You are currently browsing the monthly archive for September 2013.

#OCTABBER-250 (2)Whilst the NHS is promoting a second Stoptober — smoking cessation month — this blog, along with a few other UK sites, joins in a second #Octabber.

The idea for #Octabber came from Chris Snowdon of Velvet Glove, Iron Fist last September in response to the NHS’s ‘intervention’. Blogger Pat Nurse added the hashtag and has started a site of the same name.

A number of posts here this month will explore the fallacy that smoking is the world’s number one health problem. For those who disagree, that’s fine. However, anti-smoking comments — as well as those critical of the Enlightenment or old earth theories — will not be published. Such sentiments have rung out loud and clear over the past several years; most of us have have digested enough of them to last an eternity.

It is interesting to note that as smoking has declined over the past half century, crime rates in the West have skyrocketed.

Surely crime poses a greater health risk, not only to the victims but also to their families.

Tobacco cessation has not produced a kinder, gentler society. Instead, it has created a divided, violent atmosphere.

Yet, no one ever reads about the health risks of crime, some of which are related to tobacco (e.g. French railway stations in larger towns and cities where small groups of threatening panhandlers and teens stab or maim passersby who refuse to give them cigarettes).

Posts here during the month of October will explore the deterioration of our cities with regard to crime over the past few decades — a much greater risk than tobacco. They will also explore government control — actual and proposed — over health and eugenics.

I cannot guarantee that you will agree with every post, however, the point is for us to consider where public health policies are headed, even when they do not directly affect our lives.

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Friday’s post featured a guest post by my reader Lleweton. In it he describes Fleet Street as it once was — England’s bustling nucleus of news, renowned the world over.

Today, Llew gives us more of an insight into what it was like to work for a newspaper and what one could have expected in dealing with colleagues and printers — as well as IRA terrorism.

My thanks to Llew for taking the time to write these fascinating guest posts, which are greatly appreciated.

If you have questions or comments about old Fleet Street, please leave them on this post.  Llew will be reading them and responding to you here.

Photo credit: Urban 75’s ‘A visit to the St Bride Foundation print workshop, Fleet Street, London’

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For some years in the 1960s and the two following decades I worked for the Parliamentary Service of the Fleet Street-based national press agency (the UK equivalent of AP and Reuter) at its office in  the Parliamentary  Press Gallery building in the Palace of Westminster  –  though  there was  a break in the middle when I transferred to a national newspaper.

In this work we worked closely with the telegraphists –  members of the most skilled print union, the National Graphical Association (NGA) – who transmitted our copy around the nation and the world via teleprinter.

Its members often helped us by spotting mistakes we had missed. They didn’t have to. A friendly balance of power, as it were, was essential. And I mean balance. It did not do to be too fierce or too ingratiating.  Management and union structures were unwieldy. But individual working relationships could flourish even so and did.

One of the telegraphists who worked with me for years at all hours, forty yards from Big Ben, had learned his trade in the RAF and had served in Aden. One day, in April, 1979, we were at our desks at the House of Commons when there was a loud bang.

It should have been my job to take an instant decision and let the world know what had happened. While I was dithering,  my ex RAF colleague  recognised the sound, no doubt about it for him, and on the wires he put the message:

(News) Flash: Explosion at the Commons.

That was the day that the MP, Colditz veteran and friend of Margaret Thatcher, Airey Neave, died when an IRA bomb exploded as he was driving out of the MPs’ car park.

I was truly indebted to my printer colleague for his instant iniative.

In my Westminster office there was a slight mark on a wall. It carried a tale of how media workers, whether journalists or people on the print or production side might get on together, or not.

This was an era – apologies to those who remember – when ‘cut and paste’ was literally so. There was always a big pot of glue on the subs’ desk, used to assemble snippets from original copy into the order editing needs dictated. (Scissors by the way, were always going missing and I used an old penknife, which I kept sharpened,  to slice my copy.)

My agency used Gloy, which did not have a brush. The best stuff for cut and paste I ever used was at the Daily Telegraph, a really big pot, never less than half-full, with a great sloshy separate brush.

The mark on that wall at Westminster, was left by a pot of Gloy. It was a pot which I hurled, at about two or three in the morning during an all night sitting. And which smashed.

I had genuinely intended it narrowly to miss our editorial clerk of that night, a living, feisty, independent scion of  Bow  Bells, London. I had been engaged in an administrative deadlock with him and thought the flying gluepot would get his attention.

