Monday, June 30, 2014

Quote of the Week - C.S. Lewis

"There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours."-- C.S. Lewis

Thanks to all you immortals who have followed this blog for the past 6 years. God bless you!

Related reading: Saying Goodbye; Good Blogs on Ethics; INDEX of Topics at Ethics Forum

Monday, June 23, 2014

Good Blogs on Ethics

Alice C. Linsley

As I prepare to close down Ethics Forum, readers might appreciate a list of good blogs that address ethics. Here are blogs that I recommend.

Bioethics Discussion Blog 
This excellent blog belongs to Maurice Bernstein, M.D. (Los Angeles). He presents topics weekly with humor and sensitivity.

The Business Ethics Blog
This is the blog of Chris MacDonald, Ph.D., an educator, speaker, and consultant in the realm of business ethics. He teaches at the Ted Rogers School of Management, at Ryerson University in Toronto, where he is Director of the Jim Pattison Ethical Leadership Education and Research Program, at the Ted Rogers Leadership Centre. He is also a Senior Fellow at Duke University's Kenan Institute for Ethics.

Engineering Ethics Blog
This is the blog of a professor who has worked in industry and as a consulting engineer. He currently teaches engineering courses at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas.

Ethics and Psychology
This is the blog of John Gavazzi, a Clinical and Consulting Psychologist who lives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Information Ethics Report
This site is managed by the Journalism Department at Creigthton University in Omaha, Nebraska.

International Society for Environmental Ethics (ISEE)
Founded in 1990, this organization has sponsored sessions at the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, at the Society for Conservation Biology, at the American Institute of Biological Sciences, at the Society of American Foresters, and a number of similar organizations.

Legal Ethics Forum
This blog has numerous contributors. The main contributors are John Steel (Adjunct Law Professor) and Andrew Perlman (Suffolk University Law School).

Related reading: The Apostle Paul: Rules for Blogging

Friday, June 20, 2014

General Evren Sentenced to Life in Prison

ANKARA: Former army chief Kenan Evren, 96, who came to symbolise the military’s dominance over Turkish political life, was sentenced to life in jail on Wednesday [June 18] for leading a 1980 coup that resulted in widespread torture, arrests and deaths.

The sentencing of retired General Evren marked a strong symbolic moment in Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s taming of an army that had forced four governments from power in four decades. Hundreds of officers were jailed last year over an alleged plot to topple him.

Mr Evren, who also served as president after three years of military rule, never expressed regret for the coup. He said it saved Turkey from anarchy after thousands were killed in street fighting by militant left-wingers and rightists.
Read it all here.

Background (Wikipedia)

Kenan Evren was born in Alaşehir, Manisa Province.[1] After going to elementary school and middle school in Manisa, Balıkesir and Istanbul, he attended military high school in Maltepe, Ankara. In 1938, he graduated from army school and in 1949 from military academy as a staff officer. From 1958 to 1959, he served in the Turkish Brigade in Korea. In 1964, he was promoted to general. Evren served at various posts as Army Chief. He was the commander of Operation Gladio's Turkish branch; the Counter-Guerrilla. The Counter-Guerrilla was an anti-communist "stay-behind" guerrilla force set up with the support of NATO.[2] He became Chief of General Staff in March 1978.

The years leading to the coup were characterized as a fierce struggle between the rightists and leftists. Hoping to see a communist revolution, the left wingers rioted in the streets; on the other hand, the nationalist rightists fought back the left wingers and provoked religious arousal. Universities had taken sides and each became headquarters for either the leftists or rightists.

