Monday, August 25, 2008

On Touring The World, Or, Blogging-It’s A Collective Thing

For the past two weeks we have paid more attention to the rest of the world than usual, what with the Olympics drawing our attention to Asia, and the conflict in the Balkans forcing us to learn that Atlanta is not in danger…that indeed, there is another Georgia—and how events in that Georgia could affect life in our Georgia.

As it happens, I belong to an international blogging collective (the Blogpower community) with voices that happen to be especially well-placed and often powerful to boot…a combination that will be most helpful for today’s exercise.

We are going to take a journey, Gentle Reader, all the way from India to Australia. We’ll visit Canadian friends, then we have much to discuss in the UK…and we get to meet a friend in the Sudan—and just for fun, we’ll toss in a few discussion questions based on Russian history.

Finally, through the miracle of Facebook, we’ll meet an actual volunteer soldier from South Ossetia who will describe the Georgian attack on his city.

There’s a lot to cover, so put on your travel hat, grab your virtual passport, and let’s hit the road.

There are 61 bloggers currently associated with Blogpower, but we will only be visiting about 20 of those today. There’s a full list of the community members available, and I would encourage you to dive in to the list and visit all of them.

And speaking of visiting…

Kori Brus, publisher of “The Conscious Earth”, has been travelling India these past few weeks, from south to north, and now finds himself in Ladakh, an area of India that is primarily Buddhist…and covered by a far more extensive network of trekking routes than highways.

He tells us that despite the fact that India is a nation of more than 900 million people, it is quite solitary indeed for him on this trip…which has advantages he might not have anticipated as he visits a temple around the time of morning prayers.

We continue with the theme of culture and religion on a visit to Vancouver, British Columbia, where we find jmb’s “Nobody Important” blog awaiting our arrival.

In May of 2008 the city’s Museum of Anthropology was robbed, the object of the theft being spectacular pieces created by Bill Reid, an artist of Haida descent who trained as a sculptor and a goldsmith. (His work can also be seen at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C., should you get the chance to visit.)

Some of the objects had been recovered, but I am now happy to report (again, courtesy of jmb) that when it comes to art thievery, the Mounties get their brooch; with all the missing objects now recovered. (Well, to be exact, a fraction of one object is missing…so visit the link for details, he said, teasingly.)

Ruthie “Zaftig” offers us a tour of the morality questions present in the movie “The Dark Knight” that begins as a general discussion of good and evil, but then becomes an evaluation of how terror affects human judgment—and addresses the additional question of how much freedom should we be willing to sacrifice for security…which might be the freedom to live in fear.

For your consideration: would Peter the Great have made a good “Dark Knight” Batman? Try to include a few words regarding the “Tsar as Father Figure” mythology in your response…

Immorality also figures in a story from Khartoum: Kizzie explains how bribery is endemic in Sudan—and she tells us how a judge was apparently bribed in an eviction case that has cost her family three years of their time, thousands of dollars in legal fees…and had them wondering if hiring a few well-armed “friends” to resolve the problem “extrajudicially” might have been the better solution.

She also reminds us of the death of Levy Mwanawasa, President of Zambia—one of two notable recent deaths in the region; the other being the death of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. Both are major events unreported in US media…so visit the links and follow these stories.

In Iran the level of repression applied to union activists is increasing…and as of now the crime of union organizing can get you 30 lashes…or 50…or 70…plus jail time. Or it could get you the death penalty.

All of this is reported to us by our man in Corkadorogha, Ireland (…”where the the torrential rains are more torrential, the squalor more squalid, the hopelessness more utterly hopeless than they are anywhere else”…), Jams “The Poor Mouth” O’Donnell. (By the way Jams: “rains more torrential”? Spend a year in the rainforest around Queets, Washington and you may reconsider that position…)

Everyone is blogging these days…including a former Deputy Prime Minister of the UK, John Prescott (fired by Tony Blair, no less!). Mike Ion, himself a former Labour candidate for Parliament (from Shrewsbury…home of Darwin and the Cartoon Festival), discusses the impact of the growth in the medium on UK politics and beyond—and for those who don’t know, there is as much reaction to political bloggers over there as there is over here…and in the UK, that makes Mike Ion a bit of a “must read”.

