28 June 2008

The Christian Radical: Tell Congress: stop the violence in Zimbabwe

The Fellowship of Reconciliation is calling for the US Congress to stop the violence in Zimbabwe -- but how can they do that if they can't stop the violence in Iraq, Afghanistan and Israel/Palestine?

The Christian Radical: Tell Congress: stop the violence in Zimbabwe:
As Americans, we are compelled to use our position as a global power to call for an end the the violence and for a restoration of democratic rule in Zimbabwe. Please contact your U.S. Senators to support the world's call for justice.

Click here to send a message to your U.S. Senators.

Thank you for raising your voice with others to create a more peaceful world.

The Christian Radical: Tell Congress: stop the violence in Zimbabwe

One of Mad Bob Mugabe's excuses is that he is protecting Zimbabwe from American imperialists like George Bush -- and when American peace organisations make calls like this, who can gainsay him?

Bishop Alan’s Blog: Prince Caspian — chaps in tights

Bishop Alan writes an excellent and amusing review of Prince Caspian. Makes me want to go and see the film, but I think its run has finished so I'll have to wait for the DVD.

Bishop Alan’s Blog: Prince Caspian — chaps in tights:
Prince Caspian — chaps in tights

All aboard, me hearties, for Narnia round two‚ ding, ding. After a slightly frustrating year trying to engineer Adolf Hitler’s downfall from their home counties prep school, the Pevensie kids are raring to go. Down the Underground, they get a blast of the Narnian Pot Noodle horn and it beams them back, Scotty, to something truly surreal — the world’s first surf romp scene shot entirely in Trutex flannel school uniforms. Plainly, something magical is about to happen...

27 June 2008

Glocal Christianity: How Christian is my business?

Excellent post from Matt Stone on what makes a Christian business and what makes a business Christian. Well worth reading.

Glocal Christianity: How Christian is my business?:
For years now Hillsong have been running a Christian Business Directory for Christians in western Sydney, and apart from the missiological issues this inevitably raises, I have also long wondered, what does it mean to call a business “Christian”?

There can be many problems, which take many different forms. Some businesses use Christian symbols in their logos. That does not make them Christian, it just means they are trying to con Christians into supporting them. One church I was in asked a parishioner to design a logo that could be used on church stationery. Another parishioner, who ran a light engineering business, promptly nicked the logo to use on his business stationery -- thus implying that his business had the endorsement of the church.

A few years ago a bloke quoted for some building alterations on our house. He was full of Christian talk, but he took the money and didn't finish the job. His name was Lukas Neethling, so if you ever come across the guy, beware of any business deals you make with him!

That kind of thing gives Christians a bad name in the secular world. But the most telling exampleof the bad reputation of Christians was when I applied for a job as a bus driver with London Transport. They wanted three references. I gave them some, and they rejected them. References from anyone connected with the church were unacceptable. I'd just arrived from South Africa as a semi-refugee, having skipped the country one step ahead of the Security Police. I didn't know anyone in Britain who wasn't connected with the church. Eventually I gave them the names of some professors at the University of Natal whose courses I had taken, but hardly knew me at all, and those were acceptable.

Of course such things can take different forms, and it's not always in the form of a published directory. A few years ago there was a TV sitcom called Birds of a feather, about two sisters, Tracy and Sharon, who ran a working class cafe. One was divorced and the other's husband was in jail. A yuppie Jewish friend persuaded them to turn their cafe into an upmarket bagel bar, and their business fell off drastically. The husband in jail was Greek, so they went to see the Orthodox priest, who remarked on Sharon not being seen in church since her wedding, and when she was suitably contrite, pulled out a card index of business contacts, and at the end of the episode their business was prospering again. That kind of networking was dead true to life. I've seen it many times.

A more positive example comes from more than 30 years ago in Namibia. The Anglican bishop, Colin Winter, gave a series of Holy Week addresses in a Durban church, and urged people to come and help the church in Namibia. One guy there, Ed Morrow, said "I'm just a builder, what can I do?" And the bishop said, in effect, come anyway, God will show you. So he and his wife let their house, put their furniture into storage, bought a second-hand Volkswagen Kombi into which they loaded their stove, and set out to drive 1500 miles to Windhoek. When they arrived the church registered a building company. They wanted to call it Ikon Construction, but the Registrar of Companies said that was taken, so they called it Noki Cosntruction instead. The Diocese owned 198 shares, Ed Morrow owned one, and the diocesan secretary owned one. They asked clergy if anyone wanted to learn the building trade, and three blokes came from Ovamboland, 500 miles to the north. They went everywhere in the old Kombi, to work, to church, to social occasions. They were referred to as "the Noki outjies" (that's an in South African joke; if you're from elsewhere, skip it, it'll take too long to explain). At the end of a year, Ed reported to the diocesan synod. He said they had shown it was possible to run a business on Christian lines and still make a profit. They paid three times the going rate for workers, they quoted fair prices, and they did a good job. They had gained the respect of their customers.

