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Twitter really lit up this past weekend.

A new hashtag — #FusionCollusion — started as a place for people to post on Fusion GPS’s phony Russian dossier and has now gone beyond it to discuss spying by the Obama administration for political purposes and the Clintons’ scandals. A few representative tweets follow:

Other accounts not tweeting on #FusionCollusion were also active.

President Donald Trump retweeted a reminder of a news story from 2016:

No, of course, Hillary’s emails aren’t missing:

WikiLeaks brought up an old Clinton Foundation story related to Haiti:

Patriotic actor James Woods had a go at Bill Clinton — so much so that Gateway Pundit actually has an article about it. You’ll have to read this tweet yourselves, but here are more:

On Friday, January 12, 2018, the DOJ announced has taken action on someone involved in shady business with Russia:

Former President of Maryland-Based Transportation Company Indicted on 11 Counts Related to Foreign Bribery, Fraud and Money Laundering Scheme

Executive Allegedly Paid Bribes to a Russian Official So His Company Could Win Highly Sensitive Nuclear Fuel Transportation Contracts

An indictment against a former co-president of a Maryland-based transportation company that provides services for the transportation of nuclear materials to customers in the United States and abroad, was unsealed today for his alleged role in a scheme that involved the bribery of an official at a subsidiary of Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation …

Mark Lambert, 54, of Mount Airy, Maryland, was charged in an 11-count indictment with one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and to commit wire fraud, seven counts of violating the FCPA, two counts of wire fraud and one count of international promotion money laundering.  The charges stem from an alleged scheme to bribe Vadim Mikerin, a Russian official at JSC Techsnabexport (TENEX), a subsidiary of Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation and the sole supplier and exporter of Russian Federation uranium and uranium enrichment services to nuclear power companies worldwide, in order to secure contracts with TENEX. 

The case against Lambert is assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Theodore D. Chuang of the District of Maryland. 

According to the indictment, beginning at least as early as 2009 and continuing until October 2014, Lambert conspired with others at “Transportation Corporation A” to make corrupt and fraudulent bribery and kickback payments to offshore bank accounts associated with shell companies, at the direction of, and for the benefit of, a Russian official, Vadim Mikerin, in order to secure improper business advantages and obtain and retain business with TENEX.   In order to effectuate and conceal the corrupt and fraudulent bribe payments, Lambert and others allegedly caused fake invoices to be prepared, purportedly from TENEX to Transportation Corporation A, that described services that were never provided, and then Lambert and others caused Transportation Corporation A to wire the corrupt payments for those purported services to shell companies in Latvia, Cyprus and Switzerland.  Lambert and others also allegedly used code words like “lucky figures,” “LF,” “lucky numbers,” and “cake” to describe the payments in emails to the Russian official at his personal email account.  The indictment also alleges that Lambert and others caused Transportation Corporation A to overbill TENEX by building the cost of the corrupt payments into their invoices, and TENEX thus overpaid for Transportation Corporation A’s services. 

In October 2017, The Hill reported on this company — unnamed:

Before the Obama administration approved a controversial deal in 2010 giving Moscow control of a large swath of American uranium, the FBI had gathered substantial evidence that Russian nuclear industry officials were engaged in bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering designed to grow Vladimir Putin’s atomic energy business inside the United States, according to government documents and interviews.

Federal agents used a confidential U.S. witness working inside the Russian nuclear industry to gather extensive financial records, make secret recordings and intercept emails as early as 2009 that showed Moscow had compromised an American uranium trucking firm with bribes and kickbacks in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, FBI and court documents show.

This is how the media reported on it last year:

Incidentally, the reasons for Paul Manafort’s arrest pre-date the Trump campaign and are entirely unrelated to it.

But as much as the media made out of Manafort’s arrest, this uranium business is a real scandal, potentially threatening national security:

I predict public awareness of these issues to grow over the coming weeks.

I hope The Storm is soon to be upon us. I will keep you posted.

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As we can see below, CNN has their priorities right:

Anyone wanting real news has to go hunting for it:

Then there was the false alarm in Hawaii on Saturday, January 13, 2018, warning of a ballistic missile threat — ‘this is not a drill’:

There’s something deeper behind this incident (language alert):

Here is a better image of the boxed text (from 4chan or 8chan), which is from an Air Force Fusion Analyst at Hickham in Hawaii. Particularly concerning are these sentences:

The false alert was not a mistake. We were informed it was to be a drill, but then all information was put out that the threat was real.

I overheard them [Governor’s office] state that this ‘Demonstrated weakness in the Trump admin and a refusal to protect his people.’

We don’t really know what to do or what’s going on. Which is really bothersome because it’s literally my job to process all information going in and out of this place for reports. I don’t know what to do or what’s going to happen to me.