We were actually friends – he was a famous, extremely colourful  character around the Palace, who added to the sheer enjoyment of life and I was fond of  him – but he had been in a really cantankerous mood for hours that night.

On an impulse I  decided  the glue-pot  was a better way to peace and productivity than getting all official and complaining about him the next day.

Well, it did work. Problem solved. No officials. No unions. Just a rather puzzled chief editorial clerk (his boss) when he came in next day and saw the wall, which we had tried to clean, there, in the small hours, as a handful of MPs kept the sitting going into the night – empty green benches mainly.

Perhaps it was a tribute to our working relationships in that office that no-one was sacked, including me.

Meanwhile, in Greater Fleet Street, if I might term it that way, we journalists had to be very careful in our dealings with the print unions. There were colleagues of my friend of the glue pot at our head office, who had things very nicely organised on their night shifts.

They came in, and after about half an hour laid out a row of chairs and ‘got their head down’. For the night. Their job was actually to pick up, file and deliver around the office copy from individual reporters and from agency printers. In fact, we journalists looked after our own files unless there was a work to rule, in which case there would have been serious consequences if we had touched a piece of paper.

I remember trying once to demur at something or other with one of the clerks but was sternly called off by a venerable sub-editor, unofficial ‘Father’ of, and ‘confessor’ to the subs’ desk  a veteran of the Communist Daily Worker, who warned me my job could be at risk if there were a stand-off.

And yet there were very few who were not decent people and we did manage to get on … except when there was a work to rule – and it’s interesting to look at the annual report of our  Pension Fund and recall their names as we all die off – print workers or editors, in our turn.

I’ve said that Fleet Street was a village. So it was. It was a term lovingly used by my old Communist colleague. He really did love Fleet Street and its world. His roots grew deep in the village. But he didn’t approve of managements. Any management I think. And said he only stayed on with us because the bosses wanted him to retire.

While, on the editorial floors and in the pubs and Mick’s all night café, and the clubs and El Vino’s wine bar –  where the columnists gathered – there was a daily rhythm and structure, centring on meeting edition times and getting the papers out, there remained an inflexibility, perhaps an imbalance of power in the dealings between managements and unions. In this the unions had the upper hand.

They were closed shops. To work you had to be a member of a union. This gave the unions power, not only over the bosses but over their own members, especially if, as I recall, in the case of the less skilled jobs, it was the union officials who allocated jobs to those who worked by the day, as casual workers.

I doubt that a system like that operates these days.

The highly skilled print people, those who set the copy on linotype machines, and the compositors who laid out the pages when the type had been cast in lines of metal, and who set the headlines by hand, were members of the NGA.  They had served long apprenticeships, six years, as I recall.

A senior job in editing was that of the ‘stone sub’. That was the journalist who worked with the compositor as the page was finalised. The sub-editor would read the copy in its metal lines, upside down, and point to any changes which were needed with his pen. It was not done for a journalist to touch with his hand the lines of metal print in their frame. That was the absolute domain of the compositor.

I never did this job in Fleet Street, though I did on provincial newspapers. A good working relationship between compositor and sub-editor was essential, especially when copy had to be cut to fit or headlines re-set with the clock ticking. But on the ‘coalface’  we rank and file journalists  and printers managed.

Who would have forecast that in a few years all those printers’ skills would be totally redundant?

© Lleweton 2013

Bible penngrovechurchofchristorgContinuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Luke 8:4-8

The Parable of the Sower

 4 And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable: 5 “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. 6And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. 7And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. 8And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said these things, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

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If you’ve been reading Forbidden Bible Verses over the past few years, you might remember this parable from St Mark’s Gospel. It is also in the other of the three Synoptic Gospels, St Matthew’s (Matthew 13:1-9). (This post has more on the Synoptic — ‘seen together’ — Gospels.)

Jesus practised the Old Testament tradition of teaching in parables — analogies — because they translate God’s truth into everyday language and concepts. So it is with this lesson about the sower. For those who do not have the opportunity to do much gardening or vegetable growing, the meaning might not be clear. Certainly, if there are youngsters in the house, it is worth explaining to them the dependence of seed on good soil. These days, we are far removed from growing food and the precarious nature of raising crops.

Mark’s and Matthew’s accounts tell us that Jesus was by the sea when he told the people this parable. In fact, so many people had come to hear Him that He had to launch out into the sea in a boat, which provided a better vantage point for the crowd to see and listen to Him. The crowds were too large to accommodate a synagogue, hence, the open-air preaching. As Mark and Matthew do, Luke tells us of the great crowds who gathered from miles around to hear Jesus on this particular day (verse 4).