But Matt goes way beyond these trivial examples in his post, so do have a read of it.


I looked to see who else was talking about this stuff and this is what I saw:

Mentions by Day

Posts mentioning business ethics per day for the past 30 days.

Chart of results for business ethics

Anyone know why Technorati shows such a drastic drop off at the beginning of June?

26 June 2008

It's just not cricket

Justice triumphed when England lost a one-day cricket match to New Zealand because of a fielding error on the last ball. An overthrow enabled New Zealand to get the crucial last run.

BBC SPORT | Cricket | England | Last-ball error hands NZ victory:
New Zealand won a remarkable one-day international when England somehow allowed last man Mark Gillespie to hit two from the final ball of the match.

He scampered a single and came back for the overthrow when Graeme Swann's shy at the stumps was not backed up.

Earlier, Grant Elliott, guiding the tourists home, was controversially run out as he was injured in a collision with England's Ryan Sidebottom.

The wicket could have been crucial, but England's modest 245 was not enough.

I think most people who watched the match thought that it was supremely unfair that Elliot should have been given out after what looked like a rugby tackle by Sidebottom, and rejoiced greatly that the English fielding bungle enabled New Zealand to win.

Perhaps the rules should be changed to say that a batsman cannot be given out in a run out if physically obstructed by a member of the fielding team, otherwise cricket could turn into a variant of Red Rover.

25 June 2008

Deathwatch: Usenet newsgroups

Usenet seems to be going into a terminal decline.

Several people on newgroups I read regularly have reported that their ISPs are dropping or severely curtailing newgroup service. Perhaps this should be called VSS - Value Subtracted Service. Maybe before it dies altogether someone could suggest an appropriate newsgroup for reporting on and rating ISPs and noting whether they are VSS or not.

Apparently the alt. newsgroups are particularly under threat, yet some of the ones I find most valuable are in the alt. hierarchy -- alt.usage.english and alt.obituaries, for example.

While my ISP (Telkom SA) hasn't made a definite announcement, Telkom's news server SAIX has deteriorated lately, and error messages like the following are common:

2008-06-24 11:40:52 PM Error reported by winsock driver: No response from server (timeout) (Error 10060): Connecting to news.saix.net.
2008-06-24 11:41:23 PM Error reported by winsock driver: No response from server (timeout) (Error 10060): Connecting to news.saix.net.

Failed connects are more common than successful ones, and it sometimes takes me two days to download headers, another two days to collect the marked bodies, and another two to post replies, so the replies can sometimes take up to a week (and sometimes more) to be posted on the net. Some newgroups, like soc.culture.south-africa, remain inaccessible to me, and have been for more than a year. I can post there, but I cannot read any posts unless they are crossposted to other newsgroups (za.misc still works).

As a result of this I, like many others, have taken to blogging if I have something serious to say. Blogging seems to be faster and more reliable, but in many ways it is less satisfactory. Even more than News, blogging is an inherently one-to-many (and therefore self-centred) medium. People can comment, but comments are directred to the original post, and there is not the same interaction among commenters.

Sometimes I long for the good old days of Fidonet and other Fido Technology Networks (FTNs). FTN echo conferences were a true many-to-many medium, better even than newsgroups.

But it seems that we are about to lose even newsgroups, and for all our technology that should make communication easier, genuine conversation will be taken from us, and we will be reduced to soap-box oratory and heckling, which is basically what blog comments are.

Yes, I know it is possible to access newsgroups through the clunky web interface at Google Groups, but it really is clunky and more hassle than it's worth. I'd rather switch to mailing lists if newsgroups are no longer available (even though mailing lists consume more bandwidth and net resources).

Written at 12:10 am on 25 June 2008, South African time, though when it will actually be posted on Usenet is anyone's guess.

And I'll post it on my blog too!

Posted in


23 June 2008

Missional Synchroblog

Today there will be a Missional synchroblog, where 50 bloggers discuss the term "missional" and what it means to them.

