30 July 2008

Why I am not a Marxist: Class war and the Anglican schism

You've got to wonder what they've been smoking to dream up stuff like this!

Class war and the Anglican schism | Links:
Dramatic events within the worldwide Anglican Communion (the international association of national Anglican churches) have revealed a “cold split” with the potential for a complete collapse of the Episcopal formation. Superficially, the debates have centred on the right of women and homosexuals to be priests and bishops, and on gay marriage. However, while theological arguments dating back centuries are being mouthed, behind them are class-war elements of more recent vintage, including some connected with the era of US President Ronald Reagan’s backing of Central American death squads in the 1980s.

African bishops have led the charge against modernity, but they are funded and organised by right-wing US think tanks and the Sydney Anglicans’ arch-reactionary Archbishop Peter Jensen. Another player is the Vatican, which has been reported as throwing its resources behind Anglican Primate Owen Williams.

They are so keen to interpret everything in terms of class war that they end up being thoroughly racist. The assumption behind this is that Africans are too thick to make up their own minds, and they need white Australians to tell them what to think.

That is very little different from the National Party regime in South Africa, which was firmly convinced that any opposition to its policies among black people must have been stirred up by white agitators (communist, of course).

I have no doubt that there are elements of class struggle in the current turmoil in the Anglican Communion, but this kind of simplistic and racist analysis does nothing to help people understand them.

29 July 2008

Amatomu speaking in tongues?

Amatomu proclaims itself to be the "South African blogosphere" sorted, but if you look at the Zeitgeist in the religion section today, about half the key words are not in any of the official languages of South Africa:

tidur sabar udah sunat hati akhirat sydney hat tip storybook time magazine article lambeth muslim tirmizi republic of indonesia embezzlement yg pasti nabi missions saat abu hurairah senang truth allah bishop david lelaki rasulullah pertinent questions hutang abdulla tenang akan anglicans

Yes, I know that some words in Afrikaans, like "baie" and "blatjang" are of South East Asian origin, but surely if one is sorting the South African blogosphere at least the majority of the posts should be in one or other of the 11 official languages of South Africa.

What makes a blog South African?

I would think that it should mean that those who write it should either be resident in South Africa or have South Africa as their domicile -- that is, regard it as their permanent home, even though living abroad. And preferably it should be written in one of the 11 official languages of the country.

Do we have illegal aliens in Amatomu?

28 July 2008

TheoFantastique: Call for Papers: Interdisciplinary Academic Study of Zombies

One of the problems with the Mpumalanga Witchcraft Suppression Bill was that it used terms like "zombies", but failed to define them. Perhaps the legislators could benefit by sending someone to this conference: TheoFantastique: Call for Papers: Interdisciplinary Academic Study of Zombies:
The Religion and Popular Culture group on Yahoo! recently issued the following call for papers:

Call for Papers: An Interdisciplinary Collection of Essays on the Zombie

We are seeking proposals for an interdisciplinary edited volume discussing the zombie from a wide variety of perspectives and within a wide range of contexts. We encourage submissions from any discipline, including but not limited to English literature, film studies, media studies, cultural studies, gender studies, queer studies, philosophy, religious studies, anthropology, sociology, history, psychology, economics, and political science. We especially welcome new approaches to the study of zombies. In addition to theoretical essays on zombies, we also welcome critical discussions of specific zombie films, novels, and graphic novels, including those both pre- and post-Romero.

I blogged about the Witchcraft Suppression Bill soon after it was published (Notes from underground: MPUMALANGA WITCHCRAFT SUPPRESSION BILL 2007), and was glad to note that it was subsequently withdrawn (Notes from underground: Witchcraft Suppression Bill put on hold) a year later. Perhaps politicians need to realise that not every problem can be solved by legislation, and especially not by hasty legislation in which terms are not defined.

While there is indeed a problem of "witchcraft-related violence", such violence is already illegal -- there are laws against murder, arson, assault and malicious damage to property, and those who perform such acts can be prosecuted under existing laws.

In the mean time the conference may, or may not, turn up some useful information. Perhaps someone could propose a paper on the Mpumalanga Witchcraft Suppression Bill itself.

Roman Pope's Australian visit a disaster

When the Pope of Rome visited Australia for World Youth Day recently, some people were deeply disappointed at the result.

