Polls excoriate Bush, Britney, praise Bush, Oprah

Only in America can you have a poll like this:

Biggest Villain of 2006:
1. George W. Bush (25%)
2. Osama Bin Laden (8%)
3. Saddam Hussein (6%)

Biggest Hero of 2006:
1. George W. Bush (13%)
2. American Troops in Iraq (6%)
3. Jesus (3%)

Worst Celebrity Role model of 2006:
1. Britney Spears (29%)
2. Paris Hilton (18%)
3. Mel Gibson (12%)

Best Celebrity Role model of 2006:
1. Oprah Winfrey (29%)
2. Michael J. Fox (23%)
3. George Clooney (12%)


Some surprising Cricket Trivia

Matthew Hoggard has now taken 235 Test wickets. Two more and he will be 6th on the all-time wicket taking list for England.

Glenn McGrath has been not out 50 times while batting for Australia. The next highest on Australia's list is Steve Waugh with 46.

Brett Lee is Australia's most uneconomical bowler. He's taken 225 wickets but averages 3.57 runs per over. In Australia's test history, only two other players who have taken 10 wickets or more are more uneconomical - Simon Katich (12 wickets at 33.83, rpo 3.69) and Jo Angel (10 wickets at 46.30, rpo 3.71).

Gerald Ford wouldn't have invaded Iraq

Describing his own preferred policy toward Saddam Hussein's Iraq, Ford said he would not have gone to war, based on the publicly available information at the time, and would have worked harder to find an alternative. "I don't think, if I had been president, on the basis of the facts as I saw them publicly," he said, "I don't think I would have ordered the Iraq war. I would have maximized our effort through sanctions, through restrictions, whatever, to find another answer."

- Washington Post


When trouble comes, victory needs an accountant

Stuart Clark, Australian pace bowler, is currently studying a Masters in Commerce degree. When he completes his career for Australia, he says he will study Law.

Look at the current Australian team. What sort of vocations do you think these guys would have if not for cricket? McGrath would be a safe cracker; Warne would be a confidence trickster, slamming his mansion door on cameras and reporters who have exposed his wrongdoings; Lee would be a surfboard wielding Wall Street stockbroker making massive gains and massive losses; Michael Clark would be an actor on Neighbours; Hayden would be an aging bodybuilder.

Stuart Clark? He would crunch numbers every morning and afternoon and get excited about new changes to income tax laws. He would think fondly of his Professional Year and would be cynical about anyone who claimed to be a CPA.

To me, the measure of a player's worth is his consistency. Don't just look at the times when a player excels - look at the times when he is working in the background.

Clark's current Ashes campaign looks brilliant - at this moment in time (after day 1 of the 4th Test) he has taken 18 wickets at 17.88, an economy rate of 2.26 runs per over and a strike rate of one wicket every 47.4 balls. However, it's his consistent performance that needs to be lauded here:


These are not the performances of a man who will single-handedly win a test. However, they are the performances of a man who assists others. He acts in the background, receiving praise from everyone who sees him play but is never on the podium receving man of the match awards.

This used to be Jason Gillespie's role - except that Gillespie never had figures like these. When Clark ambles in he does not strike fear into the hearts of opposition batsmen, and nor is he a target of crowd attention - the Barmy Army ignore him, the Aussie supporters walk away to buy a beer.

If Clark was a batsman, he would be accused of "playing for his average". At the end of each innings, you could imagine Clark looking at his figures and doing the calculations to see whether he is still averaging under 20, and how many runs have been taken off him.

For statistically-minded cricket tragics like myself, Clark is a welcome antithesis to the blond-haired anti-tank cannon that is Brett Lee. Lee is a showman - his wickets are exciting and his joy is unparalleled, coming as welcome relief from the boundaries that get hit off his overs. Clark is similarly overjoyed when he takes a wicket, but his celebrations look more like an end of financial year party attended by the boring and mundane who have had one too many glasses of shandy. Lee's wickets are a celebration of life in the midst of death; Clark's wickets are merely entries on the ledger, occasionally highlighted in yellow and admired by the green-inked scrawlings of auditors.

Deadly yet predictable

Yet another bunch of Nigerians get burned to death from an exploding pipeline. Horrible? Yes. Predictable? Yes, sadly.


The incredible Evangelical exploding brain technique

Why is it that Evangelical Christians are often depicted as being close-minded, ignorant and prone to herd mentality? Perhaps it is because it is true... broadly speaking that is.

I just read, yet again, the Jack Chick tract "Dark Dungeons" - an evangelistic comic written in 1984 that exposes the great evil inherent in satanic games like Dungeons and Dragons and ends with a gospel invitation.

I'll start off with the positive. Chick's presentation of the Gospel in the final page is spot on. Although it is obvious that the guy is a KJV-only-er, anyone who reads that presentation of the gospel and who prays that prayer will be converted. As an evangelical myself I concur with everything that Chick says on the final page of the tract.

That's the good news. Now the bad.

The basic thrust of "Dark Dungeons" is that Dungeons and Dragons is part of a satanic conspiracy. Players are unwittingly involving themselves in witchcraft and pagan rituals to try to get them "further up" into a hidden world of evil people trying to win the world for the devil. The books, dice and other items are actually real magical items and deserve to be burned (Acts 19.19).

My problem with this is obvious - none of it is true.

Not 6 feet away from me is a box containing al my D & D stuff from high school. I still have the Players Handbook, the Monster Manual, the Dungeon Master's Guide, Deities and Demigods, Unearthed Arcana and others (all 1st edition). Even back in the early 1980s when I was playing it, I knew that there was nothing terribly anti-Christian about it. Sure, there were certain temptations (I would've loved for my characters to meet a Sylph), but there was nothing satanic in it at all.

I'm saying all this because I've just read a commentary of the Chick tract (profanity warning) from a non-Christian who has played enough D & D to know. Chick's dedication to a completely off-the-wall understanding of D & D has not been a good witness to say the least.

But Chick's tract is merely a part of a wider problem within Evanglical Christianity - the propensity to embrace urban myths, rumours, innuendo and even outright lies as fact is a recurring problem. Consider the following examples:

1. There are hidden covens of Satan worshippers who are sacrificing and sexually abusing children and praying against churches.
2. A Christian picks up a hitch-hiker in his car who sits in the back. After a rather strange conversation the man says "Jesus is coming soon" and disappears. The Christian then realises that he has "entertained an angel".
3. J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter books, publically states that she wrote the books to spread witchcraft and satanism around the world.

Evangelicals have probably heard these three examples in their church life. Certainly I have been told by earnest, wide-eyed Christians of the first two. The problem? None of them are true. They are just rumours (1), urban myths (2) and deliberate satire (3).

Between 1990 and 2001, Americans who stated that they had "no religion" on their census forms rose from 8.4% to 15.0%. Contrary to the claims of triumphalist Evangelicals who rein in thousands to their megachurches and millions of dollars to their ministries, America is turning against God and Christian belief. American evangelicals are willing to place the blame anywhere - the ACLU, the Democratic Party, Hilary Clinton, Hollywood, even Soy Beans. Instead, the blame should be placed firmly amongst evangelicals themselves.

How many times can the sexual and financial sins of evangelical leaders continue before unbelievers take notice? Think back to the 1980s when Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggert were put through the public wringer. Now Ted Haggard has gone through it. These public spectacles damage the credibility of the church and give the impression that evangelicals are quite good at telling the rest of the world what to do but are themselves unable to do it. Did I say "give the impression"? Sorry, I meant to say "show beyond reasonable doubt".

In the early church, Christians were called atheists and baby killers by the Roman pagans. Of course such accusations were wrong. These days Christians are more likely to be labeled as "ignorant hypocrites" - and there is much truth in this statement.

Evangelicals should stop blaming everyone else and realise that they themselves are the cause of the problem. Moreover, they should take time to realise that God himself is communicating this to them by the criticisms from the world.

