Author Archives: KLinardo

Lazlo Zsolnai

Laslo Zsolnai is a professor of business administration, runs a center for business ethics, and cofounded a conference for transatlantic business conference. He called himself a businessman several times during the process of the lecture, yet he promotes a business model that seems unmarketable. He spoke at length about the failures of business leadership in terms of ecology. However his methods for being ethical seemed to make competition and free-market systems negatives. While not all people in the world are huge fans of a competitive free-market, I think most Americans tend to be.

Zsolnai stated that business are so engaged in self enhancement that they are opened up to justifying destruction and poor practices. He said that businesses must pass the test of ecology, being favorable for future generations, up to 200 years, so that they can live a better life than previous generations, and it needs to positively influence the social community. He even cited three businesses that have employed these methods and have operated successful business. However, I doubt that these three would be successful should they operate in a market where every business uses the same practices.

These businesses can operate like this because they can charge more and market sustainability. They operate in their own market and cater to people who will make the concessions for a “friendlier product” by ecological standards. However, if every business uses these options and drives the price down through competition how will any company be profitable while giving the future generations a better style of life. If prices have to go up across the board, what does that say for the lower class? If business close, what does that do for jobs?

Businesses must promote sustainability and good practices however I can’t see looking 200 years into the future and making decisions off of lofty predictions to be a good idea. If Henry Ford had to determine if he would build the Mustang and F-150 based on global warming, millions of cars may have never rolled off the assembly lines. I think Zsolnai has good intentions and favorable ideas. However I don’t see his encouraged ideas being sustainable in a competitive market.

The Days After Hitler

The ending ofThe Last Days of Hitler was designed to dispel and discourage any contingency myths about Hitler possibly being alive and living the end of his days out in some refuge. Hugh Trevor-Roper made it a point to talk about the facts. The facts were what made this book and he made sure to point that out in the end. So what are the facts?

Trevor-Roper tells us that Hitler was a strategical genius, a propaganda mastermind, and was able to make the whole world look at him. How the world refers back to Hitler is obviously negatively, but Hitler was a great man for Germany from the late 1930s to the mid 1940s. There are arguably few men that could resurrect a country with so much destruction and so many restrictions that Germany had to deal with in 1939.

So what legacy did this book portray? Obviously it was not trying to cover the deeds of the Holocaust and the war crimes enacted by Hitler’s Court. However we don’t see the accomplishments and brilliant military strategies ignored. Hitler is still portrayed as a good leader for his cause when you turn through the pages of this book. He was crazy in comparison to the rest of the world, but amazing for the Nazi party. I’m sure there is no question that Hitler was portrayed as a monster and forever will be portrayed as such. However, what would Hugh Trevor-Roper’s facts about Hitler the man have indicated should Hitler have won?

Italian Elections-The Day After

The country of Italy has recently undergone and election and the parliament is a complete toss up. Anyone who knows Italy, knows that there is a long history of political corruption, mafia connections, and many other issues that take away from the face value of the “proportionally representative” bicameral parliament that is “democratically” elected.

Italy has been in a state of transition since the resignation of Berlusconi, a known corrupt politician who resigned as Prime Minister amid the financial crisis. He announced that he would be running for Prime Minister again in this election. This election left parliament split between four major players, Bersani of the Democratic Party, Berlusconi of the People for Freedom (center-right), Grillo of the Five Star Movement dedicated to end the age of the corrupt politician, and Monti who was acting as Prime Minister with a coalition of the People for Freedom and his own party With Monti for Italy. With the disbanding of the coalition between Berlusconi and Monti, and the refusal of Grillo and Bersani to form a coalition with Berlusconi Italy is left without a party or coalition in control and there is no Prime Minister ready to take the helm.

This leads to the question about the stability and effectiveness of Italy’s political system. There have been financial cuts and tax increases under Monti’s government to try to reduce the debt and unemployment but both numbers have gone up with Monti telling young Italians that they have no hope of steady employment in Italy. Government programs are still up and running yet there is no government to adapt to a new situation or make changes to old policy at this point. Italy seems to be in Limbo.

