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by Hannah McCartney 02.29.2012
Posted In: Environment, Ethics at 12:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
lorax

Pet Peeve: The Lorax and Greenwashing

Mazda uses beloved environmental icon selfishly

When I was a little kid, reading Dr. Suess’s The Lorax made me feel something that typical 8-year-olds don’t feel too often: guilt. I remember reading the book and watching the TV special and coming close to tears. How could the Once-Lers be so selfish? Was I a metaphorical Once-Ler? How could Dr. Suess betray me and write such a gloom-and-doom book? He was only supposed to make me feel whimsical. I loved the book (it's still one of my favorites), but it terrified me so much that I started to look for impending clouds of smog and dead, furry Loraxes and leafless Truffula trees every time I stepped outside.

Suess' tactic was a bit controversial; some parents and critics viewed the book as too scary for children. Ironically, the book was published in 1971, far before Hummers, the scare of An Inconvenient Truth and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. So Suess was something of a visionary — that's why Hollywood deemed his book worthy of a 2012 remake.

It's not as common to see such gloomy stories of despair targeted at children or otherwise in pop culture today; in fact, the "go green" movement focuses almost exclusively on positive outcomes to drive revenue. Your shampoo bottle might scream "X percent waste saved with new packaging!" instead of "This brand will contribute ______ pounds of waste to landfills this year...that's X percent less than last year!" When used incorrectly or unethically, this tactic can snowball into greenwashing, defined as using green marketing or PR to deceptively promote a company as environmentally friendly or consciousness. (Read about the history of the term greenwashing here.) Luckily, people are catching on to the ploy: greenwashingindex.com is dedicated to exposing some of the more shameful greenwashing campaigns, and lauding the more authentic ones.

This recently released Mazda ad, then, has committed a double sin by taking both the Lorax's name in vain and greenwashing. Watch this commercial and see for yourself:



If you're familiar with the Lorax and his stubborn, stalwart ways, it's safe to say he and his Truffula trees would never speak for the SUVs, even one with "SkyActiv Technology," whatever that means. It's hard to forget that Mazda still contributes to the production of millions of exhaust-pumping vehicles every year manufactured in the same kinds of factories that led to the suffering of those poor Loraxes. Not to mention that in addition to the "green" Mazda CX-5, Mazda also produces a line of SUVs that receive as little as 15 mpg. Green? I think not.

One signer for a petition at Change.org to get Mazda to stop using the Lorax in its marketing commented, "Dr. Suess is rolling in his grave." Another: " The story is about saving the environment from industrial excess, and to me the SUV is the prime example of this excess."

According to Mother Nature Network, Mazda is one of dozens of companies using the beloved environmental icon in marketing efforts. The "go green" movement has become influential enough that companies see it as something to capitalize on rather than take to heart; corporate social responsibility is lauded by businesses everywhere as the secret key to strengthening a weakened reputation, attracting big investors and ultimately, boosting revenue. It’s praised to have a positive impact on communities, but it all comes down to the bottom line. It’s awfully rare for a corporation to launch a campaign based on social responsibility that’s not intended, in the end, to increase profits or better an image. Mazda proves that now more than ever.

Sorry, Dr. Suess.

 
 
by 08.05.2011
Posted In: Ethics, Congress, Republicans, Courts at 02:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 

Jean Schmidt: Shady or Just Stupid?

So, just who did Jean Schmidt think was paying her mounting legal bills, anyhow?

That's the lingering question after the House Ethics Committee ruled today that Schmidt, a Republican congresswoman from Miami Township, did receive an “impermissible gift” by accepting about $500,000 in free legal help since spring 2009, but somehow didn't “knowingly” violate the law.

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by Kevin Osborne 03.19.2012
 
 
bales

Morning News and Stuff

Many people in Greater Cincinnati still are reeling from the revelation over the weekend that the U.S. soldier who allegedly killed 16 people in Afghanistan grew up in Norwood. Military officials identified U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert “Bobby” Bales as the suspect in the case, which has inflamed tensions between Afghanistan and the United States and led to a renewed push to withdraw troops before the planned 2014 departure. Bales, 38, is a 1991 graduate of Norwood High School who joined the Army in November 2001, and was serving his fourth tour of duty when the incident occurred. Bales has been flown to a military jail at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to await trial.

The Cincinnati Fire Department is seeking a $6 million federal grant so it can increase staffing levels. If the department wins the grant, it will hold a recruit class to add up to 40 firefighters. The federal funding would cover two years' worth of salary and benefits for the recruits, but the city would have to pay training and equipment costs.

Basketball fans are celebrating now that Ohio has four teams in the NCAA Tournament's “Sweet 16.” Ohio University scored an upset victory Friday against Michigan, winning 65-60, and winning 62-56 against South Florida on Sunday night. The Bobcats join the University of Cincinnati, Xavier University and Ohio State University in advancing in the tournament.

The Buckeye State didn't fare so well in an analysis of government transparency and integrity. Ohio ranked 34th out of 50 states and got an overall grade of “D” in a study by the the Center for Public Integrity, Public Radio International and Global Integrity.