In calling for a missional synchroblog Rick Meigs says:

I have a continuing concern that the term missional has become over used and wrongly used….I think it is time to make a bigger effort to reclaim the term, a term which describe what happens when you and I replace the “come to us” invitations with a “go to them” life. A life where “the way of Jesus” informs and radically transforms our existence to one wholly focused on sacrificially living for him and others and where we adopt a missionary stance in relation to our culture. It speaks of the very nature of the Jesus follower.

Rick also says quite a bit about the word “missional” on his Web page Friend of Missional.

My contribution is posted on my Khanya blog.

You may find the participating blogs at the links below:

Alan Hirsch
Alan Knox
Andrew Jones
Barb Peters
Bill Kinnon
Brad Brisco
Brad Grinnen
Brad Sargent
Brother Maynard
Bryan Riley
Chad Brooks
Chris Wignall
Cobus Van Wyngaard
Dave DeVries
David Best
David Fitch
David Wierzbicki
Doug Jones
Duncan McFadzean
Erika Haub
Jamie Arpin-Ricci
Jeff McQuilkin
John Smulo
Jonathan Brink
JR Rozko
Kathy Escobar
Len Hjalmarson
Makeesha Fisher
Malcolm Lanham
Mark Berry
Mark Petersen
Mark Priddy
Michael Crane
Michael Stewart
Nick Loyd
Patrick Oden
Peggy Brown
Phil Wyman
Richard Pool
Rick Meigs
Rob Robinson
Ron Cole
Scott Marshall
Sonja Andrews
Stephen Shields
Steve Hayes
Tim Thompson
Thom Turner

20 June 2008

Which country hides its prisoners from the Red Cross?

Could it be Myannmar? Could it be Zimbabwe?

U.S. hid detainees to avoid Red Cross, documents show | Gazette.com:
The U.S. military hid the locations of detained terrorism suspects and concealed harsh treatment to avoid the scrutiny of the International Committee of the Red Cross, according to documents a Senate committee released Tuesday.

'We may need to curb the harsher operations while ICRC is around. It is better not to expose them to any controversial techniques,' Lt. Col. Diane Beaver, a military lawyer who has retired, said during an October 2002 meeting at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, prison to discuss employing interrogation techniques that some have equated with torture.

Hat-tip to A conservative blog for peace.

19 June 2008

An inconvenient truth

Hat-tip to The Western Confucian for this remarkable statement by Ecuadorian obstetricians and gynecologists on abortion.
The 15 Conclusions of the Workshop on the Prevention of Abortion:
Science teaches that human life begins at conception. If it is also true that it is affirmed by religion, it does not for that reason cease to be a strictly scientific truth, to be transformed into a religious opinion. He who denies that human life begins with conception does not need to contend with religion, but science. To deny this certainty of biology is not to express a lack of faith, but a lack of basic knowledge of human genetics, something that is even known by the general public.

'Nuff said.

18 June 2008

Blog at your peril

clipped from news.bbc.co.uk
More bloggers than ever face arrest for exposing human rights abuses or criticising governments, says a report.

In 2007 three times as many people were arrested for blogging about political issues than in 2006, it revealed.

More than half of all the arrests since 2003 have been made in China, Egypt and Iran, said the report.

Arrested bloggers exposed corruption in government, abuse of human rights or suppression of protests. They criticised public policies and took political figures to task.

Jail time followed arrest for many bloggers, said the report, which found that the average prison sentence for blogging was 15 months. The longest sentence found by the WIA was eight years.

The report pointed out that it is not just governments in the Middle East and East Asia that have taken steps against those publishing their opinions online. In the last four years, British, French, Canadian and American bloggers have also been arrested.
blog it
Hat tip to the Christian Radical

The atheism meme

Hat-tip to Elizaphanian for this one.

Q1. How would you define “atheism”?

Being without God or gods

Q2. Was your upbringing religious? If so, what tradition?

No, my parents were atheist/agnostic.

Q3. How would you describe “Intelligent Design”, using only one word?


Q4. What scientific endeavor really excites you?

Alternative energy sources

Q5. If you could change one thing about the “atheist community”, what would it be and why?

Give them a better sense of intellectual history, especially Christian intellectual history (ditto from Elizaphanian).

Q6. If your child came up to you and said “I’m joining the clergy”, what would be your first response?

You can't do it unless you're called, and if you're called you can't do anything else (ditto).