The main issues in Italy seems to be the older generation and the generation that has managed to secure employment goes to elect the officials that refuse to make changes to policy since the current government is working in their favor. However the 5 Star Movement seeks to rally the young and the unemployed to get representatives who will fight for changes. Since Italy has proportional representation, there is a much greater chance these individuals will get elected than in an electoral system like the one in the US. However due to the corruption and conservative Italian culture, politicians like Bersani and Berlusconi have still managed to split 60% of the votes with Grillo and Monti only getting 25% and 10% respectively.

The verdict seems to be that Italy is split and the current electoral system, where corruption sets the standard, needs to be reformed. The government is currently powerless and without compromise between the parties it will be impossible to fix the issue without another election which may garner the same results. If this cycle is continued Italy is doomed when the next crisis hits an immobile government. The current political system has failed Italy and the politicians are far from being able to construct a new one.

Skloot a Racist?

I think it’s very easy to be carried away when name calling is on the table. The recent issue of racism in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks could be one of these instances. Now don’t get me wrong. I have several issues with Skloot’s book. I think that the issue with how Skloot assumed some scenes could be unethical given the first sentence in the book.

Apparently this book is one of facts. Nothing has been altered. However reading the book instantly gives away the fact that there is no way Skloot or anyone she talked to would know about what Henrietta thought or felt. The way the family is showcased is also questionable. If this is a story about the HeLa cells why are all of the details about Skloot investigating her story also included. This book seems like a story instead of a report.

Skloot is not an academic writer. She isn’t looking for historical context. She is looking for a good story that thousands of people will read and buy. She as a writer who makes her living off the proceeds for her books. The embellishments are just a way to make the book a page turner. However, I think these embellishments are too slight to invoke racist claims. She did speak with the family and spend time with them. I doubt how she decided to degrade the Lacks family in a book intended to tell her story.

I am disappointed in how the family is still in the same socioeconomic situation they were in when Henrietta died and how no one has taken an active role to offer any profits from her story to her family. However that’s material for another blog post.

First vs. Third

Reading the last two chapters of Diamond’s book has really outlined his argument to be the first world against the third world. I found this contrary to what many people assume our relation with third world countries actually are. There’s always talk about helping this country, or those people starving, or send 50 cents a day to this fund for another country. Even the constant “efforts” of the UN are working towards equalizing the standard of living. However Diamond has a sobering point. In the end, is it possible to save the third world without jeopardizing the first world when Diamond says it’s already “not sustainable.”

I have to say I agree with Diamond when he says we can’t sustain the population of third world countries on first world standards. I’m not sure if I completely agree with him when he says we will have to lower our standards to maintain our environments, but I do think he would be right if we failed to alter our way of maintaining the standard of living. So now we, as inhabitants of the first world, need to decide whether or not to lower our standard of living to a more sustainable level that will allow for improvement of third world societies, or do we tell people in the third world that they must forever live impoverished, hungry, and sick. Personally I think one of those options will be extremely hard to swallow and harder to implement and the other is just wrong as moral beings. I’ll let you figure out which one is which.

The Collapse of the “Best”?

We all have heard those who speculate about the end of the world. We all just lived through an end of the world scenario on December 21, 2012. Needless to say we are all still here, society is intact, and the rapture didn’t happen. The Mayans turned out to be wrong, or as I like to say, the poor guy making the calendar said we’ll make more if we need more than a few thousand years. Needless to say, the Mayans weren’t here to see their calendar expire. Their society already collapsed. So this brings me to the interesting premise of Diamond’s book Collapse. What is the fate of our society in the context of the societies that have already lost their battles with history?

I like to compare the United States to the Roman Empire from time to time. Rome was one of the most advanced societies ever in context of their time period. The span of that empire in both years of existence and area covered is amazing. Yet, it still managed to fall. Rome crumbled despite how advanced it was. There’s always someone somewhere looking to take that successful society and make it theirs. This brings me to Diamond’s Prologue. Will we contribute to our own demise?

The United States is facing some big issues today. We seem to have more crises than ever before. Sure the Cold War was laden with doomsday scenarios, but at least we knew where it was coming from. Today we have to deal with so many unknown issues that it makes your head want to spin. Can we correct our greenhouse gas emissions? Will global warming hit a critical point? What if the oil wells run dry? Do we produce enough food for our massive population? What will happen if a solar storm eliminates all computers? There are so many aspects of our society that could go wrong that are out of our control. Our issues are much more technically loaded but the same questions could have been asked about Eastern Island. Diamond points out that the inhabitants of Easter Island over used their resources and boxed themselves into failure. This makes me wonder, are we doing the same?