Faith and Theology: A miracle on World Youth Day:
according to a report in The Weekend Australian, the hundreds of thousands of Catholic pilgrims have been a major economic disappointment: “The deathly retail silence contrasts with optimistic predictions of a ‘bumper week’ of trade by the state Government and the local chambers of commerce. A jewellery shop reported one sale in the week: a cross. New South Wales Business Chamber chief executive Kevin MacDonald had predicted a $231 million boost for business, or $1155 per expected visitor. But traders reported pilgrims unwilling to spend, even haggling over the price of one banana. Clothing store John Serafino said the Pope’s visit was ‘a disaster’.”

As Ben Myers reports, Pope Benedict XVI spoke against the worship of the “false gods” of “material possessions, possessive love, or power.” And he asked: “How many voices in our materialist society tell us that happiness is to be found by acquiring as many possessions and luxuries as we can? But this is to make possessions into a false god. Instead of bringing life, they bring death.”

So really, what did the Mammon cultists expect? Faith and Theology: A miracle on World Youth Day

26 July 2008

Karadzic Arrest: A Boost for Serbia - TIME

Karadzic Arrest: A Boost for Serbia - TIME:
Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic's latest lair wasn't a cave or a safe house; no hidden compartments or special security details shielded him. Instead, it turns out that one of the world's most wanted men was hiding in plain view in the drab, anonymous housing blocks of Novo Belgrade, a suburb of the Serbian capital. He was nabbed not by NATO, whose forces had spent 13 years in a vain and sometimes desultory search for him, but by the security forces of Serbia, the country whose fantastic designs for grandeur he had once so ardently tried to further. Now Karadzic, 63, faces a trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) for genocide and crimes against humanity committed during the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

And we now wait with bated breath for the USA to get a similar boost by arresting and handing over Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright for war crimes in Yugoslavia; and George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld for war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq. And for Britain to get a similar boost by arresting and handing over Tony Blair for war crimes in all three -- he's probably the biggest war criminal in recent times.

Compared with these, Karadzic is a relatively small fish. But of course the big fish usually get away. If Tony Blair were occupying a cell next to Karadzic I might believe that the Hague Tribunal is not a kangaroo court. As it is, it's nothing more than a Nato propaganda organ.

And when I read the propaganda (including the Time article above, still churning it out after all these years), I begin to wonder if Radovan Karadzic isn't Bosnia's Bram Fischer. I don't know enough about him, of course, to make such a judgement, but I wonder. Perhaps the truth will emerge at the Hague, or perhaps, like Slobodan Milosevic, he will conveniently die before it does. And then we'll be left wondering just whose convenience was served.

23 July 2008

Witchcraft Suppression Bill put on hold

Well that's a relief.

It was a horribly badly-drafted piece of legislation, which failed to define terms and would have created endless confusion had it become law.
clipped from www.sowetan.co.za

Mpumalanga healers and pagans have been given a new lease of life after the Witchcraft Suppression Bill was put on hold.

The proposed bill by the department of local government, which came under fire last year from various stakeholders, was put on hold yesterday. The department of local government said it had put the drafting of the bill of 2007 on hold “until further notice”.

The department was mandated by the provincial executive council to prepare a bill which seeks to address high levels of violence in Mpumalanga linked to allegations of witchcraft.

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While witchcraft allegations have certainly led to a lot of violence, hasty legislation and imprecise definitions will not help to solve the problem.

Saint Stalin?

Could Josef Stalin be made a saint? - Telegraph:
The Communist party in St Petersburg has petitioned the Orthodox Church to canonise Josef Stalin if he wins a television poll to nominate the greatest Russian in history...

The Soviet dictator, who was responsible for the deaths of around 15 million people during his 31-year reign of terror, is in second place in online voting for the Name of Russia competition.

Stalin last week surrendered a narrow lead to Nicholas II in the contest, which is based on the BBC's Great Britons series.

Is that chutzpah, or what?

Who's next? Decius? Diocletian?

21 July 2008

God's politics - synchroblog

The theme of this month's Synchroblog is "The politics of God". A bit awkward, that. I could write quite a bit about God and human politics, but the subject seems quite clearly limited to God's politics.

It would be easy to think that God's politics must be monarchist. After all, the synoptic gospels have a great deal to say about the "Kingdom" of God, in which God is the king.

In church services we have the same thing. At the beginning of the Divine Liturgy the priest announces "Blessed be the kingdom of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit."

In baptism we are asked if we believe in Jesus Christ as king and God.

