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Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

Google often changes its logo to match the day – public holidays, festivals, even sports get their own logo de jour.

On June 6th 2008 Google remembered the birthday of Spanish painter Diego Velasquez.

I like Velasquez. Las Meninas, the painting suggested in the logo, is a wonderfully rich image that draws in the viewer, and almost forces him or her to wonder, to ask questions, to participate in the painting. It really is one of those rare paintings you can lose yourself in.

On June 6th 2009 Google remembered the invention of the game Tetris. Tetris was a milestone in computer games. It is simple to play, highly addictive, and has probably been played by more people than any other video game.

But hang on. Important as those things might be, June 6th is the anniversary of D-Day.

2009 is the 65th anniversary of the day on which allied forces, mostly men from the US and UK, landed on beaches in Normandy and began to roll back the horror of the Nazi domination of Europe. The beaches were more heavily defended than expected, and losses were horrific.

The film Saving Private Ryan gives a frighteningly accurate portrayal of the conditions under which the landings took place.

I am not the only person to think there is something wrong at Google HQ if D-Day can be consistently considered less important to remember than a painter or a video game. (There is something wrong at Wikipedia as well, but that’s a post for another time).

On June 6th 2009 Bing had a photo of a Normandy beach.

Time to change search engines.

One of my friends is a dizzy blonde beauty therapist. She spends a considerable amount of time ripping hair off people’s private parts.

Last night she showed me a brochure for a new product – lightening gel for sensitive areas.

Apparently with so many people now permanently hairless down under, looking one’s best everywhere has become a major concern. You don’t want to look brown. Pink is the go.

So you smear this cream on your rectum and it goes a nice pink colour. Celebrites are ordering with confidence, according to the South Beach website.

The process is also known as anal bleaching.

But why would you do it? Who would be looking?

The Tragedy of The Diocese Of The Murray.

You have never cared about me. Nobody likes me. But I am still your bishop, so do what I say. Or give me $1 million and I will leave.

That was the message from Bishop Ross Davies to members of the Anglican Diocese of The Murray at their annual meeting (synod) a week ago.

The Anglican Diocese of The Murray is a small (by Australian standards) diocese in South Australia.

I have known Ross Davies for nearly thirty years. He is an intelligent man, and a capable speaker and administrator.

He was consecrated bishop in March 2002.

At that time I was Rector of Naracoorte and Rural Dean of the South East. I was on the Bishop Election Committee. So was Bishop Ross, who was then Vicar-General of the diocese.

It was not appropriate for him to remain on the committee after his name was put forward. But he did remain, and did not excuse himself when his nomination was being discussed.

Nonetheless, he was elected, and I was happy with the result.

I preached at the Bishop’s consecration at St Peter’s cathedral. Shortly after, I was asked to be the first Dean of The Murray. I declined, believing I was still called to serve in Naracoorte. A year later I was asked again and accepted.

The bishop and I are both conservative anglo-catholics. We were of similar mind in terms of the central issues of the faith, and the role of the Diocese of The Murray in the life of the Anglican Church of Australia, and the wider Anglican Communion.

These, and our long standing friendship, were strong reasons for me to want him to succeed.

Problems began very quickly after the consecration. The Bishop had difficulty keeping his temper, and those who disagreed with him were treated like enemies. Both clergy and lay people reported feeling hurt and confused by his behaviour towards them.

Over a period of time I raised some of these concerns with him, only to be sworn at myself, and told that I had been ‘opposing him at every turn.’

I still supported the Bishop, though often with considerable embarrassment and internal conflict, in relation to some of his public actions, such as participation in the consecration of bishops for the Traditional Anglican Communion, and at his treatment of people who did not instantly agree with him, or were slow to do as he wished.

Eventually ill-feeling in the diocese rose to such a point that I wrote to the Archbishop of Adelaide and to the Primate, listing some of the major issues, and asking them to speak to Bishop Ross.

This did not happen.

As time went on the situation became completely unworkable, with the Bishop increasingly expressing resentment against the people he was called to serve, experienced clergy leaving or being sacked, and lay people refusing to come to church if the Bishop was present.

Claims that allegations of a pattern of predatory sexual abuse of women by the then Vicar-General had been ignored, or worse, deliberately covered up, were the last straw for many faithful worshippers.

