candid and open about who is the ethics villain here. It is not the Koch Brothers, the Supreme Court or the GOP donors who are turning away from transparency. It is the disgraceful Senator Harry Reid.

At last count (in April; an update is needed), Reid had attacked the Kochs by name 134 times, when it is a breach of Senate tradition and a violation of the intent of the U.S. Constitution for a government official acting in his  official capacity to do so even once. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Environment, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

Let’s Adopt Adam Weinstein’s Values And Arrest Adam Weinstein

For the dangerous crime of not agreeing with Adam Weinstein...

For the dangerous crime of not agreeing with Adam Weinstein…

In a jaw-dropping post on Gawker-–I would suspect link bait if this wasn’t a disturbing trend-– a supposedly (formerly?) reputable journalist argues that anyone who challenges global warming orthodoxy should be prosecuted as a criminal. Here is Adam Weinstein making a fool out of himself (actually, only a fool could write such crap), and doing it by quoting as an authority the absurd Prof Lawrence Torcello, whose earlier advocacy of punishing global warming skeptics I wrote about in this post. Weinstein:

Those denialists should face jail. They should face fines. They should face lawsuits from the classes of people whose lives and livelihoods are most threatened by denialist tactics. Let’s make a clear distinction here: I’m not talking about the man on the street who thinks Rush Limbaugh is right, and climate change is a socialist United Nations conspiracy foisted by a Muslim U.S. president on an unwitting public to erode its civil liberties. You all know that man. That man is an idiot. He is too stupid to do anything other than choke the earth’s atmosphere a little more with his Mr. Pibb burps and his F-150’s gassy exhaust. Few of us believers in climate change can do much more—or less—than he can.

Nor am I talking about simple skeptics, particularly the scientists who must constantly hypo-test our existing assumptions about the world in order to check their accuracy. That is part and parcel of the important public policy discussion about what we do next. But there is scientific skepticism… and there is a malicious, profiteering quietist agenda posturing as skepticism. There is uncertainty about whether man-made climate change can be stopped or reversed… and there is the body of purulent pundits, paid sponsors, and corporate grifters who exploit the smallest uncertainty at the edges of a settled science.

I’m talking about Rush and his multi-million-dollar ilk in the disinformation business. I’m talking about Americans for Prosperity and the businesses and billionaires who back its obfuscatory propaganda. I’m talking about public persons and organizations and corporations for whom denying a fundamental scientific fact is profitable, who encourage the acceleration of an anti-environment course of unregulated consumption and production that, frankly, will screw my son and your children and whatever progeny they manage to have.

Those malcontents must be punished and stopped.

Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Citizenship, Environment, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Research and Scholarship, Science & Technology