All citizens of England have access to health care, unlike the US, but this is hardly a perfect situation. Should we hope to adopt a national health care model we might do well to learn from their experience, and some of that insight can be found in the following two stops on our tour:

An agency of the NHS (the UK’s National Health Service) that tries to balance the costs and benefits of drugs and procedures that the NHS will pay for is the subject of a recent discussion at the “Letters From A Tory” blog.

CalumCarr has been telling us for years now about the troubles faced by those who seek help from the NHS for mental disorders (a problem that has touched his own family), and a new report from the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland describes grievous flaws in the system—including a case of “Not My Problem” culture that is so serious that the report itself is entitled "Not My Problem - The Care and Treatment of Mr. G".

Leadership is sometimes a matter of committee, and we are given the view from the other side of the table as Grendel recounts his experience on hiring and purchasing committees. We learn a bit of British slang (“…use the word “prat” in a sentence, please…”), we consider the absurdity of dreams, and we are offered a few words on unintentional non-disclosure disclosures.

Have you ever wanted to go to a job interview and tell the interviewer you’re looking for a new job because you hate your current job? You have a friend in Grendel.

The UK portion of the journey continues as we visit Sackerson’s “Bearwatch” blog. He reminds us that our desire to restrain Government through the vehicle of the Constitution is well-recognized—and well-respected—around the world…and he brings to the table a question raised in this election cycle by Ron Paul: what is legal tender?

For your consideration: what effect would a strict Constitutional reading of “legal tender” have on credit expansion? Would we, on balance, have been better off with such an interpretation? A few words on the impact of home ownership on personal wealth—good and bad—would add some “seasoning” to the rhetorical stew you could create…

Theo Spark’s friends (the “Last of the Few”) combine Conservative thought with the sorts of adult images (adult images is code for “maybe the younger kids shouldn’t be going there unsupervised…”—you have been officially warned) that one might see on Page 3 of a British newspaper; and the blog makes the point that Basra is on the road to reconstruction through the use of a striking image taken in the At Tannumah district of the city.

The great “what is mind versus what is matter?” debate, originally begun by Descartes and Hobbes (and later revisited by Homer Simpson), is one element of a conversation from Gracchi at the “Westminster Wisdom” blog. Can security ever exist for the masses when the masses are ruled by anyone other than an autocrat? That question, also addressed by Hobbes, is an important second pillar of the sturdy philosophical structure presented in this piece.

For your consideration: is security worth the cost? Just how much cost might you be willing to accept for how much security? Can anything actually approaching total security be achieved, or does the effort to create total security inevitably create insecurity? Using the Russian word grozny correctly in your answer will get you extra points…

We need to take a step back from all of this deep thinking, and my friend Colin Campbell has just what we need. His “Adelaide Green Porridge Café” blog features an image of military maneuvers that make me wonder if the Australian commander might be smarter than ours. (I’d also be curious what the commander has to say about global warming…).

Is Wales a part of the UK? Or is it, like the Duchy of Cornwall, destined to be an independent nation? “Miss Wagstaff Presents” this issue, and others, in her ongoing quest to analyze the question of whether the political relationship with the UK is serving the Welsh people…or instead, serving only the political needs of the Labour Party. (For those unsure, Wales is located roughly 20 miles east of Dublin, just across the Irish Sea. It’s the same Wales that has a famous Prince.)

Tesco, the UK’s largest retailer (and fifth in the world in 2006), is the source of the next bit of humor, thanks to “Sally in Norfolk”…and I will consider this story every time I freeze a grill. (She also visits a lead mine…another fascinating story.)

“Hercules” notes the considerable resemblance between the current Governor of Virginia, Tim Kaine, and the only current resident of the Meadowlands end zone, Jimmy Hoffa.

