Adonis Diaries

Archive for July 2012

Off-shore parked wealth: $32 trillion. Tax loss: $280 bn

Aljazeera posted on her blog:

“Rich individuals and their families have about $32 trillion financial assets hidden in offshore tax havens, representing up to $280 bn in lost income tax revenues, according to research published on Sunday.

The research was carried out by James Henry, former chief economist at consultants McKinsey & Co., for pressure group Tax Justice Network that campaigns against tax havens.

The study estimating the extent of global private financial wealth held in offshore accounts – excluding non-financial assets such as real estate, gold, yachts and racehorses – puts the sum at between $21 and $32 trillion.

What’s shocking is that some of the world’s biggest banks are up to their eyeballs in helping their clients evade taxes and shift their wealth offshore.– John Christensen, the Tax Justice Network

This amounts to roughly the US and Japanese GDP combined.

Roughly 10 million people worldwide have offshore accounts, with 100,000 people owning half of those secreted assets. (The same recurring 1% wealth structure)

John Christensen of the Tax Justice Network told Al Jazeera that he was shocked by “the sheer scale of the figures”.

“What’s shocking is that some of the world’s biggest banks are up to their eyeballs in helping their clients evade taxes and shift their wealth offshore,” said Christensen.


“We’re talking about very big, well-known brands – HSBC, Citigroup, Bank of America, UBS, Credit Suisse – some of the world’s biggest banks are involved… and they do it knowing fully well that their clients, more often than not, are evading and avoiding taxes. Much of this activity is illegal”.

James Henry used data from the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, United Nations and central banks.

The report highlights the impact on the balance sheets of 139 developing countries of money held in tax havens by private elites, putting wealth beyond the reach of local tax authorities.

The research estimates that since the 1970s, the richest citizens of these 139 countries had amassed $7.3 to $9.3 trillion of “unrecorded offshore wealth” by 2010.

Private wealth held offshore represents “a huge black hole in the world economy,” Henry said in a statement.

What type of surgeons gets harassed with legal malpractice suits?

A patient filed suit against a physician internist, not the surgeon who delayed the diagnosis of her breast tumor that metastasized. Why?

“In our first meeting, the female internist never took the time to talk to me, and never asked about my other symptoms. She never looked at me as a whole person…” This is a contempt case in the way a physician treat patients.

Alice Burkin, a medical malpractice lawyer, says:

“In all the year I’ve been in this business, I’ve never had a potential client walk in and say “I really like this doctor, and I feel terrible about doing it, but I want to sue him”…We’ve had patients come in wanting to sue a specialist and we’ll say, “We don’t think that surgeon was negligent. We think it’s your primary care doctor who was a fault…” And the client will say, “I don’t care what my primary doctor did. I love her, and I’m not suing her…”

Statistics and evidences point that malpractice suits have little to do with how many mistakes a doctor makes. Actually, it is the highly skilled surgeons and physicians who get sued very often. Apparently, patients don’t file lawsuits out of harms done by shoddy medical care: they are angry with how they have been treated on a personal level.

Reviewing cases of medical malpractice, the surgeon who got suit spent an average of 15 minutes with the patients compared to 18.3 minutes by the saved surgeons. How these additional 3 minutes saved the lucky physicians?

There was no difference in the amount or quality of information the physicians gave their patients, they provided the amount of details about medication or the patient’s condition…what gives?

The physicians who were never sued made “orienting” comments, such as

1. “First I’ll examine you, and then we will talk the problem over…

2. I will leave time for your questions…

3.  Go on, tell me more about that trouble…

These physicians tended to laugh and be funny during the visit, and they lended a listening ear, and got engaged in the conversation…

It was not the content of the conversations that saved surgeon, but the tone of the voice, the warmth…The tone of voices that gave the impression of dominance, hostility, and anxiousness were never missed by the patients…

Malpractice suits come down to a matter of respect which is communicated through the tone of the voice…Patients are listening to that feeling in the voice…that mankind brain is superior in detecting corrosive signature in the voice…

You may listening to bribes of a short conversation and get the impression which relationship is in serious trouble…Mankind’s brain is excellent at detecting contempt signature in the voice and in the attitudes, facial and body gestures (rolling of eyes…)

Very few of us have ever watched even a one-minute video conversation with others. We are all shocked of how we sounded and behaved…

Professional people are not trained to watch themselves on how they come across in their conversation with clients…

Obviously, people who have contempt will not transform drastically, but all the other shortcoming can be vanquished and improved…

Take seriously feedbacks from the others: They are watching you and picking up on the thin-slicing bits of intelligence you are disseminating…

Note: Article inspired from a chapter in “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell

Israel orders demolishing 8 more Palestinian villages. Why?

