The Gillard Government has blood on its hands. Prime Minister Julia Gillard should resign. These tragic drownings at Christmas Island are a direct result of her reckless boat people policies. Again and again she was warned those policies — fatally relaxed in 2008 — would result in exactly this loss of life.
Andrew Bolt Herald Sun 16 Dec 10
Andrew Bolt has blood on his hands. He stridently insisted on the invasion and killings in Iraq which led to millions fleeing. Some of those millions ended up in the ocean off Christmas Island on Wednesday.
Andrew Bolt's call, while bodies were still in the ocean, for Julia Gillards resignation (but the Labor Party opposed the war in Iraq) lacked human decency. He should resign.
Senator Bob Brown
|Grady Hendrix laments in The Slate (6 Dec 10) that projectionists will soon be no more. "[N]owhere is technology eliminating the need for human labor faster than in motion-picture projection." Yet, the projectionists' tales that Hendrix relates show that the world's finest projectors "can never be a projectionist."|
The article is about wide-screen—35mm, 70mm and the like. But years ago a licence was required even to operate a 16mm projector in a public venue. Threading and smoothly operating the machine was tricky. But the big hazards were high voltage electricity and fire. In Victoria, there was a Board of Examiners of Cinematograph Operators established by the Cinematograph Operators Regulations 1935 made under the Health Act 1928. In 1973, I took a 13 week course and passed two formal examinations to get a 16mm Cinematograph Operator's Licence that allowed me to show films for church and other gatherings.
It wasn't too long before it was all technologically redundant, with video tapes, VCR and, now, DVDs. The 16mm operator's licence was abolished.
There is a strategy that could actually work. It would take boldness on President Obama's part, but it could win him a place in history and the enduring gratitude of most Jews and Palestinians.
. . . The United Nations created a Jewish state six decades ago, and it can create a Palestinian state now. It can define the borders, set the timetable and lay down the rules for Palestinian elections (specifying, for example, that the winners must swear allegiance to a constitution that acknowledges Israel's right to exist).
Establishing such a state would involve more tricky issues than can be addressed in this space. (I take a stab at some of them at www.progressiverealist.org/UN2states.) But, however messy this solution may seem, it looks pretty good when you realize how hopeless the current process is.
Palestinians and Israelis have taken turns impeding this process, and lately Israel has been in the lead. A raft of American inducements failed to get Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to forgo for even three months the construction of Israeli settlements that are banned under international law. It would be nice to think that this is just a phase, the product of an ephemeral far-right coalition. But there are signs that Israels drift to the right runs deep.
. . . As chances of a deal shrink, international impatience grows. This month Brazil and Argentina recognized a Palestinian state with 1967 borders. By comparison, a United Nations solution looks Israel-friendly. Borders could be drawn to accommodate some of the thickest Israeli settlements along the 1967 lines (while giving the new Palestinian state land in exchange). But perhaps the biggest advantage is the political cover this approach would give President Obama.
. . . A prediction: if the United Nations does take the initiative, [American] domestic resistance will be largely confined to the right wing of American Jewish opinion. Vast numbers of American (and Israeli) Jews will rally to the plan, because lasting peace will finally be within reach.
"Jingle Bell with a south indian & gujarati flavor for MTV & Nick,India."
Design & Direction: Nupur Bhargava
Music Director: IshQ Bector
Singers: Shree Dayal, Prajakta Shukre & Sonny Ravan
The ballad of old man Noah
And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard . . . 1
—R. F. Brissenden
|Here's a health to Father Noah|
Who built his ark of wood,
Packed wife, kids, birds and beasts aboard
And saved them from the flood!
But there's another reason
Why you should raise your glass
So listen to my story, boys,
And let the bottle pass.
After months of weary sailing
Beneath the weeping sky
Noah muttered, "All this water, Lord,
Sure makes a man feel dry.
"Don't think that I'm not grateful:
I'm glad we didn't sink
And I've grown quite fond of animals
—But, Lord, I need a drink!
"And, mate, I don't mean water!
Please, when I beach this boat,
Could you give me something stronger
To soothe my thirsty throat?"
And the Lord said "Noah, baby,
I'm tired of water too:
So park your ark on Ararat
And I'll tell you what we'll do:
"We'll plant a little vineyard
And we'll get the sun to shine;
And when the grapes have ripened
We'll turn them into wine."
|So when the flood subsided|
And the rainbow spanned the sky,
And all God's creatures, two by two,
Went forth to multiply,
Noah set the first grapes growing
Upon a sunny hill,
And vintaged them, and vatted them
Then sat to drink his fill.
He took one sip, and laughed aloud;
He shouted: "Thank you, Lord!"
He drank, he sang, he drank again,
And then lay down and snored.
Flat on his back lay Noah,
His hairy legs spread wide,
With his bunch of grapes and vine rows
All standing in their pride.
That's how Ham, Shem and Japheth
Found their old dad lying bare;
So they fetched a rug and covered him
With tender loving care.
It's all there in the Bible
Genesis, chapter Nine:
The flood, the naked drunk old man
The water and the wine.
So, lift a glass to Noah, boys;
Don't pike when it's your shout;
Praise the Lord and pass the bottle;
And let it all hang out.
From: The Flight of the Emu: contemporary light verse, edited by Geoffrey Lehmann. North Ryde: Angus and Robertson, 1990, pp.9-10.
1. Genesis 9.20
With the launching in 1994 of the Global Rinderpest Eradication Programme (GREP), the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation began to consolidate gains in rinderpest control. FAO worked with World Organisation for Animal Health, which had been combating rinderpest since 1929. Rinderpest is only the second infectious disease in history to be wiped out, after smallpox, which was declared eradicated in 1980. Both diseases were among the first to be treated by vaccination in the 18th century. Eradication has been possible because neither disease mutates rapidly. The last known rinderpest case was in Kenya in 2001. Initially GREP worked to understand the geographical distribution and epidemiology of the disease. Later, it acted to contain rinderpest within the infected eco-systems, and to eliminate reservoirs of infection. Once experts believed that the virus had likely been eliminated, GREP concentrated on surveillance to prove the absence of the disease.
The next big target is polio — an incredibly wonderful prospect. A similar approach is being used—find out where the disease is, control it— particularly with vaccination—and then use surveillance to prove that it's gone, or detect any outbreaks. Vaccination of hundreds of millions of people, especially children, has been steadily shrinking the area where the virus is active. Only a few remaining cases of polio are being found in a handfull of countries.
One night during World War II, on leave in London, I penetrated the blackout to see a show at the London Hippodrome called The Lisbon Story. I forget what it was about, I forget who was in it, but I still have at the back of my mind its theme tune, which was called "Pedro the Fisherman.""Although I know it can sometimes be intolerable to have a habitual siffleur in the family, forever performing 'Pedro the Fisherman,' I still mourn the decline of the whistlers," Morris writes.
This is because I have always been fond of whistling, and "Pedro the Fisherman" is the quintessential whistling songjaunty, catchy, with a touch of the sentimental and an un-obliteratable melody. I like to think that it also expresses the generic character of people ...
It's not so much the songs Morris misses, but the whistlers themselves. "Something cocky has left society, the whistling errand boy, the whistling postman, the whistling housewife in her flowered apron, Pedro himself, all were expressing in their often discordant music something at once communal and defiant." It's a practice that seems ready for a comeback. After all, "whistling not only cheers up the whistler, it invites the world at large to cheer up too."
As a whistler myself, I am sad that there are so few places where a cheerful and tuneful whistle seems accepted.
Under Section 35(2) of the Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Act 1988, the Governor-General may disallow any enactment of the ACT Legislative Assembly within six months of its passing. This power has been used only once—to disallow the Civil Unions Act 2006 that allowed same-sex unions.
ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope says that civil unions are the one area where discrimination against homosexual couples is still legislated in the ACT. "If there were a change of attitude federally in relation to our right to legislate exactly as we see fit in relation to civil unions, I would not turn my back on that opportunity to restore the provisions that existed in our legislation," Mr Stanhope said.
The ACT Government's compromise with the Commonwealth government related to the way the relationship is formed legal. In heterosexual marriages, the ceremony creates the relationship. In same-sex civil partnerships, the relationship is created by the Registrar-General's acceptance of a registration; 177 civil partnerships have been registered, representing around a tenth of a per cent of the Territory's population.
I also go to church to sing. As John Bell has pointed out, the church is about the only place where people gather to sing anymore. My tradition (Mennonite) has a longstanding practice of singing four-part a cappella hymns. [T]he default still is singing in parts, unaccompanied. Joining our verses together in praise resounds deep within my being. It is then that I sense most assuredly that I am in the presence of God with my people, the ones with whom I am pledged to live out my baptismal vows. What Sister Joan Chittister says is true for my congregation too: "My Benedictine community is a singing community. Maybe that's why we're a community at all, come to think about it."Now there's a thought . . . hymns a capella, in four part harmony. Not often done in Australia, but I'd like it a lot.
A recently published study suggests that sleep helps people to remember a newly learned words and incorporate them into their thinking. But the same principles are likely to apply to other types of learning. Sleep has a role to play in the reorganization of new memories.
J Tamminen, JD Payne, R Stickgold, EJ Wamsley, and MG Gaskell. Sleep Spindle Activity is Associated with the Integration of New Memories and Existing Knowledge. Journal of Neuroscience, Oct 2010; 30: 14356 - 14360.
Abstract:Sleep spindle activity has been associated with improvements in procedural and declarative memory. Here, for the first time, we looked at the role of spindles in the integration of newly learned information with existing knowledge, contrasting this with explicit recall of the new information. Two groups of participants learned novel spoken words (e.g., cathedruke) that overlapped phonologically with familiar words (e.g., cathedral). The sleep group was exposed to the novel words in the evening, followed by an initial test, a polysomnographically monitored night of sleep, and a second test in the morning. The wake group was exposed and initially tested in the morning and spent a retention interval of similar duration awake. Finally, both groups were tested a week later at the same circadian time to control for possible circadian effects. In the sleep group, participants recalled more words and recognized them faster after sleep, whereas in the wake group such changes were not observed until the final test 1 week later. Following acquisition of the novel words, recognition of the familiar words was slowed in both groups, but only after the retention interval, indicating that the novel words had been integrated into the mental lexicon following consolidation. Importantly, spindle activity was associated with overnight lexical integration in the sleep group, but not with gains in recall rate or recognition speed of the novel words themselves. Spindle activity appears to be particularly important for overnight integration of new memories with existing neocortical knowledge.When the researchers examined whether newly learned words had been integrated with existing knowledge, they discovered the involvement of a different type of activity in the sleeping brain. Sleep spindles are brief but intense bursts of brain activity that reflect information transfer between different memory stores in the brain—the hippocampus deep in the brain and the neocortex, the surface of the brain.
Memories in the hippocampus are stored separately from other memories, while memories in the neocortex are connected to other knowledge. Volunteers who experienced more sleep spindles overnight were more successful in connecting the new words to the rest of the words in their mental lexicon, suggesting that the new words were communicated from the hippocampus to the neocortex during sleep.
New memories are only really useful if you can connect them to information you already know. For this, you need sleep.
For the Greens, Senator Brown said the PM should develop an exit strategy as soon as possible.
The Prime Minister's flagging of an ongoing intervention, possibly military, possibly for 10 years, is no substitute for her Government's responsibility to give Australia a clear exit strategy for its servicemen and servicewomen. . . . This Parliament should recall that faced with no prospect of clear victory, the Anzacs were withdrawn from Gallipoli in World War I precisely because the justification for them remaining in Gallipoli had become less persuasive than the justification for them leaving.Independent MPs Tony Windsor and Ron Oakeshott also want Australia out of Afghanistan quickly. Andrew Wilkie is also particularly critical.
Should Australian troops . . . have their lives threatened daily because of a strategic stuff up of George Bush and John Howard? . . . We owe it to our people there to justify the growing toll of death and injury and their exposure to the increasing ugliness and violence of this protracted civil war.
As for the Americans, the New York Times comments (21 Oct 2101) that:
President George W. Bush shortchanged the Afghan fight for seven years. We continue to wonder whether, at this late date, the United States can achieve even minimal success against the Taliban and their allies.The cost of the war is still rising. Nearly 600 coalition forces, including 400 Americans, have been killed there this year. Yet Mr. Obama and his top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, are only now putting in place the pieces of a more coherent plan.
[Obamas] administration is doubling down on the fight against the Taliban and showing mixed results. That may not sound like much, but even mixed results are an improvement over the utterly bleak situation of several months ago.Senator Brown is right. Australia is not well served by its support of a half-baked allied non-strategy.
[T]wo of the most fundamental problems have yet to be addressed: the Afghan governments lack of credibility with many of its own people; and Pakistans persistent double game, taking American aid while sheltering and abetting the Taliban.Australia is foolish to entangle itself in this mess. We would do better to deliver development assistance that is linked neither to military intervention nor to the Karzai government.
Mr. Karzai's government is rife with corruption, and he has either dragged his feet or blocked efforts to clean up things. His supporters committed vast fraud in last years presidential election. . . . The Obama administration has yet to find a way to pressure or cajole Mr. Karzai into saving his own government.
It is possible.
Beare was a Christian all his life. He read widely on church history, and for 15 years wrote columns for The Melbourne Anglican. And it's for that role that I am most indebted to him. I've long valued a list of tests by Beare, published in the Melbourne Anglican a few years ago, that help one assess what to take up that's new, what to stop doing—tasks to get rid of, to resign from, to give up or just quit.
- The test of Bliss: Is this activity something I really like doing, deep down? Is it something I really want to do?
- The test of Vocation: Is this something I am suited to doing, which appropriately makes use of my talents, and which is in keeping with my Christian and professional calling?
- The test of Uniqueness: Why me? Why have I been asked or approached? Is this something only I can do, for which I have unique competence?
- The test of Coherence: Does this activity harmonize with my current priorities and centres of interest?
- The test of Networking: Does (or will) this activity keep me in touch with significant people or activities, and will it do the same for my spouse or partner?
- The test of the Strategic: Is the audience or the target group for this exercise important enough to warrant the investment of my time and energy?
- The test of the Prophetic: Does this activity or assignment give me the opportunity to be prophetic (in the biblical sense)? Does the undertaking make me bold?
- The test of Remuneration: Who is meeting the costs of this assignment, literally?
- The test of Opportunities Foregone: Will this assignment prevent me from doing something else more important, or something which I must do, which I am already committed to do, or which I really want to do?
- Finally, the Test of Peace: At the primal level, does this assignment leave me feeling easy in my mind?
Suresh Kalmadi, head of the organising committee, was roundly booed as he made his welcoming speech, and deservedly so. Cracks appeared in the running tracks. Australian athletes, the first to enter the stadium in the opening ceremony, were "treated like cattle" as they waited an hour in a stifling tunnel. Earlier, some venues were unfinished, a footbridge collapsed and rooms for athletes uninhabitable. There were bird droppings in the swimming pool. The scales used to weigh boxers were seriously inaccurate. The disqualification of the initial winner of the women's 100 metres may have been technically correct in the end but the handling of it was a disgrace. A large electronic scoreboard collapsed and was ruined when its mountings failed.
And so on, and on, and on.
Yet some athletes—diver Matthew Mitcham for instance—report that the facilities are fine are they having an enjoyable experience.
As always, some of the sporting achievements are superb. But few are there to witness them and the stands are almost empty. All in all it's a big yawn. All the more so as Australian dominance is so strong. Of the 206 events decided by early Tuesday, Australians (not Australia) had won 31%. The Indians and the English had each won about 15%.
The Economist mentions a letter also on the front page of the Times of India in which Azim Premji, head of Wipro, one of India's largest software firms, put the true cost of the games at $6 billion (way over budget) and asked: "Is this drain on public funds for the greater common good?" The Economist comments that India has not provided a convincing answer to that question.
We run them well, yet it's not for us in Australia to criticise India's priorities when we too spend huge sums on beer-and-circus public events like Olympic and Commonwealth Games, and Formula One motor races. But it's fair to be critical of corruption and waste.
One day I can hear the faint rustle of autumn coming. The next day I can't. One evening summer leaks away into the cool night sky, and the next morning it's back again. But there is headway. Birdsong has gone, replaced by the whining bagpiping of the insect creation. I look out across the pasture as dusk begins and see a shining galaxy of airborne bugs. How would it be, I wonder, to have an awareness of the actual number of insects on this farm?I need to not only look but to see.
I ask myself a version of that question every day: "Have you ever really looked at . . . ?" You can fill in the blank yourself. But every day I feel blinded by familiarity. I open the hive, which is filled with honey, and the particularity of the honeybees, even their community, somehow escapes me, if only because I've been living with honeybees a good part of my life. I remember the phrase, "keep your eyes peeled," and maybe that's what I need, a good peeling.
Again and again, I find myself trying to really look at what I'm seeing. It happened the other afternoon, high on a nearby mountain. A dragonfly had settled on the denuded tip of a pine bough. It clung, still as only a dragonfly can be. Then it flicked upward and caught a midge and settled on the bough again, adjusting precisely into the wind. I see the dragonflies quivering through the insect clouds above my pasture, too. I always notice that there's no such thing as really looking.
What I want to be seeing is invisible anyway: the prehistoric depth of time embodied in the form of those dragonflies, the pressure of life itself, the web of relations that bind us all together. I find myself trying to witness the moment when the accident of life becomes a continued purpose. But this is a small farm, and, being human, I keep coming up against the limits of what a human can see.
This morning I found a spider resting — or perhaps hunting — on the leaf of an oakleaf hydrangea, the axis of the spider's abdomen perfectly aligned with the axis of the leaf. What I noticed was the symmetry of their placement, the way spider and leaf resembled each other. What I wanted to notice was the spider's intent. If I could, I would have asked it, "What are you doing?" Or, better yet, "Who are you?" But all I could do was look — and notice that I was looking — and make the best of the sight I'd seen.
Yesterday the National Gallery of Australia installed a 2 metre replica of the Angel of the North, by British sculptor Anthony Gormley, in its sculpture garden. Gormley made five cast iron maquettes of his massive statue. This one, made of cast iron, was donated to the Gallery last year by James and Jacqui Erskine. The 1998 Angel of the North, 20 metres tall with wings 54 metres across, overlooks a motorway at Gateshead northern England and is seem by millions of people as they drive by.
Did the Gallery know that today is Michaelmas, the feast of Michael and all Angels? For centuries, artists have struggled to depict angels, spiritual beings known to us in many and mysterious ways.
Byzantine, c13th Icon with the Archangel Gabriel, tempera and gold on wood panel with raised borders, 105 x 75 cm, Monastery of Saint Catherine, Sinai.
The Australian Government's travel advisory for the Games tries very hard to say "don't go" without actually saying "don't go".
There is a high risk of terrorist attack in New Delhi. . . . In planning your activities, consider the kind of places known to be terrorist targets and the level of security provided. Possible targets include [just about anywhere a visitor might want to go is listed].And in case you missed it . . .
Australians in New Delhi should be aware that the Commonwealth Games will be held in a security environment where there is a high risk of terrorism.Of course you could be crushed:
On 21 September 2010, a footbridge under construction leading to the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi (the main Commonwealth Games venue) collapsed. A number of injuries resulted. There have been reports about deficiencies in construction in some Games projects, and Australians should be aware that building standards in India may not be comparable to those in Australia.Or catch a horrible disease:
A number of mosquito-borne diseases are endemic in New Delhi . . . There is no vaccination or specific treatment available for dengue. Malaria is a risk throughout India, including New Delhi.Or simply be delayed beyond endurance:
You should be aware that the Indian authorities are responsible for security arrangements for the Commonwealth Games. [Is one supposed to be reassured by this?] . . . All events associated with the Games, including the Baton Relay, are likely to cause delays and traffic disruptions as additional security measures will be implemented. You should expect large crowds at the Games and possible delays in accessing Games venues.Or perhaps be killed on the roads:
Traffic conditions in India, including New Delhi, can be hazardous. Poorly maintained roads and congestion cause a large number of serious traffic accidents, though the authorities have upgraded New Delhi's road and public transport systems for the Games.In May the Queen decided not to travel to India and is to send the Prince of Wales in her stead. Perhaps she knew something.