Q7. What’s your favorite theistic argument, and how do you usually refute it?

I don't have any favourite theistic arguments (ditto).

Q8. What’s your most “controversial” (as far as general attitudes amongst other atheists goes) viewpoint?

er... bearing in mind where I'm coming at this from, probably that God=meaning (ditto).

Q9. Of the “Four Horsemen” (Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris) who is your favourite, and why?

Since I've never heard of Dennett, I'll pick him. He can't be worse than the other three, though I admit that I might think better of them if it weren't for their admirers ("There is no god, and Sam Harris is his prophet")

Q10. If you could convince just one theistic person to abandon their beliefs, who would it be?

Anyone who believes in the God that atheists don't believe in.

Adobe Flash 9.0 and the Guest Book

In the sidebar on the right is a link to a Bravenet Guestbook, which some visitors to this and my other web pages have signed.

Unfortunately it no longer works, thanks to Adobe Flash 9.0.

Because of the tendency to spam guest books, this one is set up so that postings have to be apporved before they appear -- about 90% of them as spam. But I can no longer approve them, because to do so I have to install Flash 9.0. I can read the guestbook without Flash 9.0, but I can't edit it.

And unfortunately Flash 9.0 is a very badly-behaved program, which overwrites my autoexec.bat settings. I've installed it a couple of times before, and every time I've done so I've had to do a "system restore" because of all the things that stop working after I've installed it -- things that are far more important to me than the dubious benefits of Flash 9.0.

So there's no point in signing the guest book, since I'm unable to approve your entry.

That's progress, as the computer world knows it.

17 June 2008

Are you going forward? Then stop now

BBC NEWS | UK | Magazine | Are you going forward? Then stop now:
Blue sky thinking, pushing the envelope - the problem with office-speak is that it cloaks the brutal modern workplace in such brainlessly upbeat language... as Lucy Kellaway dialogues.

For the last few months I've been on a mission to rid the world of the phrase 'going forward'. But now I see that the way forward is to admit defeat. This most horrid phrase is with us on a go-forward basis, like it or not.

I tend to agree with the writer of this piece. I first became aware of this strange use of "going forward" about a year ago, and suddenly it is ubiquitous. Well, at least on radio and TV. Few people I actually know and talk to face to face use the phrase, and sometimes it creates bizarre images, as in the song:

Star trekking
across the universe
Always going forward
'Cause we can't find reverse.

But I suppose that's life (Jim, but not as we know it).

15 June 2008

Teenage Mutant Robot Caterpillars

The Poor Mouth: Zombie caterpillars controlled by voodoo wasps:
According to the New Scientist article, the parasitoid wasp Glyptapanteles lays its eggs, about 80 at a time, in young geometrid caterpillars. The eggs hatch and the larvae feed on the caterpillar's body fluids. When they are fully developed, they eat through the caterpillar's skin, attach themselves to a nearby branch or leaf and wrap themselves up in a cocoon.

At this point, something remarkable and slightly eerie happens: the caterpillar, still alive, behaves as though controlled by the cocooned larvae. Instead of going about its usual daily business, it stands arched over the cocoons without moving away or feeding. The caterpillar stays alive until the adult wasps hatch.

14 June 2008

The swing to fascism in the USA and the UK

The swing to fascism in the USA and the UK seems to be becoming more pronounced. The rule of law is being undermined.

Justices Rule Terror Suspects Can Appeal in Civilian Courts - NYTimes.com:
The detainees at the center of the case decided on Thursday are not all typical of the people confined at Guant�namo. True, the majority were captured in Afghanistan or Pakistan. But the man who gave the case its title, Lakhdar Boumediene, is one of six Algerians who immigrated to Bosnia in the 1990’s and were legal residents there. They were arrested by Bosnian police within weeks of the Sept. 11 attacks on suspicion of plotting to attack the United States embassy in Sarajevo — “plucked from their homes, from their wives and children,” as their lawyer, Seth P. Waxman, a former solicitor general put it in the argument before the justices on Dec. 5.

The Supreme Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina ordered them released three months later for lack of evidence, whereupon the Bosnian police seized them and turned them over to the United States military, which sent them to Guant�namo.

Mr. Waxman argued before the United States Supreme Court that the six Algerians did not fit any authorized definition of enemy combatant, and therefore ought to be released.
Adventus comments on this:
One wonders how many 'radical Islamists' were individually identified as parties in this case, and why the evidentiary rulings of the Supreme Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina were dismissed so summarily.