This is the year 2012, and Israel is still demolishing scores of Palestinian villages and town…since 1948…Time for international outrage…

Israel daily Haaretz published this article:

Defense Minister Ehud Barak has ordered the demolition of 8 Palestinian villages in the South Hebron Hills because the territory is needed for Israel Defense Forces (IDF) training exercises, the government of Netanyahu told the High Court of Justice on Sunday.

The residents of the targeted villages will be moved to the town of Yatta and its environs. Why to Yatta?  The government claims that most of these people have permanent homes in that area.

Yatta - Nir Kafri - Archive

The State will allow the residents to work their lands and graze their flocks there when the IDF is not training — on weekends and Jewish holidays – and during two other periods of one month each during the year. (And if the training sessions are purposely scheduled during the sawing and harvesting periods?)

Barak agreed to leave four villages that are in the northernmost part of the area, even though this would reduce the dimensions of training area and prevent the use of live fire. (Oh, how generous of this Barak…)

The villages slated for demolition are the larger villages in the region: Majaz, Tabban, Sfai, Fakheit, Halaweh, Mirkez, Jinba, and Kharuba, which have a total of 1,500 residents. The villages to be spared are Tuba, Mufaqara, Sarura and Megheir al-Abeid, which have a total of 300 residents. (Has Haaretz correspondents double checked what the government is presenting as data?)

The IDF and the Civil Administration regard all of these residents as squatters in Firing Zone 918, even though the villages have existed since at least the 1830s.

Evacuation orders were issued against the 12 villages in 1999, but were frozen by an injunction issued by the High Court of Justice in response to two petitions that were united: One by attorney Shlomo Lecker and the second by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, who together represented some 200 families.

An effort to reach an agreement on the status of the residents in the area by a mediation process failed in 2005.

At that point, the Civil Administration started to issue demolition orders against cisterns and restrooms that several families had added, claiming that these additions violated the status quo as set by the court.

This past April, after 12 years of various proceedings and delays, the High Court held a preliminary hearing on the petitions, with the State submitting its final position on Sunday.

Attorney Hila Gurani, a senior deputy state prosecutor, wrote in the response to the petitions that the IDF has been forced to limit its military exercises in the area because of the people living there and the illegal construction that has taken place there.

For the same reason, no live-fire training is conducted there.

In addition, wrote Gurani, during the second intifada, operational activity came at the expense of training, but the Second Lebanon War exposed weak spots that substantially increase the need for training and firing zones.

Gurani noted that there was a risk that residents of the firing zone would collect intelligence on IDF methods, or take weapons or equipment that the forces might leave behind, and use them for terror purposes. (Yes, right)

The village residents, ACRI and the B’Tselem human rights group present the issues differently. According to them, all 12 villages were natural outgrowths of cave-dwelling communities that are widely found in that area. In some of the villages, homes of unchiseled stone were built even before 1967.

The connection to Yatta is natural – and characteristic of many satellite communities that developed over the centuries in historic Palestine.

For generations the cave-dwellers were farmers and shepherds, producing milk and cheese, and they have preserved their way of life to this day, while integrating into Yatta as a result of contemporary demands, such as the need to send their children to school.

The IDF had declared some 30,000 dunams (7,500 acres) in the area a closed military zone back in the 1970s. Under military law, only permanent residents are allowed to remain in a closed military zone.

Until 1997, the cave-dwellers continued to live in their communities undisturbed – which the petitioners say is clear evidence that they were regarded at the time as permanent residents. However, as happened in much of the West Bank that, under the Oslo Accords was deemed Area C (under complete Israeli control), the Israeli authorities did not allow the residents to build more structures, including schools or clinics, to accommodate their natural growth.

These communities were not included in the master plans that were prepared for the building of the area settlements, and thus to this day these villages are not connected to the road system, the water system or to the electrical grid. (Are the soldiers in training happy not to enjoy those facilities…?)