Its reported that at least 16 major structures built or renovated for the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, including several large sporting venues, have been found to be the subject of fraudulent safety certificates. Several flyovers that are expected to carry hundreds of thousands of cars a day are also on the list, as are large stretches of elevated road leading to the 60,000-seat Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. The Central Vigilance Commission, India's highest government watchdog, found months ago that safety certificates had been falsified to cover up shoddy work. Inferior concrete has been used instead of formulas approved for the Delhi climate. Anticorrosives used for steel reinforcements are substandard and electrical systems are potentially dangerous. The suspect work was carried out by the bodies responsible for the biggest Games projects, including the Delhi Development Authority, which built an athletes' village unfit for human habitation.
A New Delhi travel agent is offering well-heeled residents tour packages to escape the country for the duration of the Games. Only about 200,00 tickets to the Games have been sold of a targeted 1.7 million.
None of this makes India less than the vast, culturally rich and magnificent nation that it is. But it does show how foolish and improvident its government was to try showcase India with a wastefully overblown "bigger is better" event that ignores India's own abilities, appropriate technology and cultural strengths in favour of a boring and bloated 'international' model that has benefited no one except a corrupt few. In a nation where over 800 million people live on less than $2 a day, at least $4.6 billion has been essentially wasted on building and refurbishement, plus $2.7 billion more on a new airport terminal. I suppose that's only about $5 for every inhabitant of India. But I'd guess that most of them would prefer to have the $5.
As The Guardian's commentator, Simon Jenkins wrote,
the most obscene thing about last week's damnation of Delhi is the comparison with Beijing 2008. It persuades me that international sport is run by nostalgic revivalists of the mad chauvinism of 20th-century totalitarian states. An hour of glory justifies all. It was in this spirit that the International Olympic Committee encouraged the Chinese before 2008 to spend more than $US33 billion ($A34.5 billion) on flattering its members with an array of costly sepulchres, in return for China's admission to "the community of nations", to which the IOC claimed to control entry. . . . That the Commonwealth should be competing in this racket is sad.
Initial responsibility for this Delhi debacle rests on the Indian authorities, but only initially. In their desperation to rival the Olympics, the CGF rejected Canada's bid back in 2003 and went for India. It knew the risk it was taking. It knew the budget would expand to more than twice that of the previous Games in Melbourne in 2006. Anyone who knows Delhi could have told the CGF that, when it comes to corruption, Indian planners and contractors win all gold medals going. Every contract was likely to be dodgy, every corner cut, every utility inadequate. This was plain years ago. No conceivable priority requires Delhi's slum suburbs to be torn apart to provide a temporary playspace for high-living foreign athletes and their VIP retinues. The truth is that international sport has become so bloated by national pride and celebrity as to lose all sense of proportion. The Geneva centre on housing rights and evictions reckons sport to be one of the biggest displacers of humanity, perhaps second only to war. In two decades, some 2 million people have had to make way for Olympic stadiums and "villages". . . .
There is now what amounts to a cartel of architects, building contractors, security consultants and publicists practised at holding to ransom cities that find themselves hosting summit conferences and sports extravaganzas. They constitute what was recently described in the Times of India as a "lootfest". . . . Commonwealth officials must have better things to do than taxing Delhi's citizens to the tune of $US3 billion, knowing that the outcome will be their humiliation. They may take pleasure staging their parade in the land of the white elephant, but this is surely no way to honour this community of nations.
|Last night, we saw Oz Opera's performance of Verdi's La Traviata at the Canberra Theatre. It was the very last of about 64 performances in a long tour of the show to remote, regional and suburban centres.|
The performance warmed up as it went along. It was almost as if the singers' voices were not fully prepared at the start. I knew the plot well beforehand and followed the story easily. But I barely understood half-a-dozen of the sung words despite them being apparently in English. The cavernous Canberra Theatre swallowed up this production, which was better suited to a smaller venue with more supportive acoustics. We were in the twelfth row, yet to me the singing lacked volume. The Australian's review of a performance of the production in Melbourne shows Canberra was not alone in this difficulty. "Rachel McDonald's direction became a bit obscure at times and despite the Clocktower Centre's excellent acoustic, the audience had ongoing difficulties understanding the text. This is a serious problem for a show that is essentially being staged for new audiences."
Nonetheless, Annabelle Chaffey was very pleasant to hear and tuneful as Violetta and bass Benjamin Rasheed the best of all as a strong and clear Gaston. Directed by Simon Thew, the chamber orchestra of just eleven players—a quartet of strings, some woodwinds, two horns and a keyboard—played the imaginative orchestral reduction by Andrew Greene superbly and for their numbers made a robust sound.
The set, an oval metal art nouveau gazebo, was a symbolic and literal cage. It had to be robust and simple to withstand much packing and unpacking on tour. Yet looking at essentially the same thing through the entire performance was tedious. As well each each character had just one costume which, for Alfredo, was worn in scenes spread over several months of story. A change of clothes would have been more convincing in the portrayal of a wealthy heir.
It was a pleasant entertainment, but underwhelming. We enjoyed our evening and, yes, opera is expensive but, at $75 a ticket, we barely got our money's worth and were a little disappointed.
Ann's family spoke of her love of life, literature and family, and of the web of letter and calls she wove caringly to keep her family connected to her and each other. This verse, a love poem by the author of Charlotte's Web, was in the order of service.
A spider's web (a natural history)
The spider, dropping down from twig,
Unfolds a plan of her devising,
A thin premeditated rig
To use in rising.
And all that journey down through space,
In cool descent and loyal hearted,
She spins a ladder to the place
From where she started.
Thus I, gone forth as spiders do
In spider's web a truth discerning,
Attach one silken thread to you
For my returning.
E.B. White (1929)
A new computer modeling study by researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the University of Colorado shows how the movement of wind as described in the book of Exodus could have parted the waters.
"The simulations match fairly closely with the account in Exodus," says Carl Drews of NCAR, the lead author. "The parting of the waters can be understood through fluid dynamics. The wind moves the water in a way that's in accordance with physical laws, creating a safe passage with water on two sides and then abruptly allowing the water to rush back in." The study is part of a larger research project by Drews into the impacts of winds on water depths, including the extent to which Pacific Ocean typhoons can drive storm surges.But who made the wind blow just when the children of Israel needed it?
The Exodus account describes Moses and the fleeing Israelites trapped between the Pharaoh's advancing chariots and a body of water that has been variously translated as the Red Sea or the Sea of Reeds. In a divine miracle, the account continues, a mighty east wind blows all night, splitting the waters and leaving a passage of dry land with walls of water on both sides. The Israelites are able to flee to the other shore. But when the Pharaoh's army attempts to pursue them in the morning, the waters rush back and drown the soldiers.
The researchers found that a wind of 63 miles an hour, lasting for 12 hours, would have pushed back waters estimated to be six feet deep. This would have exposed mud flats for four hours, creating a dry passage about 2 to 2.5 miles long and 3 miles wide. The water would be pushed back into both the lake and the channel of the river, creating barriers of water on both sides of newly exposed mud flats. As soon as the winds stopped, the waters would come rushing back, much like a tidal bore. Anyone still on the mud flats would be at risk of drowning.
"People have always been fascinated by this Exodus story, wondering if it comes from historical facts," Drews says. "What this study shows is that the description of the waters parting indeed has a basis in physical laws."
The Guardian (23 Sep 10) editorialises "In praise of . . . Moses". "Why replace a miracle that has captured Christian, Muslim and Rastafarian imaginations," it asks, "with a tale of fluid dynamics?"
In his novel reworking the gospel, Philip Pullman had the good grace to emblazon the back with the words, in block capitals, "THIS IS A STORY." In that spirit, the unravelling of biblical mysteries through the device of two twins, Christ and Jesus, provides food for thought for atheists and thinking believers alike. The US National Centre for Atmospheric Research and the University of Colorado have not shown the same tact in breaking Moses's spell. Perhaps they were trying to help out the law-giver of the Jews when they devised wizardly models to prove that a 63mph wind could have combined with local topography to allow him to part the Red Sea. But why replace a miracle that has captured Christian, Muslim and Rastafarian imaginations with a tale of fluid dynamics? If the aim is to put the whole Moses tale on a scientific footing, it is a doomed enterprise—unless, that is, you can also explain manna from heaven, plagues summoned to order, and instant messaging with the Almighty himself. He was brutal with the golden calf worshippers, and we may take it as read he would take a hard line with the intellectual imperialism of those who pray at the altar of scientific reductionism. Having beaten the odds to survive in the first Moses basket, he spent the next 120 years (of course, people lived much longer in those days) being righteously ruthless with foes and with friends who went awry. Would-be buddies who picked every nit in his many and marvellous stories could expect very tough treatment indeed.(Picture: www.desktop4ipad.com)
The research is published published online in Drews C, Han W, 2010 Dynamics of Wind Setdown at Suez and the Eastern Nile Delta. PLoS ONE 5(8): e12481. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0012481. This is the abstract:
Wind setdown is the drop in water level caused by wind stress acting on the surface of a body of water for an extended period of time. As the wind blows, water recedes from the upwind shore and exposes terrain that was formerly underwater. Previous researchers have suggested wind setdown as a possible hydrodynamic explanation for Moses crossing the Red Sea, as described in Exodus 14.
This study analyzes the hydrodynamic mechanism proposed by earlier studies, focusing on the time needed to reach a steady-state solution. In addition, the authors investigate a site in the eastern Nile delta, where the ancient Pelusiac branch of the Nile once flowed into a coastal lagoon then known as the Lake of Tanis. We conduct a satellite and modeling survey to analyze this location, using geological evidence of the ancient bathymetry and a historical description of a strong wind event in 1882. A suite of model experiments are performed to demonstrate a new hydrodynamic mechanism that can cause an angular body of water to divide under wind stress, and to test the behavior of our study location and reconstructed topography.
Under a uniform 28 m/s easterly wind forcing in the reconstructed model basin, the ocean model produces an area of exposed mud flats where the river mouth opens into the lake. This land bridge is 3-4 km long and 5 km wide, and it remains open for 4 hours. Model results indicate that navigation in shallow-water harbors can be significantly curtailed by wind setdown when strong winds blow offshore.
This fine photograph is by Michael Piotrowicz.
Julia Gillard has shown us that she can do process. Now the Prime Minister must show us she can do policy. The challenge for the new minority government scrambled together in Canberra this week will be to move beyond appeasement of the Greens and independents and prosecute the reform agenda Australia needs.Fair enough, as far as it goes. But neither the Greens nor independents seek appeasement. They also seek action on a substantial reform agenda—an agenda that, thankfully, differs from that of the The Australian.
Yet it is not obvious to us that the Gillard government has a vision for our future. Nor is it clear what the Prime Minister herself stands for. Three years of Labor has evinced no coherent policy framework, no synthesis of economic and social goals, no narrative for the nation. This is the first challenge for Ms Gillard as she seeks to prove her legitimacy and earn a mandate from her skin-of-the teeth retention of the prime ministership. She must define her government in a way that she failed to do during the election campaign and in a way her predecessor Kevin Rudd was unable to do during his term in office.But then the Oz does a dummy spit.
Greens leader Bob Brown has accused The Australian of trying to wreck the alliance between the Greens and Labor. We wear Senator Brown's criticism with pride. We believe he and his Green colleagues are hypocrites; that they are bad for the nation; and that they should be destroyed at the ballot box. The Greens voted against Mr Rudd's emissions trading scheme because they wanted a tougher regime, then used the lack of action on climate change to damage Labor at the election. Their flakey economics should have no place in the national debate. We are particularly tired of Greens senator Christine Milne arguing that "green jobs need a real green economy to grow in". What on earth can she mean?That The Australian does not know what Senator Milne means displays shallowness and ignorance that should not be part of a national newspaper.
It is astonishing that a paper that once aspired to be a national journal of record declares in advance a permanent "hypocritical" bias.
No doubt something will be bodged up, but in the longer term Australia needs political renewal. A choice between one party that persists in throwing away its advantages and another that persists in ignoring critical issues is not much of a choice.There were and are other choices.
In this election, neither the Labor Party nor the Liberals told us where they would lead Australia and what to them is good, civil and a healthy society. They spoke of a sound economy but say little of the purposes it should serve. The parties had just one goal — to not loose. There was been little courage, no brave ideals. Ms Gillard says we should not be afraid of the future, but her party behaves fearfully, fuelling frustration and resentment from the haves and the have nots alike.
Chaos and collapse do not loom because neither Labor nor the Coalition won outright. We need not panic. Better to take a deep breath and relax a little. The 24-hour news cycle asks that all is rushed, but Australia will not be harmed by a few weeks of careful government-building. Quite the opposite.
Political theorist Tim Soutphommasane concludes (The Guardian 22 Aug 10) that if Labor is forced into opposition, it "would be punishment for a term of wasted opportunities and political incompetence." It wasn't so much failure as a government that brought Labor down, but it's political incompetence.The Coalition has been politically better more astute, but would it make a good government? I think not.
The Age observes that the three rural independents, Tony Windsor, Rob Oakeshott and Bob Katter, form "a conservative constituency that has become deeply alienated from the Coalition parties [and] adhere to a kind of agrarian socialism that typified the Nationals when they were known as the Country Party." That's no bad thing. It may, curiously, give them some sympathy with the Greens who are deeply concerned to preserve Australia's farmlands and food growing capacity.
Of the 4.9 per cent swing against Labor, the Coalition got only 1.4 per cent. The Greens got the rest. The Greens have been brilliant in their election achievements, because they have good ideas. Will the new government learn from those ideas?
In the election, the ALP primary vote fell from 43.4 per cent to 38.5, down by nearly half a million. Yet the Coalition vote went up by just 1.4 per cent. More than half a million extra votes went to the Greens. The election result is a move to the left, not the right, yet both major parties had moved to the right in their policies.
Richard Denniss, Director of the Australia Institute is right to find (The Age 24 Aug 10) that the election result, "is actually quite simple to interpret. Australia's voters do not think that either the ALP or the Coalition deserve a mandate to form a government in their own right." The ALP and the Coalition have paid the price for lack of courage on big issues.
"One explanation for the election being so boring, and so unsuccessful for both the ALP and the Coalition,"Dennis says, "is that the so-called major parties were determined to talk about minor issues."
Australia is blessed with honest and hard-working politicians, but we are cursed with a moribund parliamentary system that hides from big issues such as climate change, population and income distribution. Some of the best debaters in the country have been trained to "stay on message" whenever a microphone can be seen, rather than speak like humans. It's banal.It's also offensive. And the voters have returned the compliment.
The ranking of the parties is no great surprise, but the range of scores shows that there are significant questions at issue in this election.
|Make clean energy cheaper||47%||27%||100%|
|Invest in cleaner, more sustainable cities and transport||67%||20%||80%|
|Protect and restore a healthy environment||55%||23%||88%|
Apparently, according to recent physics, our entire universe could be the interior of a black hole existing in another universe. In a paper about the nature of space and the origin of time, Nikodem Poplawski, of Indiana University, suggests that a small change to the theory of gravity would imply that our universe inherited its arrow of time from the black hole in which it was born. Poplawski says that the idea that black holes are the cosmic mothers of new universes is a natural consequence of a simple new assumption about the nature of spacetime. He points out that the standard derivation of general relativity takes no account of the intrinsic momentum of spin half particles. However there is another version of the theory, called the Einstein-Cartan-Kibble-Sciama theory of gravity, which does. This theory predicts that particles with half integer spin should interact, generating a tiny repulsive force called torsion. In ordinary circumstances, torsion is too small to have any effect. But when densities become much higher than those in nuclear matter, it becomes significant. In particular, says Poplawski, torsion prevents the formation of singularities inside a black hole.
Now I'm not entirely sure what that means exactly, but I do understand that astrophysicists have long known that our universe is so big that it could not have reached its current size given the rate of expansion we see now. Instead, they believe it grew by many orders of magnitude in a fraction of a second after the Big Bang, the period known as known as inflation. Poplawski's approach immediately solves the inflation problem, saying that torsion caused this rapid inflation, which means the universe as we see it today can be explained by a single theory of gravity without any additional assumptions about inflation.
A corollary of this is that it makes it possible for universes to be born inside the event horizons of certain kinds of black hole where torsion prevents the formation of a singularity but allows energy density to build up, with creation of particles on a massive scale via pair production followed by the expansion of a new universe. "Such an expansion is not visible for observers outside the black hole, for whom the horizon's formation and all subsequent processes occur after infinite time," says Poplawski. For this reason, he emphasizes, the new universe is a separate branch of space time and evolves accordingly. Poplawski's theory also suggests an solution as to why time seems to flow in one direction but not in the other, even though the laws of physics are time symmetric.
Poplawski says the origin of the arrow of time comes from the asymmetry of the flow of matter into the black hole from the mother universe. "The arrow of cosmic time of a universe inside a black hole would then be fixed by the time-asymmetric collapse of matter through the event horizon," he says.. Translated, this means that our universe inherited its arrow of time from its source. "Daughter universes," he says, "may inherit other properties from their mothers," implying that it may be possible to detect these properties, providing an experimentally falsifiable proof of his idea.
All of which seems to say, as far as my poor brain can fathom it, that we really don't understand the universe very well at all.
Nikodem J. Poplawski (Department of Physics, Indiana University).
Cosmology with torsion - an alternative to cosmic inflation (4 Jul 2010)
The Einstein-Cartan-Kibble-Sciama theory of gravity provides a simple scenario in early cosmology which is alternative to standard cosmic inflation and does not require scalar fields. The torsion of spacetime prevents the appearance of the cosmological singularity in the early Universe filled with Dirac particles averaged as a spin fluid. Instead, its expansion starts from a state at which the Universe has a minimum but finite radius. We show that the dynamics of the closed Universe immediately after this state naturally solves the flatness and horizon problems in cosmology because of an extremely small and negative torsion density parameter, ΩS ≈ -10-69. This scenario also suggests that the contraction of our Universe preceding the state of minimum radius could correspond to the dynamics of matter inside the event horizon of a newly formed black hole existing in another universe.The universe as a black hole in isotropic coordinates (2 Jan 2009)
We show that the radial geodesic motion of a particle inside a black hole in isotropic coordinates (the Einstein-Rosen bridge) is physically different from the radial motion inside a Schwarzschild black hole. A particle enters the interior region of an Einstein-Rosen black hole which is regular and physically equivalent to the asymptotically flat exterior of a white hole, and the particle's proper time extends to infinity. Because the motion across the Einstein-Rosen bridge is unidirectional, and the surface of a black hole is the event horizon for distant observers, an Einstein-Rosen black hole is indistinguishable from a Schwarzschild black hole for such observers. Observers inside an Einstein-Rosen black hole perceive its interior as a closed universe that began when the black hole formed, with an initial radius equal to the Schwarzschild radius of the black hole rg, and with an initial accelerated expansion. Therefore the model of a universe as a black hole in isotropic coordinates explains the origin of cosmic inflation. We show that this kind of inflation corresponds to the effective cosmological constant Λ = 3/rg2, which, for the smallest astrophysical black holes, is ∼ 10-8m-2. If we assume that our Universe is the interior of an Einstein-Rosen black hole, astronomical observations give the time of inflation ∼ 10-3s and the size of the Universe at the end of the inflationary epoch ∼ 1032m.