In news elsewhere, if Mitt Romney gets the Republican Party's presidential nomination and somehow beats President Obama in the fall, he had better reward Puerto Rico in some fashion, possibly by bestowing statehood on the U.S. territory. Romney handily won the GOP's primary there Sunday, getting 83 percent of the votes. Because he won more than 50 percent, Romney will receive all 20 delegates at stake — giving him a much needed boost in his race against Rick Santorum. The next primaries are Tuesday in Illinois and Louisiana.

Rick Santorum is turning to a secretive group of rich conservatives to pump cash into his campaign. The ex-Pennsylvania senator is relying on the Council for National Policy to fill his coffers and urge right-wing Republicans to unite behind his presidential bid. The council helped Santorum raise $1.8 million last week in Houston. Formed in 1981, the group brings together some of the Right's biggest donors, and helped George W. Bush in 2000 when his campaign was floundering.

Four people are dead after a gunman burst into a Jewish school in France and opened fire. The victims include  a teacher, his two sons and another child. Officials said a man arrived in front of the school on a motorcycle or scooter. This is the third attack involving a gunman escaping on a motorcycle to take place in southwestern France during the past week, although police say it's unclear whether the attacks are terrorism-related.

Heavy fighting broke out today between Syrian security forces and anti-government activists in a wealthy neighborhood of Damascus. At least 18 members of the security forces were killed in the battle, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, but the official SANA news agency put the death toll much lower.

An upsurge in fracking means North Dakota will overtake Alaska as the second-largest U.S. producer of oil within a few months, behind Texas. State data released this month showed energy companies in January fracked more wells than they drilled for the first time in five months, suggesting oil output could grow even faster than last year's 35 percent increase.
 
 
by Martin Brennan 01.25.2012
 
 
imgad.nar

Online Pirating: An Old-School Gamer's Only Option?

Last week I blogged about SOPA, or the Stop Online Piracy Act, a bill being proposed in Congress that, if passed, would allow both copyright holders as well as the US Department of Justice to severely restrict access to and advertising on any website accused of facilitating copyright infringement. Needless to say the bill’s sparked a huge controversy on the web. Many sites such as Reddit.com blacked out their services on Jan. 18 in protest, and those against the bill are saying the bill inhibits free speech and will effectively “ruin the Internet” if passed.

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by 12.29.2010
 
 

Ohio Gets New Election Rules

In an effort to promote greater transparency about who makes campaign contributions, outgoing Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner today unveiled a new set of election rules.

The rules, which were approved by the Ohio Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review, is aimed at offsetting some of the impact of the Citizens United ruling issued by the U.S. Supreme Court in January. In the landmark 5-4 decision, the court overturned a lower court’s ruling and removed existing restraints on corporations, allowing them to spend unlimited amounts of money in political campaigns.

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by Kevin Osborne 03.01.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, Courts, Ethics, Democrats at 03:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
WIlliam O'Neill

Candidate Scolded by Judicial Hearing Panel

Complaint upheld against Rucker's opponent

A judicial conduct panel ruled this week that the primary election opponent of a local Municipal Court judge knowingly misrepresented himself in campaign materials.

The panel decided that retired appellate court judge William O’Neill from Cleveland left the impression that he is a current judge in a two-sided campaign card he distributed. In fact, O’Neill now works as an emergency room nurse at a hospital.

O’Neill and Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Fanon Rucker are vying to be the Democratic Party’s nominee for the Ohio Supreme Court.

Whoever wins the March 6 primary election will face off against incumbent Justice Robert Cupp, a Republican, in the November general election.

The three-judge panel upheld the complaint filed by Richard Dove, secretary of the Ohio Supreme Court’s Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline. The panel said O’Neill’s campaign card refers to him nine times as “judge,’’ while describing him as “former court of appeals judge’’ once.

“The fact that he is known as judge because of his tenure on the 11th District Court of Appeals and that as a retired judge he is known as a judge, he nevertheless as a judicial candidate is prohibited from using the term ‘judge’ before his name in campaign materials since he does not currently hold that office,’’ wrote Guernsey County Common Pleas Judge David Ellwood, who chaired the three-judge panel.

The panel recommended no discipline for O’Neill other than he stop distributing the card. A 5th District Court of Appeals judge must appoint a panel of five fellow appellate judges within the next week to consider the lower panel’s recommendations and make a final decision.

Rucker is the Ohio Democratic Party’s endorsed candidate, but O’Neil has twice before — in different races — had party leaders rescind an endorsement and give it to him.

O’Neill has run twice for the state Supreme Court — in 2004 and 2006 — and then Congress in 2008 and 2010. Although he has won in the primaries, O’Neill has lost in the general elections.

Local Democratic Party leaders are criticizing O’Neill, stating he is moving too slowly to remove misleading material from his campaign website.

“While Mr. O’Neill promised Monday to make the required corrections, as of this writing on Wednesday, Feb. 29, his website remains unchanged,” Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Tim Burke wrote in a statement issued Wednesday night.