The Scientific Method

I can’t say that I’m new to the scientific method, however I cannot say that I am all too familiar with it either. Except for the 2 mandatory science fairs I competed in in 6th and 7th grade I can’t say that I really used it much at all. I always held that the scientific method had 5 steps: hypothesize, test, observe, analyze, and conclude. I also believed that this method would only work on things held in the scientific field. So only biological, chemical, or physical science could fit in this form of experimentation. I even thought it ironic to have the social sciences be called sciences because that was a stretch in my book.

Be that as it may, I have to say that the readings on the scientific argument provided a compelling argument. There are several instances of problem solving that could easily fall under the scientific method and I’m sure we all use the scientific method much more than we would have noticed. The computer example is a prime way that the scientific method can be used in every day occurrences, as well as for different purposes.

The most interesting thing I pulled out of these articles was how the scientific method could be adapted to more than just the traditional idea of sciences. You can diagnose a computer, car, TV, or a Spider Card issue using this method. More importantly the scientific method is a solid building block to be adapted and advanced to theorize in psychology, sociology, and even politics. The last article shows how marketing is even going to adapt the scientific method to test ideas and the difficulties that adaptation will bring. Unlike with the traditional sciences, there is no way to test something that exist within laws that are present in the traditional sciences in something like the social sciences. This is what makes the scientific method become interesting. The adaptations to take into account the possible oddities that will occur in other sciences are some of the most profound advancements in the respective fields. It has given us a way to say X happens because of Y or lack of Y etc. It gave something that had arbitrary meaning a quantitative meaning that you and I could read on paper.

Examining Experts

A quick fact about me is that I am a member of the University of Richmond’s Mock Trial Team. I go to all different tournaments at different schools across the country and argue a case in front of legal professionals. If anyone has ever watched an actual court case you will know that expert witnesses are often called in to testify to a jury. I am guilty as portraying and questioning those portraying experts at several tournaments in my time. In fact I have been awarded 5 times for being an outstanding expert witness (This will come in to play later). This past weekend I had the rare ability to be, question, and observe an expert during the annual competition we held at Richmond.
I found it extremely interesting that the first thing outlined in Chapter 3 of our reading for 1-22-13 was “Appeal to Authority”. It is very easy for someone with little or no knowledge of a field will automatically default to someone who is portrayed as the expert. Suddenly the expert’s beliefs are their own. Now usually someone could listen to the expert, do some research of their own and come to a more educated conclusion. Ideal situation we have here. Let’s get back to the trial. Now we have jurors or a judge with no idea whether the witness is accurately representing expert testimony and who are also prohibited from doing any outside research. So here’s where reasoning gets interesting.
Personally being in the Mock Trial setting, I can tell you that sometimes you doubt the things coming out of your mouth when you’re on the stand. Sometimes you are forced to represent a witness that makes you wonder why one of the parties in the case paid this guy $900 an hour to somehow come up with any expert defense for an accusation. What’s worse is that I have testified to one thing (one of my witnesses calculated the speed of a car to be 51 mph) and not an hour later I have testified to another (the other one of my witnesses calculated the speed to be 66 mph). So if both of these witnesses used the same formulas, but different variables, how can you determine who used the right variables? Who would you listen to?
I have come to find out that a jury will listen to not necessarily the most qualified expert, but instead the most reasonable and trusting. When a jury is presented with 2 contradicting experts they listen to the one that’s the easiest to understand. When the jury gets told that this guy is an expert their consideration of the formulas goes right out the window. Being an expert is good enough because of the authority that must have. This infuriates me. I cannot tell you how many times an expert has been told they were too technical and the other guy just made more sense because he didn’t explain the formulas. The job of an expert is to explain the formulas to try to give the jury a basic understanding of how things work so that they can make an educated determination in a specific case. More times than not though, the jury loses you by the second or third multi-syllable word.
What I have learned from Mock Trial is that you must question experts as if they have no authority. I don’t care if you’re a stipulated expert; I want to know why you came to this answer and how it cannot be some other outcome. If someone is ever introduced as an expert, immediately assume they know nothing, not everything. You will learn more and be more informed in your decision. At least that’s the lesson I got from the courtroom.