So the evidence is pretty strong: God's politics are monarchist.

St Matthew's Gospel has a variation. He talks about the "Kingdom of Heaven" rather than the "Kingdom of God", but the effect is much the same, though. Heaven, we are told, was a euphemism for "God" in the first century.

And concerning that, St Paul urges the Philippians not to set their hearts on earthly things, but says that "our politics is in heaven" (Philippians 4:20). Actually the word he uses, politevma, is translated in many varying ways -- "commonwealth", "citizenship" and even (KJV) "conversation". I can't help thinking that "conversation" must have meant something very different in Jacobean English to what it means today. But whatever it meant back then, I understand it today to mean that our politics should be God's politics.

And to the Colossians he says (Colossians 3:1-4)

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Whatever else that means, it means we should not take earthly politics too seriously. Christians can never say, "My country, right or wrong", because our country is heaven, and our citizenship is primarily in the Kingdom of Heaven and not in any earthly republic or monarchy or dictatorship. Our politics is in heaven, and so we cannot take earthly political parties and movements too seriously.

And the Kingdom of heaven is not like earthly kingdoms and republics and dictatorships. As Jesus told his disciples, it would be difficult for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God (Mark 10:26) and he went on to say

You know that those who are supposed to rule over the nations lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be the slave of all (Mark 10:42-43)

So Jesus represents a kingdom that is radically different from the kingdoms of this world, from the rulers of the nations. And this radical difference is shown by St Paul in I Cor 15:24, when Christ delivers the kingdom to God the Father, having put down all rule, all authority, all power. What kind of kingdom is without rule (arche), without authority (exousia), without power (dynamis)?

An anarchic kingdom, that's what.

The Kingdom of God is without rule (an-archy), without authority, without power.

That is the politics of God, and that is our politics as Christians; we are citizens of an anarchic kingdom, a royal anarchy.


This post is part of a synchroblog, in which a number of bloggers blog on the same general theme on about the same day. The theme of this synchroblog is "God's politics", and other synchrobloggers blogging on this theme are listed below. Please visit their blogs to to see what others have to say on the topic

Phil Wyman at Phil Wyman's Square No More
Lainie Petersen at Headspace
Jonathan Brink enters The Political Fray
Adam Gonnerman explains The Living Christ's Present Reign
Sonja Andrews at Calacirian
Mike Bursell at Mike's Musings
Sally Coleman at Eternal Echoes
Steve Hayes on God's Politics
Matthew Stone at Matt Stone Journeys in Between
Steve Hollinghurst at On Earth as in Heaven
KW Leslie tells us about God's Politics
Julie Clawson at One Hand Clapping
Dan Stone at The Tense Before
Alan Knox asks Is God Red, Blue, or Purple?
Beth Patterson at The Virtual Teahouse
Erin Word at Decompressing Faith

Reckless rhetoric or freedom of speech?

clipped from www.thetimes.co.za
Archbishop Desmond Tutu has lashed out at political leaders who use “intemperate, inflammatory” language.

He warned that political figures were perpetuating hostility with their reckless rhetoric.

Nearly 29000 of the foreigners were still displaced across the Western Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu- Natal in June.

Tutu made the comments yesterday at Johannesburg’s St John’s College, during a mass to mark the xenophobic violence that swept South Africa recently.

He linked irresponsible rhetoric with the violence that displaced 47000 foreign nationals in May.

“What has happened when it seems no longer to matter how you’ve behaved, whether you have integrity, that these [characteristics] are deemed irrelevant for public office?” Tutu asked.

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South Africa has a democratic constitution that protects freedom of speech. In saying things like this is Bishop Tutu trying to place an unconstitutional limitation on freedom of speech?

Some bloggers seem to think so, like Richard Catto on his Cape Town News blog.

I am reminded of a case that was reported several years ago, of a professor at an American university, who lost his job because of his communist sympathies. The case came to court, as he accused the university authorities of trying to suppress his right to freedom of speech. The university countered by arguing that if the communists came to power they would abridge everyone's right to freedom of speech.

The court found for the professor, and said that he had only talked of abridging the freedom of speech of others, whereas the university, by firing him, had actually abridged his freedom of speech, and had therefore done in fact what he was only talking about.

The Times report cited above doesn't actually say that Archbishop Desmond Tutu criticised Zwelinzima Vavi -- the reference was implied rather than actual. But even if he did, was he abridging Zwelinzima Vavi's freedom of speech?