Jesus began by saying that birds flocked around some of the seed the sower threw onto the soil (verse 5). Therefore, their devouring it prevented crops from growing on that part of the field.

The sower was laying down seed via the broadcast method, which means he was carrying a large bag of seed — the bag being slung over his shoulder — and, as the name of this manner of sowing implies, cast over a large area. This means that success rates of the resulting plants would be mixed; yet, it was the way to plant seed in a vast field.

Jesus told the crowd that some of the other seed ended up on rock (verse 6), where it eventually died because it lacked moisture. There was no soil for it to put down solid roots and hold water.

Yet more seed fell amongst thorny weeds, which choked growth from the seed (verse 7). If you read instructions on a seed packet, invariably they say to ensure that you weed the area around planting so that the seed can develop into a plant.

Finally, Jesus said that some of the seed which the sower broadcast fell onto good soil and it increased ‘a hundredfold’. He then exhorted the crowd to pay close attention to what He was saying. When He had an important point to make, he often used the words ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear’. This carries the same connotation as ‘Selah!’ in the Psalms.

Of this parable, Matthew Henry explains (italics in the original):

The success of the seeding is very much according to the nature and temper of the soil, and as that is, or is not, disposed to receive the seed. The word of God is to us, as we are, a savour of life unto life, or of death unto death.

John MacArthur says that Jesus did not use the word ‘hundredfold’ lightly in referring to seed landing on good soil, of which the area had very little (emphasis mine):

This good soil means it doesn’t have any of the prior conditions. It’s not hard, it’s soft. It’s not shallow, it’s deep. It doesn’t contain weeds, it’s clean. This is in every sense the prepared soil and it produces really an amazing crop. Matthew 13:8 and Mark 4:8 which record the same parable, say that Jesus said it sometimes bring forth thirtyfold, sometimes it brings forth sixtyfold, and sometimes a hundredfold. Luke only mentions the hundredfold. The farmers in Israel would say at that time that if you had a tenfold crop that was a great crop. If you had a seven-point-fivefold crop that was an average crop. But a hundredfold was staggering…staggering. Jesus wants to stagger the people. He wants to talk about a seed that falls in, that produces an unimaginable fruitfulness.

What lessons did Jesus intend for His audience — and us — to learn? Find out next week.

Next time: Luke 8:9-15

Some of you will be familiar with Lleweton’s Blog (see my blogroll), a superb collection of reminiscences about England written in Llew’s inimitable style.  His gentle, dreamlike prose makes it one of my regular online destinations.

Llew’s post is about his memories of Fleet Street, and I am most grateful for his contribution.

If you have questions or comments about old Fleet Street, please leave them on this post.  Llew will be reading them and responding to you here.

Photo credit of Fleet Street: Bing, via the Daily Telegraph. Please note, this was taken long before Llew began working there, however, you get an idea of the atmosphere. The Daily Telegraph article has more on Fleet Street, located near the Law Courts in the Strand. This made it a good location for newspaper offices. The Houses of Parliament are within walking distance, which also made coverage of politics convenient.

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I could not claim to have any insights into the daily life of modern media. Most of my experience as a journalist was during the days of ‘hot metal’, before the editorial process and typesetting were computerised.

Fleet Street, the actual road, never slept. The presses rolled. Newsrooms were noisy. Typewriters clattered. Copytakers took copy from reporters phoning in. Messengers and office boys took the copy round, to editors and printers. Everything was flux, movement, chatter. And there was the tea trolley, and canteen ladies.

At quiet moments the journalists went to the pub. Every newsroom had the number of the ‘office pub’. If there was an emergency, the phone would go and the reporters would hurry back to the office.

Most people, as it happened were smokers. Also the heavy drinking journalist was a virtual stereotype. But the work was done, deadlines were met, papers got out, several editions a night. And the print workers’ clubs were open most of the night, as was the Press Club, and Mick’s Cafe which many will remember.

Come new technology and Fleet Street’s diaspora. New offices were scattered across London. The village life of Fleet Street died, and with it, I believe, much of its culture: its boozy, independent-minded Bohemianism. And newsrooms became quieter, as reporters and sub-editors focused on the new computers, and maybe the bustle and banter and arguments fell silent.

Before new technology many journalists came up through the ranks, beginning as copy boys in Fleet Street or as junior reporters on provincial weeklies. Others drifted in from various occupations or none. Some graduates arrived direct from University. Perhaps individualism was the keynote and flexibility the working style, with the non-negotiatable requirement that edition times must be met and the paper must come out.