In August and November 1999, most of the area’s residents received eviction orders due to “illegal residence in a firing zone.”

On November 16, 1999, the security forces forcibly evicted more than 700 residents, and the IDF demolished buildings and wells and confiscated property, leaving the residents with no homes and no livelihood.

As noted, the High Court, in response to the petitions, issued an interim injunction, allowing the villagers to temporarily return to their homes. However, because the army had destroyed many of the buildings, many residents had nothing to return to.

Moreover, the security forces interpreted the interim injunction as narrowly as possible, allowing reentry only to the named petitioners and denying access to their relatives.

As a result, the examination conducted by the Civil Administration that is quoted in the state’s response to the court on Sunday found that in 2000 “there were no permanent residents in the area,” and that anyone living there was there only on a seasonal basis.

On the other hand, the Civil Administration identified most of the petitioners as living in and around Yatta, as reported in the affidavit of Raziel Goldstein, who was the Civil Administration’s inspection coordinator in the region.

Goldstein wrote in his affidavit that, “This examination was conducted with the help of three local residents, who were presented with the names of the petitioners and aerial photographs of Yatta.”

The state also claims that, in recent years, residents have been repeatedly violating the status quo by expanding structures illegally, adding that the number of people entering the area under the interim injunctions is far greater than the number of petitioners.

“The petitioners cannot build on the development of these illegal phenomena and now claim to be talking about permanent residency,” the government wrote.

Thin-Slicing analysis and visiting your dorm room: The best of Big Brain power…

You are given a questionnaire to rate the characteristics and behavior of an individual’s “personality” that you never met, seen, or heard of.

The only feedback to rely on is a peek to the person’s bedroom, dorm room, or kitchen…

You are let in without prior notice to the person…Your are an investigator assigned to thin-slice the knowledge of whatever pieces of intelligence the room is offering and exposing the impressions and evidences of the person’s habit, inclinations, behavior…

Obviously, all pictures of the person, his name or anything material that might send information as to the gender or color or age of the person will be removed so that you don’t start of with any instant and natural discriminatory impressions

Don’t you think that your first impression of a person if you saw him or heard him or smelt him…could distort your judgment, giving lenient rates or harsher rates?

Do you think that you will be able to confidently rate the person that you invaded the privacy of his dwelling on the following Big Five Inventory characteristics:

1. Extroversion tendencies such as sociability and fun-loving

2. Agreeableness such as trusting and cooperative

3. Conscientiousness such as organized and self-disciplined

4. Emotional stability such as secure and calm person

5. Open-mindedness such imaginative, or down-to-earth and conformist…

If you enter a room and the CDs are ordered alphabetically, the dirty cloths are stacked in a specific laundry basket, the bed is neatly made…how would you judge the anonymous person?

If the room is dirty, the pizza pieces thrown any which way on the floor and on the bed…

If the room is filled with books and ordered according to material and field of studies on shelves…but the floor is heaped with dailies and magazines, waiting to be removed at the end of the semester for the Big Clean up

If the room is spec clean of dirt and sprayed with nice odor, and incense burning in a corner, but no reading materials around…

Do you think that you can rate the person better than his closest friend, a friend who knew your anonymous individual since grade one, witnessed all the mood swing of the friend, experienced many powerful moments, and many more boring events and…?

Do you think that you can rate the person better than he rated himself?

Psychologist Samuel Gosling thinks that he proved that you can do a better job of judging the anonymous person than the person himself and even better than his friend.

Samuel Gosling has been conducting experiments that show people are greatly effective in the thin-slicing method of generating comprehensive knowledge from bits and pieces of data (short recording of conversation, short videos, glimpses of interactions…)

The trouble with Gosling analysis, and psychological experiments in general, is: “What is the reference“?

1. Is my judgment of the anonymous individual’s personality better than the friend’s, the person concerned, the expert opinion of the psychologist, the consensus judgment in the psychology profession, textbook definitions of behavior…?

Mankind emotions and feeling are not something objectives that can be measured and compared with a standard object. All we can compare with are data from what we call “Normal people” behavior, or how the vast majority of people behave in particular communities and social setting…

The comparison is a well-defined “within community” and any generalization to other cultural environment is fraught with dangerous pitfalls…

2. Am I not judging a personality by matching the anonymous individual to my own world view, characteristics, and criteria?

