Monday, November 30, 2009

Lindhout and Brennan Freed in Somalia

SOURCE: International Press Institute
Journalists freed after 15 months as hostages

(IPI/IFEX) - VIENNA, 26 November 2009 - Somali gunmen have released two foreign freelance journalists who were taken hostage in Mogadishu over fifteen months ago.

Australian photojournalist Nigel Brennan and Canadian journalist Amanda Lindhout were kidnapped outside Mogadishu by unknown gunmen when they were traveling to research a story on the internally-displaced refugees in Somalia, Lindhout confirmed to Canadian TV. She had arrived three days earlier to report for French TV channel France 24, CBC News reported.

The kidnapping was met with an international outcry, but efforts to gain the pair's release were not successful until yesterday evening. The two were handed over to four members of Somalia's Transitional Federal Parliament at a checkpoint in the Afgoye District, according to the Mogadishu-based National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ). This morning, they were escorted to neighbouring Kenya by government soldiers and African Union peacekeepers.

Lindhout told CTV: "My day was sitting on a corner on the floor in a room 24 hours a day for the last 15 months. She added: "There were times that I was beaten, that I was tortured. It was an extremely, extremely difficult situation."

Brennan told Reuters that he had been pistol whipped and chained since the two attempted to escape 10 months ago.

"We welcome the release of Amanda Lindhout and Nigel Brennan, and our thoughts are with the journalists and their families as they are reunited after so many months of uncertainty and suffering," said IPI Director David Dadge. "Despite this happy outcome, we must remember that Somalia continues to be a deadly place for journalists both foreign and local, where the media struggle daily with the unacceptable threat of lethal violence.

"We are very happy this ordeal ended peacefully," said NUSOJ Secretary-General Omar Faruk Osman in a statement Emailed to IPI. "We are sharing our joy and relief over the release with the family and colleagues of the journalists."

In September 2008, Al-Jazeera aired video of the two along with their purported captors, the "Mujahideen of Somalia," which it said showed the pair pleading with their governments to negotiate their release. Since then, Lindhout was allowed periodic scripted phone calls with her mother and the media in hopes of convincing the Canadian government to hand over ransom money, reports said.

A ransom of $700,000 was paid for their release, according to Al-Jazeera sources, although the news outlet also reported rumors that up to $1million may have exchanged hands.

Abdifatah Mohammed Elmi, a Somali journalist who was working as an interpreter for Brennan and Lindhout, was kidnapped with the journalists but freed in January this year.

For more information:
International Press Institute
Spiegelgasse 21010 Vienna
ipi (@)
Phone: +43 1 5129011
Fax: +43 1 5129014

Quote of the Week - Malcolm Muggeridge

"Every happening, great and small, is a parable whereby God speaks to us, and the art of life is to get the message. " ~Malcolm Muggeridge

Spanish Bishops Stand Against Abortion

MADRID, November 27, 2009 ( -- Today the Plenary Assembly of the Spanish Episcopal Conference issued a statement saying that politicians who vote for a proposed law liberalizing abortion in Spain place themselves in an "objective state of sin and, while the situation lasts, may not be admitted to Holy Communion."

The announcement from the Spanish bishops comes as the Spanish parliament is considering a law that would make it easier to get an abortion in Spain by allowing 16-year olds to get an abortion without parental consent, among other measures.

In their statement, the bishops endorse the June 17th declaration of the bishops' Permanent Commission, entitled: "On the Proposed Abortion Law: An Assault against the Unborn Transformed into a 'Right.'"

The document states that this transformation of abortion into a right is the "poisoned source of immorality and injustice that corrupts the entire text [of the proposed law]."

The document goes on to question the logic by which the new law would regulate abortion.

Under the new law, abortion would be permitted on demand for up to fourteen weeks after conception, but in cases of grave and incurable fetal conditions it would be permitted at any time.

Yet such regulation is artificial, the document points out: "Why not, then, [allow abortion] at the moment of birth, or a minute later?" The only reasonable moment to mark the beginning of life, they continue, is at conception: "Where there is a living human body, there is a person and therefore inviolable human dignity."

Thus, the bishops said that politicians who vote for a bill so contrary to the "requirements of right reason" publicly place themselves in a state of sin and ought not to receive Communion.

In support of this position, the Spanish bishops cite a memorandum from then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to Cardinal McCarrick. This document states that after precautionary and private measures have been exhausted, ministers ought to refuse Communion to politicians that promote abortion because of the "person's public unworthiness to receive Holy Communion due to an objective situation of sin."

The Socialist government under Prime Minister Luis Zapatero has worked tirelessly to undermine the traditionally Catholic culture of Spain. In 2005 same-sex "marriage" and adoption by such couples was legalized by his government; the same year the government announced that homosexualist "diversity" training would be mandatory in schools.

The government's current push to liberalize abortion laws has been resisted by many of Spain's Catholic citizens. Approximately half a million citizens protested the proposed legislation in cities across Spain last March. A similar event in October attracted as many as a million participants.

Abortion in Spain is currently permitted at up to 12 weeks in cases of rape and up to 22 weeks in cases of a malformed infant. It is also permitted if the pregnancy is judged to endanger the physical or mental health of the mother. In practice a supposed threat to the mental health of the mother has allowed abortions to proceed nearly unrestricted, with some abortionists having arrangements with psychologists who sign off on their abortions.

The Spanish bishops end their statement on the law by asking people to work tirelessly for the lives of unborn babies and not to cease in their prayers.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

News Sources: Many Choices

The production and circulation of independent, quality news is a hallmark of democratic societies with a complex history of commercial practices, regulatory controls and technological innovation. The demise of the existing business model of the local and regional press and of broadcast news in the regions together with the struggle for survival of many national newspapers demands a critical consideration of what we want news for and how it can be delivered.

A recent study by Goldsmiths Leverhulme Media ResearchCentre provides empirical evidence that challenges utopian visions of the internet as a brave new world with everyone connected to everyone else, a non-hierarchical network of voices with equal, open and global access. This latest ‘new’ world of ‘new’ media has not greatly expanded the news that we read or hear or changed mainstream news values and traditional news formats; neither has it connected a legion of bloggers to a mass audience. Rather, as the economic model for traditional news production stumbles and falls in the digital age, professional journalism has become the first casualty, the second, if we’re not careful, and pretty close behind will be the health of our democracy.

The research draws on over 170 interviews with a range of professionals from a cross section of mainstream news media, as well as news sources and new producers online including bloggers and people operating in the realm of alternative news; we added to this, 3 newsroom ethnographies and a content analysis of online news across mainstream news media, online alternative media, social networking sites and YouTube.

Read it all here.

7 Indicted for Mumbai Attack

RAWALPINDI, Nov 25: Seven men accused of being involved in the Mumbai terrorist attack pleaded not guilty on Wednesday when the trial court formally indicted them for planning and helping the execution of the bloodbath on Nov 26 last year.

Anti-terrorism court judge Malik Mohammad Akram Awan charged Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, Abdul Wajid alias Zarar Shah, Mazhar Iqbal alias Abu Al-Qama, Hammad Amin Sadiq, Shahid Jameel Riaz, Jamil Ahmed and Younas Anjum with planning, arranging weapons and providing training to the attackers.

The accused, in the presence of their lawyers, denied the charges and pleaded not guilty. They said they would contest the allegations.

The court adjourned the proceedings till Dec 5 and asked the prosecution to produce their witnesses at the next hearing.

The court decided to take up the case of Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving ‘terrorist’ being tried in India, separately under section 540-A of the criminal procedure code after a prosecution lawyer said that Kasab had neither been declared a proclaimed offender nor was the government considering to seek his extradition in the case registered with Federal Investigation Agency.

The court did not accept an application moved by defence counsel objecting to the use of uncertified copies of confessional statement of Kasab to prosecute the accused.

The applicant maintained that the prosecution had no witnesses and documentary evidences, other than the unattested confessional statement of Kasab.

Defence counsel Khawaja Sultan Ahmed told Dawn that they would challenge the indictment based on uncertified copies and separation of Kasab’s trial in the Lahore High Court.

He said that under section 540-A, trial of only those accused could be held who could not appear before the court and were represented by a pleader. But in the case of Ajmal Kasab, the prosecution had not tried to bring the accused to the court, he added.

From here.

Obama's Bioethics Commission

A political scientist and a materials engineer will lead the new Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues. President Barack Obama announced this week that Amy Gutman, president of the University of Pennsylvania, and James W. Wagner, president of Emory University, in Georgia, are to be the chair and vice-chair of the Commission.

President Obama said, "As our nation invests in science and innovation and pursues advances in biomedical research and health care, it's imperative that we do so in a responsible manner. This new Commission will develop its recommendations through practical and policy-related analyses."

As expected, these appointments suggest that the new commission will be more a policy-making body than a graduate seminar in bioethics, as its counterpart was in the Bush Administration. According to the White House press release, its goal will be "identifying and promoting policies and practices that ensure scientific research, health care delivery, and technological innovation are conducted in an ethically responsible manner".

The commission will have 13 members, 5 fewer than the previous bioethics commission. The other 11 will be announced later.

Read it all here.

Bioethics, a 'Dirty' Word?