As far as I know it is very unusual indeed for journalists to be non-graduates these days. This is a huge generalisation, but perhaps there is a uniformity in their mindset which is not typical of the rebels, riffraff, yes drunks, and geniuses who earned their living by their pen in olden times. Add to that the relative social isolation which has followed the introduction of computers and maybe media folk are more conformist and less sceptical, more part of the Establishment than of yore.

© Lleweton 2013

Later this weekend: Cut and paste diplomacy on Fleet Street

In July, I wrote a piece on France’s Health Minister Marisol Touraine (Parti Socialiste), who said that smoking was France’s greatest public health issue.

Not only does she want to see smoking banned nearly everywhere outdoors, she also wants e-cigarettes banned from open-air areas. They set ‘a bad example’ for other French citizens, especially children. Think of the children!

At the time, I wrote:

Meanwhile, France has a chronic shortage of doctors in rural areas and they have little urgent weekend medical coverage elsewhere. But that seems much less urgent. I read in last week’s Marianne that Touraine is planning on closing a small ER in central Paris.

Furthermore, her department has set up state-sponsored shooting galleries for hard drug users. It seems heroin is all right, but tobacco is taboo …

Also, what about encouraging children to have sex before they even understand what it is? What about youth crime which damages youngsters psychologically as well as physically? It is sad to read about young French girls being raped in public places; only last week a 13-year old was raped on a street in Marseille in broad daylight.

See my series of articles under ‘the bogus science behind Tobacco Control’ on smoking bans and the big lie about second hand smoke. Even first hand smoke is up for question. As for fertility? The postwar years had the greatest number of smokers and the greatest number of babies born in the Western world.  Not to mention that our life expectancy is the longest it’s ever been — long before smoking bans.

It seems as if many non-smokers automatically go along with government and health experts (I use the word advisedly) advocating even more restrictions on tobacco.  They see these experts as clean-living angels. They are today’s priests, and secular pietism is the new religion.

You’ll notice that in July I mentioned the trauma — which may also result in illness — that victims of crime experience. Yet, this is never addressed by health ministers anywhere.

So, I was rather intrigued to find an article at the French site L’Internaute and the original source in Le Parisien saying that … Marisol Touraine’s son is serving a three-year prison term for extortion.

On September 10, 2013, Le Parisien reported (emphases mine):

According to our information, Gabriel Reveyrand de Menthon, age 22, son of the current Minister for Social Affairs and Health has been held since the beginning of September at La Santé [irony — ‘santé‘ means ‘health’] Prison in Paris. A sentence, which follows a conviction in March, of three years by the judges of the 10th correctional court of the Paris Tribunal. No appeal has been lodged.

The paper went on to say that the crime took place at 11:30 a.m. in Paris’s 13th arrondissement on May 2, 2011. Mme Touraine’s son needed money to pay off a debt.

He and an accomplice went to the flat of a 59-year old woman who lived in a building near the Minister’s residence. They were wearing balaclavas (knit face masks) and had a replica firearm.

The victim told Le Parisien:

I was very shocked by this, even though he was not physically violent towards me. I’ve known this boy for many years.

She said:

They asked me for my debit card. I gave them my PIN but was mistaken in the emotion of the moment. One of them went to a Post Office cash machine to withdraw the money. During that time, the other held the weapon against my temple. When the other came back, he wasn’t very happy that the transaction hadn’t worked. So, I told them I had some cash in the house, then they left.

The two made off with €990.

The accomplice was sentenced to 30 months in prison.

Mme Touraine’s son has also been ordered to not only return the €990 but another €3000 as a moral debt. The victim’s lawyer says that she has not seen either of these sums come her way.

Mme Touraine has written a letter of apology to the victim. Neither she nor her lawyer have any comment to make on the story.

The moral of the story is that often those who try to dictate the lives of others — law-abiding taxpayers — would do well to clean their own houses first.

You can imagine that if this had happened to one of Sarkozy’s ministers, the Socialists would have been baying for his resignation.

Yet, in this case, Socialist reaction has been lenient towards Mme Touraine. ‘She can’t help what her son does.’

No, but if you do not have some moral control over your own family, you are probably unlikely to be able to fulfil your professional duties in an ethical manner.

In closing, as I write, I’ve just heard yet another French public health advert for smoking cessation. I can think of many worse health problems in life … crime, for one.

French radio station RMC and some of the print media are reporting alarming crime statistics in Marseille and the Paris suburbs.