“This is not the kind of conduct we as Democrats should condone by any of our candidates, especially candidates running for a seat on the highest court of our state,” Burke added. “Ohioans deserve a Supreme Court candidate who not only understands the law, but respects it as well.”

For more on the O’Neill/Rucker race, see this week’s issue of CityBeat.


 
 
by 07.15.2011
Posted In: Republicans, Ethics, Family, Media Criticism at 01:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 

The GOP, 'Family Values' and Hypocrisy

What did they know and when did they know it? Moreover, why aren't they commenting on it?

“They,” in this case, are leaders of the Ohio Republican Party. And “it” is the drunken driving arrest of State Rep. Robert Mecklenborg (R-Green Township). In the 16 days since the April arrest became publicized through the media, the state GOP has been curiously silent about the matter.

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by David Krikorian 06.10.2011
Posted In: Congress, Republicans, Ethics, Environment at 03:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 

Guest Column: Why Schmidt is Pushing Pesticide

(* David Krikorian is a businessman from Madeira who twice ran unsuccessfully against incumbent Jean Schmidt to represent Ohio's 2ndCongressional District. Schmidt is suing Krikorian for defamation, after he called her a “puppet” of special interests for accepting large amounts of cash from the Turkish government. Meanwhile, the Office of Congressional Ethics is investigating Schmidt’s receipt of legal assistance from a Turkish-American interest group.)

CityBeatrecently reported that an "odd coupling" of Congresswoman Jean Schmidt, a Republican, and State Rep. Dale Mallory, a Democrat, held a joint press conference publicly calling on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reverse its 2007 decision banning the pesticide Propoxur so that it can be used to combat bedbugs in apartments and homes.

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by Hannah McCartney 02.17.2012
Posted In: Public Policy, Ethics, Government at 01:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
courtgavel

Ohio Executions On Hold

Supreme Court upholds lower court ruling that state has failed to follow proper protocol

A ruling that resulted in a temporary halt in Ohio executions last week means there are 148 inmates on Ohio's death row with uncertain futures. Ohio's death penalty is currently under scrutiny, largely due to opposition that's been raised from documented failures to follow protocol in state executions.

In January, Federal District Court Judge Gregory Frost of Newark, Ohio halted condemned murderer Charles Lorraine's Ohio execution because Ohio has allegedly demonstrated problems over the last several months upholding the execution protocol the state put in place itself in 1981. On Feb. 8, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Frost's decision, saying that because Ohio had been proven to stray from its own execution policies, it couldn't be trusted to carry out Lorraine's execution or any other death sentences. The next execution in Ohio is scheduled for April.

Frost is one of several advocating for the abandonment on Ohio's death penalty. "For close to eight years, the Court has dealt with inmate challenges to the constitutionality of Ohio’s execution protocol. During that time, the litigation has morphed from focusing primarily on allegations of cruel and unusual punishment to allegations of equal protection violations. Ohio has been in a dubious cycle of defending often indefensible conduct, subsequently reforming its protocol when called on that conduct, and then failing to follow through on its own reforms," said Frost in his written opinion.

He goes on to describe instances in which state agents lied to the Court concerning state executions, expressing frustration about the state's lack of commitment to constitutional execution. "No judge is a micro-manager of executions and no judge wants to find himself mired in the ongoing litigation in which he must continually babysit the parties," said Frost.  

That's just a piece of it; there are other judicial bigwigs hoping to have Ohio's death penalty overturned, including Senior Associate Justice for the Ohio Supreme Court Paul Pfiefer, who helped write Ohio's death penalty law when he was a state senator more than 30 years ago. According to Pfeifer, he's changed his mind because he sees the option of life without the possibility of parole more moral and socially beneficial.

Evidently, most of the deviations from the execution regulations were minor paperwork technicalities. Huffington Post reports the errors included switching the official whose job it was to announce the start and finish times of the lethal injection and not properly documenting that the inmate's medical records were reviewed.

Those in support of the hold, however, make another point. Controlling life and death is the most important power the state of Ohio holds; if it can't follow minor rules that it set for itself, who's to say there won't be larger, more detrimental errors in the future?
 
It's difficult to tell whether or not Ohio will just get a slap on the wrist for its slip-ups or if reform will be seriously considered. The death penalty has almost always been a part of Ohio's history, since it became a state in 1803. Ohio ranked third in the U.S. for executions among the 34 states that have the death penalty in 2011.

Listen to Paul Pfeifer and hear more about the controversy on The Sound of Ideas radio program below.

 
 
by 04.28.2010
 
 

Bortz and the Letter

As anyone who viewed The Enquirer’s Web site Tuesday night or read the newspaper this morning knows, Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Bortz received an advisory opinion from Ohio ethics officials last year indicating he shouldn’t participate in any decisions about the proposed streetcar project.

Although CityBeat asked Bortz last week about any potential conflicts of interest involving the project, he didn’t disclose the June 2009 letter from the Ohio Ethics Commission.

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