As an evangelical myself I am fairly ambivalent towards the ungodly behaviour exhibited by "unbelievers." I spent five months teaching in country NSW recently and was exposed to all sorts of drunken revelry, marriage breakdowns and vicious gossip exhibited by non-Christian teachers. Am I concerned about this behaviour? Yes of course, but I know that these people are unbelievers - they are only doing what comes naturally to them. Moreover, I know that any attempt by me to confront or change their behaviour will be met with incredulity and resistance. As an evangelical, I know that it is only by the Spirit of God that a person can change their thinking and behaviour to become more in line with that of God - and that this process can only occur with a clear and unambigious communication of the Gospel of Christ. Rather than lecturing these people on their sins, we should tell them about Jesus.

Yet if those in my church exhibited the same sinful behaviour, my reaction would be much harsher. The church is the place in which Christians are able to regulate, model and promote godly behaviour. Sin, especially major sins like sexual immorality, violence or greed, should be addressed where possible in the church. Although I don't expect perfection, I do expect Christians to at least fight against their sins and work hard against them - as opposed to keeping these sins hidden away somewhere and putting on a mask of godliness (like Ted Haggard and Jimmy Swaggert did).

Unbelievers see our lives. If we are hypocritical and ignorant, they will easily dismiss Christianity as worse than useless. Any cursory reading of the Bible will show that ignorance and hypocrisy are not virtues that should be embraced.

From the Theosalient Department

© 2006 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/

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This is probably one of the better Christmases I've experienced. Since I only arrived back home on Friday, I was only exposed to the full Christmas consumerism for a few days.

My main present was an iRiver T30. I selected this brand because of its ability to play ogg sound files (since I am unreasonably committed to free open source software). One problem with the player is that it is designed to plug into computers using Windows XP while someone like me runs Kubuntu. The upshot of the problem is that it takes a rather long time to download music files to the player. Nevertheless, it works well enough for me to be happy. It would've been nicer to have more than 1gb - and have enough to have my entire CD collection (12.8gb) but there's no flash-memory mp3 players of that size yet (no moving parts is good).

Ah... December 26. The most wondrous day of the year. Apart from the cricket, Christmas is 364 days away!

Oh... Anna got Kinetic Combat for the PS2 while Aiden got lots of pirate toys.


I'm home

Left Griffith at around 6.00am and arrived back in Newcastle just after 3.00pm. It was a good trip - I gave a lift to a teacher's daughter's boyfriend who actually turned out to be a Christian who attends "Smokin!" Barney's at Broadway. We had lunch at the Scottish restaurant at Sally's Corner and half way through Peter Hughes walks in. Peter is some big wig at AFES these days and he and I were on MTS together back in 1994-95, so it was good to catch up. His kids are named Calvin and Kia "A Reformer and a car" he explained.

It's great to be back with the family. Aiden and Lillian jumped all over me when I got home. Lillian is so grown up now (she turns two in March) and helped me unpack the car.



On Saturday my letter to the Herald stated that 50% of Griffith were migrants. Wrong wrong wrong. 2001 Census figures show that Griffith's migrant population is 16.8% of the population, which is actually lower than the Australian average of 21.9%.

But there are some notable differences. 24.9% of households in Griffith speak a language other than English. This means that Griffith migrants are not English speakers and that even some Australian-born people speak another language at home (it's the Italians).

Tamworth's 2001 census figures are also notable. This country town has only 4.9% of people born overseas - and most of them are from England, Scotland and New Zealand. Moreover, 94.9% of Tamworth residents speak English at home.

And my letter may have communicated the idea that everything is peachy here in the multicultural utopia of Griffith. Far from it. But it is, to my mind, a very successful multicultural town.


1 week to go

... before I go back home to Newcastle. For those who don't know, I'll be returning to Newcastle and trying to find work there. I had hoped to bring Anna and the kids here to Griffith, but Judy, Anna's mum, is very sick and we need to stay in the Hunter.

If you can, please pray that I can get work. Anna has 3 days per week guaranteed at Centrelink but we would both prefer it if I work and she stays home looking after the kids. I've just applied for a teaching position which I won't get but I suppose it's important to try.

I got a Christmas card from one of my students the other day. It's notable because she's a Turkish Muslim.

Some teachers are being farwelled this weekend at a party at one of the local clubs, including me. I've had a good time here at Griffith High School. If I ever needed confirmation that I was an effective teacher and could make it in a hard school then these past few months have been worth it. It has been hard yakka but it has ultimately been rewarding.

It has also interesting being a "bachelor" again and not having wife and kids around - it has certainly had its advantages but I would rather stay with my family any day.

I have a letter in tomorrow's Sydney Morning Herald about Tamworth and its rejection of Sudanese refugees. One of the other teachers here is a guy called Kevin Farrell who often gets letters into the Herald and has inspired me to return to my letter writing.

Hopefully I'll also return to more regular blogging. It has been very difficult to blog and get emails here in Griffith. Today, for some reason, I can sit at the desk in the staffroom and blog but on other days I can't.

What will I miss about Griffith? The Spaghetti Campagnola from Belevedere's restaurant; the very short drive from school to home; the teachers I have made friends with, especially Shannon, Naomi, Venessa, Sally, Murray and Katie; Five of my year 9 students - Dean, Carla, Trent, Kimberley and Matthew - who were very entertained by my "stories" and worked hard when needed; the lack of traffic lights; the brothers and sisters at Griffith Presbyterian whom I never really got to know too well; Mrs Pascoe, one of the parents of a year 7 student, who appreciated my input; the long drives to Rankins Springs, Ivanhoe and Cobram.

What will I not miss about Griffith? The desert heat; the flies; the mozzies who are even now breeding in the pool of water outside our house; kids who couldn't give a damn; the taste of the town water supply; the lack of a Thai restaurant; the lack of trees; the lack of doctors; the lack of adequate funding for public education; the traffic down Banna avenue; going shopping and bumping into students you were yelling at 60 minutes beforehand; the lack of channel 10; kids who truant class and go swimming in the irrigation channels and return to school with wet undies; and, of course, being away from Anna, Aiden and Lillian for such a long time.



England opening batsman Marcus Trescothick has flown home. The injury? Not a hamstring, not a broken hand, not a groin injury but stress. This is a man who has scored nearly 6000 runs in Test cricket at the very creditable average of 43.79. This is a man whose performances were critical to England's winning the Ashes in 2005. When called upon, he has also captained his team with distinction. Along with all this success he has the financial rewards that most of us will never attain.

This episode should remind us all that stress and depression are real diseases that have real consequences for those who suffer from them. The debilitating effects of a wounded psyche can often be more harmful than broken bones or pulled muscles. People can't just "snap out of it" - they need medication and the input of health professionals if they are to deal with their condition effectively.

We might think that only "losers" can suffer from this disease - yet here is an accomplished and respected sportsman whose entire playing future is now in doubt.


This is a letter I wrote which was published in last Saturday's Sydney Morning Herald. Last night I was watching the Fox Sports show "The Back Page" with Peter FitzSimons and Mike Gibson and others. They had a lengthy discussion about Trescothick and the effects of depression. They then showed the letter immediately before mine from the Herald and discussed it. Virtually everything they were talking about was pretty much lifted from my letter. Cool!


Ted Haggard

One of America's most important and powerful Christian leaders, Ted Haggard, has been accused of seeing a male prostitute.

If true, this is a shocking situation. Haggard is the President of the National Association of Evangelicals and is probably one step down from James Dobson as America's best known evangelical leader.

It has been reported for many years that Haggard was an Open Theist. I was always uncomfortable with his leadership because of this - not to mention his relationship with George W. Bush.

In response to these allegations, Haggard has voluntarily stepped down from all his leadership positions until the matter has been sorted out. This should not be interpreted as an admission of guilt, since I would probably do the same thing if I was innocent of such charges.

We should pray that he relies upon the goodness of the sovereign Lord.


