Monday, October 31, 2005
Friday, October 28, 2005
We utterly deny all outward wars and strife and fighting with outward weapons for any end or under any pretense whatsoever; this is our testimony to the whole world. The Spirit of Christ by which we are guided is not changeable, so as once to command us from a thing of evil and again to move us into it; and we certainly know and testify to the world that the Spirit of Christ which leads us into all truth will never move us to fight and war against any man with outward weapons, neither for the Kingdom of Christ nor for the kingdoms of this world...therefore we cannot learn war anymore.
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Next Tuesday is the first Tuesday in November and it's on again - they'll be racing at Flemington in the Melbourne Cup. Now, it is not clear yet how many Federal politicians will be absent from Canberra and on the lawns or in the bars at Flemington. Initially, it was said that the government's IR bill would face the vote on Melbourne Cup day. That suggestion has now been scotched and it is suggested that the Anti-Terror laws will hit the legislature then. Now bet whichever way you like but it seems that the safest bet is to agree with Michelle Grattan about the indecent haste of it all.
When workplace disputes are at a low and reasonable level, the Prime Minister throws the hand-grenade of ideologically based legislation which polarises the community. When the spirit of the times demands more than ever that we throw our weight behind freedom and democracy, John Howard and his cronies are asking us to trust him as he moves to curtail our freedoms in a most severe and undemocratic and non-transparent way. This is good government? I don't think so.
"There's a graveyard in northern France where all the dead boys from D-Day are buried. The white crosses reach from one horizon to the other. I remember looking it over and thinking it was a forest of graves. But the rows were like this, dizzying, diagonal, perfectly straight, so after all it wasn't a forest but an orchard of graves. Nothing to do with nature, unless you count human nature." ~ Barbara Kingsolver, Novelist.
- Approximately 2,000 US military personnel have died in Iraq.
- Nearly as many as were killed on 9/11.
- This does not include military personnel from other nations
- Nor does it include the horrific deaths of hostages
- Nor does it include the horrific deaths of civilians.
- Check out Gideon Polya's blog on avoidable mortality. You mightn't like it. You might think he comes on a bit strong, maybe a bit extreme. But t-h-i-n-k about it. Who keeps count of civilians? Who keeps count of those who don't need to die? Gideon does.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
There is a phrase about to get wider currency. It is "cultural exception". What is cultural exception? Free trade agreements are in increasing use. Australia, in the last year or two, has negotiated a free trade agreement with the USA and is involved in trying to establish one with China. Despite free trade being the name of the game in the contemporary international economy, many members of the World Trade Organization assert a right to limit cross-border trade in the interest of national cultural sovereignty. Unfortunately, there is virtually no evidence of interest by Australia in asserting its national cultural sovereignty. It would rather put lamb chops on the table of American citizens than go into bat for its own culture or intellectual property. On the basis of cultural exception, Canada has tried to regulate the sale of American periodicals. France has tried to limit the dominance of American films and protect its French film industry. Reflecting contending interpretations of intellectual property rights, some developing states have opposed as cultural appropriation the commercialization of local botanical knowledge by foreign pharmaceutical firms ("bioprospecting"). Some nations - well, let's be blunt, it's mainly the USA - view cultural exception as a thinly disguised form of protectionism.
France has struggled to get cultural exception recognised and accepted on the international trade agenda. It got a boost when joined in the struggle by Canada. Is it only a co-incidence that Canada has a significant Francophone population? As of the last week, France and Canada have just got a heap of friends and they have got them together with the assistance of UNESCO (the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation). See here for UNESCO's definition of the application of cultural exception.
Last weekend, the nations of the world voted on cultural exception. More than 150 of the 191 member states of UNESCO voted to approve The Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions to protect cultural diversity. The USA and Israel - who have only recently rejoined UNESCO after lengthy absences - voted against the convention. Gutless Australia who won't stand up for itself and certainly won't go against the USA in the form of the Bush Administration abstained along with poor Kiribati - whose main interest is to seek a place for itself in the world as increasing sea-levels (caused by the global warming which Bush and Howard & Co. deny/ignore) threaten to swamp their island nation.
The US is feeling quite frustrated about this. No links here but search the net and you will find the outpouring there by the bucketload. How dare someone not want open slather for US movies! The hypocrisy of the United States is endless. It protects its own and wants open slather for themselves. But Aussies remember. They remember well how Rupert Murdoch had to take out US citizenship in 1985 to comply with that country's media ownership laws.!