Nothing new, Frenchmen would say. Yet, crime in both cities has seemingly skyrocketed over the past year.

Conservatives (UMP) say, ‘Interesting that it has occurred since Hollande’s election in May 2012.’

Socialists respond, ‘Did Sarkozy do any better either as Home Secretary or as President?’

Conservatives will not easily forget the Parti Socialiste (PS) meme in 2012 that Sarkozy’s Claude Guéant did such a ‘terrible’ job as Home Secretary because he never understood urban youths, whether they live outside Paris in the suburbs (the capital’s ‘inner city’ outside the Périphérique) or in some of Marseille’s districts.

That was a canny message meant to encourage more fed-up conservatives or centrists to vote for Hollande. Surprise. It worked. Gueant’s successor Manuel Valls (a Spaniard who obtained French nationality several years ago) has done no better.

In fact, crime has become worse, especially for those taking public transport or walking any distance to work in urban areas. Many callers to RMC’s weekday morning shows will tell you so in great detail. Online reader or blogger comment also testifies to same.

Le Monde, which I used to pay for daily (print version), has truly gone downhill over the past four or five years. The content has been significantly watered down. No more gardening column mid-week (pity, it was instructive), an expanded sports section (why, when every man reads L’Equipe?), no more (as far as I know) ombudsman’s column for editorial staff and readers. However, I still read some of the paper online. Old habits die hard.

On September 10, 2013, I read one of their blog posts, ‘Delinquence explodes … or not’ (translated title) by Laurent Borredon.

Borredon had a go at Le Figaro, the so-called conservative newspaper. It’s more centrist in reality and a bore to read.

Le Figaro reported that Valls’s office — Ministry of the Interior — published statistics showing that crime statistics have all gone up year on year (2012 to 2013).

Borredon ‘decodes’ this for us by saying that French police got a new IT (computer) system in 2012 which had its hiccups. He says some of the statistics are ‘disconnected from reality’, especially where an increase in sexual assault is concerned. The ONDRP, which compiles crime statistics, started separating police and gendarmerie figures in November 2012. Le Figaro reported on the combined statistics of the two.

Borredon further points out that the IGA (Inspection Générale de l’Administration) had ‘very strong doubts’ (their words) about Paris’s crime figures in 2012.

Then, he explains, comes the difference in rhetoric between percentage increases and actual numbers. The French politely call organised crime assaults, injuries and murders ‘settling scores’ (règlements de comptes). Borredon says the 10% increase that Le Figaro reported means only six more cases in this category.

Okay, there are always things like that being reported, not just in France but elsewhere. However, where France is concerned, Borredon then briefly — or almost — concedes that Le Figaro has a point when they report that armed robbery figures are up by 8.4%:

This represents only 254 more incidents, but the phenomenon is worrisome.

No kidding. I lived through all this 40 years ago as urban America’s crime rates shot through the roof. You name it, it was increasing. The media and leftists (Democrats) said not to worry, it would sort itself out. Someone needed to understand the ‘poor’ (a bit like the PS saying Sarkozy and Guéant didn’t understand the darlings, either). This has got nothing to do with the poor but rather with a love of sin and crime. And, like the United States, French media are glorifying it in television shows (M6 and its sister D8, the latter completely devoted to crime shows) and rap music.

Then Borredon raised the question of immigrants being at fault. From my reading, holding someone in a cell because he is an illegal immigrant will not result in a police record unless he is charged with a crime upon his apprehension or his illegal status is proven whilst he is in custody. (My French readers are welcome to elaborate on — or contradict — this.) The Socialists were quick to relax charges against those ‘without papers’, having done so in July 2012, two months after they assumed power.

Finally, Borredon addressed the question of whether the police work more under a conservative (UMP) government. Sarkozy’s Home Secretary Guéant at least paid officers overtime, which had the added effect of encouraging officers to work more hours, up to a total of 830,000. Le Figaro claimed this was 2.5m additional hours, which the French audit office (la Cour des comptes) disputes.

You will not be astounded to find that Borredon’s conclusion is that crime has gone down under the Socialists and (Guéant’s successor) Manuel Valls.

Of course, as a cynical reader, all I can wonder is if the French are following the British example of not reporting crime. (More on this below.)

A number of the comments from people who experience French life in the day-to-day give a different perspective to Borredon’s reportage. Here are a few (translated):

Michigan: Hey, let’s not be too hard on the author of this article. He’s on a command mission.

