Saturday, May 31, 2008

Britons Fear Islamization

Dr Nazir-Ali

Melanie Phillips reports in The Spectator:

The Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali has been getting some stick for suggesting that Christians should evangelise British Muslims. Dr Nazir-Ali, who previously received death threats for suggesting there were Muslim no-go areas in Britain, has been outstanding as a rare voice within the Church of England speaking out against the erosion of Britain's Christian culture and traditions under the cultural onslaught from radical Islam. But now his concerns are echoed in a striking cri-de-coeur by the Church of England newspaper. In its editorial, it writes:

At all levels of national life Islam has gained state funding, protection from any criticism, and the insertion of advisors and experts in government departs national and local. A Muslim Home Office adviser, for example, was responsible for Baroness Scotland's aborting of the legislation against honour killings, arguing that informal methods would be better. In the police we hear of girls under police protection having the addresses of their safe houses disclosed to their parents by Muslim officers who think they are doing their religious duty.

While men-only gentlemen's clubs are now being dubbed unlawful, we hear of municipal swimming baths encouraging 'Muslim women only' sessions and in Dewsbury Hospitals staff waste time by turning beds to face Mecca five times a day - a Monty Pythonesque scenario of lunacy, but astonishingly true. Prisons are replete with imams who are keen to inculcate conservative Islam in any inmates who are deemed to be culturally 'Muslim': the Prison service in effect treats such prisoners as a cultural block to be preached to by imams at will. Would the Prison service send all those with 'C of E' on their papers to confirmation classes with the chaplain?! We could go on. The point is that Islam is being institutionalised, incarnated, into national structures amazingly fast, at the same time as demography is showing very high birthrates.
Indeed. Britain is being steadily Islamised - and hardly a word is being breathed about it.

Indians Once Again Welcome in Uganda

Thirty-five years after former dictator Idi Amin booted them out of Uganda, Indians are again returning in large numbers. And they are coming with ideas and investments that are helping to rebuild an economy that was shattered following their exodus.

A good example: the recent joint venture between India's United Telecoms Limited (UTL) and Uganda's Jinja Institute of Technology to build a US$200 million ICT and biotechnology park in Uganda. The partners have applied for a license to set up the Lake Victoria Information/Communication Technology and Biotechnology Limited (LAVIT). The application is almost certain to be approved when an ongoing feasibility study confirms the obvious: ventures like this are an essential tool for accelerated economic development.

Edris Kisambira provides some details:
According to documents filed at UIA, the park will provide a modern environment for the economic rejuvenation of Jinja town, where the park will be situated. The facilities will include a hardware and software innovation center, a biotechnology innovation center and what has been called a multinational engineering design center. The park will be given a special economic zone status and...will enjoy the benefits of being one of the first projects of its kind in East and Central Africa.

Studies of technology parks like that envisaged by the LAVIT partners can help nations meet their immediate goals of increased foreign direct investment, "technology transfer, increased exports, technology diffusion, increased employment, and human resource development." But LAVIT is more than that: it is also a powerful message from the people of Uganda to the Indians who were expelled from the 'Pearl of Africa" under Idi's sadly misguided "Reign of Error" -- welcome back home!

From here.

Hope for a Divided Anglican Communion

Over 1000 senior leaders from seventeen provinces in the Anglican Communion, representing 35 million Anglicans, are to attend the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in Jerusalem in June. This includes 280 bishops, their wives, clergy, ministry heads and lay leaders. Attendance is by invitation only. The conference organizers mean to get down to business.

Five Primates of the Anglican Communion have stated: “The initiative and need for GAFCON critically serves to remind us that the ‘torn fabric at the deepest level’ of the Anglican Communion is still a living reality. We encourage the GAFCON participants to bear in mind the under-girding and wider framework of the united vocation and mission of the Global South for the life and witness of the wider Anglican Communion. We are encouraged that the primatial leadership of the GAFCON recognizes and supports the significance of the Windsor-Covenant process.”

The Anglican Church worldwide has experienced a crisis as 2 different religions have emerged. GAFCON represents a gathering of conservatives who hold to the traditional views of the Church on Christ, the Bible’s authority, and human sexuality. There is disagreement on the ordination of women as priests, although some, possibly many, who are attending the Conference consider this not to touch on the fundamentals of the Faith.

The stated purposes of the Conference are to renew Anglicanism through reaffirmation of the historic Christian Faith, through fellowship of like-minded leaders, and by reconnecting with the roots of the Faith in Jerusalem. The Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem had reservations about the venue, but in private meetings with Archbishop Akinola and his immediate staff, recommended how certain of his parishes might be involved.

In addition to meetings with the Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem, Conference leaders have met with the leaders of Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Eastern Catholic churches, Palestinian Christians and Messianic Jews to brief them on the GAFCON. Another purpose of the Conference is to affirm the continuing presence of the Church in the Holy Land.

GAFCON has been called a “pilgrimage” and indeed the itinerary will include the most holy places, including the Mount of Olives where Jesus and his disciples prayed on the eve of his crucifixion, the Temple steps where Peter preached on the day of Pentecost, and visits to Bethlehem, Nazareth and Capernaum.

(For information on an important Post-GAFCON meeting in London, go here.)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Polygamy: Spreading Silently

Alice C. Linsley

Polygamy is against the law in the United States and rarely prosecuted, unless it involves sexual abuse of minors. The recent intervention in the case of the Fundamentalist Church of the Latter Day Saints in Texas is about sex with minors, not polygamy. In fact, state officials in Utah, Arizona, and Texas are reluctant to prosecute polygamy cases. It means wading into religious waters and Constitutional challenges.

The religious justification for polygamy is found in the Old Testament. It was the practice for Afro-Asiatic chiefs to have 2 wives living in separate households on a north-south axis. These wives marked out the boundaries of the chief’s territory. Sometimes there were also concubines, but these women did not have the social status of the 2 wives. Abraham’s father, Terah, had 2 wives. By one wife he had Abraham and Nahor. By the other wife he had Sarah (Abraham’s first wife) and Haran. Abraham also had 2 wives: Sarah and Keturah. Isaac had 2 wives and so did Jacob. (For more on this subject read this.)