Which brings us to the final stop on our tour.

Ellee Seymour wants us to visit the “ProActive PR” blog and meet Alan, a 26 year-old student who was in Tskhinvali, the largest city in Georgia’s disputed South Ossetia region when Georgian forces advanced on the city.

Power had been mostly cut off, as had water, but Alan was able to send messages by cell phone which Ellee’s friend Katarina was able to translate into English. The story begins August 4th, where he describes seeing three dead bodies, victims of either Georgian mortars or artillery fire.

The diary gives an hour-by-hour recap of the events of August 7th, including a street battle just a few blocks away—and a description of being so tired that grenade explosions up the block could not wake Alan up.

The diary includes pictures taken on scene…and no matter what you may think of the positions of either side, this is a soldier’s story in the end…and that makes it a very human story, indeed.

Well there you go: we’ve seen a bit of the world, we have some things to think about…and we had a few laughs to boot.

If you have nothing to declare, continue through Customs to catch your ride home…and thanks for flying Blogpower.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Blogpower Round Up 18th August

Image stolen from Theo Spark

So beginneth the Blogpower round up a review of the exciting posts made in BP over the last week from a LGBT perspective!

A Conservative is pondering reasons to move from the North to the South leaving his whippet and flat hat at home whilst down in Adelaide Not watching the Olympics means that there is plenty of time to watch Koalas - the worlds campest bear - instead. Our lovely friend Andy is off on his hols - I wish I was going with him don't you? The lovely Lady Macleod also says she is on the move - to Gay Paree! I think we should go and visit and swap make-up tips - if we get invited obviously!

Make mine a Moccachino at Cafe Grendel who as usual is not to be diverted from the topic of coffee - I honestly think he will be running a bijou eaterie at the end of time.. I shall be wetting my tonsils there for sure.

Calum Carr has been on his hols already- to a somewhat more bracing and manly spot- - he was living on porridge and bearing his hairy knees in a kilt - by all reports -what an idea! The dainty little feet of Crushed by Ingsoc have wound their merry way to Mars this week, where he imagines an idyllic future- well who wouldn't?

The lovely Heather Yaxley at Green Bannana has something about advertising which I didn't quite understand - still hey? Can't have everything...I am a dog of very little brain...whilst that Tory has been writing letters about amongst other things fat children, legalising drugs and A levels - I think they are all connected myself...On another Island David Martin is back.. informally anyway - worrying about Zimbabwe and inflation, bless him! Mike Ion - for it is he - is worried about school tests and political blogging - slightly old for this week, but he has some staggering statistic on the gigantic scale of blogging - no wonder no one reads mine!

A Quango Bonfire is enthralling for Miss Wagstaff though she doubts its effectiveness. Our very own JMB has colourful photography and Japanese cooking with what look like Moon Pies to me... tasty!

The lovely Pub Philosopher has been to Devon for a wedding and got a bit damp. For the future - Take Note! The sea is the blue bits - to stay dry, stay out of it!

Sally in Norfolk has been eavesdropping in Tescos and being irritated by her doorbell. Unplug it woman! Honestly....

Over in Sicily the lovely Welshcakes has been in a holiday mood as well - and is offering an exciting job opportunity - form an orderly queue please!

Mr O'Donnell tells the unlikely story of the dog cloning bail skipper Joyce McKinney and a three legged horse ... I feel a movie treatment coming on!

Is Theo Spark still in BP? He has some cartoons and nudie pics - so what the heck?! I have never seen him comment on another BP blog - have you?

Finally over at Westminster Wisdom we are faced with the question Why Are There homosexuals? Why indeed? I hope we can spend a long sweaty afternoon investigating the matter soonest...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Where's Mutley?

Just a short note to let you know that Mutley has gone for a long walk to visit all the blogs that he planned to cover and has got lost trying to find his way back to Bridport. His bark enabled wireless transmitter is malfunctioning, so he cannot post remotely. The local police have been informed and the CIA are on standby. No doubt we will hear about this adventure in the next roundup. Mutley informed me that in his next roundup he planned to keep it clean (Bonita Free Zone) and that at least half the posts will not be from his blog.

