"Evil" editorial stirs opinions

Our October 1998 editorial, "The beginning of evil," prompted numerous letters expressing both support and criticism. Here's a sampling of what our readers told us. Some comments have been edited.

01/01/1999


Our October 1998 editorial, "The beginning of evil," prompted numerous letters expressing both support and criticism. Here's a sampling of what our readers told us. Some comments have been edited.

Your column addresses an issue with some bearing on the everyday management of an operating industrial plant -- regulatory compliance. The field is rife with room for criticism and improvement. What I found odd was your choice to attack the criminal justice system rather than the lawmakers or the regulatory agency in question. There is an impressive body of case law which holds forth the principle that knowledge of any particular statute or regulation is not a prerequisite for culpability. Right or wrong, it is incumbent on those engaged in commerce to first learn and then follow applicable regulations, difficult as that may be.

Frankly, I do not care to hear your personal political opinions expressed in this magazine. Whatever weaknesses exist in the ideas you expressed regarding the working of the federal government, it pales when compared to poor writing exhibited by the segue you've attempted. You have failed to show how United v. Sinskey bears on the issue of government not subject to its own regulations. Why not focus on something like the EEOC which can make life hell for a business yet can't touch the federal government? How about the EPA which can attempt to regulate the DOE or the DOD but seems to be ineffective in doing so?

If you wish to pontificate on political matters, please sell your musings to a political publication or hold forth to your friends and relatives. Please reserve the editorial space of Plant Engineering for information we can use. -- Michael M. McCormick

Where do you get your information that CEOs and other upper managers are being fired for taking advantage of their female reports? Not from the real world. I know of probably 20 women who were coerced, most of whom complied but some who didn't, and all who informed HR or other managers, and to a one the man wasn't reprimanded in any way.

As for lying under oath, every CEO in the same spot would do the same thing. Trying to humiliate a President about consensual sex should be a crime. The funds this prosecutor spent on this IS a crime, when you consider what it could have been used for.

But mostly, you are mistaken if you think upper managers get fired for taking advantage of female employees. An estimate that about 25% do it at one time or another wouldn't be too far off the mark. The amount that get fired for it are as rare as hen's teeth -- and if a guy does it less than three or four times, never. -- Lynnette Hartwig

I am appalled that you would print such trash. This kind of editorial does not belong in a technical magazine. -- Frank Louzek

[Your editorial] was one of the very best I have ever read concerning the actions of Mr. Clinton. You are right on the real head of the problem about what this country is suffering from in the '90s. This individual thinks he is above the law and far too many Americans agree with him. Many just do not realize that it is not the sexual indulgences, but the lying and the coverup of this matter that he must not get away with if the rule of law is to be respected in this country and the world.

Thank you for the editorial and your concern for what is happening to this country. -- Robert L. Hall

You nailed it! Indeed, I hope, as you do, that we engineers never lower our ethical standards to the level of Bill Clinton's. It was refreshing to see a leader in our profession take a stand on this issue. -- Ben Black

Why don't you just come right out and say that you hate Clinton, and that you will use any opportunity that you can to attack and discredit him. Your attempt to make Clinton's actions into a more significant violation than an action that could contaminate a water supply is a stretch, to say the least. Actions that could lead to contamination of a water supply whether done knowingly or not has the potential for harming a lot more people than a consensual sexual relationship between a male supervisor and a female employee, even if it is on company time. -- George Lovett

Thank you for a timely, honest, and 100% accurate editorial. -- W.U. Griffith

Three cheers for your editorial. What a sorry legacy for the "most ethical administration ever" with its purported concerns "for the children." -- Harold E. Haskins

Over the years, I have found Plant Engineering to follow the principles of fairness and respect for the laws of the land. [Your editorial] is a stark departure from that tradition.

In the case of the law described in the editorial, the relevant statutes have a history dating back to 1899. Any employee who does not know that one cannot just dump anything down the drain or into the nearest ditch has had his education sadly neglected by his superiors. Any manager or owner-level employee who is not aware of their responsibility to know what their organization is discharging and if that discharge is allowable has been asleep with Rip Van Winkle.

We, the people, acting through our elected representatives, decided long ago that businesses must clean up their acts and keep them clean. We have charged businessmen with the responsibility to know what they are doing and to abide by the law. To imply that this situation is unfair simply because the current president has gotten himself in hot water and has implacable enemies who wish to drown him in that hot water is specious. Plant Engineering has upheld a much higher standard in the past, and I hope that it continues to keep the faith. -- Joseph E. Cowen, PE





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