Mat: Far from the paper-shuffling in Place Beauvau [where Valls’s office is located], here are my own crime statistics, for those who are interested. During the past 10 – 15 years:

– Two violent robberies on the RER [suburban mass transit] then below my home, with an interval of a few years, in two different places (Issy-Les-Moulineaux, Montreuil). One of my attackers nearly killed a woman a few weeks later.

– Two identity thefts, one of which only came to light several years later, with various worries (I was recently taken into custody for non-payment on the purchase of a car, entirely unbeknownst to me). 

– Some minor incidents (car windows broken in my parking lot just to take a GPS) along with a thousand incivilities which spoil public transport and public areas …

Philippe: I live in Marseille.

The title of this piece alone made me angry.

You want to know about the reality? The distress? The mothers who take their eight-year old children to the opthamologist to have a black eye examined? They no longer come just for classic spectacles …

Then you have the ideologues who endlessly massage figures and theories …

Women leave the house without necklaces. Businessmen drive a Lexus ‘because they won’t get stolen’. Grandmothers drive several kilometres so that working mothers don’t have to put their children into poorly-subscribed schools. People who have the opportunity to open in business in the north of Marseille refuse when they are told they cannot have ‘someone to protect them’ in ‘that neighbourhood’.

This is what I see … This is what we are living through …

I have to laugh in order not to cry … I’ll be moving out within a year …

Kaz: Monsieur Borredon … have you allowed yourself to be manipulated by the communications office in Place Beauvau?

VanL: … Personally, although I recognise the incompetence in the Conservatives, I find it’s worse in the Left.

Eric: When I welcome foreign visitors to France … I am ashamed to see the mendacious aggression and fistfights on Paris’s streets. And most of my visitors have noticed the change within the past two years. So, you can measure spiderwebs with tweezers [massage the figures all you like], and maybe you’re right, but all the beautiful reasoning from Le Monde can’t change what we see in the streets.

horace: Has Le Monde ever been outside of the Périphérique? I advise everyone (including Le Monde journalists) to check out the gendarmerie‘s research site.

Raslebol: These figures are meant to reassure, only proving at the end that you can use them as you like. Le Monde continues to put forward its leftist propaganda in full denial.

And, last but not least (emphases mine):

lorant21: In my brother’s aviation club, over the past two years there have been thefts of aviation fuel. Since June 2012, the gendarmerie is no longer accepting those reports. As the gendarme said, it’s come from on high that we need to lower crime stats.

Anything to make the Socialists look good. 

Same thing happened under the 13-year nightmare that was Labour in the UK. (And they’re still at the top of the polls! WHY?) People stopped reporting crime, because there was no point. One example — Surrey Police said they were no longer accepting reports of stolen cars (they resumed several months later, just because of so much negative publicity). Unbelievable.

And people in the UK still aren’t reporting all the crimes of which they are victims, including in conservative areas. So when the coppers come ’round and say, ‘Oh, hello, did you know crime’s just gone down in your town over the past year?’, smile sweetly at them and take it with a pinch of salt.

Whilst Westerners have been concerned with possible world overpopulation since the 1960s, the rest of the world believes in life and having it abundantly.

This is the real key to understanding tensions in the West over immigration, the elephant in the room. Very few Western families are large, often for pragmatic financial reasons. Meanwhile, non-Westerners moving to our countries continue to reproduce. The tension here mostly involves the unanswerable question of how many of them are on benefit and, a second concern, how much a strain on resources (e.g. water, health care and housing) this produces. In certain places, such as Greater London, this is a valid worry. Building more housing is a problem when water companies have shut down several reservoirs.

That aside, however, only a Westerner really listens to messages about population control. Indeed, two generations of us (if we use the traditional definition of 25 years) have had this drummed in from our childhoods. I certainly did.

Along with the birth control message is that of sustainability, another thing that interests only Westerners. This meme relies on man being all-powerful over his environment. Nothing could be further from the truth. First, we’re all going to die and, second, we cannot stop natural — or even our own industrial — disasters.

Nevertheless, this does not stop those of a eugenecist and/or environmentalist bent yammering on in error.

The latest is the elderly David Attenborough. He would do better to spend his autumn years giving thanks for all the blessings God has given him during his life.

But no. Instead, Attenborough continues his belief that man is all powerful. Last week, he warned — and remember that evolution is still only a theory, even today:

Human beings have stopped evolving and should be persuaded not to have large families, Sir David Attenborough has said.

The TV naturalist, 87, said that he was not optimistic about the future and that “things are going to get worse”.