Is this  not the same as the individual rating himself in another setting or perspective?

In order to have a better lever on the judgment rating, it is advisable that more than one person rate the anonymous person, and the raters must be classified between groups of judges such as by males, females, Asians, blacks, whites, wealth classes, professional classes… an undertaking that is very extensive in order to extract any generalization of the dorm room experiment.

A process that is called modeling extensive data analysis

I believe that our brain does an excellent job thin-slicing pieces of intelligence, but when it comes to judging another person we are stepping in a mine field, no matter how we control the experiment…

Note: Article inspired from a chapter in “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell

Is it Hate or Contempt that kill? How can you reverse crimes of hate? What practical solutions can salvage acquired hate feelings?

Different hate tendencies are predominant in communities around the world. We are the inheritor of hate, bred through bloody scenes, erased from land, brute force subjugation…

The feeling of hate against particular persons, community at large, ideologies, religious clerics, and institutions should be considered a positive feeling compared to the nastiest of all human tendencies of “Contempt“.

Contempt, this feeling of over-lording it on other people, hovering in an upper sphere of superiority and condescending our opinions and orders on the inferior species of mankind…

All these mass killing of people we have never met, from Norway to France to the USA and all those “terrorist” acts that harvest thousands of civilians…

Why the white European mass killers are labelled “crazies”, while the Moslem killers are called terrorists? Is there any fundamental difference in crimes of contempt?

The worst part in contempt is its trade-mark among the most ignorant who have no patience to acquiring knowledge and tending a listening ears to other people opinions…

I can vouch that most kids exhibit behavior of contempt regarding one of their parents, although they are far less educated and far less experienced in almost everything…

Is their any cure against contempt if the concerned person is not willing to make the effort of becoming a knowledgeable individual and refuse to do his due diligence on improving his behavior?

At least, the various feeling of hate can be overcome, simply because we can modify the environment of communities, and we can control the first instant impressions acquired from the constant flow and flood of discriminating impressed upon us by the extended family and peer pressures within our culture…

The Lebanese inherited a wide spectrum of hate-kind emotions from personal experiences (17 years of civil war) and the archaic pseudo-State system running Lebanon since 1943, and Rima Rantisi  explains.

Rima Rantisi posted on July 22 an interesting article on her blog crosseyedrevolutions under “Imagining New Sectual Relations“:

“You have heard the words “Muslim,” “Christian,” and “Druze” refer to people your entire life. And when you lived through the July 2006 War (preemptive war of Israel against Lebanon that lasted 33 days), you might have been partying in resort Fraya or outside the country or only just heard a whisper of the sound of the bombs and only tasted the hate that your parents ate and breathed for 15 years.

So how do you hate? And how can you unlearn it?

Joanna Choukeir Hojeily wants to help you find out. She will not tell you, nor force you to tell her. But she will design a way for you to interact with the “other” – because you have inherited hate, not created it.

As a “social designer”, Joanna uses innovative and creative projects to tackle social issues. Her latest pilot project, which was co-created with volunteers made up of students, activists, professionals, and creative people, lasted for 48 hours, in the form of an “Imagination Market”.

In two locations (towns of Byblos and B3akleen), 5 pop-up tents addressed the identified five key social barriers that contribute to a sectarian-divided Lebanon.

Why Joanna “as an 18-year-old hadn’t met any Muslims?”

I joined Joanna’s team of “Imaginers” in Baakline and witnessed the optimism of a group so ready to show others the vibrancy of the new path they had found.

The moment I walked up to the “Market,” which comprised 5 booths – Gharam (Love), Moushwar (Trip), Khabriyeh (Story), Dardasheh (Chat), and Souhba (Friendship), I was met with red excitement of volunteers and team leaders. They each wanted to explain “Imagination Studio” to me – the incubator that yielded “Imagination Market” (created by Joanna Choukeir) and their investment in it.

Aisha Habli put it simply: “We want to fix the social situation in Lebanon.” She fizzed as she spoke about the project and its audience of the youth and for the youth.  This project echoes Choukeir’s commitment that it is not “experts” who come up with solutions for youth, but rather youth coming up with solutions “for themselves with one another.”