The hospital's mission is to provide the finest medical care possible with gracious Christian care under the most adverse circumstances. The hospital treats all people in need regardless of race, religion, nationality, political persuasion, or ability to pay. The hospital operates an emergency room, elderly women's clinic, and a mobile clinic for people who cannot reach the hospital. The political status of Gaza affects all aspects of life there because of restrictions on movement of materials and people in and out. Electricity, medicines, food, fuel, and personnel are all restricted to some extent. Yet, Al Ahli Arab Hospital continues to provide some of the finest medical care available in the region.
In the late 1800s, the Church Missionary Society (CMS) established medical work in Gaza and, in 1907, they built the first hospital in Gaza City. This hospital was destroyed during the First World War, and was rebuilt by CMS, as Al Ahli Arab Hospital. Because of its location in the centre of the City, the Hospital receives casualties from surrounding heavily populated neighbourhoods. It works closely with the Palestinian National Authority Ministry of Health, and is the first to receive the overflow from the government hospital in the central area of Gaza. During the Intifadas and the recent Israeli attack on Gaza, the Hospital was often swamped with wounded victims of the violence. Sometimes there were so many casualties that staff were forced to treat patients on the floor. During the last couple of years, as a result of the second Intifada, the Hospital has again been in great demand. .
Under extremely trying circumstances, the hospital continually tailors its programs to areas of most need. The mobile medical clinic serves some of Gaza's poorest neighbourhoods. The programs for malnourished children, the elderly, and chronically ill women, are dramatically improving the quality of life for many. Condemning violence on all sides, the Hospital staff search for ways to promote peace, reconciliation and justice for those of all religions and nationalities in its community
A mental health outreach program provides post-traumatic and ongoing stress care for families. This program was designed specifically for the Gaza context, with training in stress reduction techniques provided to mothers who are then encouraged to share these techniques with their families.
AngliCORD also supports a regular residency at Al Ahli Arab Hospital by Australian surgeon Geoff Bird and his wife Beris, a palliative care specialist, who provides training for nurses that would otherwise not be available.
Coleman and colleagues reviewed the current literature using an approach called a "meta-analysis" which pools the results of previous trials and examines them statistically. They reviewed 14 trials that studied the effect of echinacea on prevention and treatment of the common cold. Using a method that calculates the odds ratio of incidence of the common cold in the pooled participants, the researchers found that echinacea decreased the odds by 58 per cent and the duration of a cold by 1.4 days. Only one of the studies reviewed looked at a echinacea in combination with vitamin C. This reported a reduction in cold incidence of 86 per cent for the combined dose. Because there was only one study in this category the authors felt they were not able to say with confidence whether the two supplements were better than echinacea alone at fighting off colds.
Echinacea is a family of nine plant species indigenous to North America; the types of echinacea that are most commonly used for medicine are Echinacea angustifolia, Echinacea pallida, and Echinacea purpurea.
The study, published by the International Journal of Epidemiology, combined the results from the largest studies around the world on the health impact of light and moderate intensity physical activity. It showed that the largest health benefits from light or moderate activity (such as walking and cycling) were in people who do hardly any physical activity at all. Although more activity is better — the benefits of even a small amount of physical activity are very large in the least physically active.
The good news from this study is that you don't have to be an exercise freak to benefit from physical activity. Just achieving the recommended levels of physical activity (equivalent to 30 minutes daily of moderate intensity activity on 5 days a week) reduces the risk of death by 19% (95% confidence interval 15% to 24%), while 7 hours per week of moderate activity (compared with no activity) reduces the risk of death by 24% (95% CI 19% to 29%).
Lead researcher, James Woodcock said, "This research confirms that is not just exercising hard that is good for you but even moderate everyday activities, like walking and cycling, can have major health benefits. Just walking to the shops or walking the children to school can lengthen your life — as well as bringing other benefits for well-being and the environment."
The pensions of retired Commonwealth officers and military personnel are indexed using the Consumer Price Index (CPI). But the CPI rises much more slowly than the cost of living. The Australian Bureau of Statistics, which prepares the CPI, says that it is not a purchasing power or cost of living measure. That's why it's not used for Age Pensioners and other Government-funded pensioners. A fairer wage-based indexation is used for most Government funded pensions. The standard of living of retired public servants is steadily declining; they received no pension increase at all in July 2007 or in July 2009.
Prior to the 2007 election, Labor promised change. A review it commissioned, however, failed to recommend improvements. Yet three separate Senate inquiries between 2001 and 2008, involving 29 Senators, all recommended fair pension indexation for Commonwealth superannuants.
The Greens are the only political party that is committed to link public service and military pensions to Male Total Average Weekly Earnings, in common with other government-funded pensions.
That's 'guilt' by association for sure.
Fr Frank Brennan SJ, Professor of Law at the Public Policy Institute, Australian Catholic University, replied in Eureka Street (10 Aug 10) that a conscientious Christian could vote for the Greens.
Clearly the Greens will not be gaining the votes or preferences of Pell and Wallace. But was it principled and prudent for them to make this public declaration? Could not a conscientious Christian still vote for the Greens? And are their policies more anti-Christian than those of the major parties?Brennan parts company on issues like abortion, stem cell research, same sex marriage and funding for church schools.
. . . Some Christians, myself included, think that the Greens are not classifiable as straight out anti-Christian. While some of their members may be (much like Mark Latham was in the Labor Party), others like Lin Hatfield Dodds have given distinguished public service in their churches for decades.
On some policy issues, I daresay the Greens have a more Christian message than the major parties. Consider their stand on overseas aid, refugees, stewardship of creation and the environment, public housing, human rights protection, and income management. On all these issues, the Greens are far more in synch with the periodic utterances of most Church leaders than either of the major political parties. The Greens have been the only party to hold back the tide against the race to the bottom in the asylum seeker debate since Kevin Rudd was replaced as Prime Minister.
But given that some of their policies, and on issues which will be legislated in the next three years, are arguably more Christian than those of the major parties, I think it best that Church leaders maintain a discreet reticence about urging a vote for or against any particular political party.Australian Greens leader, Senator Brown responded to Cardinal Pell saying that his party's' policies are much closer to mainstream Christian ideals than Cardinal Pell. He said Pell's "anti-Christian" claim was a lie, and that he had fallen out of touch with his people. "The good archbishop has forgotten the ninth commandment, which is 'thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbour'. He's lost the ethic of the golden rule and the Greens have kept it. The Greens are much closer to mainstream Christian thinking than Cardinal Pell. That's why he's not standing for election and I am."
The Catholics the senator spoke to support an end to discrimination, he said. "They support compassion to asylum seekers and they support the BER (Building the Education Revolution) scheme, like the Greens do. Cardinal Pell opposes those things."
Senator Brown said the archbishop's views on gay marriage were "discriminatory and biased". "The majority of Catholics support equality in marriage (as do) the majority of Christians in Australia. The Greens are with the majority but both the big parties, like Cardinal Pell, are opposed to 21st Century majority thinking in Australia. He's lost contact with his own voters ... his own Catholic majority in this country."
Senator Brown said Cardinal Pell had "taken up the rhetoric of the extreme right in Australia. That is not new but he has become very politically active against the compassion and the environmental commonsense of the Greens policies.
Lin Hatfield Dodds is the Greens Senate candidate for the ACT and a member of the Uniting Church. She was ACT Australian of the Year in 2008, is a past President of the ACT Council of Social Services, and headed up UnitingCare Australia for many years. In 2006 she was proposed into the field of candidates for the Presidency of the Uniting Church in Australia. She writes on Being a Christian, and being Green (ABC Religion and Ethics, 10 Aug 2010).
There's a bit of white noise around at the moment about the respective places of religion and politics in our democracy.
I am a Christian and the Green Senate candidate for the ACT. The Christian faith for me is in large part captured in that well known passage from Micah 6.8: "The Lord has told us what is good. To do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with our God."
I am tired of the conservative elements in the church I love so much being seen to speak for all of us. George Pell and the Australian Christian Lobby do not speak for me or my church. They do speak for some who are part of the Christian faith tradition in Australia, but not for all. And that's the point. The Christian tradition is broad and diverse. Over the two thousand years of the Christian movement, many and varied expressions of the faith have arisen.
What most Australians outside the churches see as "Brand Christian" is all too often, in my view, the unattractive side of conservative Christianity. Recently profiled web-based materials that claim that the Greens are "ideologically anti-Christian with specific anti-Christian policies," or the comment by the ACL earlier this year that the Greens "have an explicitly anti-Christian agenda" are inexplicable to me.
What exactly does that mean? What is an "explicitly Christian" agenda? I am a Greens candidate because the Greens policy platform and values connect deeply with my own faith-based values and priorities.
I care about standing up for the poor and caring for our fragile environment. I care about welcoming the oppressed, caring for the old and the sick, and eliminating racism. I care about integrity in public life and the right for each citizen to participate in decision making in the community. The Greens have policies that align with my deeply held positions on all of these issues and more.
I am not saying that to be Christian is to be Green. Within my own church, people are elected members or candidates for each of Australia's three major political parties. I know politicians who are people of faith from across the political spectrum, and each of them feels as I do about the alignment between their deeply held faith based values and the values of their chosen political party. And that's as it should be.
For any one church or person or political party to claim God's imprimatur is a nonsense. The ecumenical movement over the last century is a clear demonstration of the widely held understanding that there is no valid claim to a "one true exposition" of the Christian faith.
We live in a pluralist social democracy. Australia is a multi-cultural, multi-faith nation. Our political parties are not fronts for organised religion. Our political parties, including the Greens, are spaces where Australians from every faith and none join together under common visions and common values to try to make a positive difference in their communities and for our country as a whole.
Too often, a small group or (worse) an individual person claims the authority to speak on behalf of all Christians. When this is done the movement of God is severely compromised.
There are a significant number of Australians whose values and faith mean that they will support the Greens. There are a significant number of Australians whose values and faith mean that they will support either the ALP or the Coalition.
God is beyond human limitations; we should not, and cannot, seek to reduce the movement of God to our own framework of political or moral values. Instead, as citizens of a social democracy, we must engage respectfully with each other. And as we listen to each other's views and respect each other's experiences, we will build a better world together.
OathThe Commonwealth of Australia is not a Christian institution. The preamble to the Constitution says that "Whereas the people . . . humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God, have agreed to unite in one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth . . .", etc. That is vaguely theistic, but it's not especially Christian.
I, A.B., do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, her heirs and successors according to law. So help me God!
I, A.B., do solemnly and sincerely affirm and declare that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, her heirs and successors according to law.
Indeed, unlike the Australian states, the Commonwealth is quite deliberately prohibited from being Christian (or any other kind of religious). The Constitution again:
The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.The use of prayer at the beginning of each day in Parliament is something the parliamentarians seem to want (or are not brave enough to abolish) but it's not an inherent characteristic of the Australian state. We Christians need to understand that the Commonwealth of Australia and its agencies are not, cannot be, and were never intended to be Christian. Nor are they anti-Christian. Our nation is not religious or anti-religious; it's non-religious.
- 4 times more likely to have ever been homeless (12% 'homosexual/bisexual' v. 2.9% 'heterosexual')
- twice as likely to have no contact with family or no family to rely on for serious problems (11.8% v. 5.9%)
- more likely to be a current smoker (35.7% v.22%)
- twice as likely to have used illicit drugs (64.6% v. 33.2%)
- more likely to have had a chronic condition in the last 12 months (51.3% v. 46.9%)
- twice as likely to have a high/very high level of psychological distress (18.2% v. 9.2%)
- almost 3 times as likely to have had suicidal thoughts (34.7% v. 12.9%)
- 5 times as likely to have had suicidal plans (17.1% v. 3.7%)
- 4 times as likely to have attempted suicide (12.6% v. 3.1%)
- Access, Equity and Inclusion — a requirement that government/government funded services put in place and report on measures to ensure inclusion of LGBTI service users.
- An Ageing Population — recognising LGBTI seniors as a 'special needs group' in aged care/seniors policy.
- Sex & Gender Diversity — implementation of the recommendations of the Australian Human Rights Commission's "Sex Files" report (www.hreoc.gov.au/genderdiversity).
- Mental Health — recognising LGBTI people as a priority population group in mental health policy and programs.
- Preventative Health — recognising LGBTI people as a priority population group in the preventative health and women's health policies and programs.
- Anti-Discrimination — introduction of federal anti-discrimination laws to protect Australians from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
$700,000 will go to the Mary MacKillop Foundation for its charitable works, which is tolerable. The remaining $800,000 is for youth and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives who will attend and participate in the ceremony in Rome, production and distribution of 'educational materials' associated with the occasion, events at Mary MacKillop Place, and to assist with the expenses associated with the three official events in Rome. Equally significant financially is the extension of tax deductibility to the fundraising effort.
The Roman Catholic Church states that it does not make a saint but recognises a saint. Canonisation is the act by which the Pope declares person is actually in the glory of heaven, intercedes for us before the God and is to be publicly venerated by the Church.
As a Christian I find it distinctly odd and quite wrong that any Prime Minister should be giving public funds to support the celebration of such superstition.
|The next performance by chamber choir Igitur Nos will be|
Handel's Oratorio Israel in Egypt
3pm Sunday 12 September 2010
All Saints' Anglican Church, corner of Cowper and Bonney Streets, Ainslie.
$25 / $15
The Igitur Nos Chamber Choir and Orchestra will conducted by Matthew Stuckings, with a fine lineup of soloists: Norman Meader (tenor), Catriona Bryce (alto), Peter Laurence (baritone), Greta Claringbould (soprano).
I am taking part in the very modest role of bass chorister and it's a lot of fun. There's 25 voices and orchestra in full flight, some old-fashioned smiting, plagues of frogs and flies, hailstones and fire, and much throwing of the horse and his rider into the sea!
The number of Christians in the Holy Land has declined drastically. The first and principal cause of this is the Israeli occupation. Israeli colonization and the separation wall and hundred of checkpoints separate Palestinians and their institutions from one another. Encircled Palestinian communities are made into prisons of unemployment, poverty, despair and violence. "Is it still any wonder", Hagopian asks, "that Palestinian Christians are leaving in droves? " Hagopian reminds us of the Kairos Palestine document A moment of truth, December 2009, in which prominent church leaders spoke out in liberation theology terms about faith, hope and love in the heart of Palestinian suffering and Israeli practices that have weaken their communities.
Beside the occupation, two other contributors to the plight of Palestinian Christians, Hagopian says, are Christian-Muslim relations and Western Christianity. In the past, church leaders could work with the Palestinian authorities to avert trouble.
Today, those conduits of conflict resolution are far more complex and much less discernible, and the tensions between Palestinian Christians and Muslims are perceptibly more frequent.Hagopian attributes this to "a growing political Islamisation" in much of the Palestinian territories and suspicion of the wider Christian church. "exacerbated by fundamentalist evangelical Christian constituencies in the West"
In my view, such Christians are not only limited by their faith-based periscope but are also ostracising 'other' Christians by adhering rigidly to the tenets of the Old Testament, ignoring the transformative message of the New Testament, being selective in their scriptural and prophetic quotations, and releasing Israelis from their obligations in relation to their covenant with God, let alone toward Palestinians. Surely, to be hemmed in by a faith perception that is literalist or exclusivist is not how our Lord and Saviour would have acted today.Hagopian believes that these three challenges "are together leading some Palestinian Christians to re-calculate constantly their options."
[I]f we mean to tackle the root causes of the problems facing Christians in the Holy Land today . . . the first station should be an end to Israeli occupation and its illegal practices. . . . Only then could [Palestinians] be expected to put their own house in order — presently in shambles — and become accountableHagopian invites us not to be "Christians with anaemic faiths and to show instead resoluteness, fortitude and solidarity in our outreach to our neighbours during times of adversity" and to "spare no effort in reaching out with love, prayer but also action to those quarantined Living Stones (1 Peter 2:5) who face the daily vagaries of life in the midst of human pain and unholy conflicts."
Read it all.
The flyby marks the attainment of one of Rosetta's main scientific objectives. The spacecraft will now continue to a 2014 rendezvous with its primary target, comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. It will then accompany the comet for months, from near the orbit of Jupiter down to its closest approach to the Sun. In November 2014, Rosetta will release Philae to land on the comet nucleus.
The pictures of 21 Lutetia reminded me at once of the "McHoo asteroid" which I saw as a boy in Eagle magazine. [Dan Dare pilot of the future : Safari in space. Eagle vol. 10 no. 7, 14 February 1959.]
The first of the 13 contestants was Luke Heggie. He simply stood at the microphone with his hands in his pockets and reeled out one liners, with that one essential requirement for a comedy show — he was funny. The funniest in fact; he won the competition. I agree with the judges who said that Luke was a much deserving winner, with many jokes in his five minute spot. I and they liked his laid back style. Mr Heggie won a trip to compete in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
One of two special mentions went to Ronny Chieng who was funny most of the time.
Other than that, it was pretty much down hill all the way. Problem was, most of the other contestants weren't very funny at all, and most were boringly rude or crude (sigh). I didn't laugh. And these were the best of hundreds of entrants?
- Australian National University politics professor John Warhurst who say that both Abbott and Gillard, "Both run the risk of not allowing their instincts to see the light of day." "Each is much more flamboyant and interesting than they are allowed to show. A lot of Labor people don't know what Julia Gillard is about."
- Mungo MacCallum: "They haven't got the guts to say anything, they're running so scared."
- Campaigns, says MacCallum, are in the hands of the "usual suspects — economists, psephologists, astrologists, personal trainers, homeopaths, absurd reliance on focus groups". These "cut the balls off every known process of politics", says MacCallum, and "you end up with policies intended to offend nobody and therefore do nothing".
- Andrew Hughes, a ANU specialist in political marketing says the Prime Minister is keeping the campaign as lacklustre as she can because "she's in the box seat and wants as smooth a race as possible". "Julia Gillard doesn't want you to think about it too much because that might get voters thinking more about 'brand Abbott', and you don't want consumers too interested in rival brands."
Dealing with hecklers once was part of an astute leader's skills. A woman heckler at working-class Williamstown, in Melbourne in 1954, told Bob Menzies she wouldn't vote for him if he was the archangel Gabriel. "If I were the archangel Gabriel, I'm afraid you wouldn't be in my constituency," Menzies shot back. He was the last PM in office when public meetings and radio broadcasts were the chief means of communication with the electorate.Sad that weve become so wimpy. No one can make even the slightest mistake. No one can change their mind. Politics is pickled and preserved in blandness. The 24-hour cycle makes risk-taking impossible.
Gough Whitlam was at Blacktown when another woman heckler interrupted his discussion of a plan to sewer western Sydney by demanding incessantly where he stood on abortion. "In your case, I'd make it retrospective," Whitlam told her. Imagine the furore that would be unleashed by such prime ministerial utterances today.
Sixty years ago, Menzies and Ben Chifley did battle over control of the national means of production, over left versus right tensions tearing the world apart. The picture was big. Finding room for differentiation was easy.We'd be better off with Beazley or Costello, thinks Greg Sheridan in in The Australian (22 Jul 10):
So far this has been a very low-quality election contest. It represents a serious regression in Australian politics, with less genuine policy discussion or commitment than ever before. Neither Julia Gillard nor Tony Abbott has offered more than a thought bubble on national security or foreign affairs. . . . Both Gillard and Abbott are deficient in similar ways as national leaders. Both are running as opposition leaders against the Rudd government, a bizarre position for Gillard, who now seems exempt from all responsibility for the fiascos of the past three years . . . [W]e have two competing national leaders who are just about untutored in the key aspects of modern government. And it shows.So it's tweedle dum and tweedle dee.