Zwelinzima Vavi's reported statements that he would "kill for Jacob Zuma" can be interpreted in various ways. They could, for example, be interpreted to mean that he would kill for Jacob Zuma in the same way that people in Zimbabwe are killing for Robert Mugabe -- killing those who are suspected of voting against him. And that would indeed destroy our constitution -- freedom of speech must be balanced against other rights. It is not an absolute right, sprueme over all others.
And if that is so, it would seem contradictory, because Cosatu, of which Vavi is Secretary General, is on record as regarding Robert Mugabe as the enemy of the working class. And doesn't freedom of speech include freedom to criticise certain kinds of speech, as Archbishop Desmond Tutu has done?

Fifty billion and rising

Lasst week I reported that the cover price of the Sunday Independent newspaper was $30 billion in Zimbabwe.

This week it is $50 billion (R11.50 in South Africa).

That's $50 000 000 000 000,00

The mind boggles.

20 July 2008

Credo: the average Anglican is a black, female teenager -Times Online

Credo: the average Anglican is a black, female teenager -Times Online:
Recently a friend informed me that missiology is really just “a white man’s theology.” As a student of missiology and a woman, I felt the need to counter this. Yet what is missiology? Well, my friend was right that it began with white men taking Christianity, commerce and civilisation beyond Europe. This is exactly what missiology endeavours to study. It is a critical reflection on theories of mission, research into mission and critique on how mission is done.

It's a moot point, however.

Missiology, like ecclesiology, is indeed pretty recent as an academic discipline. Both began within the last 150 years, if not more recently. But their field of study goes back a long way before -- the Christian church and mission began long before there were names for academic disciplines devoted to studying them, and go back to a time before there were any Christian white men in Europe.

Yes, Christianity did first reach North and South America from Western Europe, but missiology can also study they way in which Christianity first reached some of the countries in Western Europe that took Christianity to those places. Christianity began in Asia, and reached parts of Africa before it reached northern Europe, even if it was people from northern Europe who first brought Christianity to southern Africa.

It actually works both ways. African missionaries evangelised parts of Europe long before and European missionaries came to Africa.

It depends on your perspective, that's all.

19 July 2008

FutureChurchJourney - I talk about megachurch on TV...and eat my own foot

Roger Saner has an interesting discussion on Megachurches on his blog, in which he says, among other things FutureChurchJourney - I talk about megachurch on TV...and eat my own foot:
One of the guys was talking about how Jesus was such a success and this is where I said my silly thing: I jumped in and challenged him on that. It seems like we can adapt the Bible a little too easily and make it say what we want to...and I don't know why I thought this would be a good thing to challenge, but I did. And told the story of Albert Schweitzer, one of the great human beings of the 20th century, who had great fun showing how all of the historians before him had brought their own presuppositions to bear on the historical study of Jesus, and instead of portraying the actual Jesus of history, they put across their own idea of Jesus. Then he proposed to tell us what Jesus was really like, and concluded that he was a wild-eyed apocalyptic prophet who died a failure.

I tried to comment on Roger's blog, but was told to enter the characters in the picture, and could see no picture and no characters, so I thought I'd comment here.

Roger mentioned a "pastor" who had a medium-sized church that he wanted to grow into a megachurch, and that got me wondering about all sorts of things -- like what do we mean by "pastor" and why do we (or at least some people) think that "size matters"?

And it seems to me that some of the people called "pastors" are not so much pastors as ranchers, or at least wannabe ranchers. OK, we read in the Old Testament about all those patriarchs with huge flocks, and especially Jacob who increased his flocks and herds at the expense of his uncle and father-in-law, and all the good things that happened since their corn and wine and oil increased. And of course in the secular world the more people a person has to boss around, the more important they are. The rulers of big and rich nations are more important than the rulers of small and poor nations. And the CEO of a big company is more important than the CEO of a small one. But didn't Jesus say "It is not to be so among you?"

What is a pastor? A CEO for Jesus?

With Jesus as partner, and perhaps a junior partner at that?

As someone (I think it was Juan Carlos Ortiz) once said, "Is your church growing, or is it just getting fat?"

I remember one Anglican priest who was always preaching about money and the need for the church to look successful. "Success appeals to those who love success, and all men do," he said.

Yet, as Roger points out, in the eyes of the world, Jesus was a failure.