V. Busy

Hence the lack of posts...

I know that the blog template needs changing as well.


A Republican rout?

Back in 1994, the US Republican party managed to rout the Democrats in the midterm elections. According to the Wikipedia article on the subject, the Republicans picked up 54 seats in the House of Representatives, and 8 Senate seats of the 35 contested. It was a famous political victory.

Now fast forward to the present. The Republicans have controlled the House of Representatives ever since 1994.

If the current polls are to be believed, the Democrats are about to re-take the House of Representatives for the first time since 1994, and maybe even the Senate (The Senate was tied 50-50 in 2000, with Al Gore being able to break the tie if need be for the Democrats). My belief is that, barring any more October surprises, the Democrats may completely rout their political opponents in both houses of congress.

Back in 1994, only 44.8% of voters voted for the Democrats, while 51.5% of voters voted for the Republicans. If the polls are to be believed, only 35% of voters will vote Republican this time around. The last time Republicans were reduced to around one-third of the popular vote was in the congressional elections of 1974, where anti-Nixon sentiment led to a 49 seat increase to the Democrats (who ended up with a massive two-thirds majority in the House).

So back in 1974 the Democrats gained 49 seats, while in 1994 the Republicans gained 54 seats. To repeat their 1974 victory, the Democrats would have to win 90 seats. Anything is possible, but I think that gaining 90 seats would be very unlikely. Nevertheless I would like to predict that this midterm election will result not just in a swing to the Democrats, and not just a Democrat-controlled House, but also be considered in the same league as 1974 and 1994 in being a "turning point".

From the One Salient Overlord Department

© 2006 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/

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Year 12 not for everybody

Craig Emerson, a Federal Labor backbencher, has recently called to make year 12 compulsary for students.

In summary, it's a bad idea with a good premise.

Emerson has obviously realised that there is a direct relationship between a person's completion of year 12 and their overall standard of living as they get older. Obviously, a person who has a year 12 certificate is more likely to find work, more likely to be paid a higher wage, and more likely to find or keep employment during economic downturns (they have more alternatives to find work). The Master Builders Association (MBA) of the ACT has backed Emerson's call, arguing that year 12 makes "more mature builders". John Howard, however, has rejected such a call.

Yet while the analysis that Emerson and the MBA have given is sound, I think it would be a big mistake to make year 12 compulsary.

As a teacher, I am constantly butting heads with students who are itching to leave school and get out into the big wide world. Most of these students are in year 10, and I have to say that their desire to leave school is almost always justified.

It's hard trying to teach students about the subtleties of the Whitlam dismissal, or about the ways Shakespeare uses language to convey meaning when the students in question just can't read or write properly. It's also hard to spend about two-thirds of my time trying to shut the class up, prevent certain students from killing each other and destroying chairs and desks. Trying to teach such a class is hard work.

These sorts of students are not meant for the wonderful world of year 12. They cannot stand the thought of sitting down and reading and studying, and of contemplating different philosophies and ways of doing things. For such students to be forced to complete another two years of schooling - two years of essentially frustration and lost opportunities - would be a terrible outcome.

Of course, I would welcome any change in education policy which would eventually lead to a situation in which students eagerly desired to enter senior school and were motivated to do the work required.

And I think it would be great, for example, if two-thirds of school leavers completed a university degree as well - I just don't think that making such tertiary study compulsary will work.

There's another thing to deal with as well - emotional maturity. When you're between the ages of 15 and 18, you're still developing your emotional maturity and your ability to control yourself. While many students can do this, many can't, and those who can't have their entire educational experience affected by their own hormones and emotional development. What such students need is not another two years of school, but a job.

Money is a great motivator. One badly behaved year 10 student I have told me that he has a part-time job. I asked him if his employer ever got sick of his antics or misbehaviour. No, said the student, because he never acted up when on the job. He knew that if he acted up on the job then he would be in danger of losing his cashflow. Acting up at school - where no such consequence exists - is much easier.

Of course, when these students get older they will develop their emotional maturity (generally speaking - some never will!). I have made sure that I tell these students that when they get older and into their early-mid twenties then they should seriously consider going to TAFE and completing their year 12 studies. I have also encouraged them to seek mature-age entry into university if they think they can do it.

But what of the big picture? What should governments do?

As a person who has studied at University and who has spent many years teaching in High Schools around New South Wales. I can say without doubt that the most important educational institutions around this country (and the world) are Primary schools.

If by the time a student enters year 7 and still cannot read or write, then their potential educational achievement is very low. Illiterate 12 year olds will, bar serious intervention work, remain illiterate throughout high school and will have their future employment choices severely restricted.

So why is it that students can get through primary school and remain illiterate? I have the greatest respect for Primary school teachers and the work they do - and though it may be tempting to put blame upon teacher training, I do not think that the vast problem of illiteracy has something to do with "bad teachers" and "trendy teaching methods".

Teacher unions have for years been arguing that reduced class sizes result in greater educational outcomes amongst students. This is true in a broad sense, but I have taught classes of 35 students whose behaviour and hard work were exemplary, and classes of 9 students who were next to impossible to teach.

If there's going to be any increase in the amount of teachers, then the best place to put them is into Primary schools. The younger a student is, the more important is the direct input of the educator. As a student gets older, they become progressively more responsible for their own educational results. This is why primary teachers have expertise in childhood education and understanding of the dynamics of educational psychology, and why High School teachers need to be more specialised in their field of study.

If illiteracy (which is the major cause of lower educational outcomes in high school) is to be addressed, then there needs to be a government that diverts money and resources to decrease the student/teacher ratio in Primary schools. Since direct intervention is required in primary schooling, smaller classes will allow more one-to-one time between teacher and student - while at the same time making it easier for the teacher to control the class and allowing more time available for educating.

Money should be provided to allow one-to-one tutoring of primary students as well. As someone who has worked as a tutor I can see the benefit that one-to-one education can have upon a student's overall performance. Many parents have the money to do this themselves - but those children who need it the most have parents who cannot afford it.

I can say this now with confidence - if students enter year 7 with improved literacy and numeracy rates, then their high school experience will be much improved as well. Moreover, the increase in capable students will also lead to an increase in senior school performance - more people will choose to go to year 12.

From the Department of Edumacation

© 2006 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/

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Spiritual Reserve Bank to continue pumping blessings into stagnant church life

Warning that Christians around America may fall victim to sin, the head of the Spiritual Reserve Bank (SRB), Mr. Bernie Lovespan, has convinced his fellow board members to continue pumping blessings into the nation's faithful.

"At this present moment in time, events around the world and within America are causing many to lose their focus and their faith”, Lovespan said “Statistics indicate that the bitterness index is up 5%, while the charity average has been falling steadily for the last quarter.”

Lovespan has convinced his colleagues that the SRB needed to increase the supply of blessings if sin is to be controlled.

“A balanced spiritual life needs the effects of sin to be contained. The SRB, at this point, feels that an increase in the blessing supply is justified if parity is maintained.”

Not all the faithful are supportive of the measures though. Rev. Matthew Black, of St Flaggelations church in Flint, Michigan, believes that the effects of sin are better controlled by the restriction of blessings.

“By increasing the blessing supply, the SRB is creating long-term problems for America's Christians”, Black said “They are creating a spiritual bubble that will pop and devastate those caught up in it.”

“Ironically, by increasing the blessing supply, they actually increase sin over the long term.”

Others, however, see the SRB's move as heaven-sent.

Pastor Alistair Awesome of the Abundant Life and Happiness Always church in Austin, Texas, believes that Lovespan has made the right choice.

“People need to see a reward for their faith”, Awe said “Faith that has no rewards, no tangible and measurable positive outcome, is no faith at all.”

“Without blessings, unrewarded faith produces sin. There is no question about it. By pumping more blessings into the nation's spiritual life, sin will be removed.”

Dr. Bradley Wilk, Professor of Theolomy at the Massachusetts Institute of Divinity, is one of the few Econologians to challenge the SRB's loose blessing policy.

