Peter's Blog

A voice of reason

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A grieving mother

Today in a powerful interview and subsequent press conference, Colin Powell, an incredibly well-respected former soldier and Secretary of State in the USA and life-long Republican announced his endorsement for the Democrat, Barack Obama. In part his decision was because of the anti-muslim hatred being fuelled by his party, something he rightly abhors.

Referencing the above photo this is what he said: 

Putting the pieces together

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Goods on St Andrew's Traidcraft Stall

Last night I joined the Blantyre Rotary Club for dinner as their speaker. It was a small gathering but filled with good cheer and banter. The meal, courtesy of the Redstones Hotel, was both good in quality and amount!

I had been asked along to speak about fairtrade, and while we didn't talk about fairtrade during the meal I had a moment of clarity as we talked about the current financial crisis, the crazy mortgage terms that were being offered a year or two ago, and the bail outs of the banking system. 

Bumper stickers

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Bumper Sticker

Our family car got its first wash in about a year today... I love the colour of this car (metallic grey) as it hides the dirt brilliantly! Why the special treatment? See above. After I mentioned to Carolyn that a friend (thanks, Liz) had an Obama bumper sticker on her car, she wanted one too!

Another minister friend in Brechin received an Obama lawn sign in the post from the USA this week too. Perhaps there should be a "CofS Ministers for Obama" group?


Nothing new under the sun

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Screen image from Bob Roberts

Listening to a podcast last week I heard about a film I had never seen called Bob Roberts. It came up in the podcast in relation to the current American election and the ever more desperate moves of Senator John McCain and Governor Sarah Palin as they try to wrestle the lead in the polls away from Senator Barack Obama.

I found that Tesco DVD rental (which I am trialing at the moment) had a copy so I added it to our list. It arrived today and we watched it this evening. What a great film. In a mock-documentary style a British documentary team follows the election race for a Senate seat of the folk singer, Bob Roberts, whose songs have to be heard to be believed. 


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I couldn't resist this having seen it.

Hat-tip to Fiona Ogg for spotting the clip.

Are the wolves out tonight?

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Full Moon over Blantyre

A beautifully clear night tonight, though chilly with it. Here's a snap of our celestial companion taken from the front door of the manse.

Bye bye banks

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Royal Bank of Scotland headquarters, Edinburgh

Another Scottish bank teeters... and as my friend David Burt from Hillhouse said at our discussion evening last night "you thought a few months ago that the banks were rock solid" and now it seems they are more built on sand than rock. Of course, David also told us that he couldn't stop laughing at the news of Iceland's bank accounts being frozen...!

Like many, with the news about the Royal Bank of Scotland, HBOS and Lloyds TSB I am worried as it does impact our own savings. But what do you do? I was amused to read that sales of safes have gone through the roof as people give up on the banking system to adopt the "under the mattress" approach in their own homes.

A new arrival

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Olivia Claudia

After being in Perth all day today for a Ministries Council training day, I finally this evening was able to meet my new niece, Olivia Claudia, born in the small hours of the morning. Very sweet and very peaceful, at least while I was there...

Hope on a Tightrope?

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At the Magnify Praise Service on Sunday night we were thinking about "hope" as part of a series based on 1 Corinthians 13 and the Christian virtues of faith, hope and love. We watched an edited clip of an interview between Dr Cornel West and the satirist Stephen Colbert which was shown last week. The clip here is the full interview.

What a man! I recommend watching this a few times as on the first watch you don't pick everything up... just remember we need to "shift from the bling bling to the quest for wisdom, justice and hope." 

Girls just wanna have fun

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Oops... this is what happens when you give lipstick to a three-year old to play with in the car, while Dad is sitting oblivious in the front reading a book... for the observant among you note the new decoration on the car door.

Harthill update!

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Harthill Footbridge Installation

Following yesterday's blog entry, a wonderful image from a Flickr collection of the footbridge being lowered into place next to the old bridge last night. Quite a contrast in styles.

Crossing the divide

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Crane ready to lift new Harthill footbridge

On the way to Edinburgh today (another meeting at 121 George St) I noticed a huge crane towering over Harthill Services on the M8. Sitting in the car park on the North side of the M8 was a brand spanking new footbridge that was hooked to the crane ready for lifting.

The picture above was taken on the way home from Edinburgh as I approached the services. You can see the 40-year old and very decrepit looking footbridge that takes you from one side to the other for grub. Having been intrigued by this, I have found that the lift of the 230 tonne bridge happens tonight so the new bridge should be in place tomorrow.

Money, money, money

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The buck stops here

I got home late today after a day at 121 George Street on Communication Committee business (two back-to-back meetings) and then a wee jaunt down to Lanark to meet up with the family for dinner with friends. (I noted that when Edinburgh had a holiday two weeks ago that 121 was closed, but when we in the West had a holiday today, we're all expected to turn up for meetings!)

I've been trying to follow what has been happening in DC with respect to Wall Street over the last few days and must confess to being only a little surprised to come home and find that the big bail out plan failed to get the votes it needed.