From a professional bioethicist's point of view, one of the disturbing facts to emerge from the heated debate over Obamacare is that "bioethicist" has become a dirty word for many Americans. Few had ever heard of bioethics before, but healthcare rationing is being justified by guys called "bioethicists" -- and they don't like it. Furthermore, it is being associated with atheists, and many Americans are deeply suspicious of such people.

So is it good public relations for atheist bioethicists to trumpet their atheism and call for more petrol to be thrown on the fires of religious controversy? Apparently Udo Schuklenk, the editor of the leading journal Bioethics, and Russell Blackford, an Australian bioethicist, think so.

They recently published an article in the Guardian's "Comment is free" blog, under the headline, "Stand up, stand up, against Jesus". They reject accommodationist atheism which cozies up to religious people if they are prepared to support evolution. Schuklenk and Blackford, however, call for more robust criticism:"Religion cannot be eradicated -- that is not a realistic goal -- but the many problems with religious dogma can and should be highlighted. As atheists, we should state clearly that no religion has any rational warrant, and that many churches and sects promote cruelty, ignorance, and civil rights abuses."

Last month they released a 360-page book, 50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists. According to Blackford, it is "an exciting and extraordinarily diverse group of people". And perhaps to confirm the worst fears of some Americans, it includes a number of well-known writers on bioethical issues: John Harris, Marc Hauser, Sheila A.M. McLean, Tamas Pataki, Julian Savulescu, Peter Singer, Michael Tooley, and, of course, Schuklenk and Blackford. They discuss the book in Schuklenk's blog.

From here.

Hate Crimes Against Religious Groups

Statistics released Nov. 24 by the FBI show hate crimes against religious groups increased by 9% from 2007 to 2008.

USA Today reported that in 2008, there 1,519 incidents against people based on their religion, the statistics show.

The figures reveal that while anti-Jewish attacks made up the highest percentage of the attacks (17%), there was an increase in hate crimes against Catholics — 75, up from 61 in 2007.

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said the increase may be due to the Church becoming more vocal on life issues such as abortion and homosexual unions.

As the Catholic bishops take a stronger stance, he said, it filters down to the laity, and as more traditional Catholics become more vocal, they become targets for those who disagree with them.
“Unfortunately, it spills over into violence,” he said, adding that it’s just going to get worse before it gets better.

“I’ve never seen our country so culturally divided and so polarized,” he said. “These issues are not going away.”

From here.

Related reading: Boko Haram to Christians: Convert or Die; Christians Forced into Hindu Worship; Driven from Homes

Week 6 Discussion Topic

John Majewski (1986), author of The Freeman Ideas on Liberty, paints view of life during the industrial revolution era that runs counter to what we have generally be given in history textbooks of young children forced to work long hours with little rest or food. However, according to Majewski (1986), “conditions were not near as deploring nor were morality rates as high as many of us assumed." He maintains that women and children during the industrial revolution were probable no worse off than they were before.

Although the industrial revolution meant difficult labor conditions, people were accustomed to hard work. Further, unemployment rates. Rural residents migrated to urban areas to find employment. With a greater number of adults working, child labor probable saw a decrease. The industrial revolution, according to Majewski (1986), “made it possible for western societies to banish child labor”.

One of the students in the class, Dora, has this to say: "One can assume that the pollution and sanitation conditions resulting from an increase of population in the urban areas was possible beyond today’s reader’s imagination. Lack of proper disposal of waste products creates friendly environments for disease causing magnets to inhabit and spread. However, it appears that the quality of life stabilized as society became industrialized. The industrial revolution created a mass of social problems which in turn created social groups that worked together to solve problems such as waste disposal and disease control. Social organizations such as Capitalism, Majewski (1986), “are credited for instigating improved living conditions and paving the way to shape our society, as we know it today”.

What are your thoughts on child labor then compared to child labor today in many parts of the world?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Mexico Ignores Cases of Disappeared Journalists

25 November 2009

Impunity surrounds case of journalist missing for three years

SOURCE: ARTICLE 19: Global Campaign for Free Expression, Centro Nacional de Comunicación Social

(ARTICLE 19/CENCOS/IFEX) - Mexico City, 20 November 2009 - More than 1095 days have passed since journalist José Antonio García Apac disappeared on 20 November 2006 and the government has failed to carry out a complete investigation or punish those responsible. The journalist was the editor of the "Eco de la Cuenca" newspaper in Tepalcatepec, in the coastal area of the state of Michoacán (southwestern Mexico).

In April 2007, four months after the Michoacán Prosecutor General's Office launched an investigation into the journalist's disappearance, the case was transferred to the federal authorities, under the jurisdiction of the National Attorney General's Office (PGR). Three months later, the PGR shelved the case after deciding that there was insufficient evidence to investigate the disappearance. The Federal Public Prosecutor's Office subsequently re-launched an investigation on 24 January 2008 and then again on 13 March 2008, but eventually also shelved the case due to a lack of leads.

Commenting on "archived" or shelved investigations in cases involving attacks on journalists, the reference to the failure of the authorities to follow all possible leads and fully investigate links to the victims' journalism work.

The report "Press Freedom in Mexico: In the Shadow of Impunity and Violence" ("Libertad de Prensa en México: La Sombra de la Impunidad y la Violencia") details the cases of the eight journalists who have disappeared since 2000. A common element in all the disappearances, besides the fact that the journalists' whereabouts are unknown, is that impunity reigns in all eight cases. According to ARTICLE 19 and CENCOS, the government has failed to meet its international obligations as regards the protection of the right to freedom of expression and information, personal safety and the right to justice and due process.

ARTICLE 19 and CENCOS express their support for missing journalists' relatives and colleagues and urge the Mexican government to thoroughly investigate the disappearances, identify and punish those responsible and provide compensation to the victims.

For more information:
ARTICLE 19: Global Campaign for Free Expression
Free Word Centre
60 Farringdon Road
United Kingdom
info (@)
Phone: +44 20 7324 2517
Fax: +44 20 7490 0566

Thanksgiving Reflection from My Son-in-Law

Thanksgiving 2009

Tony Cassels

So, Thanksgiving is almost over. It’s 6:30 p.m. and so far I have changed the oil in my daughters car, gone to my Brother-in-law’s house for dinner, eaten until I can’t eat any more, watched a football game, gone to my Uncle’s house ( other side of the family), watched another football game, talked to tons of people I don’t know, came back home, visited with my daughter and her boyfriend who came by, and now I am getting ready to watch a third football. One thing that I feel I have not done sufficiently is to remember the reason for this day.

It is so easy isn’t it? We get so involved with the event, we forget why the event exist. Our country and it’s traditions are historically tied to God (our Creator) Jesus Christ his Son, and the Holy Spirit. Thanksgiving is thought of as “Turkey Day”, but it is so much more. The Pilgrims who celebrated what we know as the 1st Thanksgiving were actually carrying out a Puritan tradition of giving thanks to God for his protective hand and for all that he had provided. These Pilgrims who left England in 1620 were headed to Virginia when they encountered a severe storm. A main beam of the ship cracked but was repaired, someone was thrown overboard but was saved. When they arrived at Cape Cod and eventually moved to Plimoth, they encountered the helpful Wampanoug Indians who were crucial to their survival. The Pilgrims truly were thankful to God for his blessings even through such great trials. In the autumn of 1621, the Pilgrims thanked God for his blessings and they celebrated with venison, duck, seafood ( probably lobster), and vegetables which came from their harvest. ( history does not mention turkey at this time).

As I think about the Pilgrims, I feel great humility. My trials in life have been much less severe, but I must follow their example. All of my trials have been faced with much prayer, and a definite awareness that I am a weak man incapable of correcting my problems without God. In writing this note, I remember how he has been with me in more examples than I can list. He hasn’t always answered my prayers the way I wanted, but he has always been there. My heart is truly full of gratitude, when I will simply take a moment to count my many blessings.

Don’t get me wrong! I am fully aware of my self-centered side and I don’t pretend that its not one of my struggles. I simply feel compelled to encourage you as I remind myself to give praise and thanks to our Heavenly Father.

So, as you go to the frig for that leftover piece of pie, remember that God is with you. He loves us more than we can understand and he wants to be praised and thanked. I’m convinced that this is not for his benefit, but for ours. A heart of gratitude is also a heart of compassion, understanding, honor and integrity. These characteristics have always been invaluable to man as we struggle through this life. Worldly selfishness leads us to live our lives among similar people, which always leads to disappointment and hurt. Praise God and he will honor you with so much better.

The First Lady on Hunger

To combat hunger this winter, we’re launching, in coordination with the Corporation for National and Community Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the United We Serve: Feed a Neighbor initiative -- a program that empowers you with all the resources you need to mobilize against the hunger crisis in your community. Learn how you can get started today:

Get Started

Barack and I are committed to doing all we can to end hunger by making food programs more accessible to eligible families. But government can only do so much -- it will take all of us working together to put an end to hunger in America.

That’s why we’ve made it easy for you to get involved at Find local volunteer opportunities like delivering meals to homebound seniors, offering your professional skills at a food pantry, or planting a community garden and sharing produce with your neighbors. You can also create your own volunteer opportunity using our anti-hunger toolkit.

This holiday season let’s recommit to serving our communities and working together to feed American families. Get started giving back today.

Thank you,


First Lady Michelle Obama
The White House

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

New York Gay Activists Disappointed

The New York State Catholic Conference reports that homosexual-rights activists received a setback by state Court of Appeals rulings last week.