There is no evidence that all the men of Abraham’s culture had 2 wives. It appears to have been the case for the first born sons of rulers, those sons who would take over their fathers’ territories. So while there is no doubt that polygyny (multiple wives) was practiced by biblical figures, it was a custom of rulers, not the common man. It served to build up a man’s kingdom. And this is exactly what polygamist leaders in the US are attempting to do.

While state officials waffle in their thinking on the issue, polygamy silently spreads across the US among Moslems. According to a recent NPR report, Moslems in polygamous relationships number between 50,000 to 100,000. Legal challenges are avoided because only one of these marriages is officially recognized by the state. The other marriages are religious ceremonies not recognized by the state.

In many cases, Moslem men maintain wives in the US and in their homelands. These unofficial marriages are often secret, and the second and third wives are without legal rights or protections. There are many incidents of abuse by both the husband and his first wife. For more, read the NPR article here.

UN Development Program a Failure

According to a BBC article, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) is an tangled mess, this admitted by the UNDP’s own investigators.

The failures and violations constitute include:

Children as young as six are being sexually abused by peacekeepers and aid workers, says a leading UK charity.

Children in post-conflict areas are being abused by the people there to look after them, says Save the Children. Save the Children says that most of the sexual abuse goes unreported and unpunished because the children are too frightened to speak out.

After research in Ivory Coast, southern Sudan and Haiti, Save the Children proposed that an international watchdog be set up.

On the local levels it appears that the UNDP does business with organizations the U.N. has condemned for terrorist ties. UNDP country offices find the current system of cross-checking with U.N. terrorist lists to be ineffective.

The UNDP has no formal policy for suspending vendors for poor performance or corruption. It doesn’t ask new vendors the identity of their owners or establish other corporate ties. Corrupt vendors can simply switch names and reapply for approved status.

In countries where the UNDP is working, the social systems are family, clan and tribal based. Corruption is difficult to root out since family members protect one another.

A UN spokesman, Nick Birnback, spoke of the difficulty in trying to ensure "zero incidents" within an organization of 200,000 personnel serving around the world.

Read it all here:

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Petition to HRM Queen Elizabeth II

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Buckingham Palace
London SW1A 1AA21st
May 2008

Your Majesty,

For the defence of your most vulnerable subjects, for the future of the Realm, can I beg Your Majesty not to give Royal Assent to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill.

By legalising animal-human hybrids, the Bill disregards the distinction between man and other animals. In this it denies our immortal soul.

By legalising the creation of saviour siblings, the Bill proclaims that man and science can deliver us from suffering even by violating fundamental ethical norms such as no person is to be used (or created) as a means to somebody else's end.

By allowing the creation of fatherless children the Bill enshrines an extreme rejection of the Father. Fatherhood is intrinsic to life, encoded in the deepest reality not only of creation but first of the uncreated Trinity.

By resisting all attempts to lower the upper limit for abortions from 24 weeks the Bill proves itself to be against God's own gift to us: life itself.

Your Majesty is the only person in the world with the temporal power to prevent this Bill from becoming an Act. Please help us.

Fr Aidan Nichols, OP, wrote of your Coronation: "Taking the orb, surmounted by the cross, [the Queen] was reminded that "the whole world is subject to the power and empire of Christ our Redeemer; The sceptre, the supreme symbol of royal power, the ensign of kingly power and justice, was handed over simultaneously with the dove-headed rod, as a sign that justice and mercy are never to be put asunder."

In this Fr Nichols gives your subjects tremendous hope that whenever Parliament fails grievously, our monarch may protect us from evil. Please defend us.

Yours most sincerely,
James Mawdsley and The Undersigned

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Eugenics Doctor Recieves Award

There's some good news and some bad news for 92-year old Dr Hans-Joachim Sewering. The good news is that he has just been awarded a medal for "unequalled services in the cause of the independence of the medical profession" by the German Federation of Internal Medicine (BDI). The bad news is that Der Spiegel magazine has not forgotten what it published 30 years ago about Dr Sewering: documents testifying that under the Nazis he had sent children with disabilities to a facility where they were killed as part of a systematic programme of exterminating the mentally and physically handicapped.

The BDI this week refused to respond to Spiegel's renewed claims about Dr Sewering, who now lives in comfortable retirement in the town of, er, Dachau. Dr Sewering continues to insist that he did not cooperate with the Nazis' programme of compulsory eugenic euthanasia. He admits that he was an active member of the SS, but claims that his membership of Hitler's most ruthless paramilitary wing was purely for "social reasons" – the sing-songs, the dressing-up, that sort of thing.

It wasn't necessary to be an enthusiastic Nazi to have some sympathy for the objectives of the campaign to rid Germany of "lebensunwertes Leben" – lives unworthy of living. Hitler had simply taken to a foully logical conclusion the views of then-fashionable eugenicists: after all, Winston Churchill, when Home Secretary in Asquith's Liberal Cabinet in 1910, proclaimed that "the unnatural growth of the feeble-minded and insane classes is a national and race danger which it is impossible to exaggerate. The source from which this stain of madness is fed should be cut off and sealed up before another year has passed."

Churchill, of course, was proposing compulsory sterilisation of what he termed "the feeble-minded", not their extermination. Well, that was almost a hundred years ago, people say, whenever his remarks are exhumed. Yet such attitudes survived long after the Nazis' eugenically-inspired crimes against humanity were revealed – and in the most unlikely countries: it was not until 1976 that Sweden abolished laws promoting the sterilisation of women for openly eugenic reasons.

Churchill was unsuccessful in his attempt to introduce such legislation in the UK, which is a cause for some national self-congratulation; but we should not delude ourselves into believing that our legal system, even today, is entirely free from eugenic prejudice. Remnants of it survive in our abortion laws.

