The Drunk Lesbian Couples Study, The Golden Fleece, And Fiscal Responsibility


Old Dominion University has recieved a $1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to conduct research on the pressing issue of whether lesbian couples drink too much due to stress.   The grant states that

“Sexual minority women (i.e., women who self-identify as lesbian and bisexual) report more heavy drinking, more alcohol-related problems, and higher rates of alcohol use disorders as compared to heterosexual women. Despite this awareness, no studies have examined how relationship factors and partners’ alcohol use contribute to hazardous drinking among female sexual minority couples.”

Professor Jonathan Turley, who flagged this story, adds, “There may be a good reason for that.”

I almost made this an Ethics Quiz, asking if funding such research with taxpayer funds was responsible. I don’t present ethics quiz question when I am certain of the answer, though, and the more I thought about this, the more I began thinking of the late Senator William Proxmire’s Golden Fleece Awards.

In 1975, Proxmire launched the award with a press release announcing that the National Science Foundation had “won”after spending $84,000 to fund a study on the origins of love. For more than a decade, the Democrat from Wisconsin used his awards, which were chosen by Proxmire’s hand-picked panel of budget hawks, scientists and others, to focus attention on frivolous spending by dozens of government agencies, including the Department of Justice, the National Institute of Mental Health, and NASA, on trivial issues and mysteries. He also got a lot of publicity for the stunt, and sometimes even managed to kill the Golden Fleece-winning projects with the public outrage they generated.

Naturally, scientists hated this, and had contempt for Proxmire, whom they called “anti-science.” One scientist he mocked even sued Proxmire for defamation, in a case that reached the Supreme Court. In another example of alcohol-related research being called into question, Proxmire gave the award to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in 1975 for funding research into alcohol and aggression in fish and rats, stating that ” the most effective way to understand human conditions and problems is to observe human behavior.” University of California psychobiologist Harman Peeke, whose project was halted midstream by the fleece, bitterly responded,  “I would really enjoy having Proxmire make a proposal to give people alcohol and ask them to fight. That’s simply unethical and immoral.”

There were and are five core objections to Proxmire’s awards, which shadow government research projects to this day: Continue reading

The NPR Ethics Train Wreck

Ethics train wreck scholars take note: when an organization’s image and existence is based on multiple lies, an ETW is inevitable.

Oh NO! It's another Ethics Train Wreck!

National Public Radio is now in the middle of a massive, six-months long ethics train wreck that began with the hypocritical firing of Juan Williams on a trumped-up ethics violation. The disaster exposes the culture of dishonesty and entitlement at the heart of NPR, and by extension, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. To the extent that their supporters blame anyone else, it is evidence of denial. This is a train wreck, however, and the ethics violators drawn into the wreckage are many: Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Week: President Obama

“Some of what I’ve heard coming out of Wisconsin, where they’re just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain generally, seems like more of an assault on unions. I think everybody’s got to make some adjustments, but I think it’s also important to recognize that public employees make enormous contributions to our states and our citizens.”

—-President Obama, commenting on Wisconsin’s budget balancing measures, which will include ending collective bargaining by some public employee unions.

"Ladies and gentlemen...The President of the United States!"

This an abuse of power. No doubt about it.

For all his vaunted intellect, the President has displayed a stunningly flat learning curve in acknowledging and respecting the limits of Presidential influence, otherwise known as “sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong” or “shooting of your mouth about something that is none of your damn business.” In less than three years in office, he has… Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Sen.Tom Coburn

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) has become the main villain in the battle over the  9/11 First Responders Bill, which will grant over 7 billion dollars in health care assistance to those who have become ill as a result of their heroic work in the aftermath of the World Trade Center bombings. He is leading Republican opposition to the bill, on the grounds that it still needs to be paid for despite its worthy purpose and its undeniably deserving beneficiaries.

Coburn is one of the most dedicated deficit hawks in the Senate, which means that he realizes that the federal deficit will never be brought under control if feckless House members and Senators can always be shamed and bullied into spending money the government doesn’t have, or into rejecting necessary cuts, through the use of one or more predictable refrains: Continue reading

Omnibus Spending Bill Ethics

One silver lining in the despicable, 2000 page omnibus spending bill unveiled by Senate Democrats is that Republicans also have their grubby fingerprints all over it, so even though the bill lumps together a huge and expensive mess of pet Democratic projects, the richly deserved attacks on the monstrosity cannot be easily derided as “partisan.” Another is that it should put to bed forever the revolting slander that  the Tea Party movement was motivated by racism when it proclaimed that it wanted its country back. If there was ever a democratic institution that demonstrated utter contempt for the public, its legitimate and fervently expressed concerns, and the obligation of responsible government, the 2010 Lame Duck Congress is it. Continue reading