Rosa Parks is dead. For those who think they can do nothing to bring about change, Rosa Parks is an example to us all. Rosa Parks was the black woman who refused to give up her seat for a white man. A simple thing - but it brought in its wake a revolution. Rosa was a member of a black activist organisation - perhaps, it could be said, no more than a foot-soldier in what she could contribute. She had taken the first step in activism in joing an organisation of like-minded people. Her spirit was in the right place and space when courage was demanded - a courage to go against the norms set by the community in which she lived. Just as we remember Jesus turning the tables in the Temple in Jerusalem and its meaning over 2,000 years for Christian social activism, we remember Rosa's action on a bus and what it has meant over almost fifty years for non-violent social activism in the USA and around the world.
John Schumann is back. He of Redgum and I Was Only 19. He is back and he has brought Henry Lawson with him on his latest album Lawson. He has so many of our best loved musos with him - The Pigram Brothers, Russell Morris, Shane Howard, and Marcia Howard among others. Back to the tradition and give it a future. Thanks guys!
I have not been an employee for nearly four years - due to ill health. Being out of action and, what some would consider, over the hill, made me think I would never see the inside of corporate Australia again. Then things in my family took some turns and I wanted to take the stress off a family member around whom much revolves. So into www.seek.com.au I went and made a few applications. Most did not get responses - but one came back. I tested and within a week they were back with a job offer of two weeks temp work. I didn't know if I'd make it. I thought I'd probably curl up for a nap at 2 o'clock or just keel over. None of this happened. My family promised to keep me vertical. This they did. At night, I would be so exhausted. This was not only the day's work but an hour's travel either side of the day. When I got to the end of two weeks without keeling over or curling up for a daily nap and people seemed to be happy with my work, I felt like I had climbed Everest. I was then a week without work and had another week last week. I am not working this week because I have a couple of doctors' appointments to attend to.
I enjoyed my workplaces. Each was interesting and full of nice people. The skills are still operable. It was great to be back in the CBD again - especially the Paris end of Collins Street. Please God, there will be more to come.
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
And this brings me to the matter of a certain hidden subsidy for business - redundancy. Employers can make decisions to 'down-size' their workforce. Some employees in these circumstances have accesss to quite reasonable redundancy provisions. Most employees do not. Standard redundancy provisions are quite miserly.
What this means in practice is that business can throw its employees on the economic scrap heap by 'down-sizing'; pay next to nothing to employees to cushion the blow; and rely on tax-payer funded welfare schemes to pick up the pieces. Business reliance on tax-payer funded welfare schemes galls me. Business expects the tax-payer to foot the bill for something in which the tax-payer has no decision making capacity. Can you imagine if the boot was on 'tother foot? This means that 'down-sizing' is subsidised by government and the taxpayer: in other words this form of taxpayer funded welfare also becomes business welfare.
Monday, October 17, 2005
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
This has come to me from jonny baker's blog who got it from howies. I think it is wonderful. I try, I do try - and I am trying really hard via my ebay store Buy the Buy (link of the sidebar).
Depending on that nest egg called occupational superanuation? Don't trust the proposed industrial relations legislation to protect it for you.
The year started with the effects of the Tsunami. The year has seen Hurricanes Katrina and Stan and now 30,000 dead in Pakistan and Kashmir. This is on top of what is happening as civilians are murdered in the War on Terror, Sudan, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Climate change, global warming, and sinful lifestyles have all been targeted as blame is apportioned.
There seems to be one simple message to be had in all of this – and that is to do better for and by humanity.
A recent UN summit in New York has produced mixed results for poverty. Let’s get some real work done and take twelve months out of everyone’s plans and focus on what people need.
Let’s call a twelve month truce on war, corruption, racism, racial cleansing, discrimination. Let’s use the money that all these negatives cost to build infrastructure which will benefit economies, education, health, community services and overall human and social capital in communities. Let the government contracts involved not be given to cronies and favourites but to communities to build skills and experience so they can be given true ownership of their own resources.
If you read this blog and agree with it, please leave a comment and spread the word. Feel free to copy this post and declare a Moratorium for Humanity.
Bail-up Barnaby is at it again. The Voluntary Student Unionism vote may not occur. My prediction that Barnaby Joyce would vote for the Telstra bill proved correct. Predicting Barnaby's vote is not so simple this time.
- The Nationals, particularly the Queensland Nats, are concerned about the outcome for regional universities.
- The majority of Liberals have an immovable ideological stance on this which seems to centre on a hatred for the word 'union' - so watch out Mothers' Union of the Anglican Church, various debating unions and so on.
- There was great time pressure on the Telstra bill which appears not be so great on this issue.
- The pressure brought about negotiations which the Nationals could use as a cop out when voting for the Telstra bill. There are no negotiated settlements in site on this one - yet.