“Lovespan's tenure at the SRB has seen the country's spiritual indicators steadily decline. Although it is true that a small percentage of people have been blessed abundantly, the overall blessings per capita has remained stagnant for some five years. And all this while the SRB has been increasingly supply injudiciously.”

A “Sin hawk”, Wilk warns that an oversupply of blessings will result in future hardship.

“Essentially we're taking the blessings of the future and experiencing them now.” Wilk argues. “Are we prepared to be blessed now and let our kids experience suffering later on? That's the question that Lovespan should be considering.”

Pastor Awesome, however, had this to say at the church's prosperity seminar last night:

“You deserve to be blessed. No good deed goes unrewarded. Our nation is one of the greatest in the world, and it is due to the amount of blessings that are pumped into us”

“If we run out, all we need to do is create more. The possibilities are endless”

From the Department of Attempted Humour

© 2006 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/

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Service Sector Contracts

According to the Australian Industry Group and the Commonwealth bank, the service sector has probably begun to contract.

According to Wikipedia, the services sector represents a whopping 68% of Australia's GDP.

So, if 68% of the economy is shrinking, then the other 32% needs to be working very hard to prevent an economic downturn. Fortunately, resources and the stockmarket are doing well, but they can't be expected to keep things ticking over while the service sector goes into decline.

How much do I blame Howard for this? The bubble-inducing and vote-catching policies that have warped the natural functions of the marketplace in the Housing industry are probably one thing I would point out. With the housing bubble slowly deflating, and with interest rates rising, people are less likely to buy their Lattes on credit card.


Jesus Camp

For those who don't know, Jesus Camp is a documentary film about a Charismatic Christian camp held for school-aged children. Apparently the camp involves some level of mind control and controversial manipulation techniques. I haven't seen it yet, but Michael Spencer has, and he says the following:

Jesus Camp portrays a specialty in much of conservative fundamentalism, Pentecostalism and increasingly, evangelicalism: the mental abuse of children in the name of religion. It’s heinous, ugly, deplorable and deserves to be called out in whatever way possible.

I’ve fought my entire ministry against this kind of mindset and these knds of methods. I almost lost my job over refusing to allow a “Hell House” program at OBI. I’ve confronted speakers over manipulative tactics dozens of times. In every case, I’ve been looked at like I was from the Planet Butthead.

Influencing our children in the faith is a Biblical command and a great privilege. It’s also an ethical matter. Children aren’t to be brainwashed, emotionally arm-twisted, manipulated, frightened or bribed. Yet all of these things are done every day in “children’s ministry” and youth ministry as well. And all is justified with a lot of yammering that covers up the agenda of brainwashing and manipulation.

If this makes some Pentecostals evangelicals look like they are abusing their children religiously, then good, because they are and they need to stop.

It’s the parents and ministers of these kids who need to be held accountable for what is said and done to their children. Educating, influencing, teaching, helping, involving….all great and good things. Frightening. Pressuring. Lying. Emotionally manipulating. Messing with the mind. Rewarding those who “surrender.” All very bad things.

I hope Jesus Camp wins an Oscar. Why are we afraid of the truth?

Makes me want to see it...



New poll.

Brought humour section up to date.

More selected articles added.

3.125% Black African Slave

Yep - that's me. I was at my parent's place yesterday in Bundanoon and Dad gave me some interesting genealogical information about some of my ancestors - the most notable being that one of my great-great-great grandfathers was actually a freed slave from the Island of Mauritius who moved to Australia in the early 19th century. He got married to a white woman and the rest is family history.

I feel slightly like Peter Griffin from Family Guy, who finds out one of his ancestors was a black slave as well. I'm not going to spend all my reparation money on re-doing the loungeroom though...

I think it also means that I am descended from "Creoles". It would also explain my olive skin.

Other interesting tidbits about my family history include three convicts (which must solidify my pedigree as "Aussie"), as well as various publicans, peasant farmers and assorted blue collar workers.


Being in Griffith (part 11)

  • I have last period off - then travelling from here to my sister's place in Bundanoon. Travelling back to Newcastle on Saturday from there. For the next two weeks I'll be back in Newcastle.
  • I had my first net session yesterday for Yoogali Cricket club. It's a new club and will be fielding an A grade, a B grade and a C and D grade sides (C & D are youth teams that play on Saturday mornings). It was probably the best net session I have had in over a decade (mainly because I haven't had many net sessions in the last ten years). I was hitting the ball well and although I got out 3 times (bowled once, caught behind twice) I did manage to loft one of the captain's deliveries way over his head. I was also able to smack some bad deliveries bowled wide of the off stump - something I have had difficulty doing in the past. After my net session I chose not to bowl since I didn't want to embarrass myself! It was an encouraging start to my first full cricket season since 1988.
  • Griffith has almost no artificial cricket pitches. This means that we will all be playing on turf this season. And with Summer being the dry season here and 40-over one-day matches being played, I'm sure that I'll get in a lot of cricket.
  • I've changed around my blog template a bit. If you look to the left of the screen you'll notice a new category called "Film Reviews" in the OSO departments. I've also made a new category called "selected articles" where I've put links to some of my more better-written and/or more controversial pieces.
  • By the way, it's nearly ten years since I came up with my zero unemployment idea and nothing has yet convinced me it's wrong yet - not even conversations with economists. That doesn't mean I'm right though...
  • Asthma is better - obviously the pollen here only gets bad during certain periods.


Being in Griffith (part 10)

  • Today is the 2nd last day of term. Everything is winding down, especially the students.
  • I was in the staff common room the other day and a teacher was telling a story of an oral report one of her students was giving, a Turkish girl in year 7. The oral report was about her favourite teachers. Apparently during the report she said she likes Mr Cameron because "he is the only teacher who is able to control this class". That made me feel nice and warm and gooey inside.
  • It's amazing how some students who are badly behaved can actually respond well in different circumstances. One of my year 8 students who gives me a hard time actually began to learn and ask intelligent on-topic questions just because his other badly-behaved mate wasn't there. This happened twice.
  • My 24 year old neice, Leah, is getting married!
  • Here's a link to a great PBF comic that addresses, I think, the issue of global warming. (LANGUAGE WARNING)
  • How great is Mystery Men? It was obvious that there were difficulties in the script and in the production, but all the characters are loveable and the humour is sharp. It's the only film with Ben Stiller in it that I like (probably because he gets beaten up a lot). Problems included the disappearence without explanation of one of the main bad guys (Cassanova Frankenstein's Psychiatrist), the lame "Skunk scene" as well as continuity issues. It's a rough diamond.
  • The reasons for going to war in Iraq have pretty much evaporated. It's pretty clear now that there were no WMDs or even a WMD program, which means Iraq was not a threat. It's also pretty clear now that Iraq was not involved in 9/11. The hundreds of Iraqis that keep turning up dead every week indicates that the current situation is worse than what it was under Saddam. Finally, it seems now that the Iraq war has actually made the world less safe from terrorist attack. Our PM, John Howard, has gone on the airwaves and said that this recent intelligence report is form the same agencies that said that Iraq had WMDs. At the time, though, there were enough contrary reports to pretty much prove that someone (ie Bush, Cheny, Rumsfeld) was pressuring these intelligence agencies to report falsehoods. I'm thinking of the "Dodgy Dossier", the Yellowcake Forgery, the Aluminium Tubes affair, the fact that pre-war weapons inspectors found nothing and the pre-invasion resignation of Andrew Wilkie from the Australian Office of National Assessments. For those who were being objective and careful, enough evidence existed at the time that brought into question the upcoming invasion. It's all well and good to say "the CIA told us there was a threat" - but even at the time it was obvious that there was political interference within the CIA to create a false report. I guess that's why countries like Italy, France and Germany refused to support the invasion.
  • Being Ramadan means that some of my students are fasting. Apparently they can't eat or drink during daylight hours, which means that many muslim students can't participate in school sport at the moment. That didn't seem to stop a few muslim girls from playing handball in the playground yesterday, though.
  • I spoke to an Afghan year 7 student a few weeks ago. He told me that when he was a boy he witnessed war and killing first hand, and that used to cause him nightmares. Now that he is in Australia, the nightmares have stopped.