Yussef Chaker, her fellow “Imaginer volunteers”,  says: “What the studio promotes is what I’ve lived.” His mother is a religious Muslim and his father is a religious Christian. As a result of this mixed upbringing, Yussof says he’s “lived the good experience in Lebanon.”

Yussof and Aisha were introduced to Imagination Studio at Tedx Beirut where Choukeir’s presentation inspired them to volunteer their time towards bringing youth of all sects closer together. This does not seem elusive to them, as they proudly claim the proof in the bond that has grown between them as team members who have come from all corners of Lebanon.

At the age of 18, Joanna Choukeir realized that “there is an issue of social segregation” in Lebanon led her to a PhD program, where she could have the structure to “make something happen.” Her research question was:

“How can we use communication design methods for social integration with youth in Lebanon?”

Joanna’s first step toward the answer was an intervention called “Expressions Corner” – a pop-up tent in which she conducted blind interviews with people of different religions and regions over Skype.

Participants, whom she was linked to as “influential youth” in their town, had a deck of cards that each had a religion or region on it.

Their task was to simply respond in any way they wanted, and thus they spoke about experiences, ideologies, or prejudices; while others had “nothing to say.”

From these responses, Joanna found the 5 major barriers, upon which “Imagination Market” is based and which the Studio builds their designs around.

The divisive combination includes sect and marriage, region and mobility, politics and friendship, media and influence, and language and prejudice.

Souk ek Khayal! Souk el Khayal!” (Imagination market)

“Come closer so I can tell you a story; one from me, one from you!”

“Hizb (party of) el Sushi! Hizb el Hummus!”

Imaginers called out by the side of the main road in Baakline, a quiet town in the Chouf populated predominately by Druze, where young people started emerging after their Sunday lunches.

Two young men were coaxed out of their convertible over to the dardashe booth where they sang the Beatles “Imagine” in Arabic, English, and French with the help of flashcards.

One walked away and had to be pulled back, his cigarette intact between his fingers. The two men sang the song with Imaginers’ help and moved from booth to booth, laughing though reluctant.

The two young men resumed their tour of the booths and visited the moushwar booth: Imaginers proposed taking them on a trip to an old Maronite Church in the village that had been closed for years – and which by the end of the day only 2 of 50 participants knew existed!

The day before, the trip was from Jbail (Byblos) to a fish tavern owned by a woman named Maggie, who opened up shop just after her husband passed away. Visitors had wondered how they could find more of these authentic places in a country that had less and less of them.

The young men sat down for the short skit at the souhba booth, where two friends get in an argument over their political allegiances – Hizb Sushi and Hizb Hummus – the guys participated in the post-performance discussion which focused on conjuring up ways the conversation could have been civil. But ultimately they said, “We already know all of this.”

However, Choukeir does not feel pressure to change these people.

What seems to be most particular about the ideas behind this project is Choukeir’s hypothesis that of the five personalities she has divided people on the subject of sectarian divisions in Lebanon – open-minded, curious, stubborn, distant, and skeptic – she believes that Imagination Studio’s efforts will have the most impact on the “curious” and the “skeptic,” both of whom just need a little “nudge” to see a “new path.”

“We had some ‘distant’ and ‘stubborn’ people yesterday.

The distant people don’t even want to acknowledge that there’s a problem in Lebanon; they’re living in their closed social circles – they don’t think anything is wrong with that.

The stubborn people realize that there’s a whole other community in Lebanon that they don’t know, but they don’t even want to have anything to do with it. They are very politicized; they’ve made up their mind. At the market they said, ‘This activity isn’t going to change anything.’

And we know that with stubborn people, it’s not going to change anything. But with the curious and skeptics, there is potential. Sometimes they just haven’t had the exposure. Seeing something optimistic like this could trigger the change.”

Imagination Studio has been an ongoing project of workshops that led to the Imagination Market, which was a pilot to prove that some of the ideas have potential for nudging minds.

For example, the khabriyeh booth, a 48-hour user-generated blog, could be an ongoing project where people share their stories and experiences, and make connections.

All of the ideas are registered with Creative Commons, so anyone can use them, as “Change has to be something continuous. A one-off thing will only affect those who were there at the right time and the right place,” says Choukeir.