Meanwhile, carry on while the highly trained international blog dog rescue teams go to work.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Blogpower Roundup - 11 August 2008

It’s my turn to do the round-up for the week. A day early I know but I would have no chance of doing it tomorrow. So here’s my selection from BP members who have posted in the last week...

Not surprisingly, a lot of Blogpower members have posted on events in Georgia including Benedict at A Conservative’s blog and The Norfolk Blogger, Observations From a Hillside, Ordovicius and Wolfie

Colin Campbell at Adelaide Green Porridge Cafe on lowering the spelling bar. Heather Yaxley believes we should be proud of the English language, embracing its rules and idiosyncrasies.

Andrew Allison is not excited about the Beijing Olympics... and with good reason.

Mutley’s attempt to improve his sexual image with a green thong does not have the desired effect sadly. I would have paid good money to see you in it Mutley. Do you accept American Express?

Chervil finds an excellent way to transport thee young’uns without resorting to a "Chelsea Tractor"

George launches a new career as an impressionist over at Finding Life Hard. A star is born!

Lady Macleod announces that she is on the move in October.

Jmb over at Nobody Important draws attention to what looks like a fascinating read

Letters from a Tory gives George Monbiot both barrels... Cityunslicker reports on Arthur Scargill’s (remember him? He was big in the eighties) challenge to Mr Monbiot

Thunderdragon extols the virtues of bats. I wish they roosted in our attic... I love bats, me!

Gracchi reviews Iranian film Leila over at Westminster Wisdom. For what it’s worth I am very partial to Iranian cinema.

Watt Wardman has an extensive roundup on Dave Walker, J Mark Brewer and the management of the SPCK bookshop chain over at the The Wardman Wire . This looks as murky as Usmanov’s unleashing Schillings on Craig Murray and Bloggerheads last year.

Sackerson over at Bearwatch posts on the need for civil rights

According to Pub Philosopher Random House has pulled Jewel of Medina a novel about Mohammed and his wife Aisha.

As for the Poor Mouth? I nominate the part II of a trilogy on Thomas “Red" Cushing, a larger than life Irishman. This one is about being in Sachsenhausen concentration camp when Yakov Stalin killed himself ( here and here - I cut it into two sections).

Well that's it. I hope you enjoy.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Blogpower Roundup Reminded

Just a quick reminder that the "How Does The World View The US Elections" edition of the Blogpower Roundup will be due midnight, Pacific Time, on the 20th, and we should be up and ready to read the 25th.

So get 'em in, don't be (too) late...and don't forget, this is also supposed to be fun--so don't be afraid to use humor as a tool.

I'm still away, bit I should be back just shortly and I'll be responding to all y'all then.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Witanagemot Awards -- How did Blogpower Members fare?

The results of the 2008 Witanagemot Club Political Blogging Awards have been announced and I saw several Blogpower members posted about their winning results on their blogs. Following a link I discovered that quite a few more had also received these accolades. So ladies and gentleman may I present the BP winners and placegetters:

Tom Paine of The Last Ditch won the Best Ex-pat political blog (by Brit outside the UK or non-Brit resident in the British Isles). Not only that but he scored the "bronze" in the Best Libertarian Blog.

Cityunslicker and his team at Capitalists@Work won "bronze" in the Best Economics Blog.

Letters from a Tory won the Best new blog (a new addition to the blogosphere in 2008) while taking second place as the Best Conservative Party supporting blog.

Norfolk Blogger
was the Best Liberal Democrat Party supporting blog.

Ordovicius won both the Best Welsh political blog and the Best Welsh nationalist blog, while placing second in the Best minor party blog (UKIP, nationalists, Green, BNP, etc.)

The Croydonian won the award for the Best Foreign Affairs (including Iraq and Afghan wars) Blog.

Bob Piper won in the Best Labour Party supporting blog category.