According to the New York State Catholic Conference, the New York State Court of Appeals did rule in favor of the plaintiffs in Godfry v. Spano and Lewis v. NYS Department of Civil Service regarding the state’s recognition of same-sex “marriages” from other states.

However, the Catholic Conference’s director of communications, Dennis Poust, characterized it as a defeat for the plaintiffs. Basically, the ruling said that the state civil service could give all the rights of married (heterosexual) couples under state law to same-sex couples that were “married” in a jurisdiction where it was considered legal, such as Massachusetts, Connecticut or Canada.

“While the court affirmed the rights of civil service to provide those benefits,” said Poust, “what it didn’t do is go the step the gay-rights activists wanted, and that was to impact the state marriage recognition law, which is much broader.”

He explained the court ruling was limited to state workers. Impacting the marriage-recognition law would have applied the ruling to all employers, private and public, and would

Red it all here.

US Talks with Afghani Taliban

ISLAMABAD, Nov 23: After fighting a bloody war in Afghanistan for more than eight years, the United States appears to have undertaken a re-think of its policy and has started engaging the Taliban in negotiations through Saudi and Pakistani intelligence agencies, highly-placed sources told Dawn here on Monday.

“We have started ‘engagement’ with the Afghan Taliban and are hopeful that our efforts will bear fruit,” a source involved in secret negotiations told this correspondent.

He said that four “major neutral players” were engaged with the Afghan Taliban on behalf of the Saudi leadership and the General Intelligence Directorate (GID) of Saudi Arabia and the Pakistani leadership and Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).

The GID and ISI have been doing the job on behalf of the US government and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The source said that one of the main objectives of the recent visit to Pakistan by CIA chief Leon Panetta was to assess progress in the back-channel negotiations.

The source said that four leaders were playing the role of mediators on behalf of the Saudis and the Afghan Taliban.

Among them is Abdullah Anas, a son-in-law of Osama bin Laden’s mentor Abdullah Azzam who was killed in Peshawar in 1989 along with his two sons. Anas lives in the UK, but maintains close links with the Afghan Taliban and even Al Qaeda.

Saudi national Abul Hassan Madni, once a prominent leader of Rabta-i-Alam-i-Islami, has also been in the picture. He lives in Madina.

Abu Jud Mehmood Samrai, an Iraqi who is married to a Pakistani woman, has also been contacted. He was given Pakistani nationality by former president Ziaul Haq for his role in the Afghan war.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil, a Pakistani militant leader, is also in the loop. Khalil, who co-founded the Harkatul Ansar, currently heads Hizbul Mujahideen.

He had signed the famous decree issued by Osama bin Laden and Ayman Al Zawahiri in 1998 calling for killing the Americans. Khalil commands respect among both Pakistani and Afghani Taliban and is said to have played a secret mediatory role with Pakistani authorities for peace in the country.

Reliable sources also told Dawn that Mullah Umar, the chief of Afghan Taliban, has nominated his shadow foreign minister, Agha Motasam, to negotiate with the Americans. They said that talks held so far were of a preliminary nature, but may resume on a serious note after Eid.

From here.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Christianity: The Only Revolution

There is a 3-part series on Orthodoxy as Second Terrace. Here is Part 3:

Orthodoxy is a religion of memory, but conservative America (rightly reacting to statism) is dedicated to nostalgia. The past is framed with a sentimental, hallmark peachy filter, where the blemishes and moles are airbrushed away. Nothing happens in the past of nostalgia, except a succession of Norman Rockwell prints. The whole montage is narrated by the whisky voice of Thornton's Our Town narrator: birth, youth, romance and marriage, hearth and home and death. Stephen Foster sings offstage.

I love this montage: I am drawn toward it like a siren. For me, the Sirenum Scopuli are not between Scylla and Aeaeia. They are at Almanzo's farm in New York, or at Walton's Mountain with the little old ladies and those inimitable mason jars and the Big Chief Tablet (I had one of those, just as graphite-smudged).

Nostalgia and sentiment are perilous reactions to Babylon and its progress: going home and trying to find the little house on the prairie, with the apple-wood smoke curling up from the chimney and crunchy leaves and a ham on a marble slab and the silence of winter chill groves, draped in silver gauze is a place you want to visit now at your peril, and can, despite the morose fact that you were never there.

Christianity is history, which is always forgettable: the imaginations of nostalgia are easier come by. Christianity is history: history is Christianity.

Sadly, Christianity is also a very urban, revolutionary thing. It is urban in that it cannot be thought of outside of fellowship. Moreover, it claims that human nature is rooted and must flourish in communion. There is no sense of rugged, Marlboro Man, Wyatt Earp individualism in Christianity: many Americans – and I'm one of them – dream dreams of riding into the sunset, but are awakened rudely by the knowledge that we couldn't cut it, we're too humane.

It is revolutionary. It is the only revolution.

Read it all here.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Nato Needed in Afghanistan

LONDON, Nov 21: Afghanistan’s government would collapse within weeks if Nato troops left the country right away, Britain’s Foreign Secretary David Miliband said in an interview published on Saturday.

Mr Miliband, who was in Afghanistan for the inauguration of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, said insurgent forces would quickly overrun Afghan troops if the international community pulled out.

“If international forces leave, you can choose a time — five minutes, 24 hours or seven days — but the insurgents would overrun those forces that are prepared to put up resistance and we would be back at square one,” he told The Guardian newspaper.

President Karzai has said he expects Afghan forces to be able to control the country within five years. Mr Miliband said the international community would stay as long as needed.

“Artificial timetables just give succour to your enemy,” Mr Miliband added.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown told lawmakers last week that Britain remained committed to the Afghanistan mission — despite some public calls for troops to be withdrawn amid a mounting death toll. Some 235 British troops have died in Afghanistan since operations began in 2001.

Taliban insurgents have grown bolder in Afghanistan recently, challenging the weak central government led by President Karzai.

Mr Karzai’s own position has been undercut by an election victory tainted by credible charges of widespread fraud. Mr Brown and other Western leaders have warned President Karzai that he could not count on continued support until he moved to stamp out corruption.—AP

Fort Hood: A Case of Evil

"You think you know a person by seeing them, by how they act, but sometimes you’re wrong," Patricia Villa, neighbour of Major Nidal Malik Hasan

Although our knowledge of mental illness has come a long way since the time that we burned witches, I am humbled by our utter ignorance when faced with Satanic evil. We are no closer to understanding the darkness lurking inside the human heart than the day that Cain murdered Abel. In fact, we could be even more confused. We have lost the vocabulary to talk about evil and rely on psychological clichés. We search for the cause, not the motive. Our explanations are mechanical, not spiritual.

The news stories about the shooting at Fort Hood follows a familiar multiple shootings template. First, the perpetrator explodes in a sudden spasm of violent rage. Second, the rage is due to simmering but severe mental disturbance and stress. Finally, the tragedy could have been avoided if only we had paid attention to the warning signs of mental illness.

Every element of this template is wrong, not only in the case of Major Nidal Hasan but also in most of these other atrocities.

According to the New York Times, "Every man has his breaking point."

The mad gunman tale always begins with the "snap." The mass murderer comes to a point when he breaks down and explodes. The so called "rampage" alludes to an uncontrolled, frenzy of destruction. Three days after the shooting, in an article titled, "Painful Stories Take a Toll on Military Therapist", the Times transformed Hasan into one more victim of the war, a fellow traumatised soldier whose stress was manifested in a different way. The meek psychiatrist was now a confused Rambo.

But Hasan didn’t snap. All evidence indicates that he had been contemplating this attack for several months. According to the Times, security experts stated that the use of two civilian guns (bought soon after arriving at Fort Hood) and acquiring enough ammunition to shoot 43 people suggested premeditation. He told his neighbours goodbye and gave away his possessions.

His ambush also wasn’t a wild rampage. The Times also reported that during the attack he "methodically moved around the room" sparing some and shooting others. Rather than Rambo, Hasan’s cool demeanour during the attack was closer to another, fictional, killer and psychiatrist, Dr Hannibal Lector.

Nor were Hasan’s preparations and discipline unusual. In the recent shootings at the upstate New York immigration centre and the Virginia Tech massacre two years ago, both assailants concocted a scheme to trap and ambush their victims. In New York, Jiverly Voong, blocked the back door with his car and went into the front door. The Virginia Tech shooter, Seung-Hui Cho, chained the exit doors shut. Both Voong and Cho prepared messages for media. About three weeks before the assault, Voong wrote a rambling letter that was delivered to a local television station on the day of the shootings. Cho had made a video that he mailed to NBC during his attack.

Instead of being a rabid werewolf, the mad gunman is more a sly fox. The violence is not an eruption but a culmination.

The next element of the mad gunman tale is the madness, a mixture of mental illness and stress. In the case of the Fort Hood killer, the press invented a new illness, Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder, first floated on the Larry King Show by television psychologist Dr Phil. Dr Phil stated that Hasan must have "snapped" and was far "out of touch with reality" and had suffered a "major mental event".

The media hasn’t been able to let go of the crazybone. Last Friday on the CBS Early Show, the head muppet, Harry Smith, pressed Hasan’s attorney, "Is he competent? Is he coherent?"