Last week the House of Commons agonised over the legal time limits for abortion, in no fewer than 145 speeches on amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act. Eventually Members of Parliament voted to retain the 24-week limit for legal abortions – the moment when the unborn child is thought to be viable outside the mother's womb.

This was not altogether surprising. When sailing in such turbulent moral waters, it is understandable that most MPs would grab at the rail of "viability"; otherwise there is little to stop the conscientious legislator from being tossed from one side of the boat – any abortion is the unconscionable ending of another's life – to the other: no constraint of any sort should be placed on a woman's "right to choose", right up to the moment when the umbilical cord is cut, whenever that happens to be.

In effect, MPs decided that up to 24 weeks the unborn child has no rights at all – but after that moment its rights are absolute, superseding any wishes the mother might have to terminate the pregnancy. It's a bit weird, if you think about it, but that's the logic of Parliament's decision.

Read it all here.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Failed States: The UN's Failure

Alice C. Linsley

David Kay, former advisor on Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction to the Director of Central Intelligence, is quoted as an expert on the threat to world security posed by "failed" states. These are dictatorial governments where there is great disparity in wealth and most citizens are young people with little opportunity for self-improvement.

Kay lists the following trends as playing a role in the destablization of global security:

The proliferation of failed and rogue states
Kay points to between 50 and 70 states that have either failed or are on the verge of failing. These include Somalia, Sudan, North Korea, Pakistan, Indonesia, Yemen, Haiti and Myanmar (Burma). Some of these failures are because of what Kay calls a “tremendous and sudden compression of economic wealth.”

The resulting social upheaval
There is a widespread failure of social integration and educational opportunities at a time when the population of young people is burgeoning. In Iraq, 62 percent of the population is under 15 years old; in Yemen the number is 50 percent. Over half the population of the Middle East is under 24 years old. Pakistan have an army that has essential replaced its education system. Young people growing up in chaos are more willing to undertake dangerous work, especailly if it is cast as noble.

Despite the government's attempts to re-invent Yemen as a pro-western friend, Yemen offers its citizens zero economic opportunity and no education system. Not surprisingly, a large percentage of Yemeni young men are addicted to qat (also known as Catha edulis). Qat is a narcotic shrub that elicits feelings of euphoria when its leaves are chewed. Qat consumption is so prevalent in Yemen that its use has become nearly synonymous with Yemeni culture.

Disruption of trade and aid
The US is dependent on global trade and the unhindered flow of energy resources. Trade and resources often must pass through failed states. A conflict could arise when the leader of a rouge state decides to prevent the flow of trade and rescources. This is increasingly likely as the worldwide competition for oil tempts some to hoard. There is also worldwide competition for water and basic foods.

The recent cylcone devastation in Myanmar illustrates the complexities of getting resources to the people who most need them. The military junta which controls that nation has barred nearly all foreign aid workers and international relief agencies from the Irrawaddy River delta since Cyclone Nargis hit on May 2. US humanitartian aid has arrived, but still has not be distributed. Neither has the United Nations been able to persuade the isolationist junta to allow supplies into the country. As of today, the UN estimates that half of the victims still have received no food and no medical attention.

The remnants of the Cold War
The Cold War is over, but the US intelligence community has yet to evolve to meet the needs of these new global realities. There is still a good deal of super powers standoff mentality. The approach of checks and balances may continue to work in the face of the threats posed by North Korea, but as earthquakes and disease stir disorder in China, that super power is concerned with more immediate problems. World problems are more complex than ever and US intelligence and humanitarian efforts are not able to adequately respond.

US intervention in humanitarian crises
“You just can't avoid intervention,” says Kay, who pointed to the Sudan as a recent example. “During the first Bush administration, the U.S. military was intervening in humanitarian crises once every two years,” said Kay. “Now it's twice a year. With 50 to 70 failed states, that becomes a norm.”

Clearly the USA can't do it all. Nor should it be expected to attend to every threat posed by failed states. That is the responsibility of the United Nations, according to its Preamble.

Preamble to the United Nations Charter


to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and

to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and

to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and

to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,


to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and

to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and

to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and

to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples,


Accordingly, our respective Governments, through representatives assembled in the city of San Francisco, who have exhibited their full powers found to be in good and due form, have agreed to the present Charter of the United Nations and do hereby establish an international organization to be known as the United Nations.

Signed on June 26, 1945 and went into force on October 24, 1945.

So why isn't the UN doing what it was created to do?

Great Resource for College Ethics Students

Ethics Updates was founded in 1994 by Lawrence M. Hinman, a professor of philosophy at the University of San Diego. Originally, it was intended to update the bibliographical essays in two of his books, Ethics: A Pluralistic Approach to Moral Theory and Contemporary Moral Issues.

The site offers an on-line library of classic texts in ethics and a Calendar listing information about ethics-related conferences around the world. The Forums provide a place for students to discuss the ethical issues covered in the site. The Case Studies presents numerous studies in applied ethics, each case is accompanied by a discussion folder. The site also contains guides to writing ethics papers, a glossary of key terms, and a section on "Philosophers Speak Out on Issues of War, Peace, and Terrorism."

In 1996, Larry Hinman began the Ethics across the Curriculum program at the University of San Diego with a grant from the E. L. Wiegand Foundation. He has developed an Ethics across the Curriculum website to accompany that initiative.

In 1997, Hinman began videotaping the visiting Ethics across the Curriculum scholars—Carol Gilligan, Tu Weiming, Dan Callahan, Michael Walzer, and Michael Josephson—who were giving lectures and workshops on campus. He received a grant from the E. L. Wiegand Foundation for the development of Ethics Videos, a web site devoted to streaming video of ethics-related lectures, discussions, and interviews.

Hinman developed relationships with several organizations and universities, including the American Philosophical Association, the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics the Kenan Institute of Ethics and the Center for Academic Integrity—to provide video streaming of their ethics events for the Web. He also began doing a series of interviews with contemporary moral philosophers, discussing their work with them in a conversational format. In addition, he made his own lectures on ethical theory and contemporary moral issues available in streaming video, along with accompanying PowerPoint presentations. At the beginning of 2004, the website ocntained over three hundred videos. Moreover, the quality has improved dramatically, and Ethics Videos now streams VHS-quality full screen broadband video of its most recent lectures and is in the process of updating earlier videos to this new standard.