With the coup came the National Security Council as the ruling body. The council of 1980 was composed of the commanders Kenan Evren, the Chief of Staff and President of the State. The parliament was dissolved. The Central Intelligence Agency's Ankara bureau chief at the time, Paul B. Henze, received a call from the White House Situation Room saying "Paul, your guys have done it", while President Jimmy Carter was watching Fiddler on the Roof at theKennedy Center.[3][4]

After the coup, in 1982, Kenan Evren was elected the President of Republic of Turkey on 7 November with the 90% approval of the new constitution that was submitted to a controversial referendum, replacing the older constitution which, according to him, had liberties "luxurious" for Turkey.[5] He suspended many forms of civil liberties and human rights on the grounds that it was necessary to establish stability. He professed great admiration for the founder of Turkey, Kemal Atatürk, however he shut down many institutions founded by Atatürk and is often accused of deforming the country's legal system against Atatürk's principles. During his military regime, many people were tortured and executed due to their political beliefs.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Galway's Baby Burial Grounds

The ancient custom in Ireland was to bury unbaptised children, strangers, suicides and criminals in mass graves. Here is a map of all of the “children’s burial grounds” in Galway, taken from a National Monuments Service interactive map.

Michael Cook

The Catholic Church in Ireland and its ferocious nuns are being pilloried over yet another tranche of decades-old crimes. “Galway Historian Finds 800 Babies in Septic Tank Grave” is the headline in the Boston Globe. As the story snowballs don’t be surprised if you read about “the killing fields of Ireland”.

The remains were found on the site of a home for unmarried mothers and their children run by the Bon Secours Sisters between 1925 and 1961 in Tuam, County Galway. Sketchy accounts which are appearing in the media evoke images of murdered children and secret burials. Guardian columnist Emer O’Toole wrote in an incandescent fury: “Do not say Catholic prayers over these dead children. Don't insult those who were in life despised and abused by you. Instead, tell us where the rest of the bodies are.” A Government Senator from Galway, Fine Gael’s Hildegarde Naughton, has called what happened “manslaughter”.

But the fires of indignation burn hottest and highest when they are uncontaminated by facts. Before politicians and columnists launch into their well-rehearsed litanies denouncing sadistic nuns and misogynist clerics, it might be wise to scout whether there are enough facts to justify the scaremongering.

Read the real story behind Ireland's mass graves here.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Quote of the Week - Robert Darwin Crouse

"Anglican spirituality is basically a liturgical piety, nurtured by the Book of Common Prayer. It is a rich and glorious tradition, and I, for one, am unwilling to see it undermined or discarded."-- Dr. Robert Darwin Crouse (1930-1911)

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Mormon Dating Faces Trademark Lawsuit

6 June 2014
Electronic Frontier Foundation 

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged a federal judge to quickly resolve a dispute over the use of the term "Mormon" in an online dating site, arguing that extended litigation based on a frivolous claim could bury a small business in its infancy.

Intellectual Reserve, Inc., which manages intellectual property rights for The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints, has made numerous trademark claims against a website called "Mormon Match," which offers online dating services for members of the LDS church. Intellectual Reserve concedes that the term "Mormon" can be used to describe church members generally, but claims that its "family of marks" using "Mormon" (such as "Mormon Tabernacle Choir") gives it the power to silence any business that dares to use the term in commerce. In an amicus brief filed Friday, EFF argues that because "Mormon" is undisputedly a descriptive term, its use in the name of the website is fair and legal.

"The name of this service simply describes what it's doing – matching up Mormons," said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. "Trademarks are supposed to be used to protect from unfair competition, not to stifle a small business or to control language."

Often, when websites or other projects get trademark complaints, the creators decide to change their content or services in order to avoid expensive litigation – even if they know they are in the right. Merely the threat of a trademark lawsuit, and the costs associated with it, is enough to chill many entrepreneurs, artists, and activists from innovative projects.

"This case can and should be dismissed now," said EFF Staff Attorney Vera Ranieri. "The spectre of expensive litigation shouldn't be a tool used to coerce Internet entrepreneurs and other content creators into succumbing to meritless infringement claims."

See the full amicus brief

Thursday, June 12, 2014

China Improves Military as Part of "National Rejuvenation"

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

The just-released "Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China for 2014" report said China's military expenditures continue to grow in keeping with its goal of being a regional and world power.WASHINGTON, June 5, 2014 – China continues to modernize and improve its military capabilities, according to an annual DOD report to Congress, and is also preparing for contingencies in the South and East China Seas where Beijing has been involved in increasingly tense territorial disputes with its neighbors.