Surprisingly, the lawyer admitted that Hasan wasn’t babbling or checking for devices implanted by aliens.

In another article, building on the same stress/snap theme, the Times states that Major Hasan "acted out under a welter of emotional, ideological and religious pressures." Despite being born and raised in a country where men can chose their faith and politics, the Times treats his religion and politics as afflictions, no more chosen or controllable than emotions.

Since the shooting, all reports indicate that Hasan was able to work and engage with other people without any evidence of significant psychological disturbance. So far, no one has reported any history of psychiatric treatment. Rather than being a miserable, paranoid psycho, Hasan’s neighbours said that he was the "nicest guy you’d want to meet."

Even if Hasan suffered from mental illness, studies do not show any significant relationship between most mental disorders and violence. Psychosis and substance abuse are the two diagnoses that have some relationship to violent behaviour. However, psychosis contributes very little to overall violence.

The other psychological culprit in our tale is stress. People used to laughingly say, "the devil made me do it". Stress is the new demon. Twisting logic to fit the facts, we’ve been told that hearing about combat is more stressful than being in combat.

Recent evidence shows that Hasan wasn’t driven to violence but drawn. Hasan sought both glory and vengeance. He had praised suicide bombers. Investigators also found that Hasan had business cards identifying himself as Soldier of Allah.

The sad endings to our mad gunman stories are as fanciful as the rest of the story. Like meteorologists checking radars and air pressure, the media searches for warning signs as if these events were simply the hurricanes of society, accidents of nature. Any warnings signs are always clearer in retrospect. Although military life requires moving and saying goodbye, the New York Times reports that Hasan’s goodbye to his neighbours was a signal. Major Hasan did voice some opinions not consistent with serving in the military, but nothing observed in the Major’s behaviour indicated that he was planning a mass murder. Moreover, none of the signals were a sign of mental illness. People who commit premeditated murder are shockingly secretive.

Like other mass shootings, Hasan’s assault on Fort Hood was a planned massacre. Labelling these events as sudden eruptions of mental angst is more comforting than worrying about classmates, co-workers, strangers or the nice neighbour who may be harbouring murderous fantasies and waiting for the right moment. I find these half-baked psychological theories and excuses cold comfort. Thorazine and therapy won’t save us from these twisted souls.

Theron Bowers MD is a Texas psychiatrist.

From here.

The Manhattan Declaration

Catholic, Orthodox and Evangelical leaders have published and signed a pro-life, pro-marriage statement, called the Manhattan Declaration: A Pro-Life Call of Christian Conscience on Abortion, Liberty.

You may read the Manhattan Declaration online, see the original signatories and sign it electronically by going to the web site:

There are currently over 4000 signatories. There should be at least 400,000! One person who signed is Albert Molher. Read why he signed The Manhattan Declaration here.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Orthodox Priest Murdered in Moscow

A masked gunman entered a Russian Orthodox church in Moscow Nov. 19 and shot a priest who had been preaching to Muslims and warning about the growing Muslim minority in Russia, according to an article in this morning’s New York Times.

Father Daniil Sysoyev, 34, died on his way to hospital. The church’s choir master also had been injured in the attack and was in the hospital under armed guard.

Father Sysoyev had been receiving death threats for some time because he was converting Muslims and criticizing Islam, prosecutors and Church officials said. But that didn’t stop him.
In a February 2008 television interview, he said he had received 10 threats by e-mail for decapitation if he did not stop preaching to Muslims.

“As I see it, it is not a sin to preach to Muslims,” said Father Sysoyev, who was originally from Tatarstan, a predominantly Muslim area on the Volga River.

In a video lecture posted on YouTube, Father Sysoyev also denied that Islam is a religion in the same way Christianity is. “Islam can be rather compared with projects like National Socialism or the Communist party seeking to create God’s kingdom on Earth using human instruments,” he said.

The priest also wrote books, including An Orthodox Response to Islam and Marrying a Muslim, in which he advised Russian women against taking a Muslim partner.

Orthodox bishops have complained that Islam is spreading fast among a sprawling community of migrants from predominantly Muslim republics of the former Soviet Union.

Russia’s Chief Mufti Ravil Gainuddin expressed his condolences to the Orthodox Church and to Father Sysoyev’s family.

“We want to say that we oppose any expressions of terrorism and extremism,” he told reporters. “Islam denounces terror, and the murder of an imam, an Orthodox priest, is an awful sin.”

Source: National Catholic Register

NIH to Study Conflict of Interest

The government agency tasked with funding crucial life science research needs to focus more attention on ethical quandaries and nefarious business practices that often obscure the path from discovery to public benefit, says a strongly worded letter to Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), signed by more than 100 biomedical researchers, journal editors, and health care administrators in the US.

"...we ask that you acknowledge the research gap on the effect of conflicts of interest and commercial influence on medical decision making," the letter reads, "and set in motion a process that leads to recognition of the importance of funding studies on research ethics, the beliefs and behaviors of researchers and clinicians, and the effects of industry-academic relationships on the generation and dissemination of medical knowledge."

"It would be great to raise [the NIH's] awareness, and maybe have them actually do an RFA [request for applications] on this," said Adriane Fugh-Berman, director of PharmedOut, a group seeking to educate physicians on how the pharmaceutical industry influences prescribing practices, which spearheaded the writing and dissemination of the letter. PharmedOut, based at Georgetown University's School of Medicine, launched three years ago with the help of a chunk of the $430 million settlement drug maker Pfizer paid in 2004 after pleading guilty to encouraging the off-label prescription of its anti-seizure drug Neurontin.

Fugh-Berman, who is also an associate professor in Georgetown's department of physiology and biophysics, admitted that part of the impetus for the letter was the PharmedOut project's empty coffers. "We've been out of money for a year," she told The Scientist. "It's been very difficult to get money for [ethics research] projects."

An NIH spokesperson said this morning that the agency has not yet "officially received" the letter, though a copy of it can be accessed at PharmedOut's website. Collins is expected to review the letter sometime today or tomorrow, the spokesperson told The Scientist.

"I think there's just so much evidence out there that this is a problem area, there probably should be increased funding there," Kay Dickersin, director of the Center for Clinical Trials at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a signatory on the letter, told The Scientist.

"In any budget -- whether you're the head of NIH or anywhere else -- there's always discretionary money for things that come up," she said. "NIH has had funding from the Office of Research Integrity, via small grants, for a number of years" to look into such ethical issues, she added, but the amount of money allocated to study them has been "fairly small."

The letter is signed by several other prominent figures in the biomedical community, including Jerry Avorn, the Harvard MD who invented "academic detailing," the widely-employed practice of educating doctors in cost-effective prescribing practices, Virginia Barbour, chief editor of PLoS Medicine, and Howard Brody, director of the Institute for the Medical Humanities at University of Texas Medical Branch.

Fugh-Berman added that the strong support for the letter, which ended up being passed around and posted on listservs by researchers, was a surprise. "The response to it was amazing when we sent it out to scientists," she said. "It was really sort of unexpected." The letter's signers also include a handful of researchers and administrators outside of the US -- from the UK, Canada, India, Australia, and South Africa. "It jumped the pond," Fugh-Berman said.

From here.

Theodicy: Can Suffering be Redemptive?

ALAGIR, Russia - Sarmat Kapisov ran all night through the forest with his family, fleeing the fighting in South Ossetia and headed for the Georgia-Russia border. On his back, the 17-year-old carried his brother, who has cerebral palsy.

"It wasn't easy," Kapisov said, huddled alongside his mother and seven siblings, who have taken refuge here at an Orthodox convent across the Russian border.

The convent director, known as Mother Nonna, said thousands have passed through since the bloodshed began one week ago in the pro-Russian separatist province claimed by Georgia.

Most were South Ossetian women and children on their way to a refugee center set up inside a summer camp by Russian authorities. Many of the fathers and older brothers stayed behind to fight.

Mother Nonna said she had never seen so many terrified children clinging to their mothers' skirts.

"The most difficult thing was to answer their question: Where was God?" she said. "They had so much fear in their eyes."

Read it all here.

Voltaire (1694-1778) was a French Enlightenment philosopher who enjoyed nuanced debate about the nature of the world, humanity, and God. In his youth he advocated a hedonistic lifestyle, stating that “True wisdom lies in knowing how to flee sadness in the arms of pleasure.” In this view, Voltaire follows the Greek philosopher Epicurus (342-270 BC), who taught that the goal of life is to maximize pleasure and minimize pain.

Voltaire became less effusive in his advocacy of pleasure after the Lisbon earthquake of 1755. The earthquake was followed by a tsunami and fire which destroyed most of the city and devastated outlaying areas. The death toll is estimated to be between 60,000 and 100,000 people.

Voltaire wrote a moving poem about the destruction of Lisbon, titled Poème sur le désastre de Lisbonne ("Poem on the Lisbon disaster").The disaster struck on the morning of All Saints, a Catholic feast day observed in Portugal. When word of the devastation reached other European countries, it became a topic of heated discussion among the intelligentsia who pondered how to reconcile the existence of such evil with God’s goodness.

Voltaire used the Lisbon earthquake in his novel Candide. His character Candide attacks the notion that all is for the best in this "best of all possible worlds", a world closely supervised by a benevolent deity.