I always thought Justice was blindfolded so it couldn't see radical Islamists, but only facts and law, and rule accordingly. Well, at least 5 justices see things my way.
Earlier in the week the British Parliament extended detention without trial, and I watched horrified as they came up with the same arguments repeated ad nauseam by B.J. Vorster and his henchmen when they introduced detention without trial in South Africa in 1963.

The only person who made a stand for the rule of law was the Tory shadow home secretary, David Davis, who subsequently resigned his seat in parliament. In answer to him the Labour spokesman on Sky TV said that people should "look into their hearts" -- and what he was saying, in effect, was that all the evil in their hearts, they should call good. And the media and parliamentary colleagues rounded on Davis, condemning his resignation as an egocentric publicity stunt. But given their fascist bias, I suspect that he is the only one of integrity among the lot of them.

A year ago, when Tony Blair tried, but failed, to get 90-day detention, the British media were speaking of him taking "the moral high ground", and that was the worst of all, because what they were calling "the moral high ground" comes from the very pit of hell itself.

In the USA the majority of the Supreme Court upheld the rule of law, but there were some judges who did not, as Adventus notes.

What neither Adventus nor the New York Times remarked on, however, was the behaviour of the Bosnian police, which was, if anything, the scariest of the lot. That is the kind of thing that happened here in South Africa before 1994. That is the kind of thing that happened in Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany. That is the kind of thing that is happening right now in "Mad Bob" Mugabe's Zimbabwe, and that is the kind of thing the British media are calling "the moral high ground". And it was to establish this kind of contempt of the rule of law that Nato rained bombs on Yugoslavia and established the Bosnian state.
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil,
who put darkness for light and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter (Isaiah 5:20).


Hat-tip to Tygerland for this list of links on the topic:
  • Liberty - Shami Chakrabarti’s statement and Liberty’s points of contention.
  • Amnesty - Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen’s statement.
  • OurKingdom - Anthony Barnett, OpenDemocracy’s founder and editor, ponders a new ally in David Davis.
  • Iain Weaver - takes a historical look at other MP’s who have put their career on the line for principle.
  • Chicken Yoghurt - Justin swings both ways as he weighs up Davis’ resignation.
  • Labour Outlook - has quotes and links-aplenty from around the media. Including news that Labour won’t stand against DD, with the view to making the Tories appear soft on terrorism. *sigh*

12 June 2008

Social blogrolling -- what is a "friend"

There are three main social blogrolling sites that I know of: MyBlogLog, Blog Catalog and BumpZee. They are useful in that they not only let you compile a list of blogs you want to read again, but (if set up properly) let you see who has visited your blog, and you can then pay a return visit.

I joined MyBlogLog a little over a year ago, and found it useful for finding interesting blogs and keeping a list of ones I wanted to revisit.

I joined BumpZee, but found it clunky, slow, and less than useful. It doesn't show blog visitors unless the person is actually logged in to BumpZee, and they have to log in every time they open their browser otherwise they don't show up.

I joined Blog Catalog more recently, when we had a on human rights, and found that they were also promoting blogging on human rights on 15 May.

To add blogs to your blogroll, in MyBlogLog you join a "community" related to that blog, and in Blog Catalog you join a neighbourhood. You can also have a list of "contacts" or "friends", which is similar to social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace etc.

And this is where things start getting strange. I keep getting messages that people have added me as "friends" or "contacts" when it is evident that they have never even visited my blogs, much less commented on them. I don't know them, I've never corresponded with them, and don't see how they could be regarded as "friends".

Annoying things about social blogrolling sites

  • People who add you as a friend when you don't know them
  • People who add you as a friend when they've never visited your blog
  • People who have blogs, but don't have the widget on their blogs
My own policy, which may be a bit inconsistent in practice, but not much, is that on social blogrolling sites, if I like a blog and want to revisit it, I join its "community" or "neighbourhood". If people visit my blog, I try to visit theirs, and if I find it interesting, join the community or neighbourhood. If, on revisiting a blog, I find that it was only one post that was interesting, and the rest are not, then I'll leave the community or neighbourhood.

I only list as "friends" or "contacts" people I have actually met, or whom I have corresponded with, or who have regularly commented on my blog, and I have regularly commented on theirs. In other words, people I have had some interaction with over some time. Adding people as "friends" or "contacts" when you don't know them and they don't know you seems counterproductive, and to destroy the usefulness of social blogrolling sites, and social networking sites generally.