In 2003, Hinman received a grant from the Skirball Foundation for American Values to hold an initial meeting of individuals, both academics and non-academic professionals, working in the area of ethics. This meeting was intended to foster communication between those who do ethics in the classroom and those who do ethics "in the trenches" as members of hospital ethics boards, mulicipal ethics commissions, and the like. In addition, it was intended to encourage interaction between those individuals in southern California and their counterparts in Baja California, Mexico. The result of this effort was the formation of the Ethics Consortium of Baja and Southern California, which has its own website.

Ethics Updates and its associated websites are housed in the Values Institute at the University of San Diego. The Institute is directed by Larry Hinman. Leeanna Cummings is the Executive Assistant to the Philosophy Department and the Values Institute.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Ethics of Blogging

Alice C. Linsley

Blogs are a free publication media, highly personalized, very social, and not likely to go away. Blogs have been used to build resistance to intolerance and political oppression. Writers for these blogs are often put in prison. The cost of blogging for them is indeed high. I often to report on these cases here at Ethics Forum. Here are 4 examples:

Blogging to share information.

Some blogs serve the writer's need to share information that he or she believes in important. My Just Genesis blog is an example. This is where I publish my 28+ years of research on the first book of the Bible. For such a specialized blog it is surprising how much traffic it gets.

Beside Ethics Forum and Just Genesis, I have 5 other blogs so, yes! I am addicted to blogging.

Some bloggers use their sites to keep up with family and friends. They post photos of new babies, swap jokes and chronicle their daily lives. These blogs are read by the owners' closest circle of friends and often friends of their friends, so that the readership becomes like a ripple.

My niece has such a blog where she posts hilarious accounts of raising small children and gets comments from young moms all over the country. She started to run Google ads and now makes about $300. a year in revenue.

Blogs are a means of personal expression, social discourse, and archives. Those who blog testify to the pleasure they can bring, but what ethical concerns do blogs raise?

Some bloggers are not careful in their use of language. They post articles that inflame. If they are censored, they blame the platform for violating their right to free speech. Good blogs reflect responsible and adult behavior, well-considered content, and link to other sources and related reading.

Then there is the problem of porn. Google monitors that pretty well and doesn't permit ads at such sites.

There is a concern that blogs can be used by pedophile predators. That's why I don't post any identifying information at my writing blog when I post children's stories or poems.

There are the brilliant math minds who like puzzles and could care less about the marketing potential of their work. I think of my son-in-law's super cool Sudoku blog.

From the investment and business end there is a concern about a blog bubble bursting. Here's an interesting article for those who may share that concern:

Could a blogging bubble burst? "That's easy," we wrote, answering our own question. "No." The logic was that blogging, a free form of publishing, was anything but a highly capitalized industry. Even blog technology companies such as Six Apart and Technorati were small fry, backed by just a sliver of the venture capital in Silicon Valley. How could an industry built largely on free labor and free software develop a bubble, much less burst? It can't.

But social media sure can. Since our story, major investors and corporations have focused on the profit potential of social sites. Like Baron's Twitter crowd writ large, they promise relationships, millions of them. Such media could be worth a fortune. Strike that: They'd better be. Over the past three years, tech and media companies have been opening up their checkbooks for these properties. Google gobbled up YouTube for $1.65 billion; NewsCorp (NWS) bought MySpace for $588 million; and Microsoft (MSFT) bought a pricey slice of Facebook that put a $15 billion valuation on the company. Venture firms, meanwhile, have been racing to fund socres of social media startups.

For many of them, the business plan remains blurry. Even giants like MySpace are struggling to figure out the financials. And there's no guarantee that Web masses will stay loyal for the long haul. If investors lose faith in these new ventures built on relationships, all hell could break loose. This could convulse Wall Street, deepen the recession, sink pension funds—you name it. But you know what? The next day, we'll be back on the blogs and social networks, checking up on each other, uploading our analyses, and sussing out opportunities in the storm.

Even if the bubble bursts—and we predict it will—the power of social media to transform our businesses and society will only grow. (Read it all here.)

There is no evidence that blogs are going away. I teach my technology students how to set up blogs and how to use them ethically. The younger generation has yet to fully realize the potential of blogs and how to use them to archive information. Information is power.

Related reading: More Bloggers Arrested; Blogging Lawyers and Trial Publicity; Public Debate and Search Engine Politics; Blogging the DOD Way

Friday, May 23, 2008

Blogging: The DOD Way

The US Department of Defense has a blog.

The Bloggers Roundtable provides source material for stories in the blogosphere concerning the Department of Defense (DoD) by bloggers and online journalists. Where available, this includes transcripts, biographies, related fact sheets and video.

You can read it here.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

UK: Compulsory Religious Ed on Chopping Block

George Pitcher is not happy that the Human Rights Commission of Parliament wants to make religious education optional for "mature" 16 year olds. He writes, "Parents should be warned that there is a growing threat to their children, undetected by the electric gates and security cameras of their schools. It is insidious because it is absolutist, intolerant and threatens the opportunity for young people to complete their education as rounded individuals with critical, discerning minds."

He argues, "The NSS's agenda is simple: it wants to force the next generation to stop thinking about the spiritual, the transcendental and the mysterious, in favour of a negative utilitarianism. That can be the only reason for picking on this particular bit of the syllabus. I would have embraced Satan in order to give up physics at school; not because it may have flown in the face of a fundamentalist creationism that had seeded in my soul, but because latent heat and absolute density bored me to tears.

Now I'm rather glad I did it; not because I learned very much, but because I did learn what it meant to understand something that I didn't want to. That may be worth pondering when a sufficiently mature and intelligent under-16 says he or she doesn't want to study the Abramic faiths "because they're boring", which is all too often what a matter of conscience amounts to when you're young.