In many contexts Abbott is brave as a lion, but he seems to have a reluctance to do the boring nuts-and-bolts policy work of politics, and in this campaign he is running against his own beliefs and his party's values. Courage in politics mostly means policy courage. Neither Gillard nor Abbott is demonstrating courage, knowledge or competence in the critical areas of national policy. We deserve a better politics than this.
Except for Bob Brown and the Greens, that is. Which is why he's not invited to tonight's debate. He's not bland enough. Too risky. He might win.
Prime Minister Gillard's climate change policy announced today is an excuse for more delay on the climate crisis, the Australian Greens said today.It appeasr I'm not alone in agreeing that the PM is doing little or nothing. The Age editorial today:
"Prime Minister Gillard is showing a complete lack of leadership on the climate crisis," Australian Greens Deputy Leader, Senator Christine Milne, said. "The Greens stand ready to work with a re-elected Gillard government to deliver a carbon price fast, and the community is clamouring for action, but the Prime Minister is making excuses for more delays instead of embracing the opportunity. Ms Gillard's announcement today does nothing to give certainty to business. Meanwhile, China is moving fast towards a carbon price and India already has a tax on coal, leaving Australia far behind.
What we have heard from the Prime Minister is recycled rhetoric from the past four years, a repeat of Labor's old failed climate approach, not any commitment to real action. Ms Gillard's talkfest is nothing more or less than trying to re-educate the community about the fatally flawed emissions trading scheme. We already have 150 people being elected right now to debate and make decisions on climate change — it's called Parliament, Prime Minister.
Leadership on climate would have seen the Prime Minister saying 'no more coal'. Instead, her promise on emissions standards for coal fired power stations is meaningless. There are 12 coal fired power stations on the books for Australia right now and Prime Minister Gillard's promise will not apply to these. The UK recently dropped its commitment to making new coal fired power stations 'carbon capture ready', acknowledging that it was meaningless. Instead they have committed to building no more coal fired power stations unless and until carbon capture is proven and adopted.
Whilst the Greens welcome the Prime Minister's announcement of $1billion for the renewable energy grid, this is a drop in the ocean over 10 years. Compares it to the $2.5 billion already allocated to carbon capture and storage and it is patently nowhere near what is needed to drive a renewable energy revolution.
For all of this year, the government has argued that it will not move on a carbon price because it does not have the Senate numbers to do so. Prime Minister Gillard is now saying that she will not support the Greens' proposal for a carbon levy even the Greens and Labor have the numbers to deliver one in the new Senate because we have to wait for her talkfest to finish.
The community will not accept that excuse.
PM evades on climate change
PRIME Minister Julia Gillard hasn't reinvented the wheel. But she's gone as close to that exercise in fatuity as she possibly can, by announcing a "citizens' assembly" made up of "real Australians" to consider proposals for a carbon-emissions trading scheme and other responses to climate change. There already is a representative assembly whose job it is to deliberate on changes in the law. It's called Parliament. And, unlike the assembly Ms Gillard has in mind, it is democratically elected. So why does the Prime Minister want to take from the people's chosen representatives the role of debating and scrutinising measures aimed at dealing with the most serious issue confronting the planet?
Ever since Ms Gillard assumed the Labor leadership, and with it the prime ministership, she has talked evasively on climate policy. In her first news conference, she acknowledged the urgency of the need to reduce carbon emissions, and pledged that she would "reprosecute" the case for setting a carbon price. But this could not be achieved, she said, without first building a national consensus on the issue. As The Age has noted before, however, this approach is as likely to produce more of the present paralysis on climate policy as it is to result in real change. The only matters on which consensus is ever likely to be achieved are those that are uncontentious, which is why democratic politics is not about consensus. It is about building majorities, and if the Prime Minister is as committed to reprosecuting the case for pricing carbon as she purports to be, she should be making that case now, in the election campaign. Instead, however, she has effectively chosen to defer the matter again — and treated this country's elected institutions with contempt in doing so.
Ms Gillard is obviously sensitive to this sort of criticism, because in announcing the new citizens' assembly she said: "It is vital to be clear what I mean by that community consensus — I do not mean that government can take no action until every member of the community is fully convinced." Yes, Prime Minister. But why then speak of consensus? And why, instead of campaigning forthrightly on the need for an emissions trading system, tell voters that anything that might involve unpalatable changes in their way of life will be vetted by what amounts to a glorified focus group?
Details of the citizens' assembly proposal are sketchy, but the Prime Minister has said that assembly members would be representative of the broader population in age ranges and geographic origin, and chosen by an independent authority. She has not said what that authority would be, or how it would make its choices. Nor has she explained who will be on the expert commission that will explain the science of climate change, or how that will be chosen. Worst of all, in her public utterances she is content to appear blithely indifferent to the redundancy of all this new apparatus. The government already has available to it the advice of the CSIRO, and other scientists working in universities and research institutes. The findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are well known, and mischievous attempts to undermine the credibility of those findings, such as the so-called University of East Anglia emails affair, have persuaded only those already disposed to see human-induced climate change as a myth. The great majority of the world's climate scientists think otherwise, and the evidence of successive opinion polls is that most Australian voters do, too. Ms Gillard does not have to build a majority for effective action on climate change. It already exists. She does, however, need to summon up the resolve to take that action.
[. . .] The Prime Minister knows the case for emissions trading. She should be taking a plan of action, not procrastination, to this election.
What do you think?
Excuse me, but what's the tearing hurry? We've had a new Prime Minister for five minutes, but we're being rushed off to an election before we can get her measure. Why? Is there a fear, if the election were delayed until October, the gloss would have worn off and we'd see Julia Gillard in a less hopeful and flattering light? Is the new leader's fleeting honeymoon all that stands between Labor and electoral defeat? Is Labor's record in government that bad? Is Tony Abbott such a formidable opponent?Just so.
I'm not impressed by what we've seen of the Gillard government so far. We've seen the triumph of political expediency over good government. From her first day she's left little doubt three running political sores — the mining tax, resentment of boat people and the vacuum left by Labor's abandonment of its emissions trading scheme — needed to be staunched quick smart if the government's re-election were to be secured.
But what hasty, amateurish patch-up jobs we've seen. Wayne Swan has fudged up figures purporting to show the revenue cost of the deal done with the three biggest mining companies was minor, whereas sharemarket analysts are saying the extra tax to be paid by the companies will be minor. Then we had the fearful muddle over the Timor solution the Timorese hadn't agreed to, and now we're getting the climate change policy you have when you don't have a climate change policy.
The trouble with all this is it's terribly reminiscent of Kevin Rudd.
Gittins asks, "So what are Gillard's priorities?" I rather hope that it will no longer be the Prime Ministers priorities, but the government's priorities that we are asked to assess when we vote. And we know enough of those to make our choice. Its not Gillard that I'll be voting for our against, it will be the Australian Labor Party.
I'll vote Green.
As I left the Anglican church in a suburb of Harare, my Zimbabwean host said: "Don't forget us." Yet the persecution of Anglicans in the diocese of Harare, which is spreading, is being seen and remembered by few Christian communities across the world. My hosts do not worship in the fine building that was built by the Anglicans themselves—some told me that they even made the bricks with their own hands, freely and willingly giving their labour as a gift to God—but in a colourful marquee in a supporter's garden.[Zim Daily reported on 5 May 2010 that Zimbabwe's partisan Supreme Court had declared ZANU-PF apologist Bishop Nolbert Kunonga and his board of trustees legitimate and granted them control of all properties belonging to the Anglican Diocese of Harare.]
The marquee is so packed that some have to worship outside; the joy, energy and silences in the worship are indicators of the depth of commitment to God and each other. But not far beneath the surface is the pain of being exiles, forced from the spiritual home, built to the glory of God, that is rightly theirs.
Like all the congregations in the city and surrounding areas, they have been forced out of their place of worship by the police on the orders of Nolbert Kunonga, former bishop of Harare and avid supporter of Robert Mugabe. Kunonga was elected bishop in 2001, but his increasingly pro-Zanu-PF political stance alienated many Anglicans and he withdrew himself from the church in 2007, taking the church's assets with him, including cars, clergy houses and access to churches.
There have been long and costly legal wrangles, but the courts are reluctant to rule that these assets, illegally held by Kunonga, do not belong to him.
Some court rulings, such as a decision that churches be used at different times by different groups, are flagrantly ignored by the former bishop, who has the power to summon police to support his cause.
A small number of priests followed Kunonga and have remained in their vicarages mustering only a handful of people into church on Sundays. Kunonga has described Mugabe as a prophet and, like Mugabe, wanted to cut off links with the west and change the Anglican church into a mouthpiece for Zanu-PF. He failed in this and was told by the Church of the Province of Central Africa that he was no longer a bishop, and has since taken every opportunity to identify the Anglican church with the Movement for Democratic Change. This has attracted the ire of Mugabe's Zanu-PF.
In Harare, arrest, threats and beatings can be the rewards of Christian commitment. Congregations meet in a variety of locations. As well as in tents, worship may take place under trees, in street squares and in supporters' gardens. But nowhere is safe. One priest told me how his congregation of 1,000 was given permission by the authorities to meet close to the church building but, when they did so, 21 canisters of tear gas were fired into the gathering as they were worshiping, a group of women were detained for four days and he himself was arrested.
At the recent Bernard Mizeki festival, an annual gathering in honour of Zimbabwe's first martyr, a heavily armed police force prevented the pilgrims from gaining access to the shrine, despite public assurances of safe passage from a government minister. The festival took place in a nearby showground, where the largest gathering in recent memory was witness to the fact that persecution and harassment strengthen the Christian faith.
The Anglican church's persecution at the hand of the Zimbabwean government points to disarray within as well as the inexplicable influence of a disillusioned former cleric. What is also inexplicable is the way in which the plight of Zimbabwe's courageous Anglicans has been ignored by so many. "Don't forget us," said my Zimbabwean host.
Wilhelm Quartet from the Royal Academy of Music, London
Marciana Buta (violin), Margaret Dziekonski (violin), Glen Donnelly (viola), Hetty Snell (cello),
with Colin Forbes (piano).
Beethoven - String Quartet in F minor Op. 95 'Serioso'
Schumann - String Quartet in A major Op. 41 no. 3
Brahms - Piano Quintet in F minor
Saturday 31 July 7.30pm
Pre-concert talk by members of the Wilhelm Quartet: 7.10pm
at St Philip's Church, cnr Moorhouse & Macpherson Sts, O'Connor.
$35 / $30
Download a Leaflet for printing (pdf 64k).
Visit the Wilhelm Quartet website.
This performance is part of the Wilhelm Quartet's NSW/ACT Crossroads Tour, presented by the Australian String Academy.
- Choose your venue wisely. Where you are living when you retire need not be where you end up, but moving gets harder as time goes on. If you move to reduce costs, factor all of them in: Low property prices may not make up for high health-care costs, rising property taxes or travel expenses to see family.
- Know your benefits. Many pre-retirees have an outdated idea of how much theyll have in pension income and how much health care will cost. But laws and policies change, generally not to the benefit of retirees. Sit down at least a year in advance with a benefits expert and get the correct, up-to-date information.
- Have a cushion handy. The best insurance against rising costs is to have liquid assets set aside to throw off income or draw down in an emergency. Salt away as much as you can in the years leading up to retirement. Do not count on being able to sell illiquid assets, like real estate, in an emergency, as the market may be against you just when you need it most.
- Lowball your budget. Living below your means is the best way to ensure that you do not outlive your money. Even if your pension is lower than your final salary, aim to keep monthly expenses at least 25 percent below your monthly fixed income, at least at first. Bank the rest to add to your cushion (see above).
- Stay out of debt. Paying interest, otherwise known as rent on money, is a bad idea when you are earning a salary. On a fixed income, it is positively foolish. Before you retire, pay off credit cards and other consumer debt. Once retired, don't take on any more unless you can pay it off easily each month.
No. 1 — Hmmm. Where is the best place for us to be in retirement? Right where we are seems OK for now.
New challenges have also emerged which have tested this organisation as much as its member states. One such is the struggle against terrorism. Another challenge is climate change, where careful account must be taken of the risks facing smaller, more vulnerable nations, many of them from the Commonwealth.The Queen avoids political controversy. All the more remarkable, therefore, that she should speak of climate change. The Queen, for one, accepts the reality of global warming as beyond political controversy.
Julia Gillard has promised the nation's top mandarins she will rein in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and that it will no longer have the over-bearing role it had under Kevin Rudd — implicitly criticising the way the bureaucracy operated under her predecessor.Taylor also notes that:
At a lunch with departmental secretaries two weeks ago on her first full day in the job, Ms Gillard said advice and expertise across the bureaucracy would be respected and her department would go back to its primary function of co-ordination and providing her with advice, rather than trying to initiate and oversee all main policies.
Sources say she told the officials she understood the past three years had been difficult for many of them and that the processes of government had not always worked efficiently.
Under Mr Rudd's leadership many public servants complained that the prime minister's office was chaotic and had become a bottleneck, and that his department — which expanded enormously over the past three years — had assumed too much power.
Ms Gillard has also reorganised her office to allow government processes to work more methodically. . . . Many senior public servants have said that in recent years they held back paperwork until Mr Rudd was overseas and Ms Gillard was acting as prime minister because she dealt with it more quickly.No doubt Prime Minister Gillard is keeping some departments busy as she 'clears the decks' for an election. But that's the job. We wait to see how reasonable and efficient she is in the way she uses the Australan Public Service.
"Given this history, one can understand the ambivalence about letters and the inclination to avoid reading them, " Hamilton says. Letters of apology are powerful symbols. They require their writers to take a position and stand to it. They speak of requires strength, make the writer vulnerabile, and can be "extraordinarily effective". But, "However much we might want it, no symbol nor letter of apology can write the slate clean." "Words are powerful symbols, but the hungry and the injured do not live by words alone."
In the Catholic Church such an apology is a public act of confession, which includes the commitment to seek reconciliation, to make reparation where possible, and not to sin again. The symbol presupposes that the Church is more than a collection of individuals, that its members are accountable to one another, and that that the Bishop has the responsibility to act on its behalf.Which brings me to my question about all this. I'm at a loss to understand how an institution is able to apologise. Institutions—companies, governments, nations, and churches—do not have souls or minds, people do. (If the church universal, the Body of Christ, has a 'soul', that inner being is the Holy Spirit, who, unlike church people, is sinless.)
Institutions do not sin, people do. If a company breaks the rules, the directors must apologise and, most likely, resign. If members of a church are sexually abused, the people responsible should be dealt with and culpable leaders should personally apologise and, most likely, resign. Evil doers who are dead are dead, and will receive the judgment and mercy of God. We cannot apologise for them.
In the Anglican church we employ a collective confession each Sunday: "Merciful God, our maker and our judge, we have sinned against you in thought, word and deed, and in what we have failed to do: we have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbours as ourselves; we repent and are sorry for all our sins."
I often challenge myself to say:
"I have sinned against you . . .
"I have not loved you . . .
"I have not loved my neighbours . . .
I repent . . .".
It seems more authentic.
I acknowledge that Prime Minister Rudd's apology to Australia's "stolen generations", for example, was a powerful moving step forward on the path to reconciliation. Even at the time, however, I wondered how he could apologise for any one else but himself and those who had invited him to do so on their behalf. I guess that was most of us.
SMH journalist Lenore Taylor, perceptive as usual, had it right when she wrote (7 Jul 10) that
We had hoped that Australia had moved past this. The Greens believe that, in the country of the fair go, we should be able to embrace a decent and compassionate attitude to refugees.
- The vast majority of people seeking asylum in Australia arrive by plane.
- 95% of asylum seekers arriving by boat are found to be genuine refugees.
- Just 3441 asylum seekers were given refugee status in Australia last year, roughly 1% of the total migration program for that year (they were not all boat people).
- In comparison, around 50,000 people over-stayed their visa last year alone — mostly people with business, student or holiday visas.
- Australia only accepts 1% of the worlds' refugees.
- It is not illegal to arrive in Australia seeking asylum.
Sadly, both Labor and Liberal are once again locked in a race to the bottom, opting for harsh new policies for asylum seekers. Both Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Liberal Leader Tony Abbott want to re-visit off-shore processing of asylum seekers. Both leaders want policies that 'deter' asylum seekers from asking Australia for protection with policies that will be harder on refugees and more harmful to children in detention. The Greens believe this is wrong. We recognise that the small number of people who arrive by boat seeking protection deserve to have their case heard and be treated humanely. Fleeing persecution is not an orderly process. We need a system that recognises this while still assessing who has a genuine reason and right to protection and who does not. Those found to be refugees should be welcomed into our community and those who are not must be returned home safely.
Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott have an identical aim: to get their name and the words "tough" and "boat people" into the same sentence.Likewise, Abbott, "didn't have answers either."
The fact that neither has a thought-out "tough" policy that would actually stop asylum seekers risking their lives to find a new home is apparently beside the point.
No country in the world has one of those and in any event none of this is really about the fears or circumstances of the alleged "flood" of asylum seekers arriving on our shores. It is entirely about the fears of the swinging voters. With an election campaign perhaps just 10 days away, our politicians are not focused on the Indian Ocean but on the marginal seats.
The Prime Minister made an excellent case yesterday as to why there is really nothing to fear from the current rate of boat arrivals, but then gave her full support to all the decent Australians who were fearful nonetheless. She tapped right in to their resentment by insisting refugees should not get an "inside track to special privileges", without providing any evidence that they ever have.
Abbott was tapping in to voters' fears, too. The Coalition, he said, would do "whatever it takes to keep our borders secure and our country safe". He didn't explain how asylum seekers pose a threat to our safety.Taylor rightly concludes that "neither leader is in a hurry to explain how their very, very tough policy would actually work."
The Crown Nominations Committee has been meeting to select two names to go forward in order of preference to Prime Minister David Cameron, whose recommendation will be placed before the Queento be approved by the Queen.
Philip Giddings and Chris Sugden of Anglican Mainstream have said that, "Given the contested state of the Anglican Communion, an appointment which does not meet those requirements in the Church of England would bring to an end any hope there might be of holding the Communion together."
The appointment of Dr John would meet the "requirements of the Church of England".
I doubt nevertheless that it is worthwhile or necessary for the so-called Anglican Communion to "hold together" in its present dilapidated state. Why bother? Our oneness in Christ or as a family of Anglicans does not require or depend on a supra-national organisation in which the power rests with disputatious senior clerics.
Airports in Palestine, including Gaza, were important stops in the prestigious network of Imperial Airways. Palestinian Airways, founded in July 1937 by Pinhas Rutenberg, began with flights between Haifa and Lydda using 2 Shorts S.16 Scion 2 planes. Palestine Airways ceased its operations in August 1940 and its aircraft were taken-over by the Royal Air Force during the second world war.
During the fifties and sixties, there were no air services to Gaza while flights to the West Bank were operated through Jerusalem's Kolundia Airport (JRS). Regional flights were flown to JRS by several Arab airlines, most of the traffic being carried by those registered in Jordan. The Six Days war in 1967 saw Kolundia airport taken over by the occupation.
An international airport in the Palestinian Authority's territory was difficult for Israel to accept for both security and symbolic reasons. Israeli restricted possible sites to the Gaza strip and required close and direct Israeli supervision. Construction of the Yasser Arafat International Airport [GZA] was the best that could be accomplished before a peace agreement. Work started in January 1996. The costs were mainly covered by donations from Japan, Europe and Morocco. Located near Rafah, GZA had a single runway that could handle most airliner types including the Boeing 747 and was designed for up to 700,000 passengers yearly.