I suppose could also be regarded as a form of social blogrolling, in that you can list blogs you like as favourites, but it doesn't show who has visited your blog, and recently its navigation seems to have become much more difficult.

Like many web services, they start by doing one thing well, and then try to do more and more things, and end up not doing any of them well. That's what happened to Google. They started by having a very good search engine, and then they tried to do just about everything, and now they don't even do their search engine well. They too have a social networking site like Facebook and MySpace, called Orkut, very popular in India, not so much in South Africa. But their search engine simply hasn't kept up with the competition.

11 June 2008

Conservatives are little pink liberalists

I just caught on Sky News the Conservative shadow Home Secretary in Britain, David Davis MP, denouncing the Labour government's plans for detention without trial.

When B.J. Vorster, the South African Minister of Justice, introduced 90-day detention in 1963, he dismissed those who objected as "little pink liberalists". Gordon Brown, like his predecessor Tony Blair, wanted 90-day detention, and they seem to be coming to resemble Vorster more and more.

So it seems that in Britain, if you want a liberal government, vote Tory.

09 June 2008

Why Clinton Lost and why Obama won

The media have been going to town on Barack Obama's clinching of the US Democratic Party's nomination as presidential candidate.

The South African media, in their usual racist fashion, have concentrated on the superficialities -- the colour of Obama's skin. That says more about South African society than it does about the US presidential election -- it shows that nearly 15 years after the end of apartheid, we are still obsessed with race, to the exclusion of other considerations.

Very few have have mentioned what could be Obama's downfall -- his attitude satirised in the song:

The working class can kiss my arse
I've got the foreman's job at last

in his sudden back-tracking on peace by announcing that he wouldn't talk to Hamas, showing that the "change you can believe in" hype was just that - hype, and that underneath, once he had secured the nomination, he was reverting to the same old image of the warmongering USA, bully boy of the world.

But these pieces give a different view, which the mainstram media seem to have missed:

ZNet - Why Clinton Lost:
Yesterday, brought another effort: Newsweek's Jonathan Alter offers 'Five Reasons Obama Won. Five Reasons Clinton Lost.' Those latter five, which in places echo the Journal, boil down to 'No Respect for the Voters,' 'Poor Strategy,' 'Weak Management,' 'Arrogance,' and 'Entitlement.'

Both of these pieces offer smart insights about why Clinton lost, and it's hard to dispute the salience of any of these factors. But neither the Journal nor Alter give significant consideration to an additional factor that may have been more important than any other: Clinton's vote to go to war in Iraq.

Even before this latest batch of stories, the media's efforts to explain Clinton's struggles have consistently downplayed Iraq, as bloggers like The Atlantic's Matthew Yglesias and Atrios have pointed out.

It's hard to remember now, but last year, when he was a dark-horse challenger, Obama's consistent opposition to the war, along with Clinton's vote for it, provided much of the rationale for his long-shot candidacy. Without that black-and-white contrast, it's doubtful whether his insurgent campaign could have gotten off the ground.
And Stephen Zunes, professor of Politics at the University of San Francisco says ZNet - Why Obama Won:
Barack Obama has won the race for the Democratic nomination for president against Hillary Clinton on the issues. Sort of.

This is not what the pundits will tell you, who would rather focus upon the most superficial and trivial aspects of the two final candidates' style, personality, associates, personal history, and campaign organization and strategy, not to mention race and gender.

This is not what many on the left will say either, in recognition of how little differences there were between the two candidates' stated positions on most policies.

Another difference between the two, which has nothing to do with sex or skin, is that Barack seems to be populist, while Hillary seems to be elitist. This point has been noted by several bloggers, like Tauratinzwe in Observations from the Sidelines: Yes, WE Can!:
The essential difference between Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton is found in their use of the first person pronoun.

Listen to Hillary and you hear the first person singular used over and over. 'I will . . . ' 'I have . . . ' I - I - I.

Listen to Obama and you hear the first person plural pronoun. 'We can . . . ' 'We are able . . . ' 'Yes we can!' 'Si, se puede!'

The second person plural pronoun is also used differently. Clinton says she will do things for you. Obama says he will enable you to do things.

Now I'm not a fundi on US politics, and as I've noted in my blogs, I sometimes find it difficult to understand American culture, but until Obama capitulated to the Israel lobby last week, I thought he might be the better of the two. I do have a stake in American politics -- after all, as a result of George Bush's warmongering and other policies we are paying a lot more for fuel and food. So it would be nice to be able to believe in change, and that makes Obama's backpedalling even more disappointing.