The main mission for the People's Liberation Army, the report said, is to improve the capacity of its armed forces to fight and win short-duration, high-intensity regional contingencies.

China continues to prepare for potential conflict in the Taiwan Strait -- which includes deterring or defeating the United States, according to the report.

"The People's Liberation Army also is placing emphasis on preparing for contingencies other than Taiwan, including potential contingencies in the South and East China Seas," the report says.

The PLA Navy, the report said, conducted its largest-ever fleet exercise in the Philippine Sea.

China also conducted a series of joint military exercises in September and October, according to the report. "These exercises combined PLA ground, navy and air forces in large-scale maneuvers along China's southern and southeastern coasts," the report said.

Read it all here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Quote of the Week - Louis Agassiz

Absorbed in the special investigation, I paid no heed to the edifice which was meanwhile unconsciously building itself up. Having however completed the comparison of the fossil species in Paris, I wanted, for the sake of an easy revision of the same, to make a list according to their succession in geological formations, with a view of determining the characteristics more exactly and bringing them by their enumeration into bolder relief. What was my joy and surprise to find that the simplest enumeration of the fossil fishes according to their geological succession was also a complete statement of the natural relations of the families among themselves; that one might therefore read the genetic development of the whole class in the history of creation, the representation of the genera and species in the several families being therein determined; in one word, that the genetic succession of the fishes corresponds perfectly with their zoological classification, and with just that classification proposed by me.— Louis Agassiz (1807-1873)

Quoted in Elizabeth Cary Agassiz (ed.), Louis Agassiz: His Life and Correspondence (1885), Vol. I, 203-4.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Putin and Poroshenko Meet Briefly in Normandy

Merkel, Poroschenko and Putin in Normandy

Putin and President-elect Petro Poroshenko met informally with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday in Normandy as a sideline to the D-Day events. 

​​French President Francois Hollande had personally invited Putin to the D-Day commemoration, in recognition of at least 20 million Soviets killed during World War II. Reuters, on Twitter, reported Hollande's office as saying Putin and Poroshenko shook hands.

French officials said that Putin and Poroshenko discussed a possible ceasefire between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists.

Russian news agencies reported that both leaders called for 'a speedy end to to the bloodshed in southeastern Ukraine and to the military actions of both sides - the Ukrainian armed forces and the supporters of the federalization of Ukraine.'

It is hoped that this informal contact between Putin and Poroshenko might help ease tensions between Russia and Ukraine after Russia's seizure and annexation the Crimea.

President Obama also met with Putin for about 15 minutes. Read a report of that meeting here.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Salafist Jihadists in Germany

by Soeren Kern 
June 5, 2014 at 5:00 am

Counter-terrorism efforts are too focused on security-related threats rather than on prevention and combating radicalization at the earliest stages of indoctrination.

Salafist groups are recruiting and radicalizing young Muslims under the guise of doing "mission work."

A Salafist demonstration in Solingen, Germany on May 1, 2012, moments before it degenerated into a violent riot. (Image source: YouTube)

Salafism is the fastest growing Islamist movement in Germany, and Salafist jihadists pose one of the greatest threats to national security, according to a new German intelligence report.

The annual report—known in German as the Verfasungsschutzbericht Niedersachsen 2013—focuses on threats to the democratic order in the northwestern German state of Lower Saxony, home to a sizeable Muslim community.

The 196-page document was prepared by the Lower Saxony branch of Germany's domestic intelligence agency, the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (BfV), and was made public by Boris Pistorius, the Interior Minister of Lower Saxony, at a special press conference held in the city of Hannover on May 25.

Despite its regional focus, the report provides a wealth of information about the rise of radical Islam in Germany as a whole.

Read it all here.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Canada Waffles on International Funding for Abortions

Some Canadian grant money funds International Planned Parenthood Federation which is the world's largest provider of abortions. 

By Rebecca Oas, Ph.D.

NEW YORK, June 6 (C-FAM) The defining feature of Canada’s ambitious multi-billion-dollar international plan to help mothers and newborns is not what it provides, but what it leaves out, namely, abortion.

As Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised a further $3.5 billion dollars to his signature foreign policy health initiative at a Toronto summit last week, abortion advocates renewed their call for him to not “separate abortion from maternal health.”

Harper told the Globe and Mail, “What we have been trying to do since 2010 is build broad public and international consensus for saving the lives of mothers and babies,” he said. “You cannot do that if you introduce that other issue.”

Harper’s reluctance to refer to “that other issue” by name reflects the stigma around abortion worldwide, including in Canada, which has some of the most liberal abortion laws in the world. It is because of this stigma that abortion advocacy groups have made great efforts to fit themselves into the broad maternal health umbrella – and why they protest so strongly at being evicted from beneath it.

Canada is not alone among major donors in blocking aid funding for foreign abortions – the U.S. has done so since shortly after abortion was legalized at the national level by the Supreme Court decisionRoe v. Wade.

When philanthropist Melinda Gates announced her goal to make family planning her signature issue, she explicitly stated that she would not fund abortions. While she has drawn criticism for partnering with organizations that advocate for and provide abortions, Gates has not changed her public stance.

In the same Globe and Mail interview, Gates spoke favorably about Harper’s initiative focusing on pregnancy and childbirth. “Maternal and child health is on the global health agenda, in part, really, thanks to what Canada did.”

She later reflected, “every journalist also focused on Canada’s policy on abortion.” She argued that conflating abortion with other issues stalls progress and undermines cooperation. “I’ve decided not to engage on it publicly—and the Gates Foundation has decided not to fund abortion.”

Many of the editorials urging Canada to fund overseas abortions as a component of maternal health cited the same statistic: that abortions cause approximately 13% of maternal deaths worldwide. The WHO has recently released an estimate saying the actual number may be closer to 8%.

Like the Gates Foundation, Canada’s maternal health initiative prohibits directly funding abortion, but the situation on the ground in recipient countries can depend on the agencies the donor chooses as partners. LifeSiteNews reports that Canadian grant money will go to International Planned Parenthood Federation, the world’s largest abortion provider, but only in countries where abortion is illegal or heavily restricted. Among these countries is Bangladesh, which permits abortion under the name “menstrual regulation” during the first trimester. It is unclear that the funding would be segregated to prevent its use to fund this procedure.

Nevertheless, Canada is not only establishing itself as a global leader on maternal and child health but demonstrating that this work does not require funding for abortion, and inheriting the moral and political controversy that goes with it.

“The fact of the matter is it’s not only divisive in our country and in other donor countries, it’s extremely divisive in recipient countries where it’s often illegal,” said Harper. “There are obviously some organizations that advance that issue but the government of Canada does not advance that issue.”

From here.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Saying Goodbye

Alice C. Linsley

Endings produce mixed emotions. Certainly that is the case for me as I close the door on a relationship with Midway College where I have taught as an adjunct for twelve years. The first eleven years were wonderful, but this last year was disastrous.

Five years ago I was asked to develop an online course for Midway College on the History of Ethics. I spent the summer break doing the research and writing an eight-week course that covered key ethical concerns from 3000 B.C. to the present. It was a course I loved teaching and each year I made small changes to improve the course. The improvements included images, color, subheadings, hot links, related readings, and lesson summaries. The course grew in popularity. The student evaluations of the course included comments like these:

"This class was very interesting! The professor was very interactive and provided tons of feedback."

"I really enjoyed the class. The instructor was very attentive and answered my questions in a timely manner."

"This class was very interesting and kept my interest the entire semester. It was probably my most favorite college course I have taken."

Last Fall I was under contract to teach the course again, but to my dismay when I went online, the course was not the course I had developed. Instead there were eight cut-and-paste, very dry, lessons beginning with Aristotle. (My course began with archaic communities.) I communicated with the college contact person and asked to have my course restored. The course was to launch one week later. After some conversation with the Dean of Humanities, it was agreed that I should be allowed to teach the course that Midway had paid me to develop and which I had taught for the past five years. However, Midway no longer had that course because it was posted on a platform with a company the college stopped employing as a cost-saving measure. That meant I had to reconstruct the course, which I did, staying one week ahead for the students. This extra work was in addition to teaching six classes at another school. My stress level was high, but the course was improved even more. I was told that this would be the "approved" Philosophy 301 course and I was asked to teach two sections of the course in the Spring 2014. I agreed to do so, confident that the new, updated course would stimulate students to think more deeply about key ethical concerns throughout the ages.