Palestinian Airlines began operating from Port Said in January 1997 with two Fokker F-50s donated by the Dutch government and a Boeing 727 donated by Saudi prince Alwaleed bin Talal. The airline transferred its base to GZA and started operating scheduled flights from Gaza in November 1998, flying to Amman and Cairo. Two De Havilland Dash-8s were purchased in order to reinforce regional frequencies and two Canadair Regional Jets were ordered and there were plans for the lease or purchase of 3 Boeing 737s in order to expand the network towards Athens, Rome, Frankfurt, Paris and London. Palestinian Airlines' highest level of operation was in the Summer of 2000. Other airlines flying to GZA at that time Russavia, Tarom, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian and Egyptair.
The airline was grounded in October 2000 following the start of the Al-Aqsa Intifada and was forced to move to El Arish International Airport in Egypt when on on December 12th 2001 GZA was bombed by the Israeli army and the control tower destroyed. On 10 January 2002, the US$60 million runway was completely destroyed by the Israeli army, shattering hopes for the resumption of flights to the airport.
Not much chance of a Berlin style airlift, sadly. Meanwhile, the airport staff are waiting (picture above).
Every oil or gas rig ought to be able to anticipate, and prepare for, the kind of problems that led to the spill (gas "burps," equipment malfunctions, operator error). Such an offshore well, drilled at such a depth, obviously posed a big risk, and it should not have been drilled without contingency plans, proven shutoff methods, and back-up equipment sitting on the shelf, ready to be used. After all, blowouts happen even in well-developed and comparatively stable oil and gas fields, and recent years have seen several underwater blowouts off the coasts of Mexico and Australia. Since the oil and gas beneath the seabed are under such intense pressure that oil oozes out of natural seeps against the pressure of five thousand feet of ocean (measured in tons per square inch), this kind of drilling can be like punching a hole in a pressurized propane tank. . . .Speight goes on to mention BP's very bad safety record in the Unites States and to argue for "consistent, legally enforced measures" to manage the risks involved.
BP's entire drilling operation was shoddy. The seals on the blowout preventer—the device designed to keep oil and gas from spurting out of the well—disintegrated a month before the accident and were never repaired. There was no acoustic failsafe switch, a device that could have triggered the blowout preventer and shut the well off even after electrical power was lost and the rig was destroyed (though of course this would have helped only if the blowout preventer was in working order to begin with). There was no backup blowout preventer, and there was no spill-response unit on standby. BP's representative on the rig ordered the Transocean drilling crew to remove some of the drilling mud from the borehole and replace it with seawater, which would have allowed BP to begin producing oil and gas from the well sooner, but which also left the well unable to contain the high-pressure oil and gas. . . .
"No one could have foreseen this" is a shabby excuse. Blowouts do happen. Thousands of books have been written on oil-rig safety, and many of the safety measures or redundancies that could have saved the Deepwater Horizon are mandatory on oil rigs off the coasts of other countries. Acoustic switches used to be mandatory on drill rigs in U.S. waters, until the Bush administration dropped the requirement, and they are still mandatory in most countries that drill.
As Mark Speeks sets out in The Tablet, the Gulf of Mexico spill highlights ethical concerns about drilling for oil in some of the most fragile ecosystems on earth. There are also serious concerns for pension funds that hold BP shares.
It is arguable whether the major oil companies match the criteria for an ethical investment. With many of the most obvious and easily accessible sites for drilling in production or exhausted, the oil industry is encroaching on remote pristine areas of outstanding beauty worldwide, threatening such areas as the Canadian Arctic tundra, once too difficult to reach.At least it can be said that oil is essential for transport and the manufacture of our medicines, fertilisers and many other products. There are other products that are more questionably ethically, such as tobacco and alcohol and dubious fanatical instruments.
While the companies promise to behave responsibly, no matter the efforts to minimise risk, the threat to the environment is ever present while the profit motive often places a limit on safety measures. And, of course, as the world gropes for a viable alternative, oil will remain for some time to come the essential lubricant for all our economies.
Ethical investors can perhaps feel like sheep surrounded by wolves, uncertain whether the necessity of investing wisely for the short and long term means surrendering or compromising their most cherished beliefs. Indeed, in the gospel of Matthew, Jesus told his disciples that he was sending them out in exactly those terms. The remedy Jesus recommended was to be "as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves". . . .I might give BP's products a miss for a while.
The conundrum of being in the world and yet not of it creates a constant tension. . . . A Christian approach to ethical investment should not seek to withdraw from the world, fearful of contamination, but recognise that there are no pure choices and engage in the battle. . . . Justice, love and the common good are not ideas that should be banished from the boardroom but embraced. Moreover, a profound sense of responsibility for our actions and their effect on the environment is no mere box-ticking exercise but a humble recognition of our stewardship of creation. . . . In practice, it means attending shareholder meetings and asking questions. It means seeking out like-minded shareholders so that resolutions can be placed on the agenda for voting. It means not re-electing directors who don't listen to their shareholders. It means understanding a company's articles of association. It means agitating for meetings with management and boards. It also means using the press. . . .
Only by answering how the world could be different can Christians engage honestly with big business. It isn't enough to be an Elijah denouncing the powers that be when there are few, if any, alternatives. . . . Preferential ethics has no place in the Christian lexicon. Situational ethics have. Risks and bad consequences can—and must be—accepted once it is understood that sin is part and parcel of a world that struggles to become the Kingdom of God. . . . The Christian vocation is to engage in each individual battle: making sure that better decisions are made and more precautions are taken.
It was taken by the Observatory's adaptive optics system in infrared light and shows the star 1RSX J160929.1-210524 and its planet. The planet is eight times the mass of Jupiter and orbits more than 300 times farther from the star than our Earth is from the sun.
System 1RXS J160929.1-210524 is unusual as the planet's extreme separation from the star challenges common planetary formation theories. The host star, which has an estimated mass of about 85 percent that of our sun, is located approximately 500 light-years away in a group of young stars called the Upper Scorpius Association that formed about 5 million years ago. The planet has an estimated temperature of over 1,500 °C, explained by its relatively young age.
The research, also to be published in the Astrophysical Journal, were led by David Lafrenière of the University of Montreal Department of Physics and a researcher at the Center for Research in Astrophysics of Quebec. Lafrenière and his colleagues won Canada's 2009 NSERC John C. Polanyi Award for their capturing of the first-ever image of a planetary system outside of our own solar system. Since 1RXS 1609, several other 'exoplanets' have also been found.
I find it intriguing that we can learn so much about relatively small objects so far away.
|I enjoyed dinner at a conference held by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare last week to launch the latest edition of its flagship report Australia's Health.|
The dinner had a beach theme (in mid-Winter!) reinforcing the common view that Canberra is an fine city but for one thing — no beach.
What reason could Julia Gillard possibly have for personally opposing same-sex marriages? As Labor leader she can claim to be upholding party policy, even though the ALP in her home state of Victoria has voted overwhelmingly to end that policy. But as a "personal" stance, her opposition to gay people marrying is inexplicable.Read it all. Croome shows that, given that she is un-religious, none of the arguments Ms Gillard might advance for her views stand up.
She is an atheist, so it can't be because she believes God ordained marriage as a holy sacrament and condemns homosexuality as a sin. She has no children, so it can't be because she believes there's an obligatory link between procreation and the right to marry.
She is in a de facto relationship, so it can't be because she opposes legally recognising different types of relationships. She is a female leader, so it can't be because she believes in some kind of profound biological difference between the sexes. And as our first female Prime Minister, she can't believe that discrimination in the past justifies discrimination into the future.
Why then, in the list of Gillard's often-stated personal values — belief in equality, choice, inclusion — is there a caveat that says "except if gay couples want to make a lifelong commitment"?
Gillard's opposition to marriage equality will be deeply disappointing to the 60 per cent of Australians who believe same-sex couples should be allowed to marry and the 80 per cent of same-sex partners who believe they should have the right to marry. It is particularly frustrating and embarrassing at a time when same-sex marriages are allowed in an increasing number of places overseas. . . .
[M]ost ordinary Australians will continue to scratch their heads over the fact that there is no conceivable reason, even the weak reasons other political leaders put forward, why our new Prime Minister would violate all her own principles to personally oppose two men or two women tying the knot. Their conclusion will be that the real reason for Gillard's "personal" view must be entirely political and therefore quite cynical.
They were were married in Seoul last Saturday, 26 June 2010.
An Archbishop of Canterbury is not a Pope. His authority is limited; by canon law, it extends no farther than his Canterbury diocese. Rowan Williams's moral and spiritual influence, as Primate of All England, is considerable, but he does not "rule" the Church of England—or, for that matter, the churches of the Anglican Communion, whose eighty million members in more than a hundred and sixty countries make up the third-largest Christian denomination in the world. Anglicanism's offspring churches are, for the most part, national, and constitutionally independent.
There is no formal covenant holding those churches together. Their one connection has been their common bond with the mother church in England, and Williams is determined to preserve what remains of that bond. It may be a lost cause. Schism is hardly new to Christianity, and many Anglicans believe that a case can be made for a smaller, more cohesively just church. But insofar as it is Williams's cause—or, as he sees it, his responsibility to a legacy of "Christian imagination" under attack from all sides—he has been urging patience to a few thousand angry female priests at home. He told me that the "most fundamental reason" for his own patience, during eight years as England's Primate, remains a reluctance to rule—"to invent powers I don't have" is how he put it. "I don't believe that is the role of a bishop or an archbishop," he said. " 'Agonizing' is a strong word and a melodramatic word. But it's real for a lot of people, and the agonizing question is how long you can go without compromising the dignity of women in the Church." A few weeks later, after a lesbian priest was elected to serve as a suffragan bishop in Los Angeles, Williams begged the Americans to reconsider. In March, her election was confirmed.
... [Rowan's friends] suspect that the qualities of mind that distinguish him as a scholar . . . are precisely what undermine him as a leader. "Rowan is the only one who can hold us together—he has the humility, the holiness, and the intellect," John Pritchard, the Bishop of Oxford, told me. "But the job is a misuse of his skills, which are spiritual and theological. Instead, he's got the politics of the Church to handle, and the danger is that we will lose the battle to the kind of people who want to win victories. The issue of women bishops is a straight choice. A bishop is a bishop is a bishop, not a male or a female one. . . . As a pastor, I can understand and care for the people who don't want women, but as a bishop I would say that we can't withhold truth and justice in the name of unity. Not anymore." Judith Maltby put it this way: "My feeling is that Rowan's head is in the right place—he knows that taking away the right to discriminate is not a form of discrimination. But he's an emotional man. The pull of that Anglo-Catholic tradition works on him. He's been bending over backwards to save the marriage—even now, when it turns out that those guys were seeing another woman, in Rome. I have great affection and respect for him. We all do. It would mean so much for the Church if he were to say, just once, 'I want to be the one who welcomes women to the House of Bishops.' "
The great Oxford historian Diarmaid MacCulloch—whose new book "A History of Christianity," or, in America, "Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years," prompted Williams to write, "It will have few, if any, rivals in the English language"—told me, "Rowan has enormous grace, he gives his opponents space, but he has a lack of killer instinct, which I'm afraid is a necessary quality for leadership." MacCulloch, who is gay, trained for the Anglican priesthood, withdrew as an ordained deacon, and later explained his decision this way: "I was determined that I would make no bones about who I was; I was brought up to be truthful, and the truth has always mattered to me. The Church couldn't cope and so we parted company. It was a miserable experience."
. . . "I think we suffer these days from a short-term memory of history," Rowan Williams said, that morning at Lambeth Palace. "I used to teach early church history, and occasionally I'd say to people, 'Go and read about the fourth century if you think we've got problems.' In the fourth century, you have bishops invading other bishops' territories to ordain people, you have three rival bishops in one of the great cities of the empire at the same time, you have a group in North Africa claiming that they alone are the true church and everyone else is wrong. You have basically half a century of really bitter and sometimes violent confrontation around the words of the Creed, and what you learn from that, apart from quite a bit about human sinfulness, is don't expect Christian conflicts to resolve themselves quite cleanly. Take a deep breath!"
. . . Williams admits that the lessons of fourth-century Christian conflicts are cold comfort to women fighting for equality in their church in 2010. Most of the conflicts dividing the Anglican world today have settled directly on them and, if not on them, on the openly gay priests who are waiting in line behind them—the result, in part, of an epidemic of literalism that is hardly confined to Anglicans. "One of the odd things about fundamentalism in its American form, but not exclusively, is that it's paradoxically a very modern thing," he told me. "A crude nineteenth-century reaction to a crude nineteenth-century scientism—a kind of mirror image of that positivist yes-or-no knowledge that you can pin down." He described it, in England, as a wholesale rejection of intellectual engagement and intellectual depth in Scripture and compared it to what was happening in Islam. "I've sometimes argued with people on the other side of the river here, in Parliament, saying, Don't talk about fundamentalist and modern Muslims, talk about primitivist and traditionalist Muslims—ones who only know the Koran and ones who actually know what it is like to have a thickly textured cultural and intellectual Islamic life."
Earlier, Williams had told me, "We—Anglicans generally—didn't spot soon enough the degree to which the different parts of the community were drifting apart . . . and the degree to which we'd become too used to talking to ourselves and to the liberal Western world, and left other bits of the world talking to themselves. And somehow we didn't quite get hold of that." He kept returning to the subject of Africa. He said that colonialism had left "a deficit of trust" and that "a bitterness and anger arises these days from the sense that someone else is taking up the decisions, just as they always did . . . that someone makes a decision about gay bishops in the United States and we're the ones who have to have our churches burned by local fanatics. . . . These are very religious societies, and Anglicans can easily feel that they are being left exposed, left looking weak, unconvincing, compared with strong answers coming from elsewhere. . . . Occasionally, I've said to people, 'You think of Peter or Henry"—Peter Akinola, in Nigeria, and Henry Luke Orombi, the Archbishop of Uganda—"as ultra-conservative. Let me introduce you to a few of the people to their right so you can see that they are liberals in their own context.' They are trying to maintain some elements of traditional Anglican discipline and spirituality, to present Anglicanism as a credible faith in their society, and it's not easy and they feel that we are making it harder." He said that, under the circumstances, some "mutual self-restraint" among Western Anglicans could be considered a "gift" to the whole Church.
I was often mystified to hear priests, both conservative and progressive, attribute Williams's own restraint to Hegel. "He's a Hegelian!" Jonathan Baker, at Pusey House, told me. "He thinks that truth comes out of conflict." Giles Fraser, the liberal canon at St. Paul's Cathedral, in London, said, "It's Hegel! You take the two poles and bring them together and the little guy gets crushed between them." It seemed to me that the Archbishop had exhausted himself resisting conflict. He wants justice for women in the Church of England; Pauline Perry remembers a dinner at Lambeth Palace, the year Williams was enthroned, where his wife, Jane, raised her glass to the ordination of female bishops, and when I asked him about the elevation of Katharine Jefferts Schori he said, "I think the greatest tribute you can pay to women's ministry is that it has come to look ordinary to have a female in that position." Liberals in the Church remember another, more impassioned Williams—the Oxford professor who, in the late eighties, delivered a luminous speech called "The Body's Grace," about the theological possibility of same-sex union; or the young bishop who, in the early nineties, put his career on the line by joining a brilliant gay priest named Jeffrey John to speak with his evangelical predecessor at Canterbury, George Carey, on behalf of gays in the clergy. Ten years later, as Primate of All England—under threats of "impaired Communion" from conservative African bishops and conservative priests at home—he stunned those liberals by asking Jeffrey John, who was set to become England's first gay bishop, to renounce the appointment. John did.
It may be that Williams's ideas have changed, but in all likelihood it is simply that his job has changed. The women urging him on now are really trying to remind him that, however broad his concern and compassion necessarily are, he is also the Primate of a Western country where women priests—as well as a good number of openly gay priests—have played an impressive role in revitalizing Christian practice and, one would have to say, the Christian imagination. When he talks to them about restraint and patience—about the fullness of time and the "positive side to Anglican diffuseness and slowness of decision-making" and his own anguish "trying to counsel patience to people who are suffering more than you are"—they say, as many of them did to me: The fullness of time is fine, but it's God's time. We are living now.
Perhaps I react this way simply because female leadership is something I'm entirely used to and comfortable with. For at least three quarters of my working life I've been supervised by women and had women under my leadership. Right now, every one my work superiors is a woman ... all the way to the top (director, branch head, division head, deputy secretary, secretary, minister, prime minister ... and governor-general and monarch as well, for that matter.) Every other member of my work section is a woman, and over half my branch. Their ideas and performance are much more important than their gender.
The rector of my local church, both deacons and about half the other leaders are women. The Rotary club of which I was a member for some years had one the highest proportions of women members among local clubs — about half. Other community organisations I support have women in leadership — and so on.
There is more to do to bring equality for women in Australia. But, thankfully, leadership by women is not extraordinary.
WHERE ALL THE WOMEN ARE MEN AND ALL THE MEN ARE WOMEN
Do you like music theatre, opera or having a good giggle? Then this concert is for you!
Thursday 24 June and Saturday 26 June 7.30pm at St Philip's Church, cnr Moorhouse & Macpherson Sts, O'Connor.
Tickets at the door: $25 adults / $15 concessions and CAMRA VIPs / $10 under 18.
Lucky door prize!
Dive, dive: a sinking superpower's 'pathetic' performance. NPR (21 Jun 10)
Tony Smith. Italian theatrics cost New Zealand famous win over defending champions Italy, SMH (21 Jun 10).
Rob Hughes finds the Italian's penalty against New Zealand "dubious" — As Europe's best crumble, the cracks are showing, NYT (20 Jun 10).
It's a long and sorry story, which FINA has failed to prevent; read Jeffrey Marcus. When a soccer star falls, it may be great acting, NYT (20 Jun 10).
Recognizing that error is an inevitable part of our lives frees us from despising ourselves — and forbids us from looking down on others — for getting things wrong. Once we recognize that we do not err out of laziness, stupidity, or evil intent, we can liberate ourselves from the impossible burden of trying to be permanently right. We can take seriously the proposition that we could be in error, without deeming ourselves idiotic or unworthy. We can respond to the mistakes (or putative mistakes) of those around us with empathy and generosity. We can demand that our business and political leaders acknowledge and redress their errors rather than ignoring or denying them. In short, a better relationship with wrongness can lead to better relationships in general — whether between family members, colleagues, neighbors, or nations.By Kathryn Schulz, author of Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error (Ecco, 2010); read the full article in the Boston Globe (13 Jun 10).
Embracing fallibility to prevent catastrophic error, embracing fallibility to prevent conflict: These are two hugely worthy goals. But learning to do either one consistently is close to impossible as long as we insist that mistakes are made only by morons, and that an intelligent, principled, hard-working mind is the only backup we need. This is the deep meaning behind the pat cliché "to err is human." Take away the ability of an intelligent, principled, hard-working mind to get it wrong, and you take away the whole thing.
|Despite losing to Brazil at the World Cup, the North Korean team acquitted itself with determination, defensive skill and courtesy. Not so its country's government.|
The Star is one of number of papers to report that hired non-Koreans fans are behind those red banners waving in the stands in support of North Korea.
Among the 1,000 Chinese fans given tickets by North Korea for the World Cup in South Africa are actors and musicians who have cheered for China in previous World Cups, according to the Xinhua news agency run by the Chinese government. . . . Many others are Chinese tourists who paid for a tour package that included a game, a safari and a trip to a casino. The Beijing office of the North Korean Sports Committee distributed the tickets to Chinese fans since almost no one in North Korea could have afforded the trip, Xinhua reported.(HT to Dan Sloan)
Koreans? "All together now!"