The Nationals are unlikely - even it is only one of them - to go against their major coalition partner. However, this could turn out to be an issue - like unfair dismissal laws were for a long time - on which the government gives every appearance of trying with but will, in the end, not go to the barricades on. It will wait. Watch Ron Boswell. His message in support of the Government was quite clear in the beginning, the middle, and the end of the Telstra debate - and it didn't change. He too is a Queensland National like Barnaby. The difference is he has a leadership role. Barnaby was turned loose like an attack dog by the Queensland Nats. The virtuous populist new boy as opposed to the responsible, experienced Boswell. Let's see if the Nats can get a price for Barnaby's vote this time. The rate of exchange may not be anywhere near the same.
Archbishop Peter Jensen, of the Anglican Archdiocese of Sydney, spoke out at Synod at the weekend on the proposed industrial relations changes. He said that suggestions that new industrial relations reforms were about making ‘Sunday the new Monday’ earned a stern warning. “If this is a consequence of the new legislation there won’t be time for relationships - and that’s what life is about, not merely the economy.”
These statements are much appreciated in support of working families. Just they're fifteen years too late. Clearly, the Archbishop, like John Howard, is not aware of the great and significant changes that have occurred in the workplace over the last fifteen years with the trade-offs firstly of the Second Tier, then Award Restructuring and Enterprise Bargaining. Where was the church when retail trading hours and liquor licensing hours were being extended? Where was the church when seven day weeks and fourteen days on and seven days off were being negotiated?
I was a union official when the Full Bench of the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission was going up and down the state holding hearings into an application for seven day trading in the retail sector. The system was quite simple. Anyone could walk off the street and say their piece to the Commission. The church was conspicuous by its absence - with one exception: a Catholic priest in Cairns. I came to the conclusion that the church clearly thought it only represented middle class white collar workers. It was so divorced from workplace reality. Then I wonder how many practising Christians (let's not mention the not-so-practising Christians) including those wonderful evangelical puritans of the Diocese of Sydney regularly go shopping on Sundays at their local shopping mall?
This time the Catholic Church makes sense with its spokesman John Ryan. John Ryan was a good and reasonable bloke when I used to deal with him in Queensland some years ago when he acted on behalf of Catholic Church employers. He seems just as reasonable to-day when he speaks for the Australian Catholic Commission for Employment Relations. Other denominations: please take note.
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
I have just listened to a delightful interview with Chester Porter QC on Radio National's program, Life Matters. It was about his book, The Gentle Art of Persuasion. He pointed out that defeating someone in argument - no matter how brilliant or flashy - was not the same as persuasion, as changing a person's mind by persuasive argument. He also believes in the transparency of argument.
He used as an illustration the arguments on both sides of the Federal Government's proposed industrial relations changes. He says that one thing the government is not saying is that it has the intention by this legislation of doing away with the trade union movement. He wondered if this was what Australians really wanted? Chester has retired from the Sydney Bar - well, he has his life membership - and his book ought to be well worth a read. Are you listening Santa? I would like this in my stocking please.
This and the following message came through the email from my friend Jacqui in Brisbane:
The federal government's proposed voluntary student unionism (VSU) legislation will effectively sound the death knell for university sport in Australia (along with just about every other service offered by student organisations). On Sunday night, federal education minister Dr Brendon Nelson called in to the North Ryde Hockey field to watch his daughter play. The match that had just ended featured Macquarie University and UTS. Bad timing Brendan. *smile for the camera* Keep writing to your MP's. VSU has NOT been passed just yet.
Saturday, October 08, 2005
Queen's College Rifle team winners of the Intercollegiate Trophy in 1913. All 5 men shown in the photo enlisted, and between them were awarded two MCs (Military Crosses), a DSO (Distinguished Service Order), and a MM (Military Medal). The Intercollegiate Rifle Competition was not revived after the war and Queen's still retains the trophy shield.
It makes one wonder. Did these nameless young men return from World War I? If they came back, were they and the people associated with Queen's and its competitors too war weary and tired of shouldering rifles to carry on a competition in the shadow of a costly, horrifying and saddening war? I wonder....
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Monday, October 03, 2005
titusonline has posted on assisted death. I support legalisation of euthanasia. I do so for the same reason as I support early term abortion. I don't like hypocrisy and coverups. Whether euthanasia or abortion are permitted by law, they occur. Society might want to deny it, walk by on the other side. But both these terminations of life occur. While these do not happen in a transparent manner there remains the possibility of wrong doing and corruption and the horrendous results and trauma of bungled attempts. I do not wish human hurt to be added to by criminalisation.
Public policy - and this seems to escape a lot of people - is not the same as private choice. I do not choose either euthanasia nor abortion in terms of my own life choices. I have given my life to God. I trust him with it - and I hope and expect to do so until my death by his grace.