Matt Wardman of The Wardman Wire was in third place in the Best centre-ground blog.

Pippa of Miss Wagstaff Presents won the Best Cardiff Bay Gossip Blog.

Sadly Mutley did not win, or even place, in the category for which I know he was nominated by at least two people, the Blogger most deserving of a book deal. Better luck next year Muts.

Congratulations to all those who did win or place. A great achievement indeed and well deserved recognition for all your hard work.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Blogpower Round Up - Chervil's turn

So here is my round-up for the week - thanks to jmb for making a couple of suggestions! Having done this myself now, I realise that it would really help if Blogpower members would send in their suggestions!

So, here we go:

Liz from Wales recounts having to break into her own car before facing another challenging day. Quite a day with a twist at the end - but you will have to read that yourself.

The Poor Mouth tells the fascinating story of the Cagot, France's last untouchable people. I have to admit, I had not heard of the Cagot before, but it makes interesting and sobering reading.

Gracchii wanders down history lane this week and takes us back to the year 1395 when Richard II invaded Ireland. Apparently, Richard II was obsessed by Edward the Confessor (r. 1042-65), featured in the illustration above. Quite an intriguing introduction to medieval politics - and certainly no less exciting or contentious than our modern version!

In keeping with the Olympic spirit, Colin Campbell has a go at running with the Olympic torch (albeit the Sydney one) and notes that his blog is banned in China - which can only be seen as a badge of honour in my view!

On the topic of being banned in China, Looking for a Voice notes that while he was also banned in China, he had a hit from Shanghai on Friday, August 01, 2008! Let's hope the crack in the Great Firewall of China will continue to widen.

The Two Wolfes take issue with political correctness while pondering the questions of whether strongly worded expressions of misgivings concerning aid to Africa constitute racism and whether the US should provide a 48-billion-dollar subsidy for medical drugs to Africa while many US citizens go without adequate health care. I am not sure I can fully follow the arguments here, so please read for yourself and see what you think!

The Norfolk Blogger laments the lack of integrity in UK police investigations in his entry on Derek Bentley, Stefan Kiszko and Barry George. False accusations and wrongful detention of innocent people is indeed a worry and can happen very easily to anybody, so nobody should be complacent when it comes to police accountability.

On a lighter note, Tom Paine announced his holidays - I hope you have a great time, enjoy!

Welshcakes Limoncello has posted another Sicily Quiz - and as usual, I fail miserably. Maybe you might have more luck?

Question That has a great cartoon this week - Too True!

The Pub Philosopher celebrates the revival of the ancient tradition of Lammas Day (loaf-mass day), the festival of the first wheat harvest of the year. Sounds like a great idea to celebrate local food. Maybe we will see more of the old traditions return if oil prices lead to a trend away from globalisation towards more localisation?

Observations from the Hillside is contemplating the pitfalls of the housing market in his entry Moving to rent.

jmb takes us to the Green Lake, Whistler, in her photo hunt this week. Great spot, lovely photo!

Our newest Blogpower member, No Clue, found a major problem for bloggers with sitemeter installed who are using IE6 and IE7: when they click onto their blog it fails to load, and you will receive an error message saying 'IE cannot open the page', and then 'Operation Aborted'. No Clue also has a link to fix the problem, so if you are affected, this is the entry for you.

Miss Wagstaff from Wales found herself involuntarily deleted from Facebook but also discovers the positive side-effects of having one less online distraction from real life.

In Search of High Places debates the meaning of the word "atheism". Apparently there now is a bit of a debate in the blogosphere regarding this topic.

Grendel gives a personal insight into what it means to participate in a job interview - not as interviewee but as interviewer!

Calum Carr invites us to meet his favourite football team, the Pars. Don't know the Pars? Well, better read his blog then!

May I end with my own blog? If you have been to my blog you will know that I strongly support action on climate change. Unfortunately, not even easy solutions such as replacing old light bulbs with energy saving ones are without problems because not all CFLs are safe, as I found out.