Saturday Supplement

No supplement last week as I was a little too-pre-occupied to collate the few things that had caught my eye... But here are a few from  the past couple of weeks...
First is this news that, in the midst of the Euro-meltdown, the Greeks have apologised to the rest of the EU with a huge wooden horse...  I'm not an economic expert... indeed balancing my own chequebook stretches me to my limit (although I have to say I get a little frustrated with those who constantly compare maxing out their credit card with the management of sovereign debt... the two don't actually bear any relation to each other... unless we are using our credit cards to pump-prime potentially money-making ventures), so articles or programmes about economics and finance usually don't hold my attention for long... However, last September on Radio 4's More or Less I listened the whole way through a programme which explained the crisis in terms of Homeric myths and in the light of the above link I sought out and found the blog of the programme, entitled Debt: A European Odyssey. It's worth a look and/or listen whether you are ignorant of economics, Greek myths or both...
Bringing the effects of austerity and the debt crisis back home, this assortment of columns gives a slight flavour of what those at the bottom of the pile in Britain are having to cope: The Mirror's piece on the "Hidden Poor" looks at the unlikely range of people having to draw on the burgeoning range of food banks (a phenomenon we have witnessed locally), while the this Guardian piece looks at the real cost of sickness benefits cuts... again not hitting scroungers but people who have or are attempting to work for a living. Sir Tom Hunter's ill-judged comments re the poor in Scotland being "pampered" because of the benefits culture, have produced a massive backlash. There are issues regarding the dependency culture that has developed in some quarters through mal-administration of the welfare state and generational unemployment, but this piece, again from the Guardian, challenges the idea that it could be described as pampering the poor.
Moving from one bête noir of the right wing, to another... I was shocked, though sadly not surprised by this article regarding the execution of the wrong man in Texas... Personally I find state execution in general morally repugnant, especially since it has been demonstrated to have little deterrent power, but stories like this emphasise that until we can guarantee a perfect criminal justice system, the costs to the innocent victims of  miscarriages of justice outweigh any conceivable benefits to society as a whole.
Back on this island the criminal justice issue that has caught my eye this week relates to the activities of RAAD- Republican Action Against Drugs... the Provisional IRA splinter group which specialised in punishment beatings/shootings of alleged drug-dealers, seems to be branching out into dealing with other "anti-social behaviour" leading to the bizarre story of one person being threatened with shooting unless he went to "anger management classes." Some have poured scorn on this story, but what was more distressing was to read and listen to the account of a mother who shook hands with her son before he was taken out and shot in the legs by RAAD, telling the reporter that her son "had to be shot." Without condoning the actions of the son, or passing any judgement on the mother, any society where a mother will state publicly that her son "had to be shot" has been brutalised to beyond breaking point.
Its against that background that it is especially sad to mark the death of Walter Wink, who coined the phrase "the myth of redemptive violence." Far too few Christians have paid attention to his writings (hence the broad silence that marked his demise) which is why a Christian critique of retributive punishment, be it by the state or by vigilantes, has so little power... Wink would have scored a 7/7 in Michael Patton's "7 Marks of a Good Theologian". On a good day I might get 3.5!!
On a lighter note Prof. Billy McWilliams is doing his bit for Ulster-Scots culture and international relations. With the European Cup Finals coming up he is plotting how Northern Ireland could be joint hosts of the 2020 Finals with the Faroe Islands.
Finally, however, here's a wee something to help you while away a Saturday morning... A little reaction time test from the BBC... Go top up your coffee and see if you are bobbing bobcat or better... Thanks Jools for that one... I owe you... Or rather you owe me about an hour's work I didn't get done this week!

Cheers

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