The Bishop has been largely absent from the diocese for the last eighteen months.

A number of parishes have made it clear he is no longer welcome. It has been reported that the Diocesan Council has passed a vote of no confidence in his leadership. But Bishop Davies has refused to leave until he is given a payout of close to $1 million.

The Archbishop of Adelaide has complied with a request from the diocesan council of the Diocese of The Murray to open an independent investigation into Bishop Davies’ behaviour. The investigator may then recommend that a tribunal be set up which would have the power to dismiss Bishop Davies.

Bishop Davies disputes the Archbishop’s right to set up such an investigation, and the authority of any tribunal established as a result.

The categories of behaviour which a tribunal can investigate are very limited. They do not include simply being unable or unwilling to do the job of Bishop.

However, Bishop Davies is an employee of the diocese. If he is not able or willing to do the job he was appointed to do, and all attempts at negotiation have failed, the diocese is within its rights to dismiss him.

This has been suggested before, and the response has been that this would be a harsh and unforgiving thing to do. It would not.

There is much to be forgiven. And much has been forgiven. But the question is the suitability of Ross Davies to be Bishop.

It is not unforgiving to recognise that someone is not suited to the position to which he has been appointed. The last five years have been miserable for Bishop Davies and his family as well as for the diocese. The longer this crisis continues, the more harm will be done.

It is time to call an end.

Late term abortionist George Tiller has been murdered outside his church in Wichita, Kansas.

The suspect may be a member of the right to life movement.

Left wing blogs have already begun to claim that Christians are delighted, and that this is just the latest in a long series of violent attacks on abortionists.

In fact the reverse is true. Pro life bloggers and leaders of the pro-life movement have been united in condemming the murder of Tiller, as they have been united in condemming any violent attacks on abortionists or their clinics.

I deplore the murder of George Tiller, and any violence against abortionists or their clinics.

I also deplore the far greater number of violent attacks on pro-life people and organisations (despite the fact that the media has a massive blind spot when comes to reporting violent attacks by abortionists and their supporters).

The murder of George Tiller is a tragedy. His family and his community will miss him. The attack on him was wrong, no matter who did it, or why.

That does not mean we should pretend that what he did for a living was OK. What he did for a living was monstrous.

Late term partial-birth abortion means partially delivering a living human baby, inserting a pair of scissors or other implement into its head, then crushing its skull before completing the delivery.

George Tiller’s death was murder, and must be condemmed. What he did for a living was also murder.

Partial Birth Abortion

Partial Birth Abortion

How to avoid being ripped off by scammers.

Don’t be greedy. Don’t be dumb. That pretty much covers it.

If an arabian princess emails you telling you she got your name from a friend, and needs you to help her smuggle $20 million out of Egypt, and she’s willing to give you $5 million for your trouble, and you reply, and end up sending her $10,000 to pay bank fees, are you an idiot? Yes. Are you a greedy idiot? Yes.

If you are selling a car and someone sends you a cheque for $2,000 more than the price of the car and asks you to wire $1,000 of that to a friend in Brazil, and you do, are you an idiot? yes. Are you a greedy idiot? Yes.

Also, don’t buy software from anonymous sellers in China.

I have some simple rules I apply to any argument I undertake, whether in person, in print, or on this site.

Tackle the ideas, not the person. If you can only win an argument by denigrating your opponents, you deserve to lose.

If the person is the problem, say why as clearly and as generously as possible. Don’t write people off because you disagree with them.

State the other person’s point of view fairly. If you have to distort what your opponents are saying to defeat them in argument, then you have lost, or ought to.

Put your own evidence fairly. Be open to the possibility you may be wrong, and be willing to be convinced by the evidence others offer.

Test/check everything.

It’s OK to make mistakes (occasionally). It’s OK for other people to make mistakes too. Mistakes do not necessarily indicate carelessness or dishonesty.

Yet despite these simple rules, when it comes to wretched hives of scum and villainly, Mos Eisley has nothing on the internet.

Here are the concluding paragraphs of an article by Kevin DeYoung on First Things:

Here, then, a little advice for the tough guys: Save the big guns for the big issues. Don’t try to die on every hill; the hills are crowded already and you only have so many lives to lose. Be courteous wherever possible (Col. 4:6). Drop the rhetorical bombs and launch the satire missiles only as a last resort. Be patient with those who really want to understand (2 Tim. 2:25). And remember, it’s ok to have an unarticulated thought (Prov. 18:2).