"The closure imposed on the Gaza Strip is about to enter its fourth year, choking off any real possibility of economic development," the ICRC said. "Gazans continue to suffer from unemployment, poverty and warfare, while the quality of Gaza's health care system has reached an all-time low."
Israeli officials insist that they provide enough "humanitarian aid" to cover Gaza's basic needs. But the ICRC — a neutral organisation — said the meagre list of goods allowed into Gaza doesn't meet the needs of the territory's 1.5 million inhabitants.
The shortages are particularly dire in Gaza's health care system, where the ICRC said more than 100 essential medicines — including chemotherapy and hemophilia drugs — are unavailable. Many basic medical supplies, like colonoscopy bags, are also barred from Gaza and routine blackouts cause damage to medical equipment.
"The state of the health-care system in Gaza has never been worse," Eileen Daly, the ICRC's health co-ordinator in Gaza, said. "Thousands of patients could go without treatment, and the long-term outlook will be increasingly worrisome."
The ICRC has some criticism of Hamas, but the bulk of the its criticism is against the blockade.
|From the front page of yesterday's The Australian.|
At 127 decibels up close, a vuvuzela is loud. OH & S regulations typically limit exposure to continuous noise to 85 dBA, for an 8 hour shift. For each 3 dB increase, the allowed exposure is halved. So, if you work in a nightclub where amplified music produces 100 dBA near your ears, the allowed exposure is 15 minutes. Allowed exposure at 127 decibels is effectively nil; ear protection must be worn.
The Chief Executive Officer of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Dr Danny Jordaan, idiotically proclaimed that 2010 "will be the loudest World Cup ever".
Local culture? So it seems. Hospitable? Not at all.
It was a small relief to discover that "A Charm", no. 4 from A Charm of Lullabies Op. 41, by Benjamin Britten, which was sung by Rosemary Lohmann, was indeed intended as comical by the poet Thomas Randolph (1605-1635).
Quiet!Picture: William Blake. Cerberus. Pen, ink and watercolour over pencil and black chalk, National Gallery of Victoria.
Sleep! or I will make
Erinnys whip thee with a snake,
And cruel Rhadamanthus take
Thy body to the boiling lake,
Where fire and brimstones never slake;
Thy heart shall burn, thy head shall ache,
And ev'ry joint about thee quake;
And therefor dare not yet to wake!
Sleep! or thou shalt see
The horrid hags of Tartary,
Whose tresses ugly serpants be,
And Cerberus shall bark at thee,
And all the Furies that are three
The worst is called Tisiphone,
Shall lash thee to eternity;
And therefor sleep thou peacefully
A fascination in South Korea's 2004 World Cup campaign was the depth and breadth of support Korea's people. Enthused by their country's successes in the 2002 Cup, huge crowds were out in Korea's main cities to watch the match between Korea and Switzerland on giant video screens including 350,000 around Gwanghwamun in downtown Seoul, 150,000 in front of Seoul Plaza and 100,000 in the Busan Asiad Stadium.
Vast apartment complexes and residential streets were lit up all night as people waited for the match and watched other matches. But in the end Korea was crushed 2-0 by Switzerland. Dae Han Min Guk rang through the Hanover stadium and the 'Red Devils' sang. The Koreans had several chances to score but none of them went in. Inability to convert opportunities cost Korea the match.
James and I support Australia, but would be a little torn if Korea met Australia in a final.
|The spectacle and skill of world-class football is undeniable and exciting. But I find it a frustrating game to watch. The outcome often seems arbitrary to me. A single lucky goal, refereeing error or mistake by a player can make or break the result of an entire tournament. "That's football" they say. Hmm? |
The last World Cup was marred by poor referees and bad sportsmanship. In Australia's 2-2 draw with Croatia, which saw Australian advance to the round of 16 with a goal by Harry Kewell (pictured). The referee lost the plot more than once and booked Croatian Josip Siminic three times before red-carding him after the final whistle.
|Then there was the the ridiculous nonsense that occurred in the Holland v. Portugal match, with 16 yellow and 4 red cards issued!|
France advanced to the 2004 final after defeating Portugal 1-0, not in the run of play, but by yet another arbitrary match-deciding penalty. Zidane skilfully converted the penalty after Uruguayan referee Larrionda adjudged that Carvalho had fouled Henry. Carvalho had slipped as he tried to win the ball and Henry took advantage of his flailing leg, by going over after contact. One report declared that "The dark arts of diving, play-acting and intimidating the officials were all on display."
|Nobody's fooled by diving (except the referee); thus Michelle Kauffman in the Miami Herald 27 Jun. 2006, writing about the Australia v. Italy match.|
What happened in Kaiserslautern on Monday . . . was disgusting. That film clip, which is very real, clearly shows Italian player Fabio Grosso taking a dive Greg Louganis would be proud of, tumbling over the prostrate Australian defender Lucas Neill in the penalty box, just as time is about to expire at 0-0.Thus CW Nevius in the San Francisio Chronicle, 1 Jul 06
Millions of Americans are watching World Cup soccer this year. But what are they seeing from some of the best players in the world? Flopping, diving and yelling at the referee.Michael Cockerill, as always, gave an interesting summary in the SMH.
Franz Beckenbauer president of the German organising committee for the World Cup, called for a summit meeting of players, coaches and referees in an attempt to put an end to the "play-acting" which had blighted the tournament." he said that he had had enough of players and coaches trying to cheat their way to victory by trying to con officials.
Hopefully the 2010 tournament will avoid this plague.
Doug Lansky, a travel writer who has been a correspondent for National Public Radio, agrees. "Ive been going around the world full time for nine years and met with loads of experienced travelers, and Ive never once gotten into swapping bar stories with someone who talks about how white the beach was, or about, 'Oh, boy, was that hotel bed cushy,' " he said.Lansky's book is dedicated "to all the travelers who overcame annoyances and obstacles to make it to their destinations, and then willingly decided to set out traveling again." While researching the book Lansky to ask about their worst trips. "My object was to honor and celebrate the bad things in travel," Mr. Lansky said. "The point being, if you suffered through it, you should at least get a good bar story out of it."
"Every time you start telling travel stories over a beer, it's always about the stuff that went wrong," Mr. Lansky added. "O.K., sometimes there will be that one-upmanship on who got the best deal on an Ecuadorian sweater. But more often than not, it's about the adventures when things go wrong, and the lighthearted rants we have. These are great nuggets of the travel narrative."
This in an open invitation to tell of my own worst/most dramatic travel experiences.
- Getting from London for my first (and only) visit to Paris when my Air France flight was cancelled by a strike. I made it eventually—after 20 hours—via Brussels courtesy of Sabena.
- Fourteen hours delay in Bangkok en route to Europe, when the 'plane broke dow—with no sleep for nearly three days.
- No sleep from Paris to Sydney, because of a baby that cried almost ceaselessly for 20 hours.
- The hijacking on 4 December 1977 of Malaysia Airlines Flight 653 from Penang to Kuala Lumpur. The Boeing 737 aircraft descended to a few thousand feet before leveling off and apparently continuing on autopilot. It eventually plunged into a swamp, with all on board killed. Investigations later found that both pilots had been shot. I would have been on that flight but for a last minute decision to go by road and rail, so that I could see the sights on the way.
- Christmas on Yass Junction station in the summer heat when a derailment further up the line delayed my train by 12 hours.
- It was quite exciting driving over steep and rocky mountain roads across the Crocker Range in Borneo in the middle of a tropical storm at night—but not really dangerous as the going was so rough that it was impossible to go more than 10 m.p.h.
- Flying through a tropical storm at night, also in Sabah, was also fairly interesting.
Reflecting on the speed with which the Greek financial collapse has an impact on much of the world, Thomas L. Friedman observed IHT 14 May 10) that we live in "an increasingly integrated world where we'll all need to be guided by the simple credo of the global nature-preservation group Conservation International, and that is: "Lost there, felt here."
Conservation International coined that phrase to remind us that our natural world and climate constitute a tightly integrated system, and when species, forests and ocean life are depleted in one region, their loss will eventually be felt in another. And what is true for Mother Nature is true for markets and societies. When Greeks binge and rack up billions of euros of debt, Germans have to dig into their mattresses and bail them out because they are all connected in the European Union. Lost in Athens, felt in Berlin. Lost on Wall Street, felt in Iceland.On 17 May, well into our beach holiday, I read Boston Globe columnist James Carroll in the IHT on "Our secular crisis of faith."
Yes, such linkages have been around for years. But today so many more of us are just so much more deeply intertwined with each other and with the natural world. That is why Dov Seidman, the CEO of LRN, which helps companies build ethical cultures, and author of the book How, argues that we are now in the 'Era of Behavior.'
Of course, behavior always mattered. But today, notes Seidman, how each of us behaves, consumes, does business, builds or doesn't build trust with others matters more than ever. Because each of us, each of our banks, each of our companies, now has the power to impact, for good or ill, so many more people's lives through so many more channels " from day-trading to mortgage-lending to Twitter to Internet-enabled terrorism.
"As technology has made us more interconnected with others around the world, it has also made us more ethically interdependent with others around the world," argues Seidman.
[. . .] our values and ethical systems eventually have to be harmonized as much as our markets. To put it differently, as it becomes harder to shield yourself from the other guy's irresponsibility, both he and you had better become more responsible.
But that hasn't been the trend. We've become absorbed by shorter and shorter-term thinking—from Wall Street quarterly thinking to politician-24-hour-cable-news-cycle thinking. We're all day-traders now. We have day-thinking politicians trying to regulate day-trading bankers, all covered by people tweeting on Twitter.
So more and more of us are behaving by, what Seidman calls, "situational values": I do whatever the situation allows. Think Goldman Sachs or BP. The opposite of situational values, argues Seidman, are "sustainable values": values that inspire in us behaviors that literally sustain our relationships with one another, with our communities, with our institutions, and with our forests, oceans and climate. Of course, to counter this epidemic of situational thinking, we need more and better regulations, but we also need more people behaving better. Regulations only tell you what you can or can't do in certain situations. Sustainable values inspire you to do what you should do in every situation.
Religion is in crisis, or so its critics say. . . . Faith traditions seem thrown on the defensive just when theology as an intellectual discipline has lost its vitality. . . . One reason religion comes in for such a trouncing is that religious impulses are readily identified, and easily debunked " even by those who share them. A prophetic tradition " most obviously represented by, but not limited to, the Bible that gave prophets both their good name and their bad standing " forms a core of all the great religions. Self-criticism, confession, repentance, and the purpose of amendment are standard spiritual values. Trashing religion, in fact, begins with religion (see, for example, Pope Benedict XVI's stirring acknowledgement last week of "sin within the church itself"). But the problems humans face go far deeper than what goes on in churches, temples, and mosques—never more so than today. A focus on religious failures can let the broader culture off the hook.
We are living through the simultaneous breakdowns of the two great secular myths that have defined Western civilization for 200 years—the socialist ideal of equality, and the organizing ethos of nationalism. These pillars of the modern idea are, respectively, broken and shaken. Take the ideal of equality. During the age of revolutions, from America and France in the 18th century to Russia and China in the 20th, a new vision affirmed the dignity and rights of every individual.
. . . That revolution has been reversed, both globally, with vast numbers falling back into abject destitution, and within developed countries, where a new elitism is imposing brutal inequalities. The once-noble ideology of socialism is dead. The word itself is a political curse.
In the secular age, as religion was marginalized, its role as a source of meaning, purpose, and transcendence was largely taken over by the myth of nationalism. The nation-state became a main source of identity, prompting sufficient devotion in citizens to die or to kill. Where religious wars were always primitive and immoral, national wars were patriotic and just. Today, the tie between citizens and the state is tattered, even in America, which, in its democratic liberalism, was nationalism's greatest success. . . . Meanwhile, patriotism has become an exercise in hatred.
Wherever one looks, there are collapsed structures of meaning. Biology is obliterating ancient definitions of sexuality, reproduction, and mortality. Computer technology is transforming the very way humans think. Moral categories crumble. So why shouldn't religions be in crisis? And if some people use devotion as a means of escape, who can blame them? But in truth, the old divide between secular and sacred has itself lost significance. The human race is at sea, cut loose from all moorings. Yet this condition can mark the end of hubris. Indeed, this condition— Genesis calls it "darkness upon the face of the deep"—is the one in which real religion had its start.
In his recent Quarterly Essay, David Marr put his finger on the reason why many public servants, including me, find their work less satisfactory than it could be.
Information is a great prerogative of power. Rudd has at his disposal a vast, highly skilled machine for gathering facts. . . . Hours aren't the issue. Bureaucrats don't mind working hard, long days. They object to feeding material in when nothing much comes out; demands made at midnight that might be made at midday; wild flurries of activity driven by petty media squalls; calls for detailed briefing on fourth-rank issues that need never go near a prime minister; and urgent requests for material they know to be sitting in Rudd's office already. They mind wasting their time. And they worry that not much good policy can come from a strange mix of rush and delay. The new government was always pressing forward while leaving unfinished business in its wake.The centralisation of decision making seems even greater under Labor than under Howard—which is problem for a reformist Government that is trying to do many things on many fronts at once. To me it is a scandal that Environment Minister Peter Garrett was first made aware of the government's decision to jettison the emissions trading scheme when it was leaked to the press. "That was an announcement and a decision that was leaked and I found out about it when it was leaked," he said recently. In fact it wasn't the Government's decision; rather it was a decision by a few ministers. The decision to dump the ETS — a massively important proposal on which the Government had expended mush political capital — didn't go to Cabinet, with the decision made by the Strategic Priorities and Budget Committee of Cabinet: Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Wayne Swan and Lindsay Tanner. Reports suggest that Mr Tanner was outvoted by other three.
— David Marr. Power trip: the political journey fog Kevin Rudd. Quarterly Essay, no. 38, 2010, p. 72
It has never been harder for Labor ministers to stare down a prime minister. Nor have Labor Cabinets ever been so circumscribed. From the time Rudd's government faced its first crises, more and more big decisions were made by four key ministers alone — Rudd, Gillard, the treasurer, Wayne Swan, and the finance minister, Lindsay Tanner — sitting as the Strategic Priorities and Budget Committee. In early 2010 Laura Tingle reported:Not good.
When ministers arrive for federal cabinet meetings, they find a folder waiting in their spots which they can look at but not take out of the room. Inside are decisions already taken by cabinet's expenditure review committee and the ultimate power within the Rudd government — the Strategic Priorities and Budget Committee (SPBC). Ministers are expected to endorse the decisions without discussion, and usually do.
Two other Cabinet systems have broken down. Submissions once circulated ten days before Cabinet meetings began to turn up in ministers' offices only the night before. And scrutiny of submissions by inter-departmental committees has largely given way to scrutiny by the prime minister's office and department alone. Rudd is the choke point again.
Philip Wolfhagen is widely regarded as one of Australia's most significant contemporary landscape painters. He won the prestigious Wynne Prize in 2007 and is part of a new generation of painters who are presenting fresh visions of the Australian landscape and rethinking the traditions of this age-old genre. His works, inspired by the atmospheric landscape of northern Tasmania, explore the representation of time and natural phenomena.
[. . . ] Wolfhagen draws inspiration from the regions surrounding his home in northern Tasmania, many of which he has known since childhood. [. . .] Across the darkened paddock depicted in Autumn equinox; the loss of the sun, our eyes are drawn to the glimmer of a fire and wisps of smoke—a suggestion of distant human activity. In his 2005 monograph on the artist, Peter Timms states that Wolfhagen is one of few contemporary Australian painters to explore ideas of the picturesque within the cultivated landscape, despite there being little romance left in rural toil. Wolfhagen's atmospheric explorations of this subject are underpinned by a love of both the wild and changed landscape and, most significantly, a strong sense of our responsibilities towards the natural world.
This work is on a scale just large enough to envelope our vision and provokes an immediate reaction from the senses. We are momentarily transported from the gallery by the illusion of realism. Yet, the sense of profound mystery this work also possesses gives us the impression that Wolfhagen is seeking to draw us further beyond the realm of the physical world. On close inspection, the initial illusion is dissolved and abstracted by the exquisite painterly quality of Wolfhagens mark making.
Most of the time we went for an early-morning swim or lazed the day away under a beach umbrella. Simple local food was the order of the day, washed down with Australian wine that we took with us.
Despite the action by so-called Red shirt protesters in Bangkok, we were confident of being safe, as our plan was to miss the city all together by traveling directly from the international airport to the coast. The number of tourist arrivals to Thailand through Bangkok has fallen sharply, but visitors to Phuket have not been deterred.
We saw the scenes on TV and in the papers, but there are others better able to comment on the protests and their aftermath, for instance by Richard Bernstein, or Seth Mydans. Reading Chris Baker and Pasuk Phongpaichit's A History of Thailand (2nd edn, Cambridge Uni Pr, 2009 - 0521759153) made it plain to me that the present disharmony has roots deep in Thailand's social, political and economic history.
This is the personal flag of HM Bhumibol Adulyadej, King Rama IX. On earlier visits to Thailand, I saw it displayed everywhere as a symbol of personal loyalty to the monarch. This time, I noticed that it was much less common. During the recent crisis, the King was notably silent, even as the 60th anniversary of his coronation was celebrated. Although he is deeply respected, confidence in the King's ability to have any influence on Thailand's near future seems to have declined.
And yes, it was hot. The newspaper reported record high temperatures in early May—up to around 40°C in Bangkok. But the killer was the humidity of up to 80%. We were comfortable enough, with sea breezes most days, but the sea water was actually hot at times and usually felt like a warm bath.
More and more I discover that long flights are not good for me. It is taking more than a week to recover from the agony of sitting in a half-up, half-down airline seat for ten hours. The Qantas food and service on our return journey was a step up from the cardboard food and poorly timed service offered by BA on our forward journey. Even the simple leaflet that Qantas offered, with menus and a timeline showing what-would-happen-when, helped to make the experience less intolerable.
CAMRA launched its 2010 program, joining the St. Philip's singers for the Missa brevis Sancti Joannis de Deo in B-flat major (Little Organ Mass) by Joseph Haydn. (The organ pictured on the left is the one for which Haydn wrote the mass.)
For the gift of music and song
We praise you, O God, in your sanctuary
For notes and rhythm and varieties of expression.
We praise you, O God, in your mighty firmament!
For our ancestors in the faith, who invested in music for future generations
We praise you, O God, for your mighty deeds!
For all those who have offered their musical gifts in this space,
We praise you, O God, with trumpet sounds!
For the inspiration and joy that music brings to our worship
We praise you, O God, with tambourine and dance!
For those who with great artistry and expertise, brought our organ back to life
We praise you, O God, with strings and pipes!
For those who invested in repairs and renovation,
We praise you, O God, with clanging cymbals, with loud clashing cymbals!
For the music that will be produced through these pipes and keyboard for many generations to come,
We praise you, O God, with every breath that we take, with every song that we sing, with all that we are.
We praise you, O God. Amen.
Eternal God, our praises join with the songs of heavenly choirs and the music of the universe.
We thank you for this organ, to enjoy, to make music for your glory and praise. Its refurbishment speaks to us of your faithfulness.
We recommission this organ and rededicate it to you.
May it be yours, not ours, to use as you will.
Through its music and the skill of those who play it, may we, and all who hear it, experience your beauty, and come to love you more and more.
May our music making express a heartfelt commitment to your worship and glory as a testimony of your creative and redeeming love .
As we rededicate this organ to your worship, we pledge ourselves again to your service, here, in our community and in our daily lives.