Sure, our ideas of society, constitution and legislature owe limitless debt to secularist Romans and Greeks and other civilisations. But to bin what the Judeo-Christian tradition has bequeathed us in terms of responsibility for the stranger, care for the vulnerable, collective consciousness and our sense of what is right and wrong is utterly ludicrous. That's before we consider what it means to appreciate how these values are inculcated in our children's friends by Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism and, yes, by Humanism and Secularism. The enemy of pluralism is not religious education, but secular fundamentalists. And they seem to take no account of the danger of extremists at the margins of religion - better, apparently, to ignore than to understand how they pervert the precepts of the faiths they claim to represent.

You'll forgive me for wheeling out for another appreciation of G.K. Chesterton's old saw that those who stop believing in God don't believe in nothing, they believe in anything. We can easily substitute education for God. That's the future towards which these bossy secularists would like to lead our children.

Read it all here.

The Ethics of Simplicity

Some people live simply because they prefer fewer things around them. Too many things can be distracting. Cluttered environments affect how we think and live. Monks live simple lives because they view consumption of goods as worldly living.

I live a simple life and resist being a consumer because such a life is real. A decision to live simply makes me less prone to accept the illusions peddled by our society. That being said, monks and I have something important in common. We are single and not responsible for raising children.

But what about young parents with children still at home? In voluntarily seeking simpler lifestyles are they putting their children at risk?

Here is an interesting article on the topic.

Though it may not be the stuff of the typical American dream, the voluntary simplicity movement, which traces its inception to 1980s Seattle, is drawing a great deal of renewed interest, some experts say.

"If you think about some of the shifts we're having economically - shifts in oil and energy - it may be the right time," said Mary Grigsby, associate professor of rural sociology at the University of Missouri and the author of "Buying Time and Getting By: The Voluntary Simplicity Movement."

"The idea in the movement was 'everything you own owns you,"' said Grigsby, who sees roots of the philosophy in the lives of the Puritans. "You have to care for it, store it. It becomes an appendage, I think. If it enhances your life and helps you do the things you want to do, great. If you are burdened by these things and they become the center of what you have to do to live, is that really positive?"

Juliet Schor, a sociology professor at Boston College and author of "The Overspent American," said the modern "downshifters," as she called them, owed debts to the hippie era and the travel romance of the writer Jack Kerouac.

"Their previous lives have become too stressful," Schor said. "They have a lack of meaning because their jobs are too demanding."

Aimee Harris, who with her husband home-schools their son, Quinn, 5, and plans to do the same with their 15-month-old daughter, Nichola, agreed that there was something of the hippie ethos in their quest: "the ideals, the peace and love, the giving and freedom."

But she said they had no tolerance for idleness or drugs. "Any state that can be induced by drugs, the mind and body are already capable of," she said.

Aimee grew up in Wisconsin with her mother and sister. They were so poor, she says, that they nearly froze to death in the winter and had to cook their meals in the fireplace. She developed a weight problem, ballooning to 200 pounds, or 90 kilograms - she has since shed half of it - and suffered for years from the chronic pain disorder fibromyalgia, which she overcame, she says, by improving her diet.

In April, the Harrises began detailing their story on a blog ( They were taken aback by some of the hostile responses. "Some people seem to be threatened that they're not making the same choice," Aimee said.

The timing was right, she said. They had been feuding with their landlord over conditions in the simple house they rent in Austin for $1,650 a month, and felt they had to get out.

At first they intended to auction what they owned. But "we were unable to define the worth of something we didn't want or need," she said. They finally decided to donate much of it to a children's home in the Texas Hill Country and the bulk of the rest to an agency for the homeless in Austin.

Read it all here.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Crime Leads Using Familial DNA

STEPHEN MERCER (Attorney): DNA between persons who are related is vastly more similar than DNA between persons who are unrelated. So when the government has the DNA of one family member, in effect, they have the DNA of that person's siblings, children and parents.

SEVERSON: Here's how it works. DNA from a crime scene is run against the nearly six million samples on file. If there's a partial match, it likely means that a relative of someone in the database is guilty of a crime. This kind of testing could open up a whole new realm of possibilities for authorities. But critics warn that is could mark the beginning of dragnets, sweeping in people who are completely innocent and possibly violating their Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures. Sonia Suter is a bioethics professor and she's concerned that people will see only the benefits of familial testing and not the threat to personal privacy.

Professor SONIA SUTER (George Washington University Law School): There's a lot of kinds of uses of this -- of these samples that sound great. They look good on programs like "CSI" but they might involve probing too deeply into very personal information. Could the police decide they want to do broad scale research on these samples, and start investigating the samples for links to certain kinds of illnesses, or certain kinds of propensities for behavior?

SEVERSON: Professor Suter says familial testing without safeguards may be only the beginning of a very slippery slope.

Prof. SUTER: I think people might start to feel differently about this if they imagined all of the information that could potentially be obtained. And it will only get easier to do as we identify more genes. It will only be cheaper as the technology advances.

SEVERSON: Constitutional law professor Jeffrey Rosen says the use of familial testing could signal a dramatic challenge to American civil liberties.

Professor JEFFREY ROSEN (George Washington University Law School): There's a very profound moral lesson. My mother taught it to me actually. She said, "You should be responsible not for what you think but what you do." And yet that idea is really being challenged by an idea of genetic surveillance that would hold people accountable not for wrong doing but for wrong being.

MITCH MORRISSEY (District Attorney, Denver): There is no privacy right that is being violated by doing familial searching.

SEVERSON: Mitch Morrissey, the District Attorney of Denver is a vocal advocate for familial searching. He says it's just another tool to track down leads, the way police use partial license plates and fingerprints.

Read it all here.

Activists Likely to Target Ex-Gays

Ex-Gays Afraid of Persecution: ABC News
By Michael Baggot

ARLINGTON, VA, May 7, 2008

Individuals who once considered themselves homosexuals but who have since left the lifestyle, often remain silent about their past life due to persecution from homosexual activists, an ABC News video revealed on Monday.

