Letters for Wednesday—March 08, 2006

• Speakers should be encouraged, not discouraged

• Accurate definition of sexual harassment

• More ethanol research suggested

Speakers should be encouraged, not discouraged

Stephen O’Leary makes some valid points in a letter published in Monday’s opinion page, though I think he is using too broad a brush in criticizing those who have the courage to voice opinions before the council and other county boards and commissions.

Community-minded speakers, such as Glenn Mickens and Ray Chuan, do not always take the popular side of an issue, but they ask tough questions and raise important concerns, which help to make government more accountable. How many of us are willing to research important issues, sit through the sometimes long-winded meetings, and then take the time it requires to deliver intelligent arguments?

It’s true that some public testimony, as Mr. O’Leary suggests, wanders aimlessly in search of a point, but the injustice that would result from constraining speakers too rigidly would be a far greater imposition. It may be tedious, but isn’t it wiser to err on the side of too much testimony than to use the gavel as a means of intimidating those who are not as skilled at public speaking and who may require more time to present their points of view?

When the people stop asking questions and demanding answers from government, we run the risk of having our thinking done for us, which as many of us will “testify” is an invitation to disaster.

The “small band of speakers” that regularly attend and testify at public meetings should be encouraged to speak their minds, not discouraged from doing so. Asking elected and appointed officials to publicly explain their actions is a democratic safeguard that should be protected against even the hint of censure.

  • Fred von Wiegen

Accurate definition of sexual harassment

The definition of sexual harassment, published on 02/24/06, was complete and an important element was not “inexplicably” missing. The basic definition of sexual harassment comes from the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC): “Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment when submission to or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.”

According to the Hawai’i Civil Rights Commission’s website:

“Hawai’i state law (Hawai’i Revised Statutes (HRS) Chapters 368 & 378, and Hawai’i Administrative Rule (HAR) 12-46-109*) prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace. Sexual harassment is defined as unwanted sexual advances or other unwanted or offensive visual, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. This definition includes many forms of unlawful behavior such as:

  • unwanted sexual advances or propositions.
  • offering jobs, promotions, or benefits in exchange for sexual favors.
  • threatening to demote, fire, or withhold benefits if an employee protests, refuses, or ignores sexual advances.
  • visual conduct such as leering, making sexual gestures, or displaying sexually suggestive objects, pictures, cartoons, or posters.
  • verbal conduct such as making or using derogatory comments/epithets/ slurs/jokes; verbal abuse of a sexual nature such as graphic commentaries about an individual’s body; sexually degrading words used to describe an individual; suggestive or obscene letters/ notes/invitations.

unwanted physical conduct such as touching, assault, impeding, or blocking movements.”

Telling the harasser or supervisor of the offensive action is not part of the definition of sexual harassment. It is part of the grievance procedure implemented by many employers. It is a response an individual is encouraged to take when they experience or witness sexual harassment. If a harassed employee does not follow the grievance process it may make it more difficult for the individual to prove their case but it does not mean that sexual harassment did not exist.

“Sexual harassment must continue after the ‘harasser’ has been told to stop” is not a “requirement” or even a part of the definition of sexual harassment. Again, it is part of the grievance procedure implemented by employers.

I am not only astonished by the lack of knowledge regarding sexual harassment but also by the lack of understanding by those who obviously were given some sexual harassment training.

The comment that feminism has “lofty theories and great rhetoric” again exemplifies misogynist beliefs and discredits the ideals and goals of feminism. To state that feminism is predominantly represented by NOW which is “the primary provocateur of the abortion agenda … and a long stretch … from the suffragettes” is totally distorted and misleading. The suffragettes fought for feminist’s rights and equality, the same as today’s feminists; whether the cause is for a woman’s right to vote or for a woman’s right to make her own medical decisions.

The feminist cause is for women’s rights in a traditionally male-dominated society.

  • Deborah Camara

More ethanol research suggested

John Wyatt needs to do some additional research on Energy Returned on Energy Invested (EROEI) in relation to ethanol. The papers that dispute the findings of the 2005 David Pimentel and Tad W. Patzek paper he cited are too numerous to list in this forum but one of the most recent papers Ethanol Can Contribute to Energy and Environmental Goals by Alexander E. Farrell, Richard J. Plevin, Brian T. Turner, Andrew D. Jones, Michael O’Hare, Daniel M. Kammen of U.C. Berkeley published in Science Jan. 27, 2006, should provide some interesting reading.

The authors deconstructed six separate high-profile studies of ethanol including the Pimentel and Patzek study. They looked at each of the studies’ assumptions and reanalyzed each after correcting errors, inconsistencies and outdated information regarding the amount of energy used to grow corn and make ethanol, and the energy output in the form of fuel and corn by-products.

Once corrected, all six studies support the same conclusion: ethanol production uses much less petroleum than producing gasoline. Furthermore, the production of ethanol using cellulose promises to be many more times efficient than the current starch-based methods.

Ethanol is not going to replace gasoline but it can go a long way towards reducing our dependence on oil. Add conservation, higher Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards and hybrid technology into the mix and we can save many millions of barrels of oil.

Apollo Kaua’i is a group of residents fostering a secure energy future for Kaua’i. I would invite John and anyone else interested in energy issues to join us. www.apollokauai.org

  • Carl Wright

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