Daily Archives: September 13, 2008

Some changes here

As many will know my blogs here were compromised on 8 September. You can read my panic on the WordPress forum, keeping in mind that some of the entries under my name were written by the break-in merchant! I can guarantee everything after Sep 8, 2008, 3:07 PM. 😉 See also these entries on Journalspace, to which I retreated, and my thread on Aussie Bloggers.

One moral from all this: turn off anything which remembers passwords for you. 😦

Everything seems now to be fixed. However, the Gateway page has been a casualty. My old stats obsession will appear on Ninglun on Blogspot instead. I am moving the feeds to my other blogs higher up the side bar as a result; do check them whenever you come.

If you use “Contact” you will find it sends you to a new email address; yes, it is me!

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Posted by on September 13, 2008 in personal, site news


The post-hack stats — the week that was

My little life raft in the past few days when this blog and my WordPress blogs were breached by an unprincipled hacker was Journalspace. The result on that long dormant blog was 312 page views from 117 visits to that blog in the past seven days (last Saturday to Friday) according to Google Analytics. On the blog you are reading now, which did briefly close during the week, there were 64 page views from 44 visits in the same period.

Floating Life Blogs on WordPress

Note the Gateway no longer exists. These stats are from WordPress.

Floating Life

314 views on Saturday, 355 on Sunday, 397 on Monday, 386 on Tuesday, 432 on Wednesday, 432 on Thursday, and 422 on Friday so far — still one hour GMT to go.

Top posts have been:

  1. Sarah Palin 503 views
  2. Australian poem: 2008 series #9 — The Angel’s Kiss 142
  3. 2008 Beijing Paralympics Games – ABC (Australia) 142
  4. NSW Local Government Election 2008 / Sutherland Shire Council D Ward 99
  5. The Hollowmen – ABC TV 44

Those open in new windows.

That is all I will give today, but the Sitemeter picture for all the Floating Life blogs, including Journalspace but not Blogspot: 4,594 views from 3,503 visits.


I just give the Sitemeter stats today: 3,073 views from 2,254 visits in the past week.

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Posted by on September 13, 2008 in blogging, site news, site stats


Bigotry is not confined to the religious or the right wing

AV has made a kind and much appreciated allusion to this blog’s recent travails. However, when he attributes the event to right-wing authoritarianism he is not entirely correct; certainly an authoritarian cast of mind and an antidemocratic spirit are involved. However, the source of the attack was not necessarily motivated by conventional right-wing politics, and certainly not by religion. On the other hand, excessive certainty and intolerance of criticism or difference were part of the picture. In those respects, the spirit of the attack was indeed, as AV notes, antidemocratic.

I can say that it is fairly certain where the attack came from, and what motivated it — the attacker’s problem, that, not mine. The attacker as good as left DNA all over the scene of the crime. In attacking me he also attacked, and I am sure they are not taking it kindly. They are also far more expert in these matters than either the attacker or I. It did amuse me to witness a log file from the time of these events which included a suggestion, obviously emanating from WordPress, that the hacker apply for a job with AutoMattic — the company behind WordPress. I take it that was ironic…

That brings me to two articles and a book which, it seems to me, are the antithesis of bigotry, whether that is religious or antireligious bigotry. I am not saying I agree with them, but I do say they are worth reading. The book is one of my Best Reads of 2008.

My theism is of the most modest kind and would deeply offend fundamentalists. I am thus a great admirer of the former Anglican bishop of Edinburgh, Richard Holloway, “a man who, for many conservative Christians, has stretched the definition of liberal theology past breaking point, while remaining for many non-believers the most humane and persuasive apologist for faith.” That comes from a review just published in New Statesman: Doubting Dawkins. Rather than quoting it further, I will simply commend it to your consideration. Holloway’s emphasis on the primacy of compassion does appeal to me.

The second article is from the USA and does raise some interesting questions: Jonathan Haidt, What Makes People Vote Republican? from Again, while not necessarily endorsing all that Haidt says, I do commend it as worth consideration.

…This research led me to two conclusions. First, when gut feelings are present, dispassionate reasoning is rare. In fact, many people struggled to fabricate harmful consequences that could justify their gut-based condemnation. I often had to correct people when they said things like “it’s wrong because… um…eating dog meat would make you sick” or “it’s wrong to use the flag because… um… the rags might clog the toilet.” These obviously post-hoc rationalizations illustrate the philosopher David Hume’s dictum that reason is “the slave of the passions, and can pretend to no other office than to serve and obey them.” This is the first rule of moral psychology: feelings come first and tilt the mental playing field on which reasons and arguments compete. If people want to reach a conclusion, they can usually find a way to do so. The Democrats have historically failed to grasp this rule, choosing uninspiring and aloof candidates who thought that policy arguments were forms of persuasion.