He said he did not believe that humans will become extinct but told the Radio Times: “I think that we’ve stopped evolving.

“Because if natural selection, as proposed by Darwin, is the main mechanism of evolution – there may be other things, but it does look as though that’s the case – then we’ve stopped natural selection.

“We stopped natural selection as soon as we started being able to rear 95 – 99% of our babies that are born.

“We are the only species to have put a halt to natural selection, of its own free will, as it were.”

That is an illogical argument. Man cannot stop Nature (God, the author thereof). Therefore, if there is something to natural selection, it will continue.

Heaven forbid, an old-fashioned natural plague might control population. Considering how unhygienic the environmentalist agenda is (reuse plastic wrap, use dirty tote bags for groceries), this possibility becomes ever more likely.

However, we don’t know for certain. In any case, if necessary, whatever it is will surely be out of everyone’s (including government’s) control.

In closing, you would think that Attenborough would be thrilled that more and more people are living to his ripe old age. You would also think he would rejoice at the 95% – 99% birth rate and that most of those infants will grow up to raise their own families.

What’s the saying about ‘old’ and ‘fool’?

For a secular perspective on this topic, see Heresy Corner‘s ‘David Attenborough’s Population Problem’.

Qatar must have some amazing stardust.

They are influencing Europeans both old and young as well as left, right and centre. (See last paragraph and footnotes here.)

Now they’ve been awarded the 2022 World Cup. In principle, there is nothing wrong with that, except the blindingly obvious fact that this event takes place in the northern hemisphere in June and July because anywhere else at that time of year is baking hot.

FIFA’s longtime president Sepp Blatter is at the centre of the controversy. He is now proposing that the World Cup take place in winter, at least in 2022, to avoid extremes of heat.

This Yahoo UK article explains that a winter tournament would disrupt the European league schedules:

Calls to move the World Cup to later in the year, during the European winter, have also been unpopular as it will cause major disruption to domestic league competitions in countries such as Spain, England, Italy, Germany and France.

In May, Blatter said that choosing Qatar to host the World Cup might not have been ‘rational’. No kidding.

Last week, he tried to cover his tracks. Emphases mine below:

“On the other hand, you must also consider political and geo-political realities.

“The World Cup is FIFA’s biggest, if not only, global event. Who are we, the Europeans, to demand that this event has to cater to the needs of 800 million Europeans above all?

“I think it is high time that Europe starts to understand that we do not rule the world any more, and that some former European imperial powers can no longer impress their will on to others in far away places.

We must accept that football has moved away from being a European and South American sport – it has become the world sport that billions of fans are excitedly following every week, everywhere in the world.”

Football fans — of which I am not one, incidentally — are highly suspicious of just how Qatar won the World Cup. Some are implicating Blatter by accusing him of certain things, which I won’t repeat here. I have also edited this out in the quote below.

The point is how Blatter shifts blame for a bad — and poorly influenced — decision to anyone who objects. He obliquely accuses them of European imperialism.

Therefore, it was interesting to read a comment from football fan Kevin (posted late on September 9, 2013):

Speaking as a non-European, you guys really should be offended by the way he just tried to guilt you … by changing the subject to European ethno-centrism. Honestly, football started in Europe and S. America and that’s how the World Cup evolved and the rest of the world developed their leagues knowing that the World Cup happens in June and July. He’s not doing all of us poor non-Europeans a favor by moving the dates, he’s just trying to guilt you guys and change the subject from the fact that he’s a piece of #$%$.

Thank you! We need more Kevins to speak out about such matters, especially outside of football.

Recently, I had the pleasure of reading the entirety of Tatler‘s 2013 guide to public (private) and prep schools in the UK.

More on that later.

For now, this is what one Catholic headmistress said about advising her students on faith:

We take it seriously but wear it lightly.

How refreshing for a change to read a common-sense, pragmatic — and, best of all, traditional — approach to Christianity.

Bible boy_reading_bibleContinuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Luke 8:1-3

Women Accompanying Jesus

 1Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, 2and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.

—————————————————————————————————————–

In these three verses, St Luke gives us more of an insight into our Lord’s ministry.

Jesus did not shy away from the countryside; he visited villages as well as cities (verse 1). He and his disciples travelled by foot, the exception being His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on what we call Palm Sunday.

What of His message? He does not speak of ‘social justice’ or ‘political change’. He speaks of ‘the good news of the kingdom of God’.