In the power of your Holy Spirit keep us in this promise through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
I'm just trying to work something out here. Since December, the Rudd Labor Government has been under siege from the Abbott-led Liberals for pushing ahead with a "great big tax on everything" in the form of an ETS.Nevertheless, Dennis Shanahan, Political Editor of The Australian rightly opines (27 Apr 10) that,
The Liberals blocked the ETS. The Liberals urged Kevin Rudd to drop it on the grounds that it was the wrong policy for Australia. The Liberals argued that the rest of the world wasn't taking such drastic action on climate change and nor should we.
So today Kevin Rudd dumped the ETS, not just because of the political reality that he can't pass it anyway, and noting also that the rest of the world wasn't taking such drastic action on climate change. As a result of all this the Liberal Party is now attacking Kevin Rudd for breaking his promise. There are days when the adversarial nature of our effective two-party system delivers point-scoring so transparent and juvenile that it's an insult to our collective intelligence, and today is such a day. [. . .]
Rudd's bombastic past rhetoric on climate change as "the greatest moral challenge of our generation" has left him open to some well-deserved ribbing. But it doesn't provide the basis for the Liberals' new-found illogical position where they denounce the PM for failing to re-introduce a bill which they will block, which they do not believe in, and which the rest of the world isn't really up for anymore either.
The simple fact of the matter is that Rudd over-politicised and over-dramatised the importance of an ETS, put all his political capital into one policy that would split the Coalition and provide a campaign platform and had no answer when it failed.The Government would have done much better it it had struck a deal with the Greens, whose leader Bob Brown advocates a carbon levy as now the best option to tackle climate change following the Government's decision to shelve its Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS).
They [Australian voters] don't want it delayed. They're in favour of this alternative now that the Government's CPRS scheme is not going ahead until 2013.The Australia Institute agrees in its Between the lines newsletter this week.
This is the live option now before the Parliament and Australians are swinging in right behind it. Kevin Rudd should have another look at the simplicity of this alternative which was recommended to him by Professor Ross Garnaut.
Spin doctors have a range of techniques for changing people's views about policy issues, but never before has so much money been spent, so many inquiries held and so much newsprint generated with the simple goal of trying to make an issue go away. Kevin Rudd once famously described climate change as a great moral challenge but Penny Wong has turned it into a great test of endurance. The voters, worn down by 'programmatic specificity', are now turning their attention elsewhere.
The problem is, of course, that the atmosphere is no less concerned with our level of emissions today than it was when Kevin Rudd was elected in 2007. And since then emissions have risen, not fallen. While the government may hope to 'neutralise' the issue by the time of the next election, it is now clear that it has no actual plan to 'neutralise' the emissions themselves. So where to from here?
The good news is that there are plenty of viable places to start if, and that's a big if, we could find ourselves a government that was serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed, one of the easiest places to start would be the compromise scheme put to the government by the Greens.
And there's the paradox. Penny Wong has spent the past two years trying to sell people on the idea that while her scheme might not be perfect, something is better than nothing. It appears, however, that she never really believed that herself. For, while the Greens are offering to support some of what the government has proposed, the government's response has been to reject the plan on the basis that it can't get everything it wants.
While it's clear that we need a carbon price as soon as possible, it's not clear what that price should be. Compared to an emissions trading scheme, the beauty of a carbon tax lies in the fact that complementary policies to augment its impact are simple to design, for example investments in energy efficiency, public transport, renewable energy and so on.
If we are to tackle climate change in Australia, we need to get back to where we were before our enthusiasm was CPRSed out of us. A carbon price is a good place to start.
Doing nothing when one ought to be doing everything. It must not be confused with simply doing nothing at any time, which is mere sloth. In order to know this particular delight, you have to be a busy chap, preferably concerned in a number of different enterprises. If they are important and apt to develop dramatically, so much the better. A few worrying colleagues, with a passion for long-distance telephoning, cables and telegrams [e-mails!], will add spice to the dish. Now let these various enterprises be brought nearly to the boil. You have spent at least several days rushing from one to the other, explaining everywhere how desperately busy you are, with one eighteen-hour day after another [Kevin 24/7!], secretaries fainting, wife telephoning to the doctor about you; no time to eat properly, just living on brandy and mysterious blue capsules. Then, slap in the middle of all this hullabaloo, pack it up for a day or two, allowing each gang to conclude you are toiling for one of the other gangs, and do nothing, absolutely nothing. Eat and drink and smoke, of course; yawn and stretch and scratch; glance at newspapers, dip into light literature, and gossip; but no more. No gardening, sharp walks, correspondence, nor even jobs about the house. Get as close to doing nothing as it is possible for a Western Aryan [not a good name post WWII!] or whoever we are. Give an occasional thought, for spice and devilment, to the worrying colleagues. Refuse to answer the telephone—too busy. It is a dirty trick—but delicious.— J.B. Priestley. Delights, London: Heinemann, 1951, ch. 57, pp. 125-126.
Of course there were many fabulous things to see and try to contemplate. Here are three of the dozen or so that especially appealed to me.
|Théo van Rysselberghe, The man at the tiller, 1892|
|Alfred Sisley, Moret Bridge, 1893|
|Paul Cézanne, Kitchen table (Still-life with basket)|
|Yes, this was an exhibition of some great and fine works—masterpieces. But I think it was oversold. It may have been the most valuable exhibition the NGA has ever shown, but I not sure that it was at all the best. The publicity repeatedly featured just three works by Van Gogh and by Gaugin. Yet the representation in the show of Van Gogh in particular was not as great as it had seemed from the promotion.|
The disruption to air services and the large financial losses to airlines and their customers due to ash and grit from Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano show just how vulnerable the our technology-dependent societies are to the forces of nature.
The astonishing effects of the long-dormant volcano are because it erupted underneath a substantial glacier.
[B]ecause it's a warm Sunday afternoon, the ball is in play all across the region—any ball, on every patch of grass, every field and diamond and pitch. At the clink of an aluminum bat and the convergence of female softball players, two boys under a nearby hoop stop facing off to see how the play turns out. So do some casual soccer players just over the fence. I feel for a moment like an alien, entranced by our fondness for small representations of the spheroid on which we live. How we love to test gravity and admire the trajectory of a spinning orb!To avoid utter and repeated humiliation, I have made it a lifetime practice to avoid any activity requiring the application of force to a ball—spherical or otherwise. Possible exceptions might be bowls, bowling, croquet, snooker and billiards, in all of which the ball(s) move in two dimensions, not three, with the players taking turns to influence the movement of the ball(s).
Above all, these are games of interception, games about striking and stopping, meeting and returning, launching a ball or interrupting its decaying orbit with a glove or foot or bat or racquet.
It is not possible to make a simple separation between the creative and destructive elements in anxiety; and for that reason it is not possible to purge moral achievement of sin as easily as moralists imagine. The same action may reveal a creative effort to transcend natural limitations, and a sinful effort to give an unconditioned value to contingent and limited factors in human existence. Man may, in the same moment, be anxious because he has not become what he ought to be; and also anxious lest he cease to be at all. . . .
The statesman is anxious about the order and security of the nation. But he cannot express this anxiety without an admixture of anxiety about his prestige as a ruler, and without assuming unduly that only the kind of order and security which he establishes is adequate for the nation's health. The philosopher is anxious to arrive at the truth; but he is also anxious to prove that his particular truth is the truth. He is never as completely in possession of the truth as he imagines. That may be the error of being ignorant of one's ignorance. But it is never simply that. The pretensions of final truth are always partly an effort to obscure a darkly felt consciousness of the limits of human knowledge. Man is afraid to face the problem of his limited knowledge lest he fall into the abyss of meaninglessness. Thus fanaticism is always a partly conscious, partly unconscious, attempt to hide the fact of ignorance and to obscure the problem of scepticism.
— Reinhold Niebuhr.The nature and destiny of man. Vol. 1. London: Nisbet, 1941, pp. 196ff.
i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday; this is the birth
day of life and love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any—lifted from the no
of all nothing—human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
— e. e. cummings (1894-1962)
Contemporary sculpture can be very beautiful. This is Isis, by Simon Gudgeon, given to the Royal Parks Foundation by Paul Green's Halcyon Gallery. It was unveiled on the shores of the Serpentine in London's Hyde Park on 7 September 2009. Photograph: Rolant Dafis
The International Astronomical Union estimates that 30 per cent of the world's population cannot see the Milky Way. "And as the view is obscured" writes McKenzie, "so too is that powerful reminder that we are part of something much grander, an insignificant dot in a vast and expanding universe. Our love of all things light and bright has killed our access to true darkness. "
So much of the light that our cities pour into the sky is wasteful and unnecessary. Its never truly dark, and rarely is it truly quiet. Deceived by light, the birds begin their morning noise far too early.
McKenzie knows that "If you travel away from the city lights, it's hard not to be awe-struck by the scale and vastness of the twinkling lights in the sky. On a moonless night they shine so brightly that it seems impossible we could have ever wiped them from our city skies, let alone wiped them from our minds and our children's imaginations. "
The British Astronomical Association has a Campaign for Dark Skies. This is not just for astronomers, but all who would look at the heavens to learn and wonder—or simply sleep better, whether human or animal.
The heavens are telling the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims God's handiwork.
Day to day pours forth speech,
and night to night declares knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words;
their voice is not heard;
yet their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world. Psalm 19.
I like it very much. It's complex and finely composed, yet restful and intimate, a simple scene, yet with so much to delight the eye.
Letter from Jean-François Julliard, Secretary-General of Reporters Without Borders to the Hon Kevin Michael Rudd MP, Prime Minister of Australia.
Paris, 18 December 2009
Dear Prime Minister,
Reporters Without Borders, an organisation that defends free expression worldwide, would like to share with you its concern about your government's plan to introduce a mandatory Internet filtering system. While it is essential to combat child sex abuse, pursuing this draconian filtering project is not the solution. If Australia were to introduce systematic online content filtering, with a relatively broad definition of the content targeted, it would be joining an Internet censors club that includes such countries as China, Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Communications minister Stephen Conroy announced on 15 December that, after a year of testing in partnership with Australian Internet service providers (ISPs), your government intended to introduce legislation imposing mandatory filtering of websites with pornographic, paedophile or particularly violent content.
Reporters Without Borders would like to draw your attention to the risks that this plan entails for freedom of expression.
Firstly, the decision to block access to an "inappropriate" website would be taken not by a judge but by a government agency, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). Such a procedure, without a court decision, does not satisfy the requirements of the rule of law. The ACMA classifies content secretly, compiling a website blacklist by means of unilateral and arbitrary administrative decision-making. Other procedures are being considered but none of them would involve a judge.
Secondly, the criteria that the proposed law would use are too vague. Filtering would be applied to all content considered "inappropriate," a very slippery term that could be interpreted very differently by different people. In all probability, filtering would target "refused classification" (RC) sites, a category that is extremely controversial as it is being applied to content that is completely unrelated to efforts to combat child sex abuse and sexual violence, representing a dangerous censorship option. Subjects such as abortion, anorexia, aborigines and legislation on the sale of marijuana would all risk being filtered, as would media reports on these subjects.
The choice of filtering techniques has not been clearly defined. Would it be filtering by key-words, URL text or something else? And what about the ISPs that are supposed to carry out the filtering at the governments request? Will they be blamed, will they be accused of complicity in child sex abuse if the filtering proves to be ineffective, as it almost certainly will?
Your government claims that the filtering will be 100 per cent effective but this is clearly impossible. Experts all over the world agree that no filtering system is effective at combating this kind of content. On the one hand, such a system filters sites that should not be affected (such as sites about the psychology of child sexuality or paedophile crime news). And on the other, it fails to filter targeted sites because their URLs contain key-words that are completely unrelated to their content, or because their content (photo and text) is registered under completely neutral terms. Furthermore, people who are determined to visit such sites will know how to avoid the filtering by, for example, using proxy servers or censorship circumvention software or both.
The Wikileaks website highlighted the limitations of such as system when it revealed that the ACMA blacklist of already banned websites contained many with nothing reprehensible in their content. According to Wikileaks, the blacklist included the Abortion TV website, some of the pages of Wikileaks itself, online poker sites, gay networks, sites dealing with euthanasia, Christian sites, a tour operator's site and even a Queensland dentist's site.
The US company Google has also voiced strong reservations. Google Australia's head of policy, Iarla Flynn, said yesterday: "Moving to a mandatory ISP filtering regime with a scope that goes well beyond such material is heavy handed and can raise genuine questions about restrictions on access to information."
As regards paedophilia, the most dangerous places on the Internet are websites offering chat and email services. So if this project were taken to its logical conclusion, access to sites such as Gmail, Yahoo and Skype would also have to be blocked, which would of course be impossible.
There are more effective ways to combat child pornography, including tracking cyber-criminals online (by means of cookies, IP address comparison, and so on), combined with police investigation into suspects and their online habits. Why did your government end the programme launched by the previous government, which made free filtering systems available to Australian families? This procedure had the merit of being adapted to individual needs and gave each home the possibility of shielding its children from porn.
A real national debate is needed on this subject but your communications minister, Stephen Conroy, made such a debate very difficult by branding his critics as supporters of child pornography. An opportunity was lost for stimulating a constructive exchange of ideas.
We also regret the lack of transparency displayed by your government as regards the tests carried out in recent months using procedures that have been kept secret. Your government paid some 300,000 Australian dollars to ISPs to finance the tests. Australian taxpayers have a right to be given detailed information about the results.
Finally, you must be aware that this initiative is a source of a concern for your compatriots. In a recent Fairfax Media poll of 20,000 people, 96 per cent were strongly opposed to such a mandatory Internet filtering system, while around 120,000 Australians have signed a petition against Internet censorship launched by the online activist group GetUp. The withdrawal of this proposal would therefore satisfy public opinion as well as prevent a democratic country from introducing a system that threatens freedom of expression.
I thank you in advance for the consideration you give to our recommendations.
Office of the Vice President
For Immediate Release March 09, 2010
Statement by Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
"I condemn the decision by the government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem. The substance and timing of the announcement, particularly with the launching of proximity talks, is precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now and runs counter to the constructive discussions that I've had here in Israel. We must build an atmosphere to support negotiations, not complicate them. This announcement underscores the need to get negotiations under way that can resolve all the outstanding issues of the conflict. The United States recognizes that Jerusalem is a deeply important issue for Israelis and Palestinians and for Jews, Muslims and Christians. We believe that through good faith negotiations, the parties can mutually agree on an outcome that realizes the aspirations of both parties for Jerusalem and safeguards its status for people around the world. Unilateral action taken by either party cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations on permanent status issues. As George Mitchell said in announcing the proximity talks, "we encourage the parties and all concerned to refrain from any statements or actions which may inflame tensions or prejudice the outcome of these talks.""
Richard Gross, a geophysicist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory says that the earthquake that struck Chile a week ago may have shifted the Earth's axis by about 8cm and permanently shortened each day by about 1.26 microseconds. (That's about 46 hundredths of a second every 1,000 years!) A large quake shifts massive amounts of rock and alters the distribution of mass on the planet, changing the rate at which the planet rotates. And the rotation rate determines the length of a day.
The magnitude 9.1 Indian Ocean earthquake in December 2004 shortened the length of days by 6.8 microseconds. On the other hand if the Three Gorges reservoir in China were filled, it would hold 40 cubic km (40 billion tonnes) of water. The shift of mass would lengthen days by 0.06 microsecond.
The welcome poles reminded me of sininggazanak that I knew about in when I was in Sabah decades ago, totemic wooden figures ceremonially placed in the field of a Kadazan who had died leaving no heirs. Besides commemorating the dead person, the sininggazanak asserted the claim of the person's blood-family to the land; a childless person's land is inherited by his or her siblings and their children. The spirits associated withthe figure protect the land. Found only in the Penampang / Putatan / Kinarut area sininggazanak are now rare as they have been overtaken by modern land title systems.
The most famous sininggazanak, a rare female one, was at Kampung Tampasak in Kinarut. It has has now been replaced by a stone replica and stored in the Sabah Museum for preservation.
|Peter Whelan has written about the sininggazanak in: "Commemoration of a childless person: a custom among the Kadazans (Dusuns) of the Kinarut - Penampang - Putardan region" in Sabah Society Journal, 6(1):7-26, 1973-74, and Traditional stone and wood monuments of Sabah, ed. by K.M. Wong (Kota Kinabalu : Centre for Borneo Studies, Yayasan Sabah, 1997). ISBN 9839722034|
One thing I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
to dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord,
and to inquire in his temple.
Timber! Gunns could be headed for the chipper
The market has been kind to Gunns this week, marking the timber company's shares down by just 32 per cent since the surprise announcement that net profit tumbled by 98 per cent to $420,000 in the first half due to weak woodchip demand in Asia and currency pressures. With no improvement in operating conditions on the horizon, and little investor confidence in the company's ability to manage its assets, Gunns' survival is in question. The company has just four months to deliver a solution before bank covenant breaches, with ugly consequences, become a possibility.
The company is pinning its hopes on a planned corporate reorganisation into four divisions in a bid to attract investment into its long-delayed $2 billion Bell Bay pulp mill and to highlight the underlying value of its plantation assets. The challenge of completing the restructure and attracting external investment is out of step with the tight timetable, so Gunns' management and advisers from Nomura Australia should not be expecting much sleep between now and the end of June.
Shareholders turning their minds to disaster scenarios may take some comfort from the value of assets on the Gunns balance sheet. Plantation assets have a book value of around $1.2 billion, while debt and hybrid securities total around $780 million. So shareholders would share in around $420 million of net assets (about 52¢ per share, a little shy of the current share price of 58.5¢) on a winding up — provided that the plantations can be sold for book value. And there's the rub. With the woodchip market in the doldrums, buyers are unlikely to place full value on the plantation assets without a nearby pulp mill.
Watch out below.
But I think I might relent for this, if it were shown in Australia.
Not The Messiah (He's a Very Naughty Boy), comic oratorio based on Monty Python's Life of Brian and a take on Messiah, filmed at its only European performance at the Royal Albert Hall in October 2009, with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, soloists in the lead roles including Rosalind Plowright and Eric Idle, with Michael Palin as Mrs Betty Parkinson and guest appearances from Pythons Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam . . . as well as bagpipers and three sheep.
The document is for Palestinian Christians and there are plans to develop it into a program of action. It is also for the international Christian community, as both "a word of gratitude for the solidarity you have shown toward us in word, deed and presence among us", but also as "a call to repentance; to revisit fundamentalist theological positions that support ... unjust political options." It is, the authors say, "a call to stand alongside the oppressed and preserve the word of God as good news for all rather than to turn it into a weapon with which to slay the oppressed" (6.1).
The document explains how to understand the reality of the Palestinians: "Come and see."
If only more churches would do this. Walking with Palestinians, experiencing their pain, seeing their loss — human rights organisations can write reports, UN departments can release endless statistics, and lobbying organisations can pick up on individual issues, but going to see the reality and walking even just for a short time with Palestinians is a different issue altogether.Marten goes on to describe his personal experiences of the Palestinians' situation. He then summarises some key points of the Kairos Palestinian document. read his article and read A moment of truth.
The Palestinians place their hope not in human sources alone, but in God. "Despite the lack of even a glimmer of positive expectation, our hope remains strong. The present situation does not promise any quick solution or the end of the occupation that is imposed on us . . . The clear Israeli response, refusing any solution, leaves no room for positive expectation. Despite this, our hope remains strong, because it is from God. God alone is good, almighty and loving and His goodness will one day be victorious over the evil in which we find ourselves. As Saint Paul said: "If God is for us, who is against us? (. . .) Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all day long" (. . .) For I am convinced that (nothing) in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God" (Rom. 8:31, 35, 36, 39). (3.1)"
Kairos Palestine unequivocally describes the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory as a sin against God and humanity.