And for the tender ones: Dare to not qualify. Don’t pad your criticisms with fluff praise (Gal. 1:10). If you have affirmations of substances, go for it. But don’t be a self-protective flatterer. Don’t be afraid to be misunderstood. Don’t soften a needed jab of logic. And when you get an ad hominen right hook, don’t take it personally (1 Cor. 4:3–4).

And for everyone: please, please argue with actual arguments. Don’t just emote or dismiss the other side with labels. Explain why your side makes more sense. Try more persuasion, less pouting (2 Cor. 5:11). Give reasons, not just reactions (Acts 18:19).

Here’s hoping against hope that thinking adults, Christians especially, can sustain meaningful discourse without resorting to name-calling or cowardly equivocation. Christ calls us to love, which is something entirely different than being a jerk or playing it safe. A.W. Tozer got it right: “The kingdom of God, has suffered a great deal of harm from fighters—men who would rather fight than pray; but the kingdom of God has also been done great harm by men who would rather be nice than right.”

A couple of days ago I posted a story about a 14 year old girl who had been charged with possession of child pornography because she had some nude photos of herself on her mobile phone.

Then there was  story about a group of teenagers in Victoria being cautioned by a magistrate in relation to child pornography, because of nude photos of themselves and their friends on their phones.

There have been a couple of articles warning teenagers and parents about the possible legal and social consequences of teens taking pictures of themselves naked, and sending those pictures to friends or boyfriends.

Parents, counsellors and police officers quoted in those articles have all pretty much nailed the whole negative consequences thing – you may get in trouble with the law in ways that stay with you for the rest of your life, once photos are ‘out there’ you have no control over where they go or who sees them, you may be humiliated to the point you cannot return to your school, etc.

It’s good that teenagers are made aware of those things. It would be even better if they were helped to understand that actions can have consequences which are not easily foreseen, and that rules about sexual behaviour and and respect for self and others exist to protect people from some of those consequences.

What has been missing is the simple statement that some things are wrong. This includes taking nude pictures of yourself and sending them to friends.

So I was pleased to read this article ‘It Is Wrong’ by the Joneses. As well as saying the right things, it is funny and well-written.

These are the concluding paragraphs:

Why is it that today’s culture thinks that 16-year-olds are old enough to understand and deal with sexual relationships on their own? Teenagers can’t even handle friendships in a rational manner. But if the only caution you can give your child is, “Don’t do that because it might get you in trouble later,” then you’re waving the white flag and the battle is over.

I care enough about my children, and my friends’ children, and the beautiful, alienated teenagers I pass in town, to say, “You shouldn’t do this. It’s wrong.” To do less is to hand our children over to those who want them only for their bodies.

Just home from church, and about to go out fishing with a friend, so posting will be light to non-existent for the rest of the day.

Happy Mothers’ Day!

Happy Mothers' Day

I have been meaning to say something about this for a while.

I have studied ethics, both in secular university classes and in seminary, and those classes and more recent reading have been a useful background. But I have not had time to do the further reading and thinking I need to do to be confident of what I say. I don’t yet have enough information to have an opinion.

There are three basic questions.

First, do the ‘enhanced’ interrogation techniques used with three Guantanamo prisoners constitute torture?  I have not been helped by the certainty of some commentators that they were, that everybody really knows they were, and that anyone who disagrees is therefore either lying or morally bankrupt.

Second, if those enhanced interogation techniques were torture, could the use of such techniques ever be justified? Just saying ‘no’ is not an argument.

Third, if the use of torture can be justified sometimes, no matter how rarely, was it justified in the case of the Guantanamo prisoners?

I hope to get my thoughts together over the weekend, and write something more substantial on Monday – normally my day off from the shop.

In the mean time, Ann Coulter has written a typically funny and pull-no-punches column about what she might call the CIA’s Fisher Price approach to interrogation, including the dreaded ‘Caterpillar.’

This involved putting a live caterpillar in the subject’s room. The horror! Although, as Ann notes, the effectiveness of this method was probably diminished by the refusal of Justice Department lawyers to allow interrogators to trick the terrorist into believing the caterpillar was a “stinging insect.”