08 June 2008

Unemployment and xenophobia - the root causes

A clear and concise account of the root causes of the recent outbreaks of xenophobic violence in many parts of the country.

Hat-tip to Dion Forster.
clipped from www.witness.co.za

The brutal attacks on foreign refugees which have brought shame on our brave new democracy are the direct result of the interaction of two failed government policies — one caused by the old ANC leadership and the other at least partially by the new.
The first is the failure over eight years to develop a foreign policy to prevent the implosion of neighbouring Zimbabwe, and of dealing with its inevitable consequences as millions of destitute refugees have poured into our society. For that the Thabo Mbeki administration, particularly the president himself, must take full blame.
The other is the failure over the past 10 years of unprecedented economic growth to ensure that more was done to reduce unemployment and close the wealth gap, so that we did not develop such a tinderbox of disadvantaged groups struggling to survive on the margins of our big cities — the very areas where the refugees land up to intensify competition for the meagre opportunities available.
blog it

07 June 2008

How deregulation destroyed African agriculture

And changed Africa into a food importer
while the diversion of corn from food to biofuel feedstock has been a factor in the meteoric rise in food prices, the more basic problem has been the conversion of economies that are largely food-self-sufficient into chronic food importers. Here the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Trade Organization (WTO) figure as much more important villains

African agriculture is a case study of how doctrinaire economics serving corporate interests can destroy a whole continent’s productive base.

in the 1960s, Africa was not just self-sufficient in food but was actually a net food exporter
almost every country
a net food importer
the explanation was the phasing out of government controls
to which most African countries were subjected as the price for getting IMF and World Bank assistance
reality refused to conform to the doctrinal expectation that the withdrawal of the state would pave the way for the market and private sector to dynamize agriculture
blog it

06 June 2008

Oh well, so much for peace

If anyone thought the next US President might offer change you can believe in, they were obviously sucked in by a lot of empty rhetoric.

Hat-tip to Sam PF for this one.
clipped from news.bbc.co.uk

Barack Obama has pledged unwavering support for Israel in his first foreign policy speech since declaring himself the Democratic nominee for president.

He told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac), a prominent lobbying group, that Israel's security was "sacrosanct" and "non-negotiable".

Mr Obama told Aipac real security came from lasting peace in the Middle East - and he would work from the start of his administration to achieve a Palestinian state alongside an Israeli one, but with Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel - a comment rejected by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.
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Outage - Explosion at The Planet

One of the services I use on my blogs and some web pages is StatCounter. They recently reported a problem:
StatCounter Blog � Blog Archive � Outage - Explosion at The Planet:
On Saturday 31 May at approximately 11pm GMT there was an explosion in The Planet Data Center in Houston Texas. Electrical gear shorted, creating an explosion and fire that knocked down three walls. Thankfully there were no human casualties.

On the instructions of the Fire Department, The Planet then turned off all power to the Data Center resulting in 9,000 servers being knocked offline.

05 June 2008

Bishop Alan’s Blog: Vicarage Allsorts: Clergy Supply

Bishop Alan’s Blog: Vicarage Allsorts: Clergy Supply:
After 30 years of designer angst about clergy shortages I am amazed that this should be so, but the simple fact is that there are actually more active C of E collars on the streets of England in 2005 than in 1959. I don’t know about you, but this surprised me. It also strikes me as the kind of raw figure that won’t be of any interest to Fleet Street, because it neither provokes fear and anguish, nor validates their prejudices and fantasies about the C of E.

The distribution, however has entirely changed. The preponderance is distributed more, I would guess, according to population. The bad story then was rural/urban. Now I would anticipate it to be North/West as against South/East. There are far fewer full time collars of the conventional sort, but far more retired active and self supporting. Looking ahead this means their shelf life and deployability is far lower. People in the 1960’s complained that vicars were too young and inexperienced about the rest of life. Now they complain that they’re all on second careers. You can’t have it both ways! Or can you? Training needs, however are radically different.