Evidence of this has been seen in my own family. My husband, who was not a church-going Christian, died peacefully from a brain tumour and without the technical intervention which is so often part of modern dying. In recent times, my daughter was with me as I visited a cousin living interstate - dying of lung cancer - whom I had not seen for years. Through the help of modern practices she was able to sit up with her family and with us. We talked and laughed like a party was going on. Two and half days later she slipped into unconsciousness and died within 24 hours. My daughter remarked how fortunate our family was in the manner of its dying.
This is not the case for all - whether of faith or not. A faithfilled life does not mean a painless one. Not all people have chosen the walk of complete trust in God. There is, however, no reason why a modern pluralist society cannot give consideration to them in the name of God and of humanity.
Sunday, October 02, 2005
I have previously posted on the attempted suicide of John Brogden. Now news has emerged that his suicide note may have been copied and circulated to become the talk of the NSW Parliament. Maurice Iemma needs to investigate and explain the situation. I am no Liberal. I am neither a Liberal Party member nor am I a Liberal Party voter but I weep for Brogden and his family. Why did a bright young man end up like this? What did this man do which was of such magnitude that it deserved treatment of this magnitude?
I have previously posted on the Australian ethos. It would appear that the NSW Police Force and the NSW Parliament has sold the ideal of a fair go down the drain. What an example to our nation! So there is now a trinity of tears for Brogden, his family - and my poor country with its political ugliness.
Saturday, October 01, 2005
I posted over on John Quiggin's blog re Paul's articles mentioned below. I was a bit puzzled by a paleontologist's foray into social/religious research and wondered how good the research was - so I wanted a second opinion. I got a worthwhile opinion from Neil here. I replicate it below for your interest and edification.
Neil Says: October 1st, 2005 at 2:02 pm
The research isn’t earth-shattering, so far as I can see. Yes, Paul is a paleontologist – a free-lance one at that. Nevertheless, his work in his own area seems respectable (perhaps better than respectable – it’s hard to tell from outside). The Journal of Religion and Society is refereed, but fairly low in the pecking order.
Paul’s aim is fairly limited: he calls it a preliminary study, and that seems fair enough. He aims only to establish a correlation between religious belief and various social indicators. He finds that across the Western world, homicide, rates of abortion and STDs, and health statistics. The problem that Paul simply sets aside is that correlation does not establish causation, and that therefore there may be some third factor at work, and also that the set of data is not really big enough to be sure that what we’re seeing isn’t an artifact.
I don’t think Paul has shown (or claimed to have shown) that religious belief causes social ills. He has, however, done something valuable: that there is little evidence for the virulent meme that the opposite is true: that decline in belief causes immorality. The best we can say for the research is that it helps shift the burden of proof on this particular debate toward the ‘religion is good for morality’ camp.
I loved this. It has come via Keith.
A Minneapolis couple decided to go to Florida to thaw out during a particularly icy winter. They planned to stay at the same hotel where they spent their honeymoon 20 years earlier. Because of hectic schedules, the husband left Minnesota and flew to Florida on Thursday, with his wife flying down the following day.
The husband checked into the hotel. There was a computer in his room, so he decided to send to send an e-mail to his wife. However, he accidentally left out one letter in her e-mail address and, without realising his error, sent the e-mail.
Meanwhile, somewhere in Houston, a widow had just returned home from her husband’s funeral. He was a minister who had a heart attack and died. The widow decided to check her e-mail, expecting messages from relatives and friends. After reading the first message, she screamed and fainted. The widow’s son rushed into the room and saw the computer screen which read:
To: My Loving WifeSubject: I’ve arrivedDate: October 16, 2004
I know you’re surprised to hear from me. They have computers here now and you are allowed to send e-mails to your loved ones. I’ve just arrived and have been checked in. I see that everything has been prepared for your arrival tomorrow. Looking forward to seeing you then! Hope your journey is as uneventful as mine was.
P.S. Sure is hot down here!
I have long been a Ship of Fools fan.
Although I have never really forgiven them for withdrawing the doings of the Diocese of Foulness. Churches live in dread of the Mystery Worshipper turning up and sitting in judgment on the welcome, the coffee, the sermon and the songs. And if you want to make your selection of kitsch Christian gifts just drop by here. But if you get really lost for words when looking for that classic or ultimate putdown look no futher - try the Biblical Curse Generator. Certain to give satisfaction.
Phillip Aspinall, Archbishop of Brisbane was installed as Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia on Thursday, 29 September, the Feast of St Michael and All Angels, in Brisbane's St John's Cathedral. Archbishop Phillip's sermon can be read here. He listed twelve dragons to beware of:
We are reminded that Christians are custodians of an alternative vision of what it means to be human. A vision of a meaningful, satisfying, fulfilling way to live.