Opt-Out Organ Donation in the U.K.?

by Kieran Healy on January 14, 2008

The “BBC reports”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7186007.stm that a change may be in the offing in Britain’s policies on cadaveric organ donation:

Gordon Brown says he wants a national debate on whether to change the system of organ donation. He believes thousands of lives would be saved if everyone was automatically placed on the donor register. It would mean that, unless people opted out of the register or family members objected, hospitals would be allowed to use their organs for transplants. But some critics say the state should not automatically decide what happens to people’s bodies after they die. Currently there are more than 8,000 people waiting for organ transplants in the UK – a figure which rises by about 8% a year. Writing in the Sunday Telegraph newspaper, the prime minister said a system of “presumed consent” could make a huge difference. … The system already operates in several other European countries and has boosted the number of organs available for transplant.

My view is that Gordon Brown is wrong, but not for the reasons you might think.

[click to continue…]

Go Tell It On the Mountain

by Scott McLemee on January 14, 2008

Thanks to recent developments in the Democratic primaries, trivialization of Martin Luther King’s legacy is off to an all-time early start this year. But Christopher Phelps has just published an excellent overview of recent historical work on MLK that knocks some of the ceremonial tinsel off — the better to see the real figure, who would never get a word in edgewise today.

The latest volume from the King Papers Project, for example

comprises King’s sermons from 1948 to 1963, which remind us of King’s immersion in the black Baptist church and of the wide range of theological sources and social criticism he drew upon. For King, Christianity was the social gospel. His outlook was astonishingly radical, especially for the McCarthy era. In a college paper entitled “Will Capitalism Survive?” King held that “capitalism has seen its best days in America, and not only in America, but in the entire world.” He concluded a 1953 sermon by asking his congregation to decide “whom ye shall serve, the god of money or the eternal God of the universe.” He opposed communism as materialistic, but argued that only an end to colonialism, imperialism, and racism, an egalitarian program of social equality, fellowship, and love, could serve as its alternative. In a 1952 letter responding to Coretta’s gift to him of a copy of Edward Bellamy’s utopian socialist novel Looking Backward (“There is still hope for the future … ,” she inscribed on its flyleaf), King wrote, “I would certainly welcome the day to come when there will be a nationalization of industry.”

The volume’s assiduous editorial annotation permits us to locate King in lived dialogue. We discover, for example, that his 1952 sermon on “Communism’s Challenge to Christianity,” delivered at Ebenezer Baptist Church, prompted a letter of retort from Melvin H. Watson, a Morehouse College professor and Ebenezer congregant, who attempted to set King straight on the virtues of Stalin. Watson, a holdover from the Communist-led Popular Front, helps us place King’s democratic radicalism in bold relief while providing a concrete illustration of how black communities retained a strong left-wing presence even after the 1940s.

The whole article is available online from The Chronicle of Higher Education. Looking over the passage just quoted, I had a flashback to various hopeless arguments with Chron copyeditors — for it is singularly absurd not to have capitalized the “c” in Phelps’s line mentioning that King “opposed communism as materialistic.”

The international Communist movement (corporate world headquarters in Moscow, later with rival franchise based in Peking) was indeed materialistic, yes. But would King have opposed communism, tout court? “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need”?

I doubt that very much: “And all that believed were together, and had all things in common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.” (Acts 2:44-45)

Dockers and Detectives

by Chris Bertram on January 14, 2008

A bit of random surfing just took me over to “Ken Worpole’s site”:http://www.worpole.net/ , where I was very pleased to learn that his wonderful book of essays “Dockers and Detectives”:http://www.inpressbooks.co.uk/dockers_and_detectives_warpole_ken_i019459.aspx has been republished by Five Leaves Publications (Verso did the first edition, back in 1983). _Dockers and Detectives_ is one of those rare books that not only entertains and informs you, but also opens up new paths of literary discovery. I think that I’d probably have got round to Dashiell Hammett and James M. Cain without Worpole, but not as quickly and without seeing their influence on French existentialism. I’m not so sure I would have discovered Alexander Baron’s _From the City, From the Plough_ or Stuart Hood’s wartime memoir _Pebbles From My Skull_, though. Worpole discusses both in his chapter on the popular literature of the Second World War, along with other works such as Rex Warner’s dystopian _The Aerodrome_. Recommended.