Ann’s approach to this is entirely different from mine, but it makes refreshing reading after the loud, self-conscious, and complacent breast-beating of some liberal commentators and mainstream news outlets.

 Here’s an excerpt, but it is worth clicking the link above and reading the whole thing.

As the torments were gradually increased, next up the interrogation ladder came “walling.” This involves pushing the terrorist against a flexible wall, during which his “head and neck are supported with a rolled hood or towel that provides a C-collar effect to prevent whiplash.”

People pay to have a lot rougher stuff done to them at Six Flags Great Adventure. Indeed, with plastic walls and soft neck collars, “walling” may be the world’s first method of “torture” in which all the implements were made by Fisher-Price.

As the memo darkly notes, walling doesn’t cause any pain, but is supposed to induce terror by making a “loud noise”: “(T)he false wall is in part constructed to create a loud sound when the individual hits it, which will further shock and surprise.” (!!!)

If you need a few minutes to compose yourself after being subjected to that horror, feel free to take a break from reading now. Sometimes a cold compress on the forehead is helpful, but don’t let it drip or you might end up waterboarding yourself.

The CIA’s interrogation techniques couldn’t be more ridiculous if they were out of Monty Python’s Spanish Inquisition sketch:

“Cardinal! Poke her with the soft cushions! …
Hmm! She is made of harder stuff! Cardinal Fang! Fetch … THE COMFY CHAIR!

So you think you are strong because you can survive the soft cushions. Well, we shall see. Biggles! Put her in the Comfy Chair! …

Now — you will stay in the Comfy Chair until lunchtime, with only a cup of coffee at 11.”

Further up the torture ladder — from Guantanamo, not Monty Python — comes the “insult slap,” which is designed to be virtually painless, but involves the interrogator invading “the individual’s personal space.”

Just a couple of interesting gadgets.

The Sharkstopper is an accoustic shark repellent. It produces sound at a pitch sharks find uncomfortable, so they just swim away. That’s the idea, anyway.

If testing shows this is effective I can see the Sharkstopper being a big hit in Australia. There are about 12 shark attacks every year in Australia, and one fatal attack every five years, so it’s really not something to panic about. But that never stopped anyone.

Of course, even with one fatality every five  years, Australians are still more likely to die from a shark attack than Swine Flu. But not if you are wearing the Sharkstopper. Presumably.

The Jupiter Jack is a little device you plug into your mobile (cell) phone. It produces a short range FM radio signal which plays your caller’s voice through your car stereo. It is easier and cheaper than a bluetooth connection or traditional hands free kit. Another one of those simple (and cheap) ideas you see and wonder why no one thought of before.

The Jupiter Jack claims to work with any phone in any car. Not yet available in Australia. Bother.

It’s not quite as startling as it looks.

Bettina Arndt simply says what the Church has always said. That successful marriages are based on mutual respect, and consideration of each other’s needs.

When it comes to sex, this means that each partner must be conscious of and caring about the needs and desires of the other.

As time goes by in any marriage, one partner’s sexual desire will begin to wane before the other’s. Most often, but not always, the woman begins to feel less desire for sex before the man.

One of the achievements of the women’s movement has been a clear understanding that women always have the right to say no. What this has often meant in practice is that sex only happens when the woman wants it.

Some women say that as time goes by other aspects of the relationship become more important to them.

But Bettina points out that if they disregard their husband’s need for physical intimacy, or even worse, if they humiliate their husband by making him grovel for sex, or use their right to say no as a way to gain power in the relationship, then this will undermine care and respect to the point where there is neither trust nor affection, nor any meaningful intimacy of any sort.

Like any other aspect of a successful, respectful and caring marriage, the sexual relationship cannot be based on the desires and moods of only one partner. This means that both husband and wife need to be generous, considerate, and loving.

Here is an excerpt from Betttina Arndt’s article in the Canberra Times, based on her book The Sex Diaries:

It is quite possible for women and indeed for men to enjoy sex without desire. Research by Professor Rosemary Basson from British Columbia has shown many people can experience arousal and orgasm without prior desire. She explains that provided there’s a willingness to be receptive, the rest follows.

Once the canoe is in the water, everyone starts happily paddling. For couples to experience regular, pleasurable sex and sustain loving relationships women must get over that ideological roadblock of assumptions about desire and ”just do it”. The result will be both men and women will enjoy more, better sex.