Attendance was low after a few hours (as opposed to the previous day in Jbail), when two girls, aged 18, walked up to the gharaam booth, where a volunteer acting as a fortune-teller (Ashley) awaited them in full glittery gear.

Ashley (younger sister of Joanna) fluttered her ringed fingers over the cards as they sat expectantly. She flipped over two cards, which revealed a Sunni man and a Druze woman.

Although the fortune-teller was to brief them on the rights of the individuals if they were to be married – conversion, kids, inheritance, custody, etc, she only gave them their options in terms of how two different sects could get married.

One of the young women asked if she could choose the combination, so she chose a Druze woman and a Druze man: “This is the best option,” she said.

Here, again, the fortune-teller told them “That’s easy. These two can get married, no problem.” I believe she missed an opportunity to be detailed about their rights.

The young women walked away and wrote their complaint on the chalkboard on their way out: “We wish there could have been more than just choices for marriage.” But they also wrote that “The idea is awesome.”

When I asked her what she expected, she said, “We already know the stuff the fortune-teller told us. I thought I would have my fortune read.” I really don’t know what to think about this response (except that it’s kinda funny – and made sense :).

Will any of these ideas have potential for “nudging” the minds of skeptic and curious youth who know they should think or feel something, but do not know why – or that there’s an alternative?

Could more and more people just like Joanna, who grew up in a small mountain village dominated by the same sect, went to religious schools and university, and met someone from another sect for the first time at 18 years old…And that an apt description of many Lebanese.

Could the Lebanese open their lives to accepting the others, past a simple tolerance, in a country that largely frowns upon the union of these sects?

Could this fascinating co-creative project evolve and tighten the execution of its ideas and actually make an impact on the youth and future social situation in Lebanon?

The Imagination Studio plans to take on the challenge. And use these learning opportunities, such as at the Imagination Market, to build on them, imagining and imagining, that a better country is possible”.

Note: inspired from Rima Rantisi

Choice decision strategy: Analytic reasoning or split-second instinct decision?

For simple short-term and non-life threatening decision choices, thinking hard on the few variables affecting the decision does generate the best satisfactory choice.

For the longer-term and very important decisions, such as profession to pursue, mate,…anything that would affect you for most of your life…thinking hard on the interactions of the complex varieties of factors is necessary as a first stage, but you need to take a long break before any decision, and let your unconscious mind select for you.  

You have got to trust your unconscious mind to decide for you since the Big Brain knows your real nature, your deeper inner need, and is better than sophisticated analytic methods for important matters that affect you

Ap Dijksterhuis, a psychologist at the Univ. of Amsterdam, conducted controlled experiments and field experiments on choice decisions methods.  For example, shoppers for simple kitchen utensils and appliances, those who considered the choices from different angles and thought hard on all the pros and cons, were very satisfied with their choices weeks later. Those who relied on instinct ended up very dissatisfied.

Shoppers for furniture and remodeling their homes, a complex problem, were most satisfied when they allowed their “instinct” to prevail at the end of the day.

This decision-making system is valid in politics, managerial jobs…It can be generalized to many facet of life decisions.

Another example. Physicians in emergency rooms rely on their “tested” initial instinct for diagnosing patients with chest pains. Statistics have shown that physician instincts were more often than not faulty and not that good after all. What could be the alternative?

How to re-educate the instinct of physicians?

Analyzing reams of data, Lee Goldman used complex computer models to identify a few key factors and symptoms that seemed to be the most significant in the diagnostic  of chest pain.  Once the physicians were re-educated and aware of the new story the data were telling them, the initial instinct decision of physicians were vastly improved.

That is what artificial intelligence programs are meant to provide: Re-educating how we make “split-second decision”, after we understand thoroughly the problem.

Suppose you are a teacher, how would you weight the results of standardized tests and how much do you weight your judgment about the student’s motivation, attitude, and prospects?

Suppose you are a coach for athletes. How much would you weight the performance scores and how much would you let your judgment on the athlete motivation, youth, attitudes, listening skills, learning zeal…retain an athlete?

Every organization, institution, and decision-makers need to have a proper combination of analytic reasoning and data processing skills for models and split-second decision procedures.