More evidence of a slowdown

Producer prices in the US have increased by only 0.1% in the last month. These numbers would not have taken into account the drop in oil price we have been seeing in the last 2 weeks. Given the inflationary effects of the oil price, either a) We have entered a miracle-stage of economic performance which has gotten rid of inflation altogether, or b) Prices are dropping because there is a drop in demand, because there is an economic slowdown. Obviously I am sticking with b).

Ross Gittins eviscerates the Liberal party's reliance upon the housing bubble in today's SMH. Just as persistent unemployment and fiscal looseness undid the Labor party back in 1996, the doom spreading in the property market at the moment will probably undo the Libs at some point and hopefully give a more realistic picture of their fiscal competence. The current situation is a result of a popped asset-price bubble that has been exacerbated by two federal government policies - the first homeowner's grant and negative gearing. These two policies essentially stimulated the housing market beyond what was acceptable.

The whole idea of being fiscally responsible and being concerned with economic neoliberalism means that the government should really butt out of certain industries. The coalition have not done this with the housing market - they interfered with it by throwing money in its direction and caused a bubble to form. While the bubble expanded, the beneficiaries voted for the coalition. Now that it has popped, the reputation of the coalition as good economic managers will be severely questioned.

In the bad old days, the ALP used to gain votes by throwing money at certain industries so that blue collar people think their elected officials actually cared (which of course they didn't). The same can be said about the Howard government's policy of boosting the housing market.

My solution? Demarchy.

Being in Griffith (part 9)

  • Had pretty bad asthma the last 3-4 days. Warm North-Westerly winds have stirred up pollen and dust. Last night it rained slightly and this morning I walked out to the car to discover it covered with muddy raindrop splotches. If this town is bad for Asthma I probably won't want to stay here.
  • Saw something silly last night on Austar - one of the adverts had a guy saying that all the technology you see in the film Minority Report is now available. Wow. Rocket packs for cops and the ability to see into the future - all available now.
  • It seems that one reason why the Iraq reconstruction went so haywire is because the officials who were sent to Iraq by America were inexperienced party hacks who were loyal to the Republican party and were trying to set up a captialist utopia.
  • One reason I don't like Al Mohler is because he supports the use of torture on suspected terrorists. I think this is wrong on two counts: 1) It is immoral and therefore unchristian, and 2) It doesn't work.
  • I found out the other day that South Africa's population is shrinking. The CIA world factbook indicates that the birth rate is 18.2 births per 1000 people, and the death rate is 22 deaths per 1000 people (Australia is 12.14 and 7.51 respectively). As a result, the population is shrinking by 0.4% each year. Crime and AIDS seem to be doing the trick.
  • At Griffith Presbyterian there is a South African family who have come to live in Australia permanently. Their decision to leave South Africa has meant that their friends in SA - including many Christians - no longer talk to them.
  • 8 teaching days to go before the end of term. Woohoo!


Sticking mud - another prediction going well

In December 2005, I wrote an article on this blog entitled "Mud that sticks - the coming Republican Crisis". In the article I basically showed just how much the GOP's ideological base will be eroded by the illegal wiretap program and the fiscal irresponsibility of the current Republican congress.

Well, a conservative by the name of Christopher Buckley has written an article in the Washington Monthly and has essentially expressed everything I had in December 2005 - as well as a lot more.

I'd like to thank the academy...


Being in Griffith (part 8)

  • I'm being an ogre to the kids now - I'm putting lots of them on lunchtime detentions and following through if they don't turn up.
  • My favourite dish in Griffith is the Spaghetti Campagnola from Belvedere's. Ham, peas and mushrooms in a cream sauce. Mmmmm...
  • One of the reasons I don't cook much Indian is that when you buy the paste, you need cream or yoghurt to add to it - neither of which I have regularly to add to it. As I was shopping last night it occurred to me that I could possible use a can of condensed milk (sort of like using a can of coconut milk for Thai). I will report back when this had been tried.
  • I actually managed to watch the three League matches over the weekend. As a Manly supporter I was obviously annoyed about the loss against Newcastle (I prefer Newcastle to lose these days), but I was greatly encouraged by Brisbane's loss. I got more satisfaction out of Brisbane losing than from Manly winning.
  • The rain last week dumped 10mm onto Griffith. This is not much compared to the 100s of mm dropped on Sydney and Newcastle in the last week... but apparently it was enough to make the grain growers happy. Since it also precipitated in the Snowy Mountains, the water available for irrigating will obviously be increased over the next 12 months.
  • The oil price is dropping - but I think this is due mainly to a decrease in demand rather than an increase in supply (as well as speculators no longing factoring in a "terror risk"). Indications appear to be that both America and Australia are now on the cusp of recessions, with unemployment rising slightly and the property markets contracting in both nations. Makes me glad to work for the government at the moment.


Comments re-enabled

Sorry 'bout that. It was a mistake on my part - I had gotten a number of ad-comments and I was trying to re-enable the password. Must've clicked the wrong box by mistake.


Being in Griffith (part 7)

  • It's raining this morning. After one month I'm becoming a country person and getting happy about rain. I am looking out of the window of the staff room now and actually seeing rain drops. I have year 10 first period - let's hope most of them decide to stay in bed.
  • Ross Gittins examines the issue of "incentive pay" for teachers. I think he's right - mostly. I suppose it would be nice for teachers to get pay deals that are more in tune with other professionals, but I think it would be better if money was spent on incentive for students to perform well at school. Many teenagers do not see how important education is - in many cases they just cannot because their intellectual development means that they do not assign value to the work they do at school. I see this every day (especially with my year 10 class) - it is hard to convince students that there are intrinsic and long-term rewards for good behaviour and hard work at school when their minds can only focus on the extrinsic and the short-term.
  • SMH reports on the growth of Linux - especially Ubuntu amongst low-end users. 2007 will not be "the year of Linux", but I think that the coming economic readjustment will force many cash-strapped, low-end users into seriously considering Linux. As for me, I am just annoyed that I have to endure using Microsoft here at school - and I'm a KDE fan rather than Gnome, which means I'm a Kubuntu fan, not a Ubuntu fan.
  • Steve Irwin - what can I say? I never watched the guy's shows and I found him plain annoying. He was a media darling overseas because of his stereotypical "Aussie" behaviour. I didn't shed a tear when he died, but I suppose it is a reminder that death comes to us all.


Being in Griffith (part 6)

  • I came up with an interesting idea yesterday whilst doing a professional development. The idea is to go to some local middle-sized businesses and get between $2000 and $4000 in sponsorship for the cash needed. I then get that money and divide it equally amongst members of my year 7 class - that's 20 kids. But the giving of money does not occur now but at the end of term 4 - the last week of school. That's between $100 and $200 they'll receive. But here's the catch - every time a student truants one of my classes, I'll fine them $5; If they turn up late, I'll fine the $2; If they don't remain in their seat in class, I'll fine them $2 every time they do so; If they are violent and/or abusive, $5... and so on. My guess is that the class' behaviour will settle down immensely and they'll learn heaps. I would then use that experience as the basis for an educational study whereby money is also given to students who pass key competencies, and also given to those who excel.
  • I had my first experience of evaporative air-conditioning over the weekend. The trick is - strangely - to have a window open near where you are so that the cool air rushes around near you as it exits the building. Unlike reverse-cycle air conditioners, evaporative ones actually increase the air pressure inside a building - it's like having a giant fan blowing in.
  • Now that I've experienced some heat here in Griffith, it's now time for the temperature to drop back down to freezing again. I had ice on my windscreen again this morning.
  • I went to a farm on Sunday that is owned by some friends I went to Bible college with back in 1992/1993. It was great to catch up with how their lives have been going in the last 13 years and how God has been working. It also introduced to me just how much fun farms can be for kids. Ross (the farmer) had a quad bike which he then tied to a kid-sized wooden racing car (obviously used in the past as a billy-cart). He then drove the bike (and thus the car) around the farm with a kid riding along. Great fun! He also had a Honda CX-650 that he bought about 5-10 years ago and graciously allowed me to ride around the farm in it too. After dinner he showed me his .22 rifle and we agreed that the next time I visit I would have a go shooting at a target.
  • Please pray for a disagreement that I am having with a good friend at the moment over certain theological issues.