"A person may not be happy being gay, has anyone ever thought of that?" asked "David," an anonymous man who has overcome his homosexual inclinations, on ABC News.
"I've found feelings could change," David added.

Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX) observed that "David's" desire for anonymity reflects the wide-scale persecution individuals like him face from those supportive of homosexuality.

"Many ex-gays are afraid to come out of the closet because of the harassment they will receive - their names, phone numbers and personal information posted on gay websites, attacked at ex-gay exhibit booths, press releases issued against them, etc," stated PFOX.

"The tactics of gay activists are to go after anyone who comes out publicly as ex-gay, force them back into the closet, and then claim that ex-gays don't exist because there aren't any out in public."

The ABC report was sparked by the American Psychological Association's decision to cancel an important forum scheduled for Monday on the relationship between religion and homosexuality. The forum was to have included discussion of reparative therapy used to help individuals overcome unwanted homosexual tendencies.

Gay activists feared that the panel would challenge the APA's official 2000 opposition to reparative therapy, itself rooted in the organization's 1973 decision to remove homosexuality from the list of mental disorders.

The ABC report also featured footage of lesbian protestors who banged pots and pans, chanted, and danced in front of conservative author Ryan Sorba, forcing him to cut short his April 29 "The Born Gay Hoax" lecture at Smith College.

Observers observed that the Sorba incident is characteristic of the "gay rights" movement's intolerance towards any discussion of the possibility that individuals may freely abandon the homosexual lifestyle if they so choose.

"This is exactly how the homosexual movement views free speech and civil rights in their march to force their social and sexual agenda on others and intimidate and terrorize anyone who would criticize or disagree. Truth and freedom become subjected to the whims of thought police and rioters," commented the conservative Massachusetts organization MassResistance.

PFOX argues that individuals seeking to abandon their homosexual lifestyle should be afforded the freedom from discrimination that gay activists demand for themselves.

"Homosexual activists are talking about personal choice, freedom, and so forth, but they deny personal choice and freedom for those who wish to seek change," Peter Sprigg of PFOX told ABC News.

Watch the ABC report:

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Merry Olde England?

Britons are living in segregated ghettos in a culture bedevilled by political correctness, novelist PD James warned yesterday.

The celebrated crime author and peer described the country as a fractured society where communities were living in isolation.

In a speech on policing in the 21st century, Baroness James, who is a former senior civil servant in the criminal policy department of the Home Office, said, "Our society is now more fractured than I in my long life than I have ever known it.

"Increasingly there is a risk that we live in ghettos with our own kind, with a strong commitment to our local community but little contact with those outside it. Mutual respect and understanding and recognition of our common humanity cannot be nurtured in isolation.

"And in our relationships we are bedevilled by the cult of political correctness."

The award-winning author also told her packed audience in the Palace of Westminster: "If in speaking to minorities we have to weigh every word in advance in case inadvertently we give offence, how can we be at ease with each other, how celebrate our common humanity, our shared anxieties and aspirations, both for ourselves and for those whom we love?"

She said it would be unfortunate if the police became 'enamoured' of political correctness, which she described as 'a pernicious, if risible authoritarian attempt at linguistic and social control'.

Read it here.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Creating an Environment of Trust

Roger W. Sant
Co-founder and former chairman of global energy giant AES Corp.

Roger Sant describes a environment of corporate openness in these words: "Never tell people how to do their jobs. Instead, present them with a challenge, and then let them choose the best way to attack it. Even when I have an idea or plan, I try to invite people to be part of the problem solving. That way they feel part of the team and they usually come up with an idea that is better than mine."1

Empowering employees requires a climate of openness and trust. This happens when the corporation values employees' talents and ideas in decision making. Creating such an environment means loosening controls while refocusing on mission. It means taking employees seriously in decision making.

When change is needed in a business, members should be asked to identify their personal adaptive challenges. What attitudes, habits or behaviors must they change? What actions must they take? Trust increases when the individual's adaptive challenges are met and the team moves closer to fulfilling the corporate mission.

For trust to run deep in a corporate culture, employees must see honesty, competency and inspiration in the president, in the executive officers and in their immediate managers. Trust develops when these people are viewed as being credible. Credibility is the opposite of hypocrisy. In other words, to be credible there must be no discrepancy between what leaders say and what they do. One of the most important ways for managers to gain credibility is to encourage input and feedback from workers and then to act on the basis of some of that input.

Credibility feeds an environment of trust in other ways also. Leaders who encourage cooperation must themselves be cooperative. Those who encourage persuasiveness must themselves be persuasive. Those who encourage innovation must be open to innovation. When there is a disconnection between word and deed, trust erodes quickly, and it is difficult to regain. Work environments where there is a general lack of trust are also characterized by irrationality.

Respect for people, regardless of their faults, contributes to a manager's success. When you show respect, you are more likely to receive a positive response and cooperation. Respect means listening to people, accurately and fairly representing their perspective. Stephen R. Covey says, "The key to listening is with the eyes and the heart." When both eyes and heart are engaged it is easier to encourage people in their highest aspirations.

Finally, creating an evironment of trust requires keeping promises and being honest with people. When word gets out that the people in your company are competent, trustworthy and empowering, the best employees in your line of business will be knocking at the door. You can be certain that this will have a positive impact on customers and shareholders.

1. Suzy Wetlauer, "Organizing for Empowerment: An Interview with AES's Roger Sant and Dennis Bakke." Harvard Business Review, January-February 1999, p. 112.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Corporate Structure and Corporate Culture

Ideally, corporate structure and corporate culture are aligned so that employees find a cohesive environment where expectations are clear. Unfortunately, corporate structure and corporate culture are often two different realities. The wise manager will recognize this and may even contribute to the alignment of the culture and the structure.

One place that the discrepancy between structure and culture is seen is in the area of security. Consider the following essay on Security Structure Should Match the Corporate Culture found here.