Decisions not based first on understanding the trend of real data can be devastating.  And relying solely on data analysis would lead to many erroneous decisions…

Comprehensive knowledge, practice, experience…then allowing instinct to decide is “The power of thinking without thinking

Note 1: Post inspired from a chapter in “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell

Note 2:

Part 2. Why Christian Catholic and Orthodox Churches do not circumcise new-born males?

This second post on circumcision was in reaction to Germany making it illegal to circumcise new-born and non adult males on religious ground

In the first 3 centuries, almost all Christian sects circumcised new-born males: They strictly abide by the Jewish laws for their daily customs, and circumcision was first on the list.

Mind you that there existed scores of Christian sects, each one forming a specific closed community, reading in particular Books that they compiled, and going about according to a particular set of laws, mostly matching the Jewish laws.

This trend continued until the year 325 as the Orthodox Byzantium Church, recognized formally by Emperor Constantine as one of the official religions in the Roman Empire, met in conclave and adopted four Books as valid sources of Jesus story and his message.

In fact, St.Paul had to fight the valiant fight against all the disciples huddled in Jerusalem in order not to impose circumcision on non-Jewish baptized Christians. Citizens  in the Roman Empire were not circumcised: a special tax was levied on circumcised adults in order to maintain the Temple in Jerusalem. And as the Temple was destroyed by Titus, the tax reverted to the Emperor treasury…

The disciples in Jerusalem were living comfortably, abiding more strictly to the Jewish Laws than any Jewish sects, and they were protected by the Roman Empire civil laws.

As St. Paul started establishing Christian communities every where he traveled, he was lenient on the circumcision law. Learning about this lax behavior of Paul, the disciples got on the road, on the steps of Paul, visiting newly established communities, just to rescind Paul’s circumcision position on the non-Jews, and forcing the new Christians to be circumcised…

By the early 4th century, as the Christians acquired formal recognition as an official religious status, the Orthodox Church started to emulate the Roman laws, customs, and traditions in order to fit better among the overwhelming pagan communities

Circumcision was abolished among the Orthodox Christians and they had no longer to pay the tax on being circumcised….

December 25 was adopted as the birth date of Jesus since Emperor Aurelian decreed as the date of the God-Sun, 260 years before.

Bishops donned purple garments and the pagan glamorous attire (as the Roman aristocracy) and pomp in order to show-off their new higher status among the classes…

The higher the Orthodox Church rose to the status of being considered the main religion in the Byzantium Empire, the faster they emulated the customs and tradition of the Empire and the harsher they persecuted the various Christian sects that refused to follow suit

Those “heretic” Christian sects, called the Churches of the Orient, had to flee eastward to the Persian Empire, east of the Euphrates River and beyond.

The heretic sects disseminated their message along the caravans of Silk Road and reached China and translated their Books to Chinese and to the languages along the road…

By the 6th century, the Church of Rome became the main power broker and imposed its theology as the Church of the West. The Catholic Church particularly targeted the Jewish religion as the nemesis of Christians and being responsible for crucifying the Christ and…

The uncircumcised youth, mostly the peasants and lower classes, were very convenient: They refrained forcibly from engaging in sexual activities (very sensitive penis) and even indulging in masturbation and were practically chaste until they got wed…

The new-born of the aristocratic families that were allied to the current King or Emperor, and supported by the Church, were incited to be circumcised. Why?

Circumcised youth are far more active sexually: the penis is far less sensible to the intercourse act.  These aristocrats were to show their superiority and manhood and were given free rein into raping all the girls they liked and procreating out-of-wedlock better races…

As political situations changed and newer aristocratic families came to power (associated with “usurping Kings”…) the former families were persecuted. All that was needed to recognize the male members of the enemies was to check the penis.  Those who fled to other cities, far from their original locations, they could be sentenced as Jews who were baptized for all kinds of reasons except the valid reason…

How to break a discrimination trend? In any selection hiring procedures…

In the previous post wrote:

“When judging musician players, the eyes and all the other senses increase prejudiced assessment, and only the ears should be used in selecting talented musicians.

Herb Wiksleblatt, tuba player for the Metropolitan Opera in New York, let the fight in the 60’s for blind screening auditions. High heel sounds or coughing or anything that might divulge the gender or origin of the person coming to audition were ground enough to be issued a different number and come back behind the screen…

Control the environment and rapid cognition that usually decides can come under control and reduce biases.