And I read a passage in a book that somehow seems truer to the Gospel of Christ than the false gospel of Success:

The New Poverty is the disaffiliate's answer to the New Prosperity. It is important to make a living. It is even more important to make a life. Poverty. The very word is taboo in a society where success is equated with virtue and poverty is a sin. Yet it has an honourable ancestry. St. Francis of Assisi revered poverty as his bride, with holy fervor and pious rapture. The poverty of the disaffiliate is not to be confused
with the poverty of indigence, intemperance, improvidence or failure. It is simply that the goods and services he has to offer are not valued at a high price in our society. As one beat generation writer said to the square who offered him an advertising job: 'I'll scrub your floors and carry out your slops to make a living, but I will not lie for you, pimp for you, stool for you or rat for you.' It is not the poverty of the ill-tempered and embittered, those who wooed the bitch goddess Success with panting breath and came away rebuffed. It is an independent, voluntary poverty (from The holy barbarians, by Lawrence Lipton).

Whom do we worship? Christ, who came to be poor among the poor, or the bitch goddess Sucess?

18 July 2008

People Power Granny: Can Intentional Communities be the Answer to this Messed-Up World?

In the past we have had some Synchroblogs about utopian communities and new monasticism. Here's a story about a utopian intentional community that started over 30 years ago and is still going strong.

People Power Granny: Can Intentional Communities be the Answer to this Messed-Up World?:
One good example of an intentional community that left the rat race but not the world is the Farm in Summertown, TN. Started in the early 70's by a 'family' of hippies, this community today still is alive and well. But in its 30-plus years of operation, members have gone out into the world to help the suffering, have provided training for the re-birth of midwifery, have created a watershed protector of their local river and have introduced kids in the cities to life on the farm. This community speaks out against illegal wars and other injustices. They have incorporated the internet and other new forms of communication to get their messages out to the world. As a matter of fact, residents of the Farm are often leaders in the world fighting the Powerful.

If you've ever thought of joining an intentional community, or are living in one now, you can find more resources on this site.

14 July 2008

The connection has timed out

It's bad enough getting these timeout message from the SAIX news server, but now it's happening with Blogspot blogs as well.

The connection has timed out

The server at www.blogger.com is taking too long to respond.

* The site could be temporarily unavailable or too busy. Try again in a few

Is anyone else getting these messages, or do we just have a slow connection?

Last post for world's oldest blogger

World's oldest blogger makes final post - National - smh.com.au: "The Australian woman renowned as the world's oldest internet blogger has made her final post, aged 108.

Olive Riley, of Woy Woy on NSW's central coast, died in a nursing home just after 6am yesterday.

She will be mourned by family and an international readership in the thousands."

Read the full story here.

13 July 2008

Thirty billion dollars

Bought a Sunday newspaper today, The Sunday Independent. It had the price on it.

SA R11,50 (Inc VAT)
Zimbabwe $30 Billion.

That's right - $30 000 000 000 000,00

Who needs sanctions?

They couldn't do anything to the Zimbabwe economy that Mugabe hasn't already done.

There was a time when the Zim dollar was worth more than a Rand.

The media just don't "get religion"

On giving the surge a chance...
Notes from a Common-place Book

And telling both sides of the story...
Notes from a Common-place Book

McCain not "natural born" citizen after all

It seems that people have been querying the citizenship of both leading candidates for the US presidency -- Barack Obama's father was Kenyan, but he was born in the USA. John McCain, however, was not.
clipped from www.nytimes.com

In the most detailed examination yet of Senator John McCain’s eligibility to be president, a law professor at the University of Arizona has concluded that neither Mr. McCain’s birth in 1936 in the Panama Canal Zone nor the fact that his parents were American citizens is enough to satisfy the constitutional requirement that the president must be a “natural-born citizen.”

The analysis, by Prof. Gabriel J. Chin, focused on a 1937 law that has been largely overlooked in the debate over Mr. McCain’s eligibility to be president. The law conferred citizenship on children of American parents born in the Canal Zone after 1904, and it made John McCain a citizen just before his first birthday. But the law came too late, Professor Chin argued, to make Mr. McCain a natural-born citizen.

“It’s preposterous that a technicality like this can make a difference in an advanced democracy,” Professor Chin said. “But this is the constitutional text that we have.”

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12 July 2008

What's in a name?