The alternative is the status quo namely that the low-drive partner, usually the woman, controls the couple’s sexual frequency and meters out sexual favours only when it suits her. This leaves the man in the degrading situation of having to beg for sex, keeping her happy in the vague hope of getting some. But is that so different from the much maligned husband who controls the family purse strings, doling out pocket money to the little woman if and when it suits him?

Mutual respect and care, real communication and real partnership – in sex and in every other aspect of married life. Pretty much what the Church has always said:

The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer.
1 Corinthians 7:3-5

The body of 12 year old Brandi Allen was found by searchers yesterday afternoon. There was stil a chance, till then, that she had just gone off with a friend, or at least, that she was alive somewhere. She had been swept away by flood waters in Caboolture, North of Brisbane, on Monday.

My sister Stephanie was killed in a car accident at the same age, and that loss has stayed with me ever since.

My thoughts and prayers are with the Allen family.

That makes ten people killed in floods in Queensland in the last few months.

According to protestors at the G20, capitalism doesn’t work.

G20 Protestors - Captitalism Doesn’t Work

It certainly works better than anything else that has ever been tried.

It seems odd to me that people complain endlessly about the government, and then some of those very same people claim to want a system in which everything is run by the government, and everyone works for the government.

Of course it’s true that some people, and some parking meters, make obscene amounts of money. Sometimes markets are manipulated and the poor suffer. There will always need to be safety nets for people who cannot cope, or who are inveterately lazy.

But encouraging people to use their abilities to help themselves and those around them works. It is a way of doing things that has resulted in living conditions for most people around the globe – clean water, good food, access to education and medical care – that even royalty would have been envious of 200 years ago. And it has enabled the building of a world community in which it is possible to respond to disasters and other great needs quickly and generously.

But the protestors are right – another world is possible. A cold, dark, hungry world. Like North Korea.

Korean Peninsula by Night

Now that’s a question.

We were all there when he was crucified. Every person who has ever lived and ever will live. Our cruel words are lashes on his back, our contempt for others the spit in his face, our self-righteousness the nails in his hands.

Rolling Stone Tomb in Israel

But were you there when he rose? Because if you were, you have a choice. You can go back to fishing, or whatever your daily life was. But that is a kind of death, slow coming though it may be.

Or you can be a witness to what you have seen, what you know. You can be part of something bigger. You can share in the purpose for which all things were made. You can have real life, everlasting life.

You can be a new creation, healed, sins forgiven. You can be part of the same family as Mary Magdalene, Peter and Paul and all the faithful men and women through the ages.

You can say in your life and words: Christ is risen!

He is risen indeed!

This report from a minor Australian paper is headlined ‘Home Births Still Safe, Says Expert.’ It quotes Professor Michael Chapman, who is director of women’s and babies’ health at the St George and Sutherland hospitals. But that is not exactly what he said.

What he said was that St George Hospital had run a successful home birth service for the last two years. He also said that home births made up about only 1.5% of the total births associated with the hospital, and that the home birth option was only available where the birth was assessed by medical staff as low risk. Home births always took place with qualified personnel present, and with the hospital as a backup in case of any problems.

This kind of moderate approach is the exact opposite of the mindless rejection of Western medicine promoted by organisations like Joyous Birth.

Birth is a natural process. It is also a dangerous process. As many as one in ten women died in childbirth prior to the development of modern obstetric care, and infant mortality rates were some twenty times higher. See this Los Angeles record for just one example of the dramatic change in infant mortality rates in the mid 20th Century.

It may be in part the coldness and technicality of hospital maternity care that makes some women feel so alienated and confused about hospital births. Hospitals need to ensure warm human care and continuity of care during the birthing process, active involvement of women and their partners in choices about care and birthing options, clear communication about the risks of each of those options, and about what is happening at each stage of pregnancy and birth, so that the mother does not feel like an object or an optional extra.

However, with the facts on the massively better outcomes for mothers and babies with proper medical care so clear, it is almost criminally negligent to have a child without any medical advice, or to encourage others to do the same.

I feel deeply sorry for Janet Fraser. The loss of a child at any time is a deeply, horrifyingly painful thing. Her experience ought not to be an opportunity for gloating by her opponents.

But as Andrew Bolt points out, it may be an opportunity for learning, and for better outcomes for others.

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