Category Archives: Environment

Ethics Alarms On The Air!

onair

I have been on the radio a lot recently. The opinions expressed there will not surprise anyone who is a regular reader of Ethics Alarms, but for those curious about whether I speak with a British accent or a bi-lateral lisp, or those who are aurally inclined, below are links to three radio shows that had me as a guest of late, and one that interviewed me as background, and included some of my comments.

Here you go:

1. This is WGAN’s examination of the Hillary Clinton e-mails scandal, delivered by me while in shock after listening to Karen Finney spin herself sick on CNN, ably hosted as always by Arthur King…

2. Here is national host for the Local Job Network, Tim Muma, a terrific interviewer, on a podcast chatting with me about the “Ick!” and “Awww!” Factors and their relationship to ethics.

3. Tim again, this time cross-examining me about the Brian Williams mess and related issues.

4. Finally, NPR reporter Hawes Spencer’s report on the Sweet Briar closing.

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Environment, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership

No, This Didn’t Quite Make My Head Explode, And That’s The Scary Part

Not quite...

Not quite…

In Kermit, Texas, a nine-year-old boy was suspended for telling a classmate that his replica of the “one ring” from “The Hobbit” could make him disappear. This was taken as a “terroristic threat,” it seems.

There was a time, long ago, when this kind of child abuse, cruelly and stupidity on behalf of school administrators would cause my head to do its Mount Vesuvius impression. That was before I was exposed to so many other similar episodes of educator incompetence, from sea to shining sea. It was before I recognized that the educational profession has become infested with frightened, deluded, power-abusing fools who care less about the children in their charge than avoiding lawsuits and converting the next generation into spineless, fearful, unimaginative, submissive puppets. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Childhood and children, Environment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Kaboom!, Professions

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