The Lisbon disaster suggests either God is not good, or God is not in control, or there is no God. The modern German philosopher, Theodor Adorno, an Enlightenment scholar, wrote that "the earthquake of Lisbon sufficed to cure Voltaire of the theodicy of Leibniz" (Negative Dialectics 361). Liebniz believed, as did the ancient Stoics, that everything that happens constitutes “the best plan of the universe, which God could not fail to choose… Far from being true that this conduct is contrary to goodness, it is supreme goodness which led Him to it.” (Read Elizabeth Anscombe's response to Leibniz' theodicy here.)

Many Enlightenment thinkers rejected this solution to the paradox of theodicy. They rejected the Judeo-Christian idea of God as good, instead taking a deistic view. Deists believe that an impersonal and amoral God created the universe, set it in motion, and then withdrew from earthly affairs. They regard God as having chosen to allow what He set in motion to run its natural course without divine intervention.

What I find interesting about this, is how many who call themselves Christians seem to think that God's goodness and human suffering are irreconcilable. What about the suffering of Jesus Christ? Why is the day of His crucifixion called "Good" Friday? Didn't Jesus tell his disciples that they could except to suffer in this life?

Quote of the Week - Bishop Polycarp

"To deny that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is to be Antichrist. To contradict the evidence of the Cross is to be of the devil. And to pervert the Lord's words to suit our own wishes, by asserting that there are no such things as resurrection or judgement, is to be a first-begotten son of Satan. So let us have no more of this nonsense from the gutter..." --Polycarp of Smyrna, in his letter to the Church at Philippi

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Censorship or Good Parenting?

Keeping the principle of free speech safe requires vigilance; if people in America really were seeking to ban books--to forbid their printing or sale, for instance--it would be important to focus on their efforts and to raise awareness about them.

But that kind of "banning" isn't what the ALA is talking about at all.In fact, according to their website, the ALA's Banned Book Week is really called "Banned and Challenged Book Week. A "challenge" to a book occurs when someone objects to some of the content of a book, and, most of the time, asks that the book be removed from children's access. Parents were responsible for 57% of such challenges between 1990 and 2008, and an astonishing 70% of the challenges involved books that were either in a school classroom or a school library. Moreover, nearly a third of challenges made to all books (including books aimed at adults) were made because the challengers found the materials to be too sexually explicit.

Now, if the vast majority of challenges to books involve parents, centre around books available in schools, and deal with such issues as sexual explicitness, offensive language, or the unsuitability of the books for a specific age group, then I think we're no longer talking about book-banning or censorship. I think we're talking about parenting.

The attitude of the ALA is that a parent only has the right to censor or control what his own children read. He doesn't have the right to request the removal from the school library or classroom shelf those books which he finds obscene or dangerous to morality, because someone else might prefer for his children to read those books. The school alone has the final say in what books are appropriate for the children under its care to read, and if a child reads at school a book or books which his parents absolutely forbid at home--well, then, perhaps the parents' values are too narrow and restrictive to begin with.

Read it all here.

Helping the Suicidal

Carolyn Friedman has written a piece on common myths about suicide. Here's what she has to say:

Suicide remains a serious epidemic that transcends socioeconomic, age, racial, religious, mental health, and gender/sexual identity boundaries. While studies do show that some groups stand at a higher risk of suicide than others – usually those already prone to social marginalization – the sad reality is that this mindset holds the potential to strike anyone, anywhere, at any point in life. Due to the mixed messages flailing about regarding the condition, it becomes progressively more difficult to objectively discuss the delineation between fact and fiction. So many misconceptions abound that the suicidal truly needing an intervention in order to survive may very well not receive the help they need to recover.

Read it all here.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Week 4 Discussion Topic

The Discussion Topic for Philosophy 301 is here.

Students may comment until midnight on Monday, Nov. 23.

WSJ Reporter Accused of Spying

ISLAMABAD, Nov 16: Top executives and editors of 21 leading international media organisations have collectively voiced concern over publication of an article in a Pakistani national newspaper, accusing Mathew Rosenberg, a correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, of working for foreign intelligence services and even the US military contractor Blackwater.

In a joint letter addressed to Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira, they said the development had caused alarm among international media organisations working in the country and urged the government to take all possible steps to ensure the safety of all media personnel in future.

Describing Rosenberg as a respected journalist of high standing, they observed that the unsubstantiated allegation levelled in the article published in The Nation that he worked for CIA, Israeli intelligence and Blackwater had critically compromised his (Rosenberg’s) security and raised questions about whether he could return to Pakistan to work safely in future.

The article also has a broader implication, the letter said, pointing out that these were difficult times for all journalists in Pakistan. “Our employees already face an array of threats, including violence and kidnapping, as they strive to provide timely and accurate coverage. Now those risks have been needlessly increased.”

The top executives of international media said they strongly supported press freedom across the world, but the irresponsible article endangered the life of one journalist and could imperil others.

“It is particularly upsetting that this threat has come from among our own colleagues,” they regretted.

They recognised that courageous Pakistani journalists routinely faced greater danger than their international counterparts. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, five Pakistani journalists have been killed in the past 12 months. “And we are heartened that several Pakistani media organisations have denounced The Nation’s story,” they remarked.

But, they said, they were also concerned that an incident of this kind — tarring a foreign reporter as a spy — could occur again. They asked the government to take note of the story and make necessary arrangements for security of all media personnel.

Copies of the joint letter have also been sent to Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Interior Minister Rehman Malik, and heads of all the newspaper organisations.

The joint letter bears signatures of Chuck Lustig, Foreign Editor, ABC News; Phillipe Massonnet, Global News Director, AFP; Kathleen Carroll, Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Associated Press (AP); Alan Rusbridger, Editor in Chief, The Guardian; Jon Williams, World News Editor, BBC; Roger Alton, Editor, The Independent; Nancy Lane, Senior Vice President, CNN; Al Anstay, Head of News, Al Jazeera; John Micklethwait, Editor in Chief, The Economist; Daniel Bogler, Managing Editor, Financial Times; Bruce Wallace, Foreign Editor, Los Angeles Times; Jean Gerard, Deputy Director, France Infor; John L Walcott, McClachy Newspapers; Ellen Weiss, Senior Vice President for News, National Public Radio (NPR); David Schlesinger, Editor in Chief, Reuters; Bill Keller, Executive Editor, The New York Times; Richard Stengel, Managing Editor, Time; Nisid Hajari, Foreign Editor, Newsweek; James Harding, Editor, The Times; Calude Cirille, Editor in Chief, Radio France International; and Robert Thomson, Managing Editor, The Wall Street Journal.

Taliban Key to Ending Afghan War?

EDINBURGH (Scotland), Nov 17: Ending the war in Afghanistan would include senior Taliban commanders sitting in Afghan government, Britain’s foreign secretary said on Tuesday.

David Miliband also told a meeting of Nato’s parliamentary assembly that military action must be accompanied by a political surge to restore Afghans’ faith in their corruption-scarred government.

He said the vast majority of Taliban fighters were not committed to a global jihad and could be persuaded to stop fighting. He said a settlement must include the top Taliban commanders prepared to renounce violence.

“Once reintegration gains momentum, and the insurgency is starting to fray, we will need to support President Karzai in reaching out to those commanders that can be persuaded to renounce Al Qaeda and pursue their goals peacefully within the constitutional framework,” he said.

“Blood enemies from the Soviet period and the civil war now work together in government. Former Talibs already sit in the parliament. It is essential that, when the time is right, members of the current insurgency are encouraged to follow suit.”—AP

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cardinal Kasper on Anglicanorum Coetibus

Cardinal Walter Kasper, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, has spoken for the first time about Anglicanorum Coetibus, the apostolic constitution for Anglicans.

In an interview with L’Osservatore Romano over the weekend, the cardinal began by talking about a late night telephone call he received from Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury. Cardinal Kasper was, at the time, in Cyprus for the latest round of the joint Catholic-Orthodox theological commission.

“We talked about the meaning of the new apostolic constitution, and I reassured him about the continuation of our direct dialogue, as indicated by the Second Vatican Council and as the Pope wants,” Cardinal Kasper said. He added that the archbishop replied by saying “that this reaffirmation was very important to him.”

The cardinal said Williams “has maintained a balanced attitude since he was informed. Our personal relations are friendly and transparent. He is a man of spirituality, a theologian. Actually, today the only obstacle to ecumenical dialogue comes from internal tensions in the Anglican world.”

The apostolic constitution, he stressed, “is really understood as coming from the Second Vatican Council and the direct dialogue” that has come from it. He said there had been “great hopes” the Church and the Anglican Communion would come closer in relations, also because of a common tradition. But the expectations were “a little disappointed, especially recently” because of internal developments in the Anglican Communion, and he highlighted the problems over the ordination of women, women bishops, the consecration of a homosexual bishop, and the blessing of same-sex unions.

Cardinal Kasper said it wasn’t only pro-Catholic Anglicans who have been critical of the Anglican Communion’s direction; most of them are evangelicals, but he said they are not likely to become Catholics.

Read it all here.

Palestinians Seek U.N. Endorsement of Statehood

JERUSALEM, Nov 15: Palestinian officials said on Sunday they were preparing to ask the United Nations to endorse an independent state without Israel’s consent because they were losing hope they would achieve their aspirations through peace talks.

The announcement drew a harsh response from Israeli officials.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said frustrated Palestinians had decided to turn to the UN Security Council after 18 years of on-again, off-again negotiations with Israel.