The report Bishop Alan was quoting was picked up by a journalist of the Sunday Telegraph to produce an alarmist report quoted by Fr David MacGregor, and prompted Bishop Alan to take the mickey Bishop Alan’s Blog:
The most important person in a business is always, in a way, the person on the front desk. The wellbeing of clergy is, in that obvious sense among others, vital to the wellbeing of the Church. Since Chaucer’s time there’s been public anxiety about this subject. 200 years ago Sidney Smith lamented the decline in the quality of clergy since the enforcement of residence was preventing gentlemen from desiring ordination. In the roaring 20’s, Hensley Henson bemoaned the decline in the quality of ordinands since the first world war. The document quoted in last week’s Sunday Telegraph, however, is barking up a very different tree. A more accurate headline than “poor quality of vicars alarms church leaders” would probably be “desperation to dramatize drab HR questionnaire twits journalist.”
I find this interesting because though it was a different time and a different place, 30 years ago I was responsible for training self-supporting clergy in the Anglican Diocese of Zululand, and I thought most people in the diocese had the wrong idea of the role of self-supporting vis a vis church supported clergy.

Many parishes had anything between 5 and 30 "outstations", and the clergy would itinerate to celebrate the Eucharist. I thought each outstation should have, if possible, 2 or more self-supporting priests and 2 or more deacons. The "rector" (who need not necessarily be ordained) should be a pastor/teacher (a somewhat different kind of ministry) equipped to train and support the clergy at the outstations, and itinerate for training and teaching, not sacraments.

That was the sort of thing advocated by Roland Allen in his book Missionary methods, St Paul's or ours? nearly 100 years ago, but never really put into practice anywhere. I still think it should be applied, mutatis mutandis, in Orthodox mission, though in practice it would need to be modified. It is difficult to have self-supporting clergy, since most of them would be among the urban unemployed.

Among Anglicans in South Africa there may have been similar patterns. In 1971 a book was published. The vanishing clergyman : a sociological study of the priestly role in South Africa by Trevor Verryn. He noted a marked decline in the number of Anglican ordinands in training. Within a year or two of the publication of his book, the trend was dramatically reversed, as a result of the spread of the charimatic renewal movement, and at least one of the Anglican theological colleges in South Africa had to be enlarged to cope with the influx of new students, most of them married and entering second careers.

There was a similar study to Verryn's in the Church of England, The fate of the Anglican clergy: a sociological study by Robert Towler (London, Macmillan, 1979). Though it was published eight years later, the period of study was similar to Verryn's; Bob Towler followed the 1966 intake of five Anglican theological colleges in England over the next 10 years. I was one of them.

It was quite an interesting period, and I suspect one of great change in outlook for many -- the time of hippies, of student power. Now most of those in Towler's study will be approaching retirement, and it might be interesting to see what has happened to them and how their views have changed. How did they change the church, and how did the church change them?

03 June 2008

The emerging African church... South Africa's unpaid debt

Reggie Nel writes in his blog Alpha Christian Community: The emerging African church... South Africa's unpaid debt:
The current obsession of theologians and pastors with whatever is new and funky from the West or from US churches, reveal an evident identity crisis. The contextual challenges of these 'foreign' regions are presented as our challenges and so, the answers they've heard from God is gospel to us. Hence our impotence in the face of xehophobia and the humnitarian crisis in the wake of this challenge. Well, this is Africa. This is the real challenges of ministry of being church here in Africa.

And just yesterday I received a message from John Davies, one of the contributors to the Message to the people of South Africa, in which he said:
It showed that South Africa could have a mind of its own in the world of theological discourse, that it was not simply part of a loudspeaker system run by British or American power-base.

At the time the Message to the people of South Africa was being drawn up, I was studying theology in Britain, and had been for two years, and in many ways found the atmosphere stifling, and felt I needed to go and study somewhere else, like South America, or Central Africa, in order to be able to breathe again. I came back to a South Africa in which the "Message" was published, but at places like Rhodes University in Grahamstown people like Basil Moore were still plugging the latest theological trends from the USA (back then it was "God is dead"). So Reggie's comments rang a bell for me. Things havent changed all that much in the last 40 years.

02 June 2008

In the country of the blind

I've been reading a book borrowed from a friend, In the country of the blind by Michael Flynn.

It's a conspiracy novel, in the same genre as The da Vinci code, but doesn't seem to have enjoyed anything like the same sales success. I haven't finished it yet, but I've enjoyed what I've read so far, and one thing that strikes me about it is that it is so much better than The da Vinci code, but there hasn't been nearly as much hype about it. I've never seen it on sale in any bookshop. I haven't read any similar hype about it, but it seems far more deserving of the hype.

Perhaps I'll change my opinion when I've finished reading it.


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