Friday's a cruisy day

Period #1 year 10 - studying Australian music in 1970s. Wrote and talked about Sherbet, Skyhooks and Little River Band. I had asked some students to bring in some AC/DC and/or Cold Chisel but they forgot.

Period #2 year 7 - about ten minutes into the period the bell went off for an evacuation drill. Sepnt most of the lesson supervising kids on the oval.

Period #3 - free

Period #4 - "IBR" which I did yesterday, so it's a free.

Lunch Time duty

Period #5 - free

Will probably go off to "Exies" after school for a drink with the other teachers.


Back in Newcastle for the weekend

* I've made a quick trip back home to see the family. 750km travelled on Friday, then the weekend here, then 750km back on Monday.

* I actually went to the beach today - no swimming because it was cold and windy - but at least I can say to the kids back in Griffith that I saw the sea on the weekend.

*Pluto is no longer a planet. I've been aware of the "Pluto controversy" for years now. Essentially the problem is that 1) Earth's moon is bigger than pluto, 2) 2003 UB313, an object orbiting our sun, is bigger than pluto, and 3) Pluto's orbital status confirms that it was "sucked in" from the Kuiper belt and not part of the original forming of the Solar System. I'm all for the downgrading. It was that or suddenly getting 8 new planets.

* Can you believe that I am actually interested in "Rockstar Supernova?" Curse Shannon and his Austarness!


Being in Griffith (Part 5)

* In America there is the Mason-Dixon line. Here in NSW it is the League-AFL line. Griffith is just north of the line, which means that Rugby League is the dominant winter sport. Travel south to Narrandera and you enter AFL territory. Anyone who thinks AFL is purely a Victorian sport needs to think again - vast swathes of southern NSW are dominanted by the sport.

* The front pages of the local newspaper are dominated by the death of a little girl who was run over accidentally by her father about a week ago. Then I find out today that the funeral is being held at the Presbyterian church - do I know the family? More soon.

* Standing in front of classrooms full of teenagers is bad enough as it is, but it is worse when you catch the flu from them. I took Wednesday-Thursday-Friday off last week and am about 2/3 of the way through antibiotics. School was yuck today - especially when faced with students who couldn't give a damn.

* Saw the Bond flick The Living Daylights last night on Austar. It was the first time I have ever seen it - and Timothy Dalton as Bond. I was surprised that Dalton actually made a good fist of it - he wasn't great in the role but he wasn't bad either. Sadly, he was let down by a most appalling and unbelieveable script. I would have shot myself for writing such drivel. The film suffered from an appalling edit as well that ensured that the bomb that had 10 seconds to go off then magically had 30 seconds to go some 12 seconds later - we knew because we kept looking at the led display. Probably the worst Bond Movie I have seen - though I'm certain there are others near the bottom of the pile.

* I'm really looking forward to the Republicans being thoroughly thrashed in November. Neil the Cassandra strikes again.

* Iraq keeps moving closer to Civil War. Even if 10,000 Iraqis were dying each day due to violence, the media would still be saying that "civil war is getting closer". Accept it - since "Mission Accomplished" Iraq has been in Civil War. Thanks America.


Being in Griffith (part 4)

Shannon, the guy I live with, does not have a PC, and the Department of Education is now telling staff that they can't use the internet for personal purposes, which means that my access to the net (and thus this blog) will be sporadic at best.

I'm sitting here in the Griffith Public Library - probably the best place to go online. There are no internet cafes in town just yet.

Some observations of life here so far:

* The school does not have enough casual staff to cover teachers when they're ill. Consequently, classes often have to go out into the playground since there are no teachers to look after them. Considering the amount of staff sick at this time of year, the amount of kids running around the playground at various times can be concerning. This sort of thing is common in country schools - but not seen at all in better resourced areas like Sydney and Newcastle, where anyone who is sick is usually replaced by a casual teacher.

* Because of the lack of teachers, every single teacher has, as part of their teaching load, a number of periods set aside every fortnight to cover the lessons of teachers who are not present. This means that around 0.9 of the teacher's load are actual lessons, and 0.1 are described as "IBR" : "In-built relief".

* Being exposed to Austar has its advantages and disadvantages, apart from that wonderful line from the Pink Floyd song Nobody Home ("I got thirteen channels of *&^*& on the TV to choose from", although in my case there is around 40 channels), I occasionally get to view some of the programs available on the Australian Christian Channel - channel 140. The fact that it is located immediately after TVSN and the Expo Channel - channels both dedicated to selling things - is wonderfully ironic. I have, as a result of this, heard Phil Pringle and Brian Houston - both of whom are peddling the false teaching that God will provide us with happiness and self-actualization if we only release the power that he gives us through Christ. No biblical expositions so far.

* Man I am hating Windows. Both at school and here in the Public Library I have to have multiple windows open rather than tabs. At both school and this library I am having some strange mouse movements - where suddenly the mouse arrow will disappear up to the top left corner and I have to drag it down again. I am also missing Kubuntu - even more so since the wife rang the other night to tell me she can't get the printer to work.

* I'm missing my family a lot. One good thing is that before I even got the job we had decided to get new mobile phones and we are now happily taking pictures and movies of one another to send. It's nice to have a video message of my kids saying hi to me. Wow. We live in the future now.

* One advantage of not having the family around is that I have been able to have more regular quiet times. Reading through Ezra and Nehemiah recently was interesting since in both books there is no record of God speaking directly to anyone. Both Ezra and Nehemiah were obviously God's agents to bring about the re-making of post-exilic exile but there was absolutely no direct guidance given to either of them.

* This message is for Tom - No I haven't.

* My little girl, Lillian, managed to fall over and gash her head last week - a process that cost her three stitches. It's not good that I'm not there. Please pray that God will provide more long-term or permanent work for me so that the family can come down and escape the evil clutches of a certain in-law.

* According to a pedometer I bought, I am averaging over 10000 steps each day working at school. This will be good for my health and weight.

* I have a number of difficult students in my classes. They're not too bad yet but I just need patience and time to understand "the system" before things cool down.

* While at sport the other day (year 7-8 Rugby) a gale blew up as the roll was being taken. One student came up to me and asked "Sir, is that wind due to a low pressure system?". "Yes" I replied. "See?", he told me "I do learn things in your class!".

* I am learning just how much Griffith sits at "the bottom of the barrel" in terms of its attraction to teachers. The teaching profession, like all professions, has its share of crazies but it seems as though GHS has attracted much more than its fair share of wrong people over the years. I was told today of a former teacher who apparently had undiagnosed Aspergers and who was completely incapable of teaching properly. Another one apparently discussed sexual positions with a class of year 10 students and was only sacked after he decided to join in a fist-fight while watching a Rugby game at the school oval. Two former teachers were described as "alcoholics" to me as well. There's also a problem because the school has attracted overseas teachers who have varying degrees of teaching ability. One woman was apparently a physics professor in Eastern Europe, but when she came to GHS she did not have the ability to teach basic year 7 science since a) She couldn't speak English properly, and b) She did not have an education degree and thus the knowledge needed to be able to teach teenage students.

* Went to Bible Study on Wednesday night after dinner with the minister and his family. It's not good that Griffith has just one evangelical church, but from what I can see they are informed and mature in their Christian faith.