The Palestinians seek an independent state that includes the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem --- areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war.

“Now is our defining moment. We went into this peace process in order to achieve a two-state solution,” he said. “The endgame is to tell the Israelis that now the international community has recognised the two-state solution on the ‘67 borders.”

Initially the Palestinians declared independence unilaterally on Nov 15, 1988. The declaration was recognised by dozens of countries, but never implemented.

US efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are deadlocked.

Even if the UN endorses the Palestinian idea, it would be virtually impossible to implement while Israel remains in control of the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Nearly 500,000 Israeli settlers live in these areas, in addition to thousands of Israeli troops stationed on bases.

Israeli Vice-Prime Minister Silvan Shalom, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party, warned the Palestinians against taking any one-sided action.

“I think the Palestinians should know that unilateral actions will not lead to the results they hope for,” he said.—AP

Can Business Ethics Be taught?

Clifford Orwin doesn't think so. This is what he has to say:

Ethics is a serious business. And that's why, reading in last weekend's Globe and Mail about the gurgling wave of ethics education sweeping North American business schools, I had to laugh.
“MBA programs around the globe,” wrote Joanna Pachner, “are rushing to prove that they teach students to be good – not just rich – by revamping their curriculums and encouraging debates about ethical corporate behaviour.”

At the same time, she said, MBA students are busy doing their part to prove their moral bona fides, mostly by composing earnest oaths. “I solemnly swear … never to become Bernie Madoff,” as her article was wryly headlined.

Forgive me if the spectacle of MBA students taking oaths to be ethical fills me not with reverence but with giggles. Oaths: Aren't those what people take in courtrooms? And yet the lying there continues apace. Who would be at the head of the line to swear never to become Bernie Madoff if not Mr. Madoff himself?

I'm not suggesting that business students are bad people, or that those who would teach them to be good are any less competent than the rest of us. It's just that the whole notion of teaching ethical behaviour rests on a fundamental misconception – namely, that ethical behaviour can be taught.

Read it all here.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Pavle, Patriarch of Serbia RIP

My beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus, Early this morning, our Lord Jesus Christ called the soul of His true servant, PAVLE, Patriarch of Serbia, into His Kingdom. As I was reading names during the Proskomide for the Holy Liturgy, one of the sisters brought me a little note as to His Holiness having fallen asleep.

At first I was startled by the news. I had only met this holy Hierarch once, but he made an everlasting impact on my life. As I read the Holy Gospel of the Parable of the Good Samaritan, I could not hold back the tears; once I came to the Lord describing how the Samaritan had deep compassion of the wounded man, and how he took him the Inn and placed him in the care of the Innkeeper. St. John Chrysostomos tells us that the Inn is the Church, and the Innkeeper represents the Holy Bishops. Indeed, my brothers and Sisters in Christ, Patriarch Pavle is a living ikon of the Christ-like Innkeeper, who cares for all the wounded souls in need of healing and forgiveness.

On July 22, 2001, I had the sacred honor to co-celebrate the Holy Liturgy with Patriarch Pavle, when he made a visit to Pittsburgh. Never before have I met a Hierarch so totally focused on worshipping the Holy Liturgy! It was as if I were in the presence of Christ Himself! When, during the Great Entrance, and the serving priests were assigned to carry the miters of the several Hierarchs, this sinful priest rushed to grab the one of the holy Patriarch. I cannot describe in words what joyful sadness I experienced within my heart: joy, because I held the crown of a saintly Bishop; sorrow, because of the realization that I was filled with sin and unworthy to have literally seized His Holiness' Miter from the Holy Altar Table.

At the end of the Holy Liturgy, His Holiness offered a homily in Serbian. Although I have absolutely no knowledge of the Serbian language, the Patriarch's words caused spontaneous tears to flow from my eyes to such a great extent that I began to sob! I know that those Spirit-filled words, which were totally unintelligible to my brain, brought healing and living Water into my wounded and parched soul!

During the meal that followed, I went up to His Holiness (who has a Theological Degree from the University of Thessalonike in Greece) to greet him on my Spiritual Father, Geronta Ephraim, and Gerontissa Theophano and her Sisterhood. After blessing me, His Holiness patted my sinful head; and my heart overflowed with joy! I think that one of the main reasons that I wept during today's Gospel, was from recalling a story that someone had recently told me --- an event in which the Samaritan's holy compassion was incarnated by the words and actions of His Holiness.

When he was the Bishop of Kosovo, he was brutally and severely beaten by a young Muslim man. So intense was this beating, that the frail Bishop almost died; and was in the Hospital for a few months. Upon his dismissal from the Hospital, the then Bishop Pavle went to the prison where the young man was incarcerated. He told the one who had almost killed him that he felt he needed to go home to his parents; because they needed him!

Then he called the warden of the prison and demanded the young man's release. When the warden refused, Bishop Pavle told him, 'I have nothing against this young man; and I will not speak against him. Therefore, you must release him now!'

What true Christ-like love, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ --- love which bore a very special fruit: the young man was soon Baptized into the Orthodox Faith!

From that glorious day in the Summer of 2001, I have entreated the Patriarch's holy prayers everyday! Now that his soul is in Paradise, may our All-Merciful Lord Jesus grant him the grace to be His Good Samaritan to all of us --- healing the wounds in our souls, and giving us the grace to - at least in some small way - become vessels of compassion to our wounded brothers and sisters.


Sinful priest, +Demetrios

Thank you, Benjamin S. Carson

Yesterday in our discussion of Justice and Mercy at church, I mentioned how I had taken the TV out of our home for one year and how positively that affected my children and our family life. Here is another account of a mother's intervention:

Gifted Hands is a 90-minute film about Benjamin S. Carson Sr, a Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon who served on the Bush Administration's Council on Bioethics. He is a professor of neurosurgery, oncology, plastic surgery, and pediatrics. In 1987, he gained world-wide recognition as the principal surgeon in the 22-hour separation of the Binder Siamese twins from Germany. This was the first time occipital craniopagus twins had been separated with both surviving. He has more than 20 honorary doctorates. Although he is not a professional bioethicist, he has strong views. Opposing abortion is one of his more controversial stands.

Anyhow, it is his early life which is the topic of the film, which stars Cuba Gooding Jr. it is based on his 1996 autobiography. Carson is the younger son of a divorced illiterate black woman in Detroit. She was one of 24 children and married at 13 to escape a life of rural poverty - but her husband was a bigamist and she ended up raising her sons on her own, working three jobs at once.

Benjamin was bottom of the class at school, had low-self-esteem and struggled with a violent temper. His mother turned off the TV and told him to read. From there, he soared ahead to Yale and then medical school, and a stellar career. Thank you, Dr. Carson. And thanks go to your mother too!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Quote of the Week - Philip Zimbardo

"Evil consists in intentionally behaving in ways that harm, abuse, demean, dehumanize, and destroy innocent others -- or using one's authority and systemic power to encourage or permit others to do so on your behavior." --Psychologist Philip Zimbardo, from The Lucifer Effect

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Clinton Talks Pro-Choice in the Philippines

Hillary Clinton, on her first visit to the Philippines as U.S. secretary of state, said she wants to “empower” women to make choices that will be good for themselves, their families and society.
Apparently, the Church to which most Filipinos belong doesn’t know anything about what’s good for her own children.

The Church has been leading the opposition to a Reproductive Health Bill in Congress which would would mandate the government to fund reproductive health programs and services, including artificial contraceptives, and require schools to teach sex education beginning in elementary school.

Clinton told reporters on the island nation Nov. 12 that the Obama administration has no “intention or plan to preempt or otherwise go beyond or around what the attitudes of society are.”

Roughly 81 percent of the 86 million Filipinos are Catholic.

But the former first lady did not let the opportunity pass to educate Filipinos on what’s good for them.

“I believe strongly that family planning is an important aspect of development and I’ve seen this around the world,” she told reporters. Clinton emphasized the importance of giving women the “freedom to choose,” the Filipino website GMAnews.TV reported.

“Trying to empower and educate women so that they are able to make these decisions and they have access to family planning is not only positive to the woman and her family but for the larger society,” Clinton said.

The U.S. government has also recently been newly “empowered,” in a sense. Soon after Obama took office, he reversed the Mexico City Policy, which had banned U.S. funding of abortion-providing groups abroad. He also restored U.S. funding to the United Nations Population Fund, the organization that has worked in concert with China’s extremely restrictive population control regime.

Earlier this year, Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon in the Philippines said he hoped people would send a message to legislators that the Reproductive Health Bill was unacceptable.

Speaking over Church-run Radio Veritas May 13, Bishop Bastes said, “We hope that they (politicians) will learn a lesson because, by voting for it, they are endangering the Filipino family,” the bishop said.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines “will not back down because the provisions of that bill are anti-family, anti-life,” he said.

—John Burger, from here.

UN Stepping Up on Terrorism

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 14: The United Nations launched a programme this week to get India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and other South Asian nations to join forces to fight terrorism.

In a first step to building regional cooperation, the UN brought police and prosecutors from eight countries in South Asia together to talk about problems in fighting terrorism.

Mike Smith, the UN official who organised the three-day workshop in Bangladesh, said on Friday it didn’t get into the political issues that divide the countries and prevent joint efforts to tackle acts of terrorism that often cross borders.