Tax Deal Ethics

A few brief ethics observations on the current tax deal machinations on Capitol Hill:

  • It was an unconscionable breach of responsibility for Congress to neglect to address this issue months ago. Not only would a timely decision whether to extend all, part or none of the Bush tax cuts have avoided the present uncertainty; it would have aided the recovery, as businesses and individuals would have known what the tax requirements would be, and could invest, spend or hire accordingly. The reason the Democrats waited, even when it was obvious that their House majority was a goner and that President Obama would be negotiating from weakness as a result, was pure, unadulterated cowardice. Congress was willing to withhold needed policy certainty, harming the economy and the public, so they wouldn’t have to take a stand before elections. Continue reading

The Democrats, Earmarks, and the Transparency Dodge

The arguments for continuing the irresponsible and frequently corrupt earmark process are misguided at best, and dishonest at worst. Mostly they are dishonest, Senators and House members graft appropriations in the millions for local projects that are never weighed, prioritized or evaluated in the voting process, killing budget restraint by a thousand cuts. They are also used as legislative currency, as two elected officials trade one irresponsible expenditure for a dubious state project for another.

Earmarks are an invitation to corruption, as they often are the result of thinly veiled quid pro quo arrangements. The device makes the American taxpayer the underwriter of expenditures that often have no greater purpose than to grease the skid for re-election for one more fiscally irresponsible politician. For decades, U.S. Presidents have complained about them; most since Ronald Reagan argued for the Constitutionally problematic line-item veto to combat them. Now, spurred by the recent voter revolt over out-of-control spending, the Republican Caucus in the Senate has voted to ban earmarks. The full Senate, however, with eight Republicans joining with the earmark-happy Democrats, voted down a proposed moratorium. Continue reading

The Kardashian Kard Saga: Proof That We Are Doomed?

In “Terminator II,” there is  a scene in which young John Connor–desperately trying, along with his mother and the android killing machine sent from the future to protect the boy, to prevent the apocalyptic future that waits for him—sees young children gleefully pretending to murder each other with toy guns.  “We’re not going to make it, are we?” he asks the Terminator. “People, I mean.” The fact that a bank has chosen the Trashy Kardashian Sisters to promote a credit card aimed at teenagers prompts approximately the same sense of futility. At a time of crisis in which our culture that desperately needs to encourage responsible fiscal conduct led by financial institutions we can trust, this is what we get.

We’re doomed. Continue reading

Jaw-Dropping Lie of the Year: Nancy Pelosi

“And we did all of this while restoring fiscal discipline to the Congress by making the pay-as-you-go rules the law of the land.”

House Speaker, soon to be Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi in a Nov. 9 op-ed in USA Today, listing the achievements of the Democratic Congress under her leadership.

The pay-as-you-go rules, which require new spending  to be offset with new revenue or spending cuts, were adopted by the House in 2007 and became law in 2010. Significantly, the very same bill that established pay-as-you-go—or PAYGO—raised the debt limit by $1.9 trillion. Signed into law on Feb. 12,  PAYGO was waived less than two weeks later when the Senate voted for a $15 billion job creation bill.…that was not offset by new revenue or spending reductions.

In fact, the PAYGO rule is waived constantly: it was designed that way. Continue reading

Deficit Reduction Ethics: We’re All Selfish Dunces, and We’ll Be Sorry

President Obama’s bi-partisan commission on cutting the deficit has come up with its draft recommendations, and they are fair, balanced, obvious, and, inevitably and unavoidably, flawed. Despite the flaws, everybody gets hurt, as everyone deserves to be when we elect a series of profligate and irresponsible leaders who spend more money than the nation has, on too many dubious projects and policies.

Personally, it would kill my already struggling personal finances dead: I’d have to sell my house, for one thing, at a lower value than it has now. Are the recommendations perfect? Surely not. They address the problem, however, and it is a problem that 1) has to be addressed 2) has to be addressed quickly and 3) will never, ever be addressed sufficiently if left to the usual corrupt legislative process, where it will sliced to pieces by lobbyists and turned into more pork, more lies, and another 3000 page bill that nobody reads before voting on it.

If Americans were responsible, honest, fair and genuinely concerned about America’s future prosperity and strength, we would just buckle down take deep breaths, and agree to make the sacrifices necessary to put the nation back on the road to fiscal health. But we won’t, will we? Continue reading