"because it deprives the Palestinians of their basic human rights, bestowed by God. It distorts the image of God in the Israeli who has become an occupier just as it distorts this image in the Palestinian living under occupation." (2.5) No legitimate theology can be premised on such an understanding. Instead, the Kairos Palestine authors call for love and resistance in love: "Love is the commandment of Christ our Lord to us and it includes both friends and enemies . . . Love is seeing the face of God in every human being. . . However, seeing the face of God in everyone does not mean accepting evil or aggression on their part. Rather, this love seeks to correct the evil and stop the aggression." (4.2-4.2.1)The Kairos Palestine authors call on churches to follow the call to boycott, divestment and sanctions, targeting "everything produced by the occupation." But their focus is on love and resistance.
How can the international churches respond? Here, the Kairos Palestine Document is clear, clearer than most international churches seem to want it to be.
It is to this that international churches should be paying heed " boycotts, divestment and sanctions are simply a non-violent expression of this love and resistance. Walking with Palestinians means learning from them about their situation " "come and see" " and also learning from them about what it is that can be done to help them. They are the ones suffering, and they know what is needed to help themselves. [. . .] The international churches can choose to listen and act and walk with their Palestinian sisters and brothers, or they can choose to turn away and ignore them " these are both active choices, and prevaricating or sitting on the fence is not an option. Our God calls us to repent of our sin, and if the occupation is a sin, we must repent of it and resist it, in love, as the Kairos Palestine authors have called on us to do.
After the drum and cheering lesson, Official Opening Ceremony Host and Hot Weather Girl Tamara Taggart asked us to welcome, as the evening's first entertainment, The Irrepressible Jully Black, Canada's Premier R&B singer! To which I wondered: Who!Who?
Ms. Black came out on stage to a hard pop beat and proceeded to scream a song, the words of which immediately floated up into the cavernous roof of BC Place Stadium, where they were lost forever. Then Ms. Black shouted out "Peace!" two or three times into her mike, then held her mike out for the audience to shout "Peace!" back at her. A few people humoured her, and then the music stopped, and Ms. Black, mercifully, left the stage.Neither did I, who cared?
Then some other guys came out and sang. I didn't catch their names
Finally, the real show started . . .They did. Very.
Then came the Canadian flag and the national anthem sung by jazz prodigy Nikki Yanofsky . . . it was a disaster, the stately O Canada! mangled by the Warbling School of Pop Phrasing . . . the rendition robbed the ceremonies of what could have been one of its best moments.
The aboriginal part? Was it just me or did the giant translucent totems rising out of the floor look monumentally phallic? . . .
But the people of the First Nations were dignified, spectacular in their costumes, and a fine part of the ceremony.
Then came the interminable march of the athletes—who knew there were so many letters in the alphabet?—which was marked by two remarkable moments: the entrance of the tragedy-touched Georgian team, which caused everyone, even the press corps, to stand up and clap, which seemed odd and appropriate at the same time; and the entrance of the Canadian team, the appearance of which touched off a roar so loud the kids on the Canadian team seemed cowed by it. . . .Perhaps if the athletes had walked, not ambled, and the gap between each been country less? It was a good move to have the athletes enter early, and to give them seats, so they could see the show.
The floor show? The aurora borealis draped from the ceiling was nice, and the giant sparkling polar bear rising above the ice drew oohs and aahs from everybody. The Emily Carr forest was imaginative and beautifulbut the music and dance that accompanied it meaningless and too long
but the guy in the floating canoe, aka The Fiddler Under The Roof? What was with the Batman hairdo? And billions around the world are now under the impression that Canada is populated by punk step dancers that are into multiple piercings—and Satanism.
The loveliest and simplest moment in the show came with the lone kid floating above a canvas of golden grain fields to Joni Mitchell's haunting rendition of Both Sides Now.Just so, it was gloriously musical, and simple. Again, was the segment too long?
The "We Are More" speech about Canada and the outsized expression of nationalism it carried left me cold, because it was needless . . .The speech of welcome was long winded. pompous, patronising and nationalistic, not what we seek for an Olympics.
The Olympic flag was carried in with dignity. But the opera singer's rendering of the Olympic Hymn was so large lunged and operatic that the tune was formless and not one word was recogisable."
As for the lighting of the flame? . . . when that fourth stylized icicle—so that's they were—
failed to come up . . . was that the biggest snafu in Olympic history? The most embarrassing? Eight years to get things right and we get the Olympic Tripod?Mr McMartin gives the ceremony a "not too shabby" B+.
My score is less generous:
the indigenous people: A
relevance to Olympics ideal: C
demonstration of Canadian culture and values: C
musically: A to F depending on the performer
as spectacle: A-
as non-boring television B.
Overall: C. Why bother? Just do the sports.
She knew the words she wanted to say—about seeing Morse or at least her mind knew. Yet she was aware that those words had homodyned little, if at all, with the words she'd actually used."Homodyned?" . . . to the dictionary:
—Colin Dexter. The daughters of Cain. London: Pan, 1994, p.362.
Homodyne, adj. of or pertaining to reception by a device that generates a varying voltage of the same or nearly the same frequency as the incoming carrier wave and combines it with the incoming signal for detection.Hmm . . . a bit pretentious, Mr Dexter. By the way, do you remember the primitive radios we used to try to make when we were boys? This circuit is a homodyne.
Later, on a leisurely Sunday afternoon, I seem to remember spending at least half an hour with just one painting at the Musée de l'Orangerie, Paul_Cézanne's Pommes et biscuits (pictured). I've never forgotten the experience, or the picture.
I was signatory no. 464,816 of Patrick Bonello's petition at Whales Revenge, with over a million signatures opposing commercial whaling. Its words are simple and to the point.
We the undersigned wish to show our support for an end to commercial whaling. We believe that the slaughter of whales for so-called 'scientific reasons' is wrong. We wish to add our voices to the global campaign to protect these precious mammals from extinction.Once there were a million signatures were collected, the petition was be sent to Greenpeace, the International Whaling Commission and the Australian Federal Government, but more signatures are being collected. Why not sign?
The Psalms are equally wise:
Psalm 3.5—I lie down and sleep; I wake again, for the Lord sustains me;
Psalm 4.1,8—When you are disturbed, do not sin; ponder it on your beds, and be silent. . . . I will both lie down and sleep in peace; for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety;
Psalm 127.2—It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives sleep to his beloved.
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900). Thus spake Zarathustra: a book for all and none. Tr. Thomas Common, 1909. Wordsworth Editions, 1997, p. 24:
People commended unto Zarathustra a wise man, as one who could discourse well about sleep and virtue . . . [a]nd thus spake the wise man:
"Respect and modesty in presence of sleep! That is the first thing! And to go out of the way of all who sleep badly and keep awake at night!
"Modest is even the thief in presence of sleep: he always stealeth softly through the night. Immodest, however, is the night-watchman; immodestly he carrieth his horn.
"No small art is it to sleep: it is necessary for that purpose to keep awake all day.
"Ten times a day must thou overcome thyself: that causeth wholesome weariness, and is poppy to the soul. Ten times must thou reconcile again with thyself; for overcoming is bitterness, and badly sleep the unreconciled. Ten truths must thou find during the day; otherwise wilt thou seek truth during the night, and thy soul will have been hungry. Ten times must thou laugh during the day, and be cheerful; otherwise thy stomach, the father of affliction, will disturb thee in the night.
"Few people know it, but one must have all the virtues in order to sleep well. Shall I bear false witness? Shall I commit adultery? Shall I covet my neighbour's maidservant? All that would ill accord with good sleep.
"And even if one have all the virtues, there is still one thing needful: to send the virtues themselves to sleep at the right time. That they may not quarrel with one another, the good females! And about thee, thou unhappy one!
"Peace with God and thy neighbour: so desireth good sleep. And peace also with thy neighbour's devil! Otherwise it will haunt thee in the night.
"Honour to the government, and obedience, and also to the crooked government! So desireth good sleep. How can I help it, if power like to walk on crooked legs?
"He who leadeth his sheep to the greenest pasture, shall always be for me the best shepherd: so doth it accord with good sleep.
"Many honours I want not, nor great treasures: they excite the spleen. But it is bad sleeping without a good name and a little treasure.
"A small company is more welcome to me than a bad one: but they must come and go at the right time. So doth it accord with good sleep.
"Well, also, do the poor in spirit please me: they promote sleep. Blessed are they, especially if one always give in to them.
"Thus passeth the day unto the virtuous. When night cometh, then take I good care not to summon sleep. It disliketh to be summoned—sleep, the lord of the virtues!
"But I think of what I have done and thought during the day. Thus ruminating, patient as a cow, I ask myself: What were thy ten overcomings? And what were the ten reconciliations, and the ten truths, and the ten laughters with which my heart enjoyed itself? Thus pondering, and cradled by forty thoughts, it overtaketh me all at once—sleep, the unsummoned, the lord of the virtues.
"Sleep tappeth on mine eye, and it turneth heavy. Sleep toucheth my mouth, and it remaineth open. Verily, on soft soles doth it come to me, the dearest of thieves, and stealeth from me my thoughts: stupid do I then stand, like this academic chair. But not much longer do I then stand: I already lie."
Denying his nakedness to be a breach of the peace or an affront to the court, Mr Gough accepted that he might remain in jail forever — apart from the few seconds of freedom he enjoys after each gaol term.
Apart from wondering about the misplaced zealotry of the British authorities and Mr Gough's sanity or otherwise, this leads me to ask just why is public nakedness offensive and an offence?
Nakedness can be dangerous; clothes are protective. Is this a move to protect the hospitals from multiple cases of frostbite or sunburn?
Is it a capitalist plot to protect the clothing and fashion industries? Most people don't look better for being naked. Nudity is rarely an aesthetic pleasure, but is it criminal? Sometimes clothes look good, but it is no crime to look foolish. If bad taste or foolishness were criminal, we would all be condemned. In any case, clothes are clothes; fashion is a mistake.
Does the law worry about nakedness being an invitation to public immorality? Are we worried about dirty old men? In most democracies, the days are long gone when adultery was a crime. Rape is appalling, but it's more about violence than sex and doesn't result from public nudity—just the opposite.
Surely the 'public' is no longer shocked or embarrassed by nudity. Or does the criminal justice system still take note of the shame felt by Adam and Eve at their nakedness and punish those who are not similarly shamed?
|Following the heat wave last November, the Australian Education Union has advised teachers to place thermometers in every classroom, gym, hall and staff room in the ACT and to ask school principals to end classes once the temperature hits 30°C. The Australian standard for office environments is 20°C to 26°C. Would that it applied to the Australian Public Service!|
In two weeks my work colleagues and I will move to a new building. The old building is dying and will soon be demolished. Last week the air-conditioning on our floor collapsed completely and is beyond economical repair. The temperature was way over 30°!
|So in come these machines to the rescue. They're noisy and it's still hot and humid. Are they Daleks, or the robot from Lost inSpace?|
|It certainly does not compute. Hasn't any one heard of windows that open? Now there's a way to save a few billion on air cooling.|
Purported exchange between Churchill and Lady Astor: She said, "If you were my husband I'd give you poison." He said, "If you were my wife, I'd drink it."
Exchange between Churchill and Bessie Braddock MP: She said, "Winston, you are drunk." He said, "And you, madam, are ugly. In the morning, I shall be sober."
A member of Parliament to Disraeli: "Sir, you will either die on the gallows or of some unspeakable disease." "That depends, Sir," said Disraeli, "whether I embrace your policies or your mistress."
"He had delusions of adequacy." — Walter Kerr.
"He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire." — Winston Churchill.
"I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure." Clarence Darrow.
"He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary." — William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway).
"Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I'll waste no time reading it." — Moses Hadas.
"I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it." — Mark Twain.
"He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends." — Oscar Wilde.
"I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend . . . if you have one." — George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill. "Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second . . . if there is one." — Winston Churchill, in response.
"I feel so miserable without you; it's almost like having you here." — Stephen Bishop.
"He is a self-made man and worships his creator." — John Bright.
"I've just learned about his illness. Let's hope it's nothing trivial." — Irvin S. Cobb.
"He is not only dull himself; he is the cause of dullness in others." — Samuel Johnson.
"He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up." — Paul Keating.
"In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily." — Charles, Count Talleyrand.
"He loves nature in spite of what it did to him." — Forrest Tucker.
"Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?" — Mark Twain.
"His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork." — Mae West.
"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go." — Oscar Wilde.
"He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts . . . for support rather than illumination. " — Andrew Lang.
"He has Van Gogh's ear for music." — Billy Wilder.
"I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it." — Groucho Marx.
|Monteverdi: Teatro d'Amore, L'Arpeggiata, directed by harpist and lutenist Christina Pluhar with countertenor Philippe Jaroussky, soprano Núria Rial and others. Virgin Classics, 2009.|
On the theory of the Big Bang as the origin of the Universe
how did it get there?
When it got there
where was it?
— Wendell Berry. Leavings: poems. Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2010, p.5.
|In the bleak midwinter|
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter,
Our God, heaven cannot hold him,
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When he comes to reign;
In the bleak midwinter
A stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty,
Enough for him, whom Cherubim
Worship night and day
A breast full of milk
And a manger full of hay.
Enough for him, whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
|Angels and archangels|
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air;
But his mother only,
In her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.
What can I give him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him—
Give my heart.
They were wise men, who scrutinized the stars and knew the history of peoples. They were men of science in a broad sense, who observed the cosmos regarding it almost as a great book full of divine signs and messages for man. Their learning, however, far from making them self-sufficient, was open to further divine revelations and appeals. In fact, they were not ashamed to ask for instructions from the religious leaders of the Jews. They could have said: We can do it alone, we have no need of anyone, avoiding, according to our mentality today, every "contamination" between science and the Word of God.This is a long way from the silencing of Gallileo, centuries ago. Benedict acknowledges good science as a source of truth. Yet, too often, he issues judgments based neither on good theology or good science, but on metaphysical critique of social, religious and ethical theories that themselves are ill-founded.
Instead, the Magi listened to the prophecies and welcomed them and, no sooner were they on the way to Bethlehem, than they again saw the star, almost as a confirmation of the perfect harmony between human seeking and divine Truth, a harmony that filled the hearts of these genuine wise men with joy (cf. Matthew 2:10). The culmination of their search was when they found themselves before "the Child with Mary, his Mother" (Matthew 2:11).
In an often laudable in-house address (not published in English) to the theologically savvy staff at the Curia before Christmas, the Pope made what many angrily (but probably wrongly) took to be an attack on homosexuality. Informed commentators, such as Paul Valley in The Independent (24 Dec 09) understood the Pope to be criticising, not homosexuality as such, but gender theory, "the idea that gender is not something entirely to do with what we inherit from nature, but something which is also socially constructed . . . This the Pope sees as part of a wider malaise in which human beings want to control every aspect of life, sometimes paying no respect to the natural God-given order of things."
Trouble for the Pope begins when his understanding of the natural God-given order of things errs from the relationship between science and theology that he praised in his Epiphany address. By being obscure and rather less than scientific, the Pope was in hot water again. Another writer the Independent, Debora Orr, comments that "Benedict believes that "gender studies" encourages people to "choose" homosexuality because it justifies activity that they may otherwise not have been chosen."
And there's the unscientific rub. Is gender or sexuality a choice? Some social theorists say so, which is what the Pope opposes. But this has nothing at all to do with the well-being of creation. On the other hand if, as the Pope maintains the gender theorists are wrong, such that gender and sexual orientation are neither socially formed nor chosen, the Pope must accept that to be homosexual is not a moral choice. To advance his ideas the Pope is resorting to making unscientific criticisms in the name of science of a non-scientific theory. That is as foolish as what the church of his day did to Galileo.
committed a vast amount of time and resources into the search for covenantal wording that would be acceptable to the whole Church and yet it has not addressed the insurmountable problem of the complete intransigence of some Dioceses to any process that would accept certain 'debated categories' of people as full members of the Church. These categories might be episcopally ordained women or people of differing sexual orientation. (In a footnote the New Zealand church commented that, "An interesting test case would be if a question was raised suggesting that the failure of a Church / Province to episcopally ordain women was a controversial action'.")And Australia? On the earlier 'St Andrews' draft, provinces were asked "Is it possible to give some indication of any synodical process which would have to be undertaken in order to adopt the Covenant in the fullness of time?"
It is feared that those opposed will not proceed on any Covenant, regardless of wording, which remotely allows for inclusion of such groups. This type of response could lead to theological retrenchment. If a policing group were to insist on inclusion of a 'debated category', the concern is that dissenting groups will either disobey the finding of the policing group or argue that the decision is an innovation that should not be accepted across the Communion. Further faction is likely to be the result.
—The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. A submission on the Ridley Cambridge Draft.
The Australian Church replied:
There are three synodical processes by which the Anglican Church of Australia could, in the fullness of time, adopt the Anglican Communion covenant.In other words, sufficient Dioceses are likely to disagree—for a variety of reasons—with adoption of the Covenant to make it impossible for the Covenant to be adopted in an binding fashion by the Australian church. (And a good thing too!)
(i) Constitutional amendment
The covenant could be adopted by amendment of the Constitution of the Anglican Church of Australia. It is anticipated, however, that any attempt to adopt the covenant through this process would be likely to fail because of the onerous requirements for constitutional amendment.
(ii) Adoption by canon
The covenant could be adopted by canon of the General Synod. However, it is anticipated that an attempt to adopt the covenant by this method would also be likely to fail because of the constitutional requirements for making certain types of canon.
(iii) Adoption by Resolution
The covenant could be adopted by resolution of the General Synod. Unlike adoption by constitutional amendment or by canon, adoption of the covenant by this means would not have the effect of incorporating the text of the covenant into the law of the Anglican Church of Australia. However, the prospects of success by this method are greater than those for adoption by either of the methods outlined above.
We pray for all people in Haiti, the Western Hemisphere's poorest country. We pray for the injured, for those in distress, for those who have lost loved ones and for the rescuers and aid workers.
Australia's Anglican Board of Mission is accepting donations that will be sent to Haiti through the Episcopal Relief and Development Agency (ERD) of the Episcopal Church of the United States. The ERD is already working in Haiti including through the relief work of the Anglican Diocese of Haiti. Our Anglican partners in Haiti are "committed to a long-term response and recovery effort" and the local Anglican church is "one of the largest and perhaps most socially engaged diocese of the Episcopal Church". (ERD Haiti Disaster Response) Donate online by selecting Haiti Earthquake Appeal from ABM's drop-down campaign list or contact the ABM office on 1300 302663 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alternatively, it's a good idea to donate to a member agency of the Australian Council for International Development that is responding to the Haiti earthquake.
Act for Peace - National Council of Churches Australia, phone 1800 025 101
Adventist Development Relief Agency (ADRA), phone 1800 242 372
CARE Australia , phone 1800 020 046
Caritas Australia, phone 1800 024 413
Oxfam Australia, phone 1800 088 110
Plan International Australia, phone 13 7526
Save the Children Australia, phone 1800 760 011
World Vision Australia, phone 13 32 40
The visitors also noted "a widespread sense of weariness with the whole business of same-sex blessings," as well as a "palpable desire to get on with the business of mission." One bishop said, "We have no heart for any more arguing and certainly have no more energy left; we just wish it would all go away!"
Just so. Sigh.
It might "go away", if we could (a) agree on how to decide what is right and true on a matter that is not essential to the faith and the Gospel, (b) decide accordingly, and (c) all abide by the decision in good conscience. It's not possible, at least not this millenium.
So the sooner we agree that debates about sexuality are not so important that we can't live with disagreement and difference of practice, the better it will be for ourselves and for God's service. Otherwise these tediously endless debates will not go away. If we cannot agree to differ on sexuality (and other things), we risk permanent distraction from the work of the Gospel and from God's presence.