Control the first impressions and you have the opportunity to hire the best qualified talented people…

Since blind screen auditioning procedures were instituted, the number of female musicians increased from 5% to 50% within two decades.”

The question is:

“Would blind screening procedures acquire such an excellent success story in selecting the best talented musician if the laws of equal opportunity was not enforced and educated?”

Probably not to such an extent of 50%, but do you have any doubt that equal opportunity laws alone could have made a dent?

Suppose that instead of this practical anti-discrimination solution (blind screen) the musical world followed the route of:

1. Creating affirmative action programs for women in the music industry

2. Establishing awareness programs for gender biases

3. Teaching female musicians to be more assertive in making the case for their own abilities

4. Conducting discussions with maestro on the trend of social discrimination…

Do you think that women and maestra would have made any significant victories if maestra were still the sole decision makers and relying on their “blink decisions” without removing the biasing elements or variables in the selection process?

Suppose you are presented with the task of reducing the biases in the court jury system.  It is evident that any jury is biased in its judgement on gender, skin color, religious affiliation, minority, wealth status…

For example, in many US States, blacks are sentenced to prison terms 50 times more frequently than “while classy citizens” on drug charges.  So how would you go about bringing some kind of fairness in court proceeding?

You are facing a constitutional restriction that the charged person has to face the jury in person, and you know that the first impression weight very heavily on the jury judgment in the remaining proceedings…

Would consider that the jury hear the charges and facts in the first session without the presence of the person, that the jury does not have to see, hear or even know the name of the charged person? Like all communication be done by a third person through e-mail or any other means that does not divulge the origin and gender of the person?

Once the jury is educated on the evidences, it is very likely that biases will be reduced when the jury meet the person face to face. Why?

First impression of evidences may resist the inevitable follow-up natural discriminating behavior…

At least, prison term frequency will be reduced on blacks and Latinos and Moslem-looking people.

Any practical method that diminish instant first impression biases and enhance fairness should be welcomed…

Note: Piece inspired from a chapter in “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell

Hiring discrimination: In Classical music world

Abbie Conant, a trombone player, had to fight a protracted legal battle (5 years) to retain her position and another one (3 years) to get equal pay as men musicians…Trombone, like French horn and other brass instruments…are considered men sections in orchestras.  Trombone is used for military marches and apparently, Beethoven used trombone to create background noises

“Herr” Abbir Conant, (instead of frau) as she was referred to in the audition letter of acceptance by the Munich Deutsches Philharmonic, had the number 16 for a blind screen procedure audition.  The judges were not able to see the player auditioning for the trombone position. Why?  The son of a musician was also auditioning and the jury didn’t want to be blamed for any biases

After Abbie finished her piece, maestro Sergiu Celibidache exclaimed: “That’s who we want!” and sent the remaining auditioners packing without any trial…Sergiu Celibidache was very displeased to see a women selected.

A year later, Abbie was relegated to second trombone, since the orchestra wanted a man, as tradition wanted. And Abbie filed suit…

Maestro Otto Strasser told this story.  A blind screen audition was conducted and a Japanese musician was judged to be the best. That was a complete chock: Japanese were assumed not to play with any soul and fidelity of classical music composed by European…

Rainer Kuchl claimed that he could instantly differentiate between a female and a male violinist by picking up the softness and flexibility of the female style. Another hog wash claim by biased maestro…

Sylvia Alimea, 5 feet tall, a French horn player “who could blow down a house” was selected in a blind screen audition, otherwise she had no chance whatsoever.

Julie Landsman held at the last high c for a very long time, just not to leave any doubt in the jury’s mind (that she is a male player)

The eyes and all the other senses increase prejudiced assessment, and only the ears should be used in selecting talented musicians.

Herb Wiksleblatt, tuba player for the Metropolitan Opera in New York, let the fight in the 60’s for blind screening auditions. High heel sounds or coughing or anything that might divulge the gender or origin of the person coming to audition were ground enough to be issued a different number and come back behind the screen…

Control the environment and rapid cognition that usually decides can come under control and reduce biases.

Control the first impressions and you have the opportunity to hire the best qualified talented people…

Since blind screen auditioning procedures were instituted, the number of female musicians increased from 5% to 50% within two decades.

Note: Piece inspired from a chapter in “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell




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