Holy Whapping gives some snippets from the "Random Things the Orthodox Do So Much Better Than Us" File

Shrine of the Holy Whapping: June 2008:
They have a real knack for naming holy stuff. Witness St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco (known in life with the plain old name of John Maximovitch), John of Moscow the Fool-For-Christ, the Holy and Bodiless Powers (so much nicer than the plain-vanilla 'angels'), the Astoria, Queens institution called the Sacred Patriarchal and Stavropegial Monastery of St. Irene Chrysovalantou, and my new favorite miracle of all time, the Miracle of the Moose, ascribed to the equally baroquely-named Venerable Macarius of the Yellow Water Lake and the Unzha*, the Miracle Worker. The long and short of it is apparently it is possible to catch a moose by prayer, and then enjoy a nice venison dinner afterwards. This is my kind of miracle. Practical and yummy.

The only thing we really have to do now is having all those marvellous names, get signwriters to be able to spell them correctly. One of our institutions is described as "The Alexandrian Catechitical School of South Africa 'Petros VII'"

U.S. defends laptop searches at the border | csmonitor.com

People in the US seem to have a very swivel-eyed idea of privacy. They object to identity documents and the like, yet seem to put up with this sort of thing with hardly a squeak. To me this is real Gestapo/KGB stuff, and carrying an identity document is just part of normal life. It's funny how cultures differ.

U.S. defends laptop searches at the border | csmonitor.com:
Is a laptop searchable in the same way as a piece of luggage? The Department of Homeland Security believes it is.

For the past 18 months, immigration officials at border entries have been searching and seizing some citizens’ laptops, cellphones, and BlackBerry devices when they return from international trips.

In some cases, the officers go through the files while the traveler is standing there. In others, they take the device for several hours and download the hard drive’s content. After that, it’s unclear what happens to the data.

To me that kind of thing implies that the State owns you, body and soul, and can steal your ideas, your inventions, and your secrets with impunity and no accountability.

It's what used to happen in South Africa in the bad old days. A fellow called Martin West did a lot of research on African Independent Churches in Soweto. Some of it was published in a book called Bishops and prophets in a black city, but the rest was stored in the Christian Institute offices and seized in an SB raid. It has never reappeared. Months of research just vanished. And now the US is doing the same sort of thing.

11 July 2008

Trolley buses

Real Estate Weekly:
After years of neglect and operational sabotage, city bean counters and Edmonton Transit administrators have finally succeeded in their obsessive quest to pull the plug on the city’s 70-year-old trolleybus system. Last month, they finally got a majority on council that was gullible enough to swallow the misinformation that trolleybuses are a technology of the past, not a way to a cleaner and greener future.

While municipalities around the world are expanding their electrically-powered public transit fleets, Edmonton city council voted seven-to-six to begin the process of dismantling the city’s trolleybus network by 2010. Instead, they’ll abandon proven trolley technology and buy 47 diesel hybrid buses that have an uncertain lifespan, burn more fossil fuels and spew more emissions at street level.

Gauteng municipalities made similar short-sighted decisions more than 30 years ago, and both Pretoria and Johannesburg lost their trolley buses.

10 July 2008

Does Windows update block Internet access?

Last night my wife lost Internet access on her computer. We checked connections, rebooted, but it still didn't work. This morning I saw pending Windows updates on my laptop, installed them and went off to read a book waiting for it to reboot. And then I could no longer access the Internet.

Similar updates were waiting on my desktop computer, and I installed them, rebooted, and there was no Internet access.

I returned to the laptop, did a system restore, and Internet access was restored.

I wonder if there will be a massive shutdown right across the Internet, as Windows XP users are cut off.

08 July 2008

Brits suffer from metal theft

For a long time South Africans have suffered from metal thieves. A few months ago we were without electricity for two days, not because of Eskom load shedding, but because of cable theft.

Twenty years ago the aluminium railings were nicked from a railway bridge down the road, over four separate nights, and no one heard a thing. Cell phones have mitigated the inconvenience of telephone cable theft, but it can still disrupt Internet access. And many have been late for work because of the theft of railway signal cables.

Now, it seems, the Brits are suffering from the same problem. Will it rile up even the phlegmatic Brits so much that they'll start burning railway carriages and stations when the trains are late?
clipped from news.sky.com
Police have launched a nationwide crackdown on the soaring trend of metal theft which is said to cost the economy £360 million every year.
It comes after five men were questioned in Plymouth over the theft of four bronze war memorial plaques.
Theft of all metal has risen on average 150% in the last two years with signalling cable, bronze statues, drain hole covers and metal from church and school roofs targeted frequently.