Instead, he said, police and prosecutors from the eight countries talked about common problems, “getting into how their professional operational activities could be improved ... if they were able to have more frequent contacts with each other.”

The South Asian region, “probably more than just about any other in the world, has suffered grievously from terrorism over a very long period,” he said, citing multiple terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka.

But Mr Smith said regional cooperation to fight terrorism had been very limited so the UN decided to invite senior police and prosecution officials from eight South Asian nations — India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives — to the workshop to compare how they work and “to start building habits of cooperation between the countries.”

“After three days, we were pretty gratified to see the extent to which these professionals were reacting with each other in a very positive way and a very professional way –—and in a way that they all thought they got something out of it,” he told a news conference.

Did that mean that Indian and Pakistani police and prosecutors would start calling their counterparts?

“They did actually talk quite a lot,” Mr Smith said. “They’ve got a lot in common and a lot of the discussion was really bringing out the points they have in common.”

But he cautioned: “I’m certainly not expecting that next week they’ll be picking up the phone and talking to each other. That’s not going to happen like that.”

What the UN is hoping, he said, was that a follow-up workshop in the first half of 2010, which Sri Lanka offered to host because it was “so enthused,” would start a process that would gradually build “into something that becomes just a regular event.”

Source: Pakistan Dawn

Nigeria and Corruption

I have heard it parroted for as long as I can’t remember that Nigeria’s hyperpopulation is one of the reasons the country is failing. And from the first time I heard this flawed reasoning I have always countered it, even when my views had not even been mellowed with data, statistics and considerable knowledge of political economy. The problem with the notion of high population is not so much that it is erroneous as that it might give Nigeria’s misrulers something to blame for their slimy utter badness. I would not be surprised if Obasanjo had indeed blamed huge population for any number of Nigerian maladies, he must have had his ear close to the ground.

Now it might be argued that as the 14th largest country in continent, speaking about square miles, one might be tempted to say that Nigeria is overpopulated, hosting 1 in 6 Africans within its space. But this would be an argument built on false premise, what philosophers might call paralogy. Africans might be breeding faster than Europeans for instance, that does not mean that there are more than enough people for the size or wealth of the continent. Countries bigger than Nigeria, like Libya or Algeria, may even be considered underpopulated, seeing that the vast Sahara that flows into other sparsely populated countries like Chad and Niger is mainly uninhabitable.

Then subsaharan Congo, which is more than double the size of Nigeria. With a population of just over 63 million, it is 3 million more than the United Kingdom, and it is more than ten times the size of latter country. The sociology of demography is not that simple, but Congo can easily take as many people as India or China and has the natural resources to give itself the needed shunt onto the trail of self-sufficiency – even with a hypothetical population of a billion. Although right-wing fascists are whipping up fears of overpopulation and overcrowding in the United Kingdom, it has been proved over and again that the British isles can still take tens of millions more.

The same thing applies to Congo and Nigeria. Well, if the geographical mosaic called Nigeria cannot carry the weight of a billion people (it may just as well can) it should at least be able to withstand the accession of as many more people as it contains now, that is 300 million, the population of the United States. It does not take the exquisitely discerning to see that the size of our population has nothing to do with the plight of the people of the country. As a matter of fact, we should even be happy that we have such a large population, the country’s inept rulers should be looking at how to make capital of humanpower instead of indulging in clueless circumlocutions and the lazy alibi of overpopulation. Japan is a country whose population I can easily compare with that of Nigeria. The group of islands known as Japan contains some 130 million people or so, and yet the country is no larger than one of Nigeria’s old three regions. If any country needed to use overpopulation as a pretext for entropy it should be Japan, the sprawling Greater Tokyo conurbation would dwarf our own ‘megacity,’ Lagos, fourfold. But we all know what Japan has done with its large population and what it is still doing.

Before India began to sit up and take notice - particularly take notice of its neighbour China - some of its wonks had come up with the population excuse for underdevelopment. But now it has discovered that its population, like China’s, is one of its strengths. In his book The Post-American World (And the Rise of the Rest), the influential Indian-American social commentator Fareed Zakaria mentions Africa sparingly, the only African country he alludes to more than twice is South Africa, and this is from the prism of third-tier developing countries like Brazil and Turkey, both of which, like South Africa, are members of the G20, a group that Nigeria fondly pines to be part of. Zakaria mentions Nigeria twice, the first time in relation to corruption, the second time as a metaphor for the poorer chunk of the burgeoning India. Zakaria says something to the effect that although India is growing it still has within it several Nigerias, in other words it is still burdened by bulging pockets of penury and want.

I was pretty miffed when I read this – I was miffed not with Zakaria but with the fact that his illustration is far from inaccurate. Anyway, I brought up Zakaria’s book because of the emphasis he places on the huge populations of India and China, these being as major contributors to both countries’ growth. People, and the expertise they can offer, are the cogs in the galloping progressive wheels of the two countries. Today it is an acknowledged fact that some of the major exports of India are its rough-diamond geeks who often become smoother and valuable when they arrive in the West. In spite of the westward gravitation of a lot of their experts (especially to America), both China and India do not spend too much time lamenting about brain drain. Such is the vitality of the remanent populations. Writing about how China is lucking its way into the risks-and-riches economies of Africa, John Lee of Sydney's Centre For Independent Studies pinpoints the growth of African population as integral to the continent's future well-being.

Besides professionals, ordinary Indians and Chinese, like Nigerians, still leave their countries in huge numbers, and not because they were choking for lack of space but for economic reasons, just like Nigerians. But to the degree that Nigeria is increasingly becoming a nasty and brutish place to live, it was reported recently that sans war or any kind of political conflict, Nigerian nationals came high in the list of those who sought asylum in ‘industrialised countries’ in the first quarter of this year. If population had had anything to do with the number of people leaving a country, then the world would have been overrun with Indians, even far more than the Chinese. Of course Indians and the Chinese transplant themselves in many places, but in recent times no citizens of any country would beat Nigerians for scattering themselves every which way, in far-flung, unlikely places. Needless to say, the youthful risk-taking Nigerians hitting the Sahara trail are not doing it just to slake mere wanderlust, they are fleeing the hopelessness and despondency at home. The image of the Wandering Nigerian is a far cry from that of the time-honoured ‘Wandering Jew,’ the ever-drifting Nigerian is a strapping young man (or woman), fuddled with dreams, addled with frustrations, slouching towards what he considers his El dorado, to ‘arrive.’

So Nigeria is overpopulated? It certainly is not. Now if it were a landlocked country like Mali that had as people as Nigeria one might be tempted to advance demographic crisis. But then again the desert that occupies the greater part of Mali has done Thomas Malthus’s job for him – aridity and loamlessness would not even allow the country to resort to a comfortable agrarian existence. And then poverty, not to say diseases. As a matter of fact, these foregoing pair have truly been very effective in balancing out Africa’s population. Consider the number of people who die on Nigerian roads everyday, in skeletonic hospitals and clinics, in their homes. If there is anything that is overmuch about Nigerian population, it is how it is top heavy with thieving politicians, bureaucrats and soldiers.

Adebowale Oriku, a freelance writer, lives in England. This entry has been cross-posted from Nigerian Village Square.

Pakistan to US: Stabilize Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD, Nov 13: Pakistan has cautioned the United States against withdrawing from Afghanistan without putting in place a stable and broad-based government in the country.

According to sources, US National Security Adviser James Jones was unequivocally told that Pakistan was against a sudden withdrawal of allied troops from Afghanistan and that US must not repeat the mistake of past of disengaging from the region after the departure of Soviet troops from Afghanistan.

The US adviser is here for discussions on the Af-Pak strategy review and to evaluate the role Pakistan could play under the revised policy to be unveiled soon by the Obama administration.

“Pakistan believes that withdrawal at this stage can frustrate efforts for bringing peace and security to the region and have serious repercussions on its security,” the sources said.

During his meeting with Mr Jones, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi raised the issue of peace and security in Afghanistan and its repercussions on Pakistan.

According to a statement issued by the Foreign Office, he emphasised the need for close coordination and consultation on all issues of importance.

According to the sources, Pakistani leaders stressed the need for working for a broader reconciliation in Afghanistan, including engaging the Taliban.

The US adviser told the civil and military leadership that the US did not plan to stay in Afghanistan for a long period and reconciliation efforts would be launched after President Hamid Karzai’s inauguration later this month.

“After the new government starts working in Kabul, we will take into account all options for bringing stability to the country, including reconciliation,” the sources quoted him as saying at one of the meetings.

He said the US would simultaneously tackle the issues of governance, economic development, national integration and counter-insurgency.

With differences of opinion in Washington on the issue of deploying additional troops in Afghanistan, the security adviser appeared unclear about what would be the final decision.

Pakistani leaders clarified that Islamabad was not opposed to additional US troops being dispatched to the region.

Mr Jones was told that Pakistan’s concerns primarily centred on implications of the deployment strategy for additional troops.

The sources said that Mr Jones appeared keen to assess the health of the PPP-led government because of numerous challenges confronting it. He underscored the strategic importance of Pakistan for US plans in the region.