* I took my entire DVD collection with me. In the last few days I have watched The Party, Platoon and half of Pulp Fiction.

* Interesting episode of Compass the other night - interesting because it did not have anything to do with religion. It was about WW2 veterans finally dealing with their PTSD after 50 years. A clinic in Melbourne has set up a support group for WW2 veterans, who are also given individual therapy and antidepressants. The result has apparently been astounding - with all these guys in their mid 70s suddenly treating their long-suffering wives better and learning how to confront issues.


Being in Griffith (part 3)

For the past two Sundays I've been attending Griffith Presbyterian Church, pastored by Peter and Anna Gobbo. Coincidentally / providentially I was at Bible College when Anna Gobbo (in her pre-married state) was there as well. I've found the church to be Gospel-centred, Bible-based and welcoming. It appears to be the only choice of church to go to in Griffith.

Griffith is a relatively large country town. There's around 28,000 who live in the town and its suburbs, but this increases to around 50,000 when outlying towns in the district are taken into account.

My rule of thumb is that wherever there is a major supermarket, there also exists a potential for at least one evangelical church. Griffith has a Coles and a Woolworths and a largish IGA, along with plans for another Woolworths to be built. If Griffith Baptist church is included in my narrow definition of "evangelical church", then there is probably potential for at least two more evangelical churches to exist in the area.

I'm currently sharing a house with a single guy named Shannon, a PD/H/PE teacher. We get on well (so far) and he has Austar which is wonderful because it means I can catch up on all the shows I've missed over the years.

Griffith High School is a mixed bag. There are some good kids and some bad ones. The multicultural community of Griffith is reflected in the school with no one culture in dominance. I have Islander kids and Aussie-born Italian kids, but also some Turkish and Afghan kids. One female Afghan student wears a Hijab although she often has her hair uncovered.

Well - I'd better go again. Lots of schoolwork to catch up on.


Being in Griffith (part 2)

I've now been in Griffith for just under a week. What are my impressions of the place?

Griffith is a very multicultural area - and I mean VERY multicultural. No one culture here represents more than 50% of the people.

White Anglo Aussies probably make up around 25% of the population.

Aussie-born Italians make up around 30-35% of the population.

There is a very large Sikh population from India, which means that turbans are in vogue. There is also a small amount of Indian Sikhs from Fiji.

There is a large population of Tongans and Samoans.

Quite a number of Afghan refugees also live in the town - with a sizeable amount coming here via boats which landed on Christmas Island, Ashmore reef and so on.

The reason why there are so many different cultures here is because Griffith is one of the few places in Australia which has a demand for unskilled labour. Agricultural workers to pick grapes and fruit are in demand. As a result, unemployment in the town is around 3%. This means that there is actually a comparatively small population of people needing direct welfare assistance. This is obviously a good thing, and I suspect that the crime rate is relatively low for this reason. The fact that so many people have jobs also means that racial tensions between minorities is not so pronounced.

One teacher here has told me that he is surprised at the lack of single parents in town - obviously many kids at my school come from familes that have both a mother and a father.

Historically, the Italians control the town. It's at the point now where Australian-born Italians make up the largest ethnic group - but from my own short research it is obvious that this group is now completely "Aussified" - both parents and the kids I teach seem to be Australian born. Most Italian-born Italians are the grandparents.

It's this influence that has driven Griffith's religious culture. The area is pretty much dominated by Roman Catholicism, with only a small amount of protestant churches. There is no Christian school in the town, which means that Christian parents have a choice of either the government schools or the catholic schools.

From what I can gather, there are only two evangelical churches here - the Presbyterian church and the Baptist church. The Uniting church is reasonably liberal in its theology but it has a large and thriving evangelical movement amongst its islander church. Apparently the Griffith Uniting Church was evangelical back in the 1970s but has since then gone downhill. The Anglicans are "more catholic than catholic".

The Charismatic movement here has impacted the Roman Catholic church in some way, although I'm not sure to what extent. There are a number of Charismatic groups that are associated with the Catholic Church in some way. Pentecostals are here as well in the form of an AOG church and a Foursquare gospel church, but neither of these churches seems to dominate either.

The bell's rung... back to class. More soon.


Being in Griffith (part 1)

I left Newcastle on Saturday 29 July for Griffith. I had just two days to get used to the manual transmission of the car some friends lent me, but the trip was reasonably uneventful.

I left at around 9.00am and arrived around 5.30pm. I travelled over 700 kilometres in total from the Shell Service Station in Mayfield to arrive in East Griffith.

Some thoughts about the trip:

1. The McDonalds El Maco burger is not that wonderful. It's not bad but it's not good either.
2. I made some hilarious mistakes using the manual transmission. Often I would intend to shift down from 5th to 4th, but manage to go too far and shift it into 2nd. When you're travelling at around 90kph that's not a good feeling. In order to compensate I then tried to shift it back, only to shift it into reverse, which is not nice either (don't worry, the noise warned me before I took my foot off the clutch). It was also funny trying to shift from 1st into 2nd, but miss 2nd and go into 4th directly. I stalled the car 3-4 times in car parks doing that.
3. The Burley Griffin Way is a clayton's highway that goes from Yass directly into the centre of Griffith - a distance of over 250km. It is a single laned road but it was surprisingly free of traffic during that time. I only got caught behind one slow moving car but overtaking it was a cinch. I think I went past one East-bound car every 10-15 minutes as I headed West, and only once had someone overtake me. Pretty good for 250+km of driving.
4. The M7 in Sydney has to be one of the best bypass ever invented for anyone who wishes to bypass Sydney. Travelling from Newcastle I had to endure only about 5km of Sydney traffic (from the Newcastle Freeway to the M2 entrance in Pennant Hills), before having a luxurious, if circular, trip out west. I have an Etag which means that I could use the M7 (there are no toll collecting booths and they have cameras that take pictures of non-Etag equipped cars and send you fines).
5. As a result of the M7, I drove non-stop from Newcastle to the Pheasant's Nest Mobil near Camden for a bathroom break. Another 100km later and I was munching El Macos at Sutton Forest. A few hours later I stopped for 15 minutes for a rest at Harden (where I watched a League match) and another 10 minute rest about 40km out of Griffith.
6. When I arrived in Griffith it took only a few minutes to find my place of residence - I'm living with another teacher (a single bloke) until the wife and kids come down. That night, both of us went to my head teacher's house where I had my first taste of Griffith cuisine - Pizza, Pasta and Red Wine. All three of which went down very, very well. Griffith has a history of Italian migrants stretching back to its foundation and the Italian restaurants and take-aways here are very good. I'm not a pizza man, but the stuff they cook here is wonderful.

I'm typing this insde the school Staffroom - it's Tuesday. I'll let you know soon about how things are going at the school, but I will say that, so far, it's been good.


Evangelicals fighting to allow death by stupidity

It's hard being an evangelical. Every time I read the news and see what my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ are doing, it makes me weep.

The latest issue? The fact that Evangelicals are now fighting to allow a Christian teenager the chance to die by parental stupidity.

The individual in question is Starchild Abraham Cherrix, a 16-year old kid from Virginia. Yes, you read that right, his first name is Starchild. That in itself should indicate a problem. Personally I think it would have been better to name him Adolf or Elvis... but these are not people who can be reasoned with.

Starchild Abe has Hodgkin's Lymphoma. After being diagnosed in 2005, he was put onto a regime of chemotherapy. According to the Wikipedia article, Hodgkin's has an 85% cure rate if treated in this way.

But after his first round of treatment, Starchild Abe and his parents decided that they would ditch the chemo. Instead, they would go for alternative treatment - the discredited Hoxsey Therapy that is only available in Mexico.