Assistant Chief Constable Paul Crowther, British Transport Police, said: "The increasing price of metal in overseas markets over the last four years has led to an increase in theft of metals in the UK for its scrap value.

"This is far from being a victimless crime. Thousands of people have seen their community facilities stolen or damaged by thieves looking for a quick gain, or have suffered service disruption to railways and telecoms."

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Iran war speculation and oil prices

Ron Paul, the US senator who was running for the Republican Party's presidential candidate has said that speculation about an Iran War is driving the oil price up.

Informed Comment: Paul: Iran and Energy Crisis:
Ron Paul on Iran and the energy crisis. He argues that speculation about a US or Israeli strike on Iran is driving some of the increase in oil prices.

The OPEC president should know a thing or two about what drives oil prices and he agrees.

The speculation has been going on a long time ago -- according to some, the war should have started two years ago or more, so it can't be the only thing that's driving the oil price up.

Hat-tip to Mard.

Body of 'balloon priest' found

Body of 'balloon priest' found | The Australian: "THE body a Brazilian priest who floated off tied to 1000 giant party balloons has been recovered about 100 km off the Brazilian coast, Deutsche Presse-Agentur reports .
Father Adelir de Carli went missing in April while attempting to fly with theparty balloons tied to a chair.

The body was recovered by a tugboat crew off Rio de Janeiro state, DPA reports .

Police said clothing, a rucksack and shoes left little doubt that the body was that of the priest but DNA tests would be conducted to provide final proof."

07 July 2008

Cows Come Home Shock Horror

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a fundi on agricultural economics and marketing, but this piece in Bishop Alan's blog makes a lot of sense to me, and I suspect that the behaviour of supermarket chains in South Africa is not all that much different.

Bishop Alan’s Blog: Cows Come Home Shock Horror:
Let’s zoom in on the dirty truth about dairy. The Blue is the farm gate price [click on the link to Bishop Alan's blog to see the graphs]. The Purple is the distributor/ processor element. The Cream, in every sense, is Lord Tesco’s Cut. In 1995, the farmer got about 24 pence a litre, the distributors got about 18, and Lord Tesco and chums got 1 and a bit. That may sound low, but of course he sold many litres compared to the farmer, so he wasn’t exactly short of a few bob. Can you believe it, but these days the farmer gets a bit less, and the distributor much the same, whilst UK supermarkets are taking a huge cut — 10 times as much as back then! The argument for going local is to try and bring some of that margin back to the people who actually do the work. Otherwise some are actually being paid less than 10 years ago. Cut out supermarket Shareholders and for roughly the same price, the farmer gets a living wage.

There's been quite a bit of talk about land reform in South Africa, but with the example of Zimbabwe's utterly botched attempt (because its concern was not with the land or the people, but with the political fortunes of ZANU-PF and its leader, Mad Bob Mugabe) many people are understandably somewhat nervous about it. But it goes beyond land and agriculture and political gain, and Bishop Alan's comments seem to be applicable, mutatis mutandis, to our situation too.

06 July 2008

WordPress versus Blogger

I have three general blogs on three different blogging platforms, and occasionally I compare them to see which is most popular.

The blogs are Notes from Underground on Blogger (this one), Khanya on WordPress, and my LiveJournal. The graph from Amatomu below shows that the oldest, the LiveJournal one, has the fewest readers, while the newest one, the WordPress one, seems to have the most readers. Is this because readers prefer WordPress to blogger?

Actually the comparison is not quite fair to LiveJournal. Most liveJournal posts are read by friends on feeds, and very few people read the actual blogs themselves. Nevertheless, it does seem to indicate a preference for WordPress on the part of blog readers, though as a blog writer I find it has several limitations, notably that it does not support Javascript, so all sorts of widgets and things just don't work.

But knowing which one readers prefer also affects the way I write. I now tend to be more careful about what I wrote on the Khanya blog, knowing that more people will probably read it. Notes from underground tends to get used for quick 'n dirty posts, and the LiveJournal even more so, or even just for pointers to posts on one of the others, if I think some of my LiveJournal friends might be interested, and I hope that some of them may comment.

05 July 2008

Decimating moral values

Christian Conservatives Uniting Behind McCain - Swampland - TIME:
At a meeting Tuesday in Denver, about 100 conservative Christian leaders from around the country agreed to unite behind the candidacy of John McCain, a politician they have long distrusted, marking the latest in a string of movements that bode well for McCain's general election prospects among the Republican base.