Responding to concerns expressed over growing Indian role in Afghanistan, the adviser said the US understood Pakistan’s sensitivities.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told the US adviser that “Pakistan is fully committed to taking its ongoing operations for clearing its territory of terrorists and extremists to their logical conclusion, although its forces are overstretched because of continuous tension on the country’s eastern border”.

Mr Gilani said it was imperative for the US to be sensitive about Pakistan’s core interests -- Kashmir, water, Indian military capability and the need for a balance of power in South Asia.

He said the US would have to use its influence with India for resumption of ‘composite dialogue’ and easing tension with Pakistan to enable it to concentrate its attention and energy on the fight against militancy and terrorism.

Mr Jones also met Chief of Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and discussed the operation against militants in South Waziristan and various options being considered by the US for Afghanistan under the revised strategy.

The American security adviser had suggested in a recent interview that an exit strategy could be on the cards. “But we also need a better plan with the allies to gradually turn over responsibility for the country to Afghan institutions and organisations in as short a time as possible.”

Friday, November 13, 2009

Melbourne EXIT Headquarters Raided

Australian police have raided the Melbourne headquarters of Exit International, the euthanasia organisation headed by Dr Philip Nitschke. They were investigating the alleged assisted suicide of Brisbane man Frank Ward. They also confiscated evidence from a house in the neighbouring state of New South Wales. According to media reports, documents and the euthanasia drug Nembutal were seized. There were no arrests.

Dr Nitschke, who is currently running suicide workshops in the US, denied that Exit had helped Mr Ward die. "He was certainly ill. They were suggesting we were involved in his death but we were not. We would never be actively involved in something like that, helping him end his life, which would be committing a crime."

Exit International treads a fine legal line. Although it provides the know-how to enable people to commit suicide, it claims always to strictly observe the letter of the law. In Australia, where the organisation has its headquarters, assisting, or even promoting, suicide is illegal, as is selling Exit's lethal drug of choice, Nembutal. An Exit representative, Amanda McClure, was eager to clarify a report in last week's BioEdge. Readers could have inferred that the group would soon be selling a "peaceful pill". This is not the case. The pill has been developed. An article on the Exit International website has a picture of it and quotes Dr Nitschke as saying that "Previously, people could only obtain the drug in liquid form from overseas and this presented difficulties in transportation and storage. The developed 'pill' is much smaller, weighs only 10 gm and is easy to safely store and transport."

However Exit has released no details to the media about how it plans to market and distribute the pill, presumably for legal reasons. Its plans may have been disclosed in the latest edition of on-line edition of Dr Nitschke's Peaceful Pill Handbook -- "Chapter 13: The Nembutal Peaceful Pill for Storage". (The book can be obtained for US$75 plus two years of updates. BioEdge has not been able to access the book.)

Even if the pill itself costs nothing, the chemicals for reconstitution and a test kit to check the strength of the resulting product will be sold at a cost of US$50 from the Peaceful Pill website.

You can also check out Exit's on-line instructional videos on how to make an air-tight plastic bag for killing yourself with helium and how to make your own peaceful pill -- complete with bouncy background music. Helium gauges and a flow control kit are also available for US$129. ~ Canberra Times, Nov 13

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Closer Look at Martin Heidegger

It’s not often that metaphysics makes the news. Metaphysics is about “being” – not “being there”, or “being here”, or “being John Malkovich”. Just being; pure being, no preservatives, no additives, no artificial colouring. Being. Boring.

So it was rather surprising to read in the New York Times that the artillery of political correctness is busy lobbing verbal cannonballs ("oafish", "vulgar", "vicious") upon one of the greatest metaphysicians of the 20th century. Critic Carlin Romano wrote this scathing attack in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

"How many scholarly stakes in the heart will we need before Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), still regarded by some as Germany’s greatest 20th-century philosopher, reaches his final resting place as a prolific, provincial Nazi hack? Overrated in his prime, bizarrely venerated by acolytes even now, the pretentious old Black Forest babbler makes one wonder whether there’s a university-press equivalent of wolfsbane, guaranteed to keep philosophical frauds at a distance."
You have to have a deep and capacious brain to do metaphysics, and in the 20th century, few have been more influential than Martin Heidegger. The late American post-modernist philosopher Richard Rorty wrote that: “You cannot read most of the important philosophers of recent times without taking Heidegger’s thought into account.” Heidegger’s work is as dense as a Blackforest gateau and just as rich. His theories on world building, background coping and the timeliness of philosophy have helped shape post-modernist interpretations of today’s post-Plato, proto-Nietzschean society.

By no means am I a disciple of Heidegger. But you can learn a lot even from great minds. To me, a great mind asks fundamental questions, like, ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?’ Nowadays philosophers get distracted by peripheral issues or obsessed with minutiae.

Heidegger’s great achievement was to remind contemporary philosophers that their vocation is to remind the rest of us that the Big Questions are the ones that matter. Whether they answer them properly is another matter.

Metaphysicians are like musicians. Much as I like the Beatles for some of their piercingly beautiful songs, I have to acknowledge that they had pretty freaky ideas and lifestyles.

The freaky ideas and lifestyle of Martin Heidegger are upsetting the literati quoted by the New York Times. Heidegger had a great intellect but he was a very flawed man.

He grew up as a Catholic, but drifted away from the Church. After he became a well-known philosopher, he was elected Rector of the University of Freiburg in 1933. It was shortly after Hitler came to power and Heidegger quickly joined the Nazi Party. It is undeniable that he admired some elements in the Nazi philosophy, with its emphasis on the decadence of Western culture. It is said that he sometimes showed up at lectures in a brown shirt and saluted students with a "Heil Hitler!" He is often quoted as speaking of the "inner truth and greatness of this movement" -- referring to National Socialism. Heidegger could be a mean-spirited and nasty man.

How thoroughgoing a Nazi he was, however, is the subject of fierce debate. One critic contends that Heidegger was not so much interested in Nazism as being führer to the Führer, a guide to the leader of the German people. But this was as naive and fated to fail as were Plato’s trips to Syracuse to educate the local tyrant. One point in his favour seems to be that Hannah Arendt, the Jewish philosopher who analysed “the banality of evil” in Nazism was his lover and later defended him as naïve in making a “personal error”.

But Victor Farias’s book Heidegger and Nazism (1991) has argued that Heidegger’s intellectual insights are thoroughly intertwined with National Socialism. Now a new work from France by Emmanuel Faye, Heidegger: The Introduction of Nazism Into Philosophy, reaffirms Farias’s view by drawing on Heidegger’s vast unpublished writings.

In the light of this research, a New York Times feature by Patricia Cohen asks whether a Nazi really deserves a place among philosophers. Drawing on Faye’s soon-to-be translated work, Ms Cohen warns us that without an understanding of the soil in which Heidegger’s philosophy is rooted, people may not realize that his ideas can grow in troubling directions. “Heidegger’s dictum to be authentic and free oneself from conventional restraints, for example, can lead to a rejection of morality.” In fact, Faye concludes that:

"an author who has espoused the foundations of Nazism cannot be considered a philosopher… If his writings continue to proliferate without our being able to stop this intrusion of Nazism into human education, how can we not expect them to lead to yet another translation into facts and acts, from which this time humanity might not be able to recover?"

In other words, the long-dead Heidegger is not just an abominable Nazi, but a clear and present danger to youth, even to Western civilisation, whose books should be quarantined -- or perhaps burned. Cohen writes that in Faye’s view “teaching Heidegger’s ideas without disclosing his deep Nazi sympathies is like showing a child a brilliant fireworks display without warning that an ignited rocket can also blow up in someone’s face.” Romano has a better idea: treat him as a joke:

“His influence will end only when they, and the broader world of intellectuals, recognize that ... [he is] a buffoon produced by German philosophy's mystical tradition. He should be the butt of jokes, not the subject of dissertations.”

Steady on. Are these politically-correct writers serious? Do they really believe that German and English skinheads will stop tattooing their noggins with swastikas because they can’t read Heidegger? The likelihood of a youth who reads Heidegger joining a neo-Nazi outfit is near zero. If Heidegger was a Nazi, he is a defanged Nazi. Ideas do have consequences, admittedly. But the real question -- which the New York Times fears to ask -- is this: whose ideas should we fear nowadays? Which philosopher’s ideas justify destruction, violence and murder in our own society? Well, actually, there are lots of them. Where do you want me to start?

If we are going to burn books or purge libraries, why not begin with Peter Singer, who has a professorial chair at Princeton, one of America’s most prestigious universities, and writes in the New York Times occasionally. Youths who read his books on animal liberation have become murderous terrorists. Doctors who read them justify abortion and euthanasia.

How about Julian Savulescu, who holds a chair at Oxford, and advocates abortion and do-it-yourself eugenics? How about James Lovelock, who extols nature and calls for more plants and fewer people?

These are all dangerous ideas – and yet the New York Times is happy enough to lionise such people. No matter how bad Heidegger was as a man, his metaphysics will always hold great value. To my mind Heidegger’s admiration of Nazism should serve as a warning that great intellects can go dangerously astray. Trashing Heidegger’s reputation won’t make us more moral. What will, is a return to a firm foundation for what is good, what is true, and what is beautiful. Heidegger rejected this and ended up in Nazism. Contemporary philosophers reject this and end up in the scariest kind of nihilism. That’s what we have to be afraid of.

Richard Umbers teaches philosophy in Sydney, Australia. This is reproduced with permission from here.