Truth and Violence

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Yesterday there were three pieces of news from Stateside that in turn depressed, inspired and disgusted (and no, they do not relate to Wall St):

  • A prosecuter for the military at Guantanamo Bay resigned saying there was no way a fair trial was going to be able to take place for the prisoner he was prosecuting as the defence were not being allowed access to the information they needed. Note it was the military prosecuter who was resigning, the guy paid by George W Bush, not the defence lawyer of the prisoner.
  • A group called Veterans for Peace unravelled a huge banner in Washington DC calling for Bush and Cheney to be arrested for war crimes, and one of them gave an inspiring and truthful account of why the US Constitution is in such danger.
  • US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice after having for years denied being present during any discussions about the use of torture by the CIA and military admitted to a Senate investigation that she and all the key players in the White House had been having these discussions all along. If you have followed any of this story you knew this already, the disgust is for the constant lies.

(There's more...)

Community Organisers

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Jesus was a community organiser

I ordered the T-shirt above yesterday... looking forward to its arrival! It says:

Jesus was a community organiser
Pontius Pilate was a governor

Around the houses and back home again

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Evacuating Crieff Hydro

I know I shouldn't be surprised, but today's session at Crieff just seemed to settle into the very familiar when we tried to flesh out the strawman. The only excitement came with a fire alarm in the middle of the session which meant we all had to traipse out (in an orderly fashion, of course) of the Hydro and hang around for the all clear.

It is always the same with these conferences that the best bit as a participant is the fellowship and conversations. The buzz of meeting with colleagues and sharing stories, ideas and support for one another is always refreshing and encouraging. 

Straw dollies

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Day 2 of conference at Crieff, though today it is just half a day. Today we are supposedly going to be creating a "Strawman" or "Straw dolly" as we thought strawman a bit gender restrictive! What is a strawman? In this context it is a first draft/idea of what the regional Chuch of Scotland (i.e. presbyteries) might look like in the future. This is coming from all the discussion we had yesterday. From this rough sketch more details can be added, or parts dispensed with, and so on.

It is a very difficult task... as much as we complain about presbyteries when you sit down and try to work out how you could do things differently you tend to come back to the same solutions. It will be interesting to see where it goes this morning. The Panel on Review and Reform doesn't report to the General Assembly on this matter until 2010 so I suppose they have time to flesh out the very rough ideas we've been having here.

A great evening last night with much hilarity once the work was finished... although that did mean a late night to bed... so no change there. The room I had last night, albeit briefly, was wonderful, could have brought the whole family with room to spare.

Bubblegum and fluff

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Bubblegum and fluff

The Calderside Learning Community Chaplaincy Team comprising David Burt, Karen Harbison, Steve Younger and myself met this morning with Jen Robertson, the presbytery's Schools and Churches Youth Development Worker, to make arrangements for what should be a fun event for P6 children this Christmas.

I love the title for it: Bubblegum and Fluff. That is going to be the story we tell... about that lost piece of bubblegum that fell down the side of your bed only to be found six years later covered in fluff and all kinds of rubbish. You know that underneath all the fluff there is still a piece of bubblegum, even if it is hard to tell at a quick glance.

The point being that Christmas can be the same. So many additions have been made to the Christmas Story that sometimes it is hard to remember what is central to Christmas. 

Connections and communities

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I finally succumbed today to Facebook... If you have never heard of it, it is an online community where you can keep up-to-date with your friends and family wherever they are in the world. It is one of the products of what is called Web 2.0, the next phase of the internet's development which has been taking off over the last couple of years in developing new online communities.

Truly it is amazing. Within a few minutes I had found folks I haven't spoken to in years both from the UK and in the USA. Once you have your own place on facebook and start to add friends (I have been told there is a fine line here between having very few friends and looking pretty sad and having way too many friends and looking even sadder!) then facebook starts to suggest other people you may want to make your friends from the networks of your current friends and from knowing which school you went to and so on. It is very impressive and immediately started suggesting people that I do indeed know. 

Greed getting the better of us?

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On the front page of today's Sunday Times the current Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Rt Rev David Lunan, is quoted from an excellent article confronting the devastating blows to the world's financial markets and the likes of our own HBOS during the week. The question that is raised by David Lunan is what place can greed play in our financial systems. At the moment it is central, but should it be? What about the commandment about coveting that which is not ours?

The article is reproduced in full on the Times website here.

Money quote:

Those who deal in the buying and selling of shares talk a lot about confidence. But whose confidence — theirs or ours? What if we have lost confidence in those who claimed they knew best? If the money changers are motivated solely by the quick buck, where is the reliability, the trustworthiness, the integrity we used to associate with those to whom we entrusted our hard earned savings? But society seems to respect those who have wealth, and not ask questions about how it was made. We reward failure with golden handshakes.

Communities cannot survive if there is no trust. We must have a moral framework of checks and balances to underpin our economic system without which it is the law of the jungle and the devil take the hindmost. That moral framework must have a bias towards those who have the least capacity to fend for themselves. It must challenge the idea that more is always better because there are values more valuable than money.