'Collectively we feel that he will support and advance those moral values that we hold much greater than Obama, who in our view will decimate moral values,' said Mat Staver, the chairman of Liberty Counsel, a legal advocacy group, who previously supported Mike Huckabee's candidacy.
Hat-tip to Richard Catto for this one. Richard comments:

Hahahahahaha!!! Obama is going to DECIMATE moral values, is he? He’s going to kill every tenth one, or one in every ten, is he?

Really? Wow! Secretly, I am hoping it’s the 6th one (do not commit adultery).

And of course the same charge could be levelled against John McCain, and could already have been levelled against George Bush, who has already decimated moral values: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's oil.

I wonder if Mat Staver could be more specific about which one he thinks Barack Obama is intending to knock off, and what evidence that he has that John McCain will not do the same.

02 July 2008

Who's more evil than "Mad Bob" Mugabe?

Others have noted the speed with which vote counting in Zimbabwe changed when the "right" result was available. But though Mad Bob may be baddie of the week, he isn't a patch on Teodoro Obiang Nguema.

Tracey Barnett: Dr Evil beats Mugabe every time - 02 Jul 2008 - NZ Herald: World / International News:
Mugabe may win for the best baddie this week, but nobody says a peep about the bundle of joy who truly deserves the title of Africa's worst leader, hands down.

Meet Teodoro Obiang Nguema, the resident dictator of Equatorial Guinea.

His credentials? Obiang seized power in 1979 by killing his own uncle, a man who was even creepier than the current 'democratically elected' despot. Uncle Francisco Macias Nguema broke away from Spain and declared independence in 1968.

Leaving Plaxo

I just had the enormously frustrating experience of trying to update a friend's address on Plaxo.

I joined Plaxo a few years ago -- it seemed like a good idea at the time. It promised to keep your address book up to date by automatically updating your address book whenever your friends updated theirs, if they were members of Plaxo.

But they have just revamped their operation to make it enormously difficult to navigate and use the system, and I spent a frustrating half hour with my friend's new e-mail address on my clipboard trying to reach a place where I could enter it. I was asked to update my status. I was asked to approve connections with six other people I'd never heard of in my life before. When, after about half an hour, I finally found the address book and could click on the thing to edit his address, I couldn't find the field to enter his new address. The only editable field was "Category" and I could not scroll the screen left, right, up or down to find any more fields. They've obviously designed their interface for monitors much bigger than mine, and until I can afford a new monitor, Plaxo is altogether useless to me.

Why is it that when these web outfits do one thing and one thing well, they suddenly leave their core business and try to become a shoddy imitation of Facebook? And in doing so, stop doing the one thing they did well, that makes them worth joining? I'm already on Facebook, I don't need another version. I'm already on Linked-In. I don't need Plaxo Pulse as well. And since they've made it impossible to do the thing I joined them for, I'm leaving. If they'll let me, that is.

01 July 2008

I Just Love Irony

Notes from a Common-place Book: I Just Love Irony:

Today I read where Dr. James Dobson took issue with Barack Obama, here. I particularly noted one quote:

'I think he's deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own world view, his own confused theology,' Dobson said, adding that Obama is 'dragging biblical understanding through the gutter.'

Maybe the word 'traditional' has a different meaning to Dr. Dobson. But of course, he should be an expert when it comes to 'confused theology.'

Like I say, I just love irony.

What more can one say?

Technorati tags and the penal substitution atonement

There seems to have been a lot of discussion in the blogosphere about the theory of the atonement recently, so I thought I would throw in my 2c worth, when discussion on other topics seemed to turn to that.

The trouble was that for more than a week I couldn't remember the "p" word -- my memory was turning into a forgettory, and I thought of "praeterist atonement" "praeternatural atonement", and "preeminent atonement" but the phrase seemed to have slipped my mind entirely.

Then someone made a comment that triggered my rusty synapses, and I posted it on my Khanya blog here. It's an Orthodox theological response to the theory of the .

Then I thought I'd look on to see what others had been saying about it, and responded:

There are no posts in English tagged penal substitution”

So it seems that didn't only slip out of my memory for a week or two, it slipped out of Technorati, and maybe out of the blogosphere generally, and maybe out of the universe!

Now there's a thought!


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