Spring came and I went online to check the Philosophy 301 course and again I found that it had been changed. This time the material was even worse than the first change. Once again, I contacted the Dean of the Humanities Department. I was already under contract to teach the course, but I explained that I could not teach such an inferior course and asked the college to restore the course that I had re-written and which had been approved the previous semester. This request was met with silence and the course launched.

Only lessons 1 and 2 of my work were retained.  All the other lessons were short shallow essays and YouTube videos. However, whoever decided to make the changes kept my original quizzes and final exam which were based on the readings that had been removed. Talk about confusing! The students were emailing me like crazy. Again I appealed to the Dean of Humanities to restore my lessons, but no response. This time I copied the message to the college President and to the Academic Dean. No response from anyone! So I took the lessons that were missing and I posted them at Philosophers' Corner and I messaged my students to be sure to read those lessons before they took the weekly quizzes and final exam.

I also emailed the Dean of Humanities, who is the party responsible for the Philosophy courses. I explained that this would be the last course I would teach for Midway College and she finally responded! Her two-word message was, "Thank you."

This ending has left me with feelings of anger, frustration, disappointment and sadness. I tell this story because Ethics Forum started almost seven years ago as a resource for my Midway College philosophy students. As I am no longer teaching Philosophy on the college level, this blog will no longer be active. The last post will appear on June 30, 2014.

It is with regret that I now say goodbye to readers and thank you for checking this blog regularly for the latest news and developments in Ethics and Moral Philosophy. I am grateful for the years of interaction with you and for your thoughtful comments. I wish you all the best in your future endeavors!

Alice C. Linsley

Information Ethics

What is information ethics?  Basically, information ethics pertains to collection, distribution and use of information obtained by individuals, corporations, or governments. Information ethics is related to computer ethics and the philosophy of information.

It considers moral issues surrounding informational privacy, how agents should behave in the infosphere, problems arising from creation, collection, recording, distribution, and processing of information, intellectual property and copyright, digital divide, and digital rights.
Dilemmas regarding the life of information are becoming increasingly important in a society that is defined as "the information society". Information transmission and literacy are essential concerns in establishing an ethical foundation that promotes fair, equitable, and responsible practices. Information ethics broadly examines issues related to ownership, access, privacy, security, and community.

Many of these issues are difficult to resolve due to fundamental tensions between Western ideas of morality with emphasis on the individual and Eastern ideas of morality with greater emphasis on the community as a whole. The dispute between Google and the government of the People's Republic of China reflects such a cultural tension.

Ten Commandments of Computer Ethics

The ethical values as defined in 1992 by the Computer Ethics Institute; a nonprofit organization whose mission is to advance technology by ethical means, lists these rules as a guide to computer ethics:
  1. Thou shalt not use a computer to harm other people.
  2. Thou shalt not interfere with other people's computer work.
  3. Thou shalt not snoop around in other people's computer files.
  4. Thou shalt not use a computer to steal.
  5. Thou shalt not use a computer to bear false witness.
  6. Thou shalt not copy or use proprietary software for which you have not paid.
  7. Thou shalt not use other people's computer resources without authorization or proper compensation.
  8. Thou shalt not appropriate other people's intellectual output.
  9. Thou shalt think about the social consequences of the program you are writing or the system you are designing.
  10. Thou shalt always use a computer in ways that ensure consideration and respect for your fellow humans (Computer Ethics Institute, 1992).

Related reading: UNESCO Handbook of Information Ethics; Microsoft's Cyberspace 2025: Today's Decision, Tomorrow's Terrain

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Quote of the Week - Athanasius

"If a bishop or presbyter, who are the eyes of the Church, conduct themselves in an evil manner... they must be plucked out."--St. Athanasius