Glen Kitteringham has worked in the security industry since 1990. He holds a masters degree in security and crime risk management from the University of Leicester. He is a member of ASIS International. In this essay Kitteringham discusses 4 models: Functional culture/facilities model; Process culture/operations model; Networked culture/advisory model; and Time-based culture/revenue generation model. These models are helpful in considering the alignment of corporate structure and corporate culture. Kitteringham's view is that structure must follow culture.

Security Structure Should Match the Corporate Culture
Glen Kitteringham

"Often a company's culture dictates whether the security department emphasizes service or focuses on enforcement and control. Understanding a company's corporate culture will help identify how to structure a security department's role within the corporation. This article examines four corporate cultures and corresponding models for shaping a company's security department.

Functional culture/facilities model
The functional culture is traditional and hierarchical where bosses boss and workers work. It relies on proven methods to serve existing markets, establishing clear work processes and respecting the chain of command. In this environment, security departments tend to be primarily concerned with maintaining the status quo. Departments tend to follow the facilities model — energy is consumed in the physical protection of the organization with such functions as guard operations and access control.

Traditionally, security has followed this functional culture with a military command structure. The general role of the security manager is to provide consistency while staff carry out their expected responsibilities. There is little room for advancement or for security to be involved in more than the physical protection of the facility. Whether the functional structure fits in well in many modern companies in a variety of sectors is open to debate. In non-traditional work environments, employees are moving away from — or not participating in — this traditional work setting.

Process culture/operations model
In the process culture, customer satisfaction and continuously improved operations are the primary goals. It relies on increased customer focus with emphasis on providing a number of specialized services.

Within this culture, security departments are designed on the operations model. This model brings added value by assisting in investigations, and providing a system design group, console operations, a safety unit, executive protection and administrative support staff.

The process-based culture lends itself well to the modern security department. It calls for cooperation between management and staff with its team emphasis on work. Staff members are expected to provide a high level of service to customers without constant attention of the security manager. The manager now performs a far different function wherein he or she acts as a two-way conduit between senior management who desire general security precautions and guidelines to be carried out, and the front line security personnel who are charged with the responsibility of carrying out general security duties. This process-based security manager is also expected to keep senior management apprised of upcoming security issues requiring attention. This structure is like an hourglass but instead of sand, information flows from one chamber to the next back and forth on a regular basis. Additionally, security personnel provide expertise in several areas, across departments and ranging from line operations to the boardroom.

Networked culture/advisory model
Networked culture is designed around alliances that bring together the necessary proficiencies and competencies to successfully complete a specific venture. Attributes include emphasis on a core group of professionals concentrating on capitalization of opportunity, creativity, innovation and building alliances with others. The advisory model takes a different approach to security operations in decentralized organizations. It is staffed by professionals involved in setting policy, strategic planning and acting as a referral center for specialized needs of external groups and agencies.

From a professional perspective, the networked culture may be the wave of the future, but it is more suited to senior corporate security consultants who are more concerned with specialized projects and less about the day-to-day operations of providing constant service. In a practical sense, the consultants would be brought in to establish a security presence, evaluate present processes, write procedures, hire the security manager, and make further recommendations to management about security before terminating their contract. Their mandate is to provide a highly specialized service and leave the daily operations to the officers and supervisors.

Time-based culture/revenue generation model
Time-based culture incorporates, among other things, a search to move new products and services to the market. Attributions include developing new products and services, pioneering new methodologies and maximizing a return on fixed assets. The revenue generation model for a security department is based on providing a specific product or service at a price to either internal or external customers. The basis of the model is to provide added value and emphasis on customer service.

The time-based culture is more suited to a highly commercial security service that is already established and capable of providing a variety of services such as contract security in the long term, along with specialized investigations, consulting, and emergency response planning and execution. In one way, it is a cross between the process and networked cultures. These services are what most contract security, consulting and investigative agencies claim to be able to provide but rarely do."

Questions for Consideration

1. Why would employees in modern companies move away from or seek to ignore the Functional Culture/Facilities approach to security?

2. How much authority does a manager have in regards to security in this model?

3. Describe cultures where the Functional Culture/Facilites approach to security works well.

4. Kitteringham uses the analogy of an hour glass to describe the Process Culture/Operations Model. Explain how the manager works in this setting.

5. The Networked Culture/Advisory Model applies more to the executive level of business. Research this approach and name 1 corporation that uses this model.

6. Delivering of a new product to the marketplace ahead of the competition is a real part of doing business today. Time and security is of the essence in the Time-based Culture/Revenue Generation Model. Describe how the manager facilitates fast and secure delivery in this context.

7. Explain why Kitteringham says, "These services are what most contract security, consulting and investigative agencies claim to be able to provide but rarely do." What does he want the reader to do with this statement? (You will want to refer to the original article. Click here.)

8. What ethical issues are typical when there is a discrepancy between company structure and company culture?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Drug Research Misconceptions

A patient volunteers to participate in a drug research project which is related to the patient’s own illness. The question is: why would the patient want to participate? An obvious answer might be that the patient is motivated about the possibility that the new drug will benefit recovery or management of the illness better than the drugs which the patient has been prescribed. The patient may believe that he or she will, in the study, will have access to the new drug. This thinking and believing really represents a misconception. It is based on the patient’s conception, which may be fostered by inadequate or misleading information about the study, that sufficient benefit to the patient’s illness will be the result of participation in a clinical trial that will trump any of the risks of the study. This is the “therapeutic misconception”, a term invented by Roth, Appelbaum and Lidz some 25 years ago, regarding patient involvement in clinical research.

What is the misconception? Well, first might be the patient considers him/herself as a patient in the study. Many studies are designed not to treat the volunteer with the appropriate illness as a patient but to consider the volunteer as a experimental subject. Yes, in the United States there are overseeing governmental mechanisms in clinical research attempting to protect the human volunteers as human subjects but not necessarily as patients. Being attended to as a patient demands that the professional keep only the best interests of that patient in the decision making. But, in clinical research, the goal is to attend to the best interests of the research study. For example, toxic effects of drugs on the volunteers are generally monitored and if the risk to the volunteers, through statistical monitoring, becomes greater than initially anticipated, the study is stopped. Well, one would agree with that kind of interest in the study subject. But sometimes, if the beneficial results of the drug study are strongly positive, and this is also monitored, then the study also may be stopped to conserve the costs but perhaps only to the detriment of the patient whose illness was improving with the drug under study. There, unlike in usual medical practice, benefit for the patient is ignored. A complicating issue in this conflict of benefits is when the patient’s physician is also a member of the research team (a topic which I covered on this blog in February 2005 as “Wearing Two Hats: Clinician and Researcher”). How can the physician resolve the conflicting responsibilities?