Charity and justice are not restricted to Christians. They are standard operating practice for world religions and secular humanism. To place those two planks — worthy though they are, and, yes, Jesus did say ‘love they neighbour’ — above salvation would be erroneous. Yet, this is what postmodern clergy — including the Pope and Archbishop of Canterbury — promote over faith, repentance, grace and the promise of eternal life.

When we have faith, we will naturally love our neighbour and practice charity because we have a better understanding of God’s sovereignty, His love and that Man was created in His image.

Jesus preached about His Father’s kingdom.  He did not come to transform or rescue Israel from the Romans. He was not an earthly king in the way His contemporaries and we understand kingship. He spoke of more; He was the fulfilment of the Scriptures in a way that many then and now refuse to or cannot comprehend. He lived humbly. He was accessible. He was among people nearly every day.

The Twelve, Luke tells us, were with him (verse 1) as were three women. Our commentators, Matthew Henry and John MacArthur, surmise that the women were there regularly, probably until nightfall. They no doubt provided help with food or practical items to make the day’s journey and evening meal easier.

In addition to the Twelve and these three women, there were other disciples on these forays who felt compelled through faith to follow Jesus, whom they loved as a brother, a teacher and a healer. Matthew Henry says:

Some of them are named; but there were many others, who were zealously affected to the doctrine of Christ, and thought themselves bound in justice to encourage it, having themselves found benefit, and in charity, hoping that many others might find benefit by it too.

The three women whom Luke names in verses 2 and 3 were healed of demons or another illness. They also voluntarily contributed financially toward the upkeep of our Lord’s ministry.

The first woman named is Mary Magdalene. Magdalene refers to her home town of Magdala (Migdal, today). We often think of her as having been a prostitute, yet, both Henry and MacArthur say there is nothing in the New Testament to indicate this. The detail to remember is that Jesus cast out seven demons from her. It is a pity, then, that these verses have been omitted from the Lectionary; otherwise, every churchgoer would know this.

Then we have Joanna, who is married to Chuza, manager of King Herod’s household. Of her, Henry writes:

She had been his wife (so some), but was now a widow, and left in good circumstances. If she was now his wife, we have reason to think that her husband, though preferred in Herod’s court, had received the gospel, and was very willing that his wife should be both a hearer of Christ and a contributor to him.

MacArthur doesn’t say whether Chuza was still living at the time Joanna was a disciple, however, he says of both:

This is very, very, very high ranking. This is an official in the very palace of Herod, maybe the manager of Herod’s personal estate who ruled over his own household …

You have a woman who was from the highest possible state in the land.

Mary Magdalene and Joanna were among the first to find our Lord’s tomb was empty at the Resurrection. Mary Magdalene was also at His Crucifixion.

As for Susanna, we do not know any more than that she was a faithful disciple. This is the only time her name appears in the New Testament. MacArthur surmises:

We could assume that because there’s nothing to describe her that she was among the many non-descript who just came from the poor who dominated the land of Israel.

It is marvellous that the Holy Spirit inspired Luke to write of these ladies, all three from different social circumstances. I say this because a small minority of conservative American Christian men control everything their wives do. Some will not let them out of the house without permission and need to know every detail of their day. (Christian blogs on toxic churches have many stories of women who have sought divorce because they have been abused and treated like prisoners.) May these three verses remind our men not to act like obscurantist Muslims!

These three women — ‘and many others’ — gave of their savings to this divine ministry. Jesus had no real home anymore; His life was largely spent on the road, as it were.

MacArthur explains:

Jesus’ ministry was supported by those whose lives He had changed. And that’s really the model of ministry. His ministry depended on the generosity of those who had been changed by that ministry. And there were many of them, no doubt women and men. They had a purse, John 13:29 says, they had a purse, they had a treasurer named Judas. They had more than enough because they were able to take out of their purse and give to the poor. Yet they didn’t have any possessions. The disciples had left all. Jesus had left all, didn’t have anywhere to lay His head, “The foxes have holes,” He said, “the birds have nests, I don’t have a place to lay My head.” At the end of His life they [the Romans supervising the Cross] gambled around the cross for the only possession He had and that was the clothes He was wearing. So they were dependent upon these contributions.

Henry draws a larger message for us today, which is that, when we are in need because of adverse circumstances, we should not be too proud to gratefully accept charity from our neighbour. Our Lord did:

Let none say that they scorn to be beholden to the charity of their neighbours, when Providence has brought them into straits; but let them ask and be thankful for it as a favour. Christ would rather be beholden to his known friends for a maintenance for himself and his disciples than be burdensome to strangers in the cities and villages whither he came to preach.

Next time: Luke 8:4-8

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