The second conclusion was that the moral domain varies across cultures. Turiel’s description of morality as being about justice, rights, and human welfare worked perfectly for the college students I interviewed at Penn, but it simply did not capture the moral concerns of the less elite groups—the working-class people in both countries who were more likely to justify their judgments with talk about respect, duty, and family roles. (“Your dog is family, and you just don’t eat family.”) From this study I concluded that the anthropologist Richard Shweder was probably right in a 1987 critique of Turiel in which he claimed that the moral domain (not just specific rules) varies by culture. Drawing on Shweder’s ideas, I would say that the second rule of moral psychology is that morality is not just about how we treat each other (as most liberals think); it is also about binding groups together, supporting essential institutions, and living in a sanctified and noble way.

When Republicans say that Democrats “just don’t get it,” this is the “it” to which they refer. Conservative positions on gays, guns, god, and immigration must be understood as means to achieve one kind of morally ordered society. When Democrats try to explain away these positions using pop psychology they err, they alienate, and they earn the label “elitist.” But how can Democrats learn to see—let alone respect—a moral order they regard as narrow-minded, racist, and dumb?…

The book is John Dominic Crossan, God & Empire: Jesus against Rome, Then and Now (Harper San Francisco 2007). You may read the Preface on that second link.

For a very long time I have been pondering the texts and wandering the ruins of the Roman Empire. Initially, I did so as a biblical scholar doing research for books I was writing on the historical reconstruction of earliest Christianity from The Historical Jesus in 1991, through The Birth of Christianity in 1998, to In Search of Paul, co-authored with the archaeologist Jonathan Reed of the University of LaVerne, in 2004. I presume those three books as prelude and preparation for this book on God and Empire.

I have always thought of the historical Jesus as a homeland Jew within Judaism within the Roman Empire. I have always thought of the historical Paul as a diaspora Jew within Judaism within the Roman Empire. For me, then, within Judaism within the Roman Empire has always been the absolutely necessary matrix rather than the annoyingly unnecessary background for any discussion of earliest Christianity. You can see that three-layer matrix, for example, in the sub-titles to the first and last books above. For the historical Jesus, The Life of a Mediterranean Peasant, emphasizes Rome,  Judaism, and Jew.   For the historical Paul, How Jesus’s Apostle Opposed Rome’s Empire with God’s Kingdom, emphasizes Jew, Rome, and Judaism. Whether you start or end with the Roman Empire, the Roman Empire is always there.

But there is now a further reason for studying the textual and archaeological history of the Roman Empire. Here is that newer but now accompanying reason. I have been hearing recently two rather insistent claims from across the spectrum of our religio-political life. The first one claims that America is now and/or was always an empire. That, in fact, the virus of imperialism came—like so many other ones—on those first ships from Europe. The second and subsidiary one claims that we are in fact Nova Roma, the New Roman Empire, Rome on the Potomac…

— from the Preface

Certainly the opening chapter is a brilliant exposition of the nature of Rome under the Julio-Claudians, a subject I have studied both at University, and as a sometime Ancient History teacher. Many of the remarks about contemporary America are also apposite. It is also good to find a very learned man who writes like a human!

That said, I am not entirely convinced by all that Crossan says. Yes, he does get up the noses of fundamentalists — and as far as I am concerned that is a big plus. (A Muslim Crossan — and I am sure this is possible and may even exist — would be highly desirable.) I also have to say that the agnostic side of my humble theism is offended by the unspoken assumption that the Mediterranean really is the centre of the world, as the Roman conceit of Medi + Terranean implies. A similar conceit made China, about which Europe and Palestine in the first century knew little and cared less, call itself Zhong Guo or Middle Kingdom. In all our historical and religious considerations, we need above all in the 21st century to take that fact on board. It is an uncomfortable consideration. It does not impact one way or another on our ideas about the existence of God, whatever that word actually means; but it does impact on our views about what God is alleged to have said or done. Inevitably, I would have thought.


My traditional “Saturday Stats” will appear on Blogspot.


Local government elections today in NSW, and the State Government’s disarray

On the second, I commend Jim Belshaw to you. The farce that the NSW Labor government has become is most dispiriting, and will no doubt impact on Labor’s chances in the current round of local government elections. Unless particular candidates from Labor have good track records on local issues, and no doubt that will be the case in some Municipalities and Shires, I think it is safe to say Labor candidates will be so on the nose with the electorate after the past few months that their chances are slim. This is sad, as one of my confreres at South Sydney Uniting Church is a Labor candidate for Sydney. Clover Moore’s sitting Independent team will win.

The woes of NSW Labor do not yet seem to have dented Kevin Rudd, but I am sure he is watching all this with some concern.

And the outcome for Sydney?

Clover Moore is back with a big swing towards her personally, +12.7% for the Mayoral election and +15.2% for her group. Labor has a swing of -8.0% overall. The Left vote, it would appear, has gone to The Greens with swings of +4.2% (Mayoral election) and +5.4% (Council election). So it will be a Clover and Greens future for Sydney in the main, though some Labor will get in and, behind them, a Liberal maybe… (It’s a quota system.) That is all with just over 50% counted. Check the final result later.