Hoxsey Therapy is about as useless and as superstitous as you can get in the modern world of alternative medicine. The reason why it is not approved as an alternative therapy in the USA is because no extensive medical testing has shown it to be effective. Indeed, many tests have proved that it has absolutely no effect whatsoever upon cancer sufferers. The American Cancer Society has publically repudiated the treatment:

After study of the literature and other available information, the American Cancer Society has found no evidence that the Hoxsey Method results in objective benefit in the treatment of cancer in human beings. Lacking such evidence, the American Cancer Society strongly urges individuals with cancer not to seek treatment with the Hoxsey Method.

Nevertheless, a clinic in Tijuana, Mexico offers the Hoxsey therapy to rich and stupid Americans who wish to spend money in the last few years of life believing that drinking a mixture of "licorice, red clover, burdock root, Stillingia root, barberry, Cascara, prickly ash bark, buckthorn bark, and potassium iodide" and having a paste of "antimony, zinc and bloodroot, arsenic, sulfur, and talc" covered over their skin (quotes from Wikipedia).

Now I may be wrong at this point, but one of the rights that patients have in America is the choice to refuse treament. Doctors cannot force treatment onto unwilling patients, who can opt to refuse treatment and instead die horrible deaths from preventable diseases if they so desire.

But Starchild Abe is a different case altogether. Being 16 years old he does not yet have the legal right to refuse treatment. Starchild Abe's parents, who obviously don't trust modern medicine, decided for their child to stop having Chemo and to start the Hoxsey therapy. They obviously told their doctor. Wrong move.

After the first round of treatment, their doctor prescibed another round of chemo. He did so probably because he believed that chemotherapy was the best chance that Starchild Abe had to live. When presented with the parents arguing that they would prefer to smear arsenic paste on his skin and get him to munch on cactus, he decided that enough was enough. He approached a social worker with the case, who was then able to get a court order to prevent Starchild Abe from crossing the Virginia border - the idea being that they were being prevented to cross into Mexico. The court also ordered that Starchild Abe undergo a second round of Chemotherapy.

In a case like this, the state has essentially determined that the parents of Starchild Abe were being grossly negligent in refusing their child medical care. If Starchild Abe was not a minor, his choice to eat cactus and smear aresenic on himself in the mistaken hope that it would cure his cancer would not be acted upon by the court. Since he is still only 16, and because the doctor obviously thought the parents were unreasonable and negligent, the court acted.

The result? Evangelical leaders are falling over themselves in fighting for the right to allow death by stupidity.

Al Mohler has even weighed in on this issue. Comparing the situation with "totalitarian regimes like China and the former Soviet Union", Mohler sees this issue as being one in which the rights of parents to choose the right medical treatment are being eroded by the evil of state interference.

Mind you, this is from a guy who thinks that drinking alcohol is sinful and that torture under strictly defined guidelines is good intelligence practice.

Mohler and others are angry at the idea that the state could interfere with the rights of parents in the way they bring up their children, and that this is an ominous sign of things to come. In other words, communism and Democrats and bogeymen.

Yet, if Starchild Abe's parents decided that the best solution to his condition was to hit him over the head with a specially blessed hammer until the demons of cancer were belted out of the kid, what would Mohler and the others think? Would they defend the right of parents to choose a treatment that would kill him?

And that's the real issue here. There is a reason God gave us brains, and over the years medical researchers have been able to verify through extensive testing that the Hoxsey therapy is a load of hooey. It's snake oil. Putting garlic around Starchild Abe's neck would be a better therapy. By forgetting basic facts and instead running with their political ideology, evangelical leaders who are supporting Starchild Abe's cactus diet are essentially supporting the right to allow a person to die by stupidity.

Of course, there are many contradictions here amongst evangelicals. On the one hand, they don't want the state to interfere with a parent's right to kill their son through stupidity, but they are more than willing to use the apparatus of the state to stop abortion on the basis that it results in the death of human life.

When we look at the bible - especially the Old Testament - we see that society needs to be ordered, and that laws are put into place to prevent people from gross sin. Parents are given responsibility over their children - but society also has a responsibility to ensure that parents don't abuse this situation.

In this case, with chemotherapy offering an 85% success rate, the choice of Starchild Abe's parents to cover him with arsenic paste and have him eat cactus is clearly and unambigiously WRONG. It's high time that courts of law put a stop to deadbeat parents abusing their kids, and this is one of those times.

But by taking the parent's side, Mohler and other evangelicals are arguing for death. Is the right of parents to ultimately determine their child's treatment more important than preventing the unnecessary and painful death of a teenager?

© 2006 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/

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Fide-o is no longer "Truly Reformed"

There are three Christian bloggers I have had issues with over the past year - Tim Challies, Frank Turk and the boys at Fide-o.

Although I have been annoyed by the shortfalls of Internet Monk Michael Spencer and the gang at the Borg's Head, I sort of began to side with them when they were being pilliored by people like Turk and Fide-o. For various reasons, I decided that I would no longer visit Challies or Frank Turk, but I kept on with Fide-o.

Fide-o are "Truly Reformed" (a Borg's head perjorative) because they were aligned closely with John MacArthur's brand of theology - American Baptist, Calvinist and Dispensationalist (ABCD for short).

I don't know why I kept visiting Fide-o but I did. I had a bad attitude towards them and occasionally vented steam at them in comments theads.

But now they are one of my "Bloggers I respect", why?

Simple - Jason Robertson, one of the Fide-o crew, has jettisoned Dispensationalism and embraced Covenant Theology.

It's a big move. Jason wrote an article in 2005 arguing for a pre-trib eschatological viewpoint, and has now changed completely.

I should've realised a month or two back when I read about Jason's rejection of abstinence that things were up - if he was a Macarthur fanboy he would've parroted Macarthur's anti-alcohol stance. He didn't. Now he has embraced Covenant Theology (with an obvious Baptist disclaimer) and rejected a theological system that had a major influence on his Christian faith and teaching.

Why? Because he discovered that Covenant Theology is scriptural, while Dispensationalism is not.

In the past, when I felt annoyed at them, I would taunt the Fide-o guys by thanking them for defending the six solas - an obviously narky response that accused them of majoring on the minors and not even living up to the stated aim of their blog's name.

Jason, like me, believes in Sola Scriptura - that the bible is sufficient. I'm fairly certain that it was Jason who coined the phrase "In the 20th century, the battle was over the Bible's inerrancy. In the 21st century, the battle will be over the Bible's sufficiency." It's an adage that I think will be borne out as the evangelical church continues to fragment and mutate in the coming years.

And, by adhering to the sufficiency of scripture, Jason Robertson has been changed. It's obviously a radical change (and one which probably goes too far since he says he believes in Postmillenialism, but I'm waiting for a detailed explanation of what he means by it).

Does this mean that Jason and the others at Fide-o are no longer "Truly Reformed"? I don't think Michael Spencer and the Borg's head guys are suddenly going to kiss and make up - although the Frank Turk / Michael Spencer joint article a while back indicates that anything could happen.

As for me, I don't regret letting the Fide-o guys know what I think. I believe they probably went too far in being too doctrine-anal and that my "six solas" taunts were justified. Nevertheless I now realise what a blessing Fide-o has become, and reminds me yet again that God often surprises us when he works.


Hello Kubuntu

The greatest Slashdot poll ever

The topic is over your favourite pirate.

The current situation is:

Dread Pirate Roberts (Princess Bride): 20,746 votes
Captain Sparrow (Pirates of Carribbean): 20,303 votes

Westley vs Johnny. A good fight methinks.

Where's my daddy?

MTV - part of the dark forces that run this world etc etc etc - has just had some sort of viewer poll about controversial music videos.

Madonna comes in at #1, #4 and #5. Britney Spears makes it in at #2.

What is annoying, and obviously typical, is that Come to Daddy by Aphex Twin did not make it into the top ten. Annoying because it is one of the most disturbing and creative music videos to ever be made, and typical because MTV is reasonably conservative in it controversialness.

What is important to note is that Madonna, having seen the Come to Daddy music video, then immediately commissioned its director, Chris Cunningham, to produce her 1998 "Frozen" music video.