Another misconception is that the patient will receive a drug in the study which could be to the patient’s benefit. The basis of a true clinical research random controlled study is not to study the known but to study the unknown and undetermined.

Read it all here.

Monday, May 5, 2008

PC Fascism on the College Campus

Administrators at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis had seemed to be vying for the title of most ludicrous educators in America. The story began when a student, Keith John Sampson, who worked in the university's janitorial department, was seen reading the book "Notre Dame Vs. the Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan" in the break room. Sampson was notified by the university's Affirmative Action Office that he had committed the offense of "racial harassment." He protested that the book lauded the Notre Dame students who had taken on the Klan in 1924. Never mind, said Lillian Charleston, the AAO director. By "openly reading the book related to a historically and racially abhorrent subject," he had violated university policy.

The university has since reversed itself and expressed "regret that this situation took place." But consider the fascist environment the PC police have created. That the student felt constrained to defend the book's content as politically acceptable is an outrage in itself that goes to the heart of academic freedom. Welcome to an America where you must glance over your shoulder to wonder whether your co-workers will inform on you for reading forbidden matter!

The stifling effect of racism and sexism allegations has led some to extremes. Richard Peltz, an award-winning law professor at the University of Arkansas, felt trapped by accusations of racism. Peltz had alienated some of his black students in the following fashion: 1) he participated in a panel discussion on affirmative action and argued against it, 2) he displayed in class a satirical article from The Onion that mentioned, among other things, Rosa Parks' death and 3) he illustrated the unfairness of affirmative action policies by offering to give all minority students an extra point on a test just for signing a form.

Members of the Black Law Students Association, together with a black lawyers group, then accused Peltz of "hateful and inciting" speech. They complained to the administration that this "racist" professor should be dismissed or at least disciplined. The university declined to fire Peltz but did withdraw him from teaching required courses. Now Peltz is suing his former students for defamation (assuming a mediation recently undertaken fails) and so academic freedom spirals down and down.

From here.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Wrongful Conviction Troubles Conservative

Former Georgia Congressman Bob Barr, a conservative and supporter of the death penalty, recently questioned the fairness and accuracy of capital punishment in an piece published by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Based on a recent University of Virginia study of wrongful conviction cases, Barr questions the reliability of eyewitness identification. He also applauds the Georgia Supreme Court's decision to grant a hearing to death row inmate Troy Davis, recently granted a 90-day stay of execution by the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles due to concerns about his possible innocence.

In the Davis case, seven of the nine eyewitnesses who testified against him during his trial have now recanted or changed their testimony, and new witnesses have implicated one of the state's key witnesses against Davis as the real killer. Barr said that "the credibility of our criminal justice system" is at stake in Davis' case, writing:

"I've been called a lot of things, but a "bleeding heart liberal" is not one of them. I am a firm believer in the propriety and historic soundness of the death penalty. But, as a proponent of our Constitution and its attendant Bill of Rights, I believe just as strongly in the fundamental fairness that lies at the heart —- or should lie at the heart —- of our criminal justice system. Because of its obvious finality, the death penalty must be employed with as close to absolute fairness and certainty as humanly possible. Several recent cases, including that of Troy Davis here in Georgia, have raised legitimate questions about just that proposition. True conservatives, as much as the most bleeding heart liberals, should be unafraid to look carefully at such cases.

A new study of wrongful convictions —- "Judging Innocence" by University of Virginia law Professor Brandon Garrett —- provides cause for concern. Professor Garrett studied 200 cases of wrongful convictions and found that in each case, DNA evidence conclusively proved the individual's innocence and resulted in exoneration. According to Garrett, the leading cause of these wrongful convictions was erroneous identification by eyewitnesses, which occurred in an overwhelming 79 percent of the cases. Even more disturbing, in 25 percent of the cases, this faulty eyewitness testimony was the only evidence against the defendant.

Read it all here.

Anglican Bishop on the Death Penalty

Bishop Richard Harries, writing for the BBC's Thought for the Day, has said:

For me by far the most encouraging story of the week concerned Billy Moore, who spent nearly 17 years on Death Row, and who has been over here this week speaking against the death penalty. During those years 14 of his fellow prisoners were executed, and he himself had 15 stays of execution. One time he came to within 7 hours of being electrocuted.

Billy Moore was guilty- he confessed that he had indeed shot a man dead in the course of a robbery. So, in one sense he deserved to die. But what has effected me on this issue more than any of the many arguments has been a black and white film by the great Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski, The Decalogue, about the ten commandments. The film on the commandment forbidding murder showed a Polish youth brutally killing a taxi driver. He was duly caught and you saw him being hung. There was absolutely no excuse for the senseless murder, yet hanging the young man just seemed demeaning to the society that carried it out. Today there are still 68 countries in the world that retain the death penalty. For example, according to Amnesty International China executes around 1000 people a year and Iran 200. The idea of someone forfeiting their life for the life they have taken may satisfy abstract notions of justice, but it is still, I believe, demeaning to the human society that carries out this punishment.

But there is another even stronger reason to abolish the death penalty, wonderfully exemplified in the case of Billy Moore. On Death Row he discovered the names and addresses of the family of the man he killed and wrote to them to say sorry. Not only did they write back to say they forgave him but they continued to write to him encouraging him to turn his life round and use his experience as an incentive to help other people: and that's what he did, starting a Bible Study Group in prison, and saying to his fellow inmates "Its bad enough us being in here with the state trying to kill us, but while we are waiting to die, we can treat each other right".

Read it here.