If this was designed to upset people, it worked:

Breitbart’s Nick Nolte responded:

As did Fox News’s Greg Gutfeld:

Something is definitely wrong:

Correct:

The head of the FCC says his agency will investigate:

They should also revisit the siren incident in 2017, when Obama was still in the White House. Note the time and date:

In the meantime, CNN can resume normal service and criticise the Trumps for not owning a dog.

——————————————————————————————

UPDATE: ‘Worker who sent out Hawaii missile alert is reassigned’ (New York Post, January 14, 2018)

The Hawaii public employee who plunged the state into chaos by accidentally sending out an incoming-missile emergency alert Saturday has been reassigned, according to reports.

The unnamed emergency department worker will not be fired because he made an honest mistake, Hawaii Emergency Management Agency spokesman Richard Rapoza told the Washington Post

The agency has already put in place new safeguards to prevent such a misfire — including a “cancel” button that will immediately send out corrective alerts if an erroneous warning is issued, officials said Sunday.

Further reading:

‘Hawaii releases timeline of what transpired after false ballistic missile warning’

Bible boy_reading_bibleThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy have omitted — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

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

Acts 14:24-28

Paul and Barnabas Return to Antioch in Syria

24 Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. 25 And when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia, 26 and from there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled. 27 And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. 28 And they remained no little time with the disciples.

————————————————————————————————–

Last week’s post was about the stoning of Paul in Lystra, his genuinely miraculous recovery, his journey with Barnabas to Derbe — home of Timothy — then back to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch in Pisidia to appoint elders for each church and, with prayer and fasting, commend them to God.

All of this was in Pisidia, part of Anatolia — Asia Minor.

At this point, they were embarking on their lengthy return to Jerusalem, returning to other places where they had converted Gentiles and create a church body (rather than a building).

They left the region of Pisidia and travelled south to the coastal region of Pamphylia (verse 24). The main city was Perga, on the coast. This was a return trip. Paul and Barnabas established a church there (Acts 13:13-14a). They returned to preach the word once more (verse 25). Matthew Henry explains they wanted to make more converts:

making a second offer, to see if they were now better disposed than they were before to receive the gospel. What success they had there we are not told …

From Perga, they travelled to Attalia (present day Antalya). The Church is still alive and well, even though this is part of Turkey:

Some of the bishops attributed to the episcopal see of Attalea in Pamphylia may instead have been bishops of Attalea in Lydia (Yanantepe), since Lequien lists them under both sees.[11][12] No longer a residential bishopric, Attalea in Pamphylia is today listed by the Catholic Church as a titular see.[13]

Then Paul and Barnabas crossed the Mediterranean Sea to return to Antioch (verse 26), the Syrian city where Barnabas had established a church which grew to such an extent that he asked for Paul’s help (Acts 11). They found a thriving church:

where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled.

What a beautiful way St Luke, the author of Acts, had with words.

In Antioch (Syria), Paul and Barnabas shared the grace and Spirit-filled story of their journeys, the conversions, the persecution and the new churches. Particularly important was the opening of the Church to Gentiles (verse 27). No doubt, there was also a lot of preaching and prayer. We do not know how many of the congregation they met with. Henry has several possibilities:

It is probable that there were more Christians at Antioch than ordinarily met, or could meet, in one place, but on this occasion they called together the leading men of them; as the heads of the tribes are often called the congregation of Israel, so the ministers and principal members of the church at Antioch are called the church. Or perhaps as many of the people as the place would hold came together on this occasion. Or some met at one time, or in one place, and others at another.

John MacArthur has an interesting take, reminding us that our two preachers would have given God every glory and thanks for those churches:

Can you imagine when they hustled up the hills and arrived at Antioch and nobody had heard from them for a year and a half to two years? These are the two most beloved people in the church and they arrived and they probably looked emaciated and scrawny and scarred all up from beatings with rods and whips and stone. I mean they were a mess, and they arrived and what a joyous time. Can you imagine what a joyous time? You probably say, “I bet they had a testimonial banquet. Probably gave them a little plaque that said, ‘For successful missionary effort above and beyond the call of duty, Paul and Barnabas.” No such thing. Verse 27, “When they come and gathered the church together they reviewed all that they had done.” Is that what it says? Oh, it doesn’t say that. All that God had done with them. You know what they saw themselves as? Tools. God was the master carpenter.

Paul and Barnabas stayed with their disciples — and friends — some time in Antioch. Henry posits that this was:

longer than perhaps at first they intended, not because they feared their enemies, but because they loved their friends, and were loth to part from them.

That gives me the impression that they met as many church members and new converts as they could during that time. What a blessing that must have been for everyone.

MacArthur concludes:

If I came to the end of my life and if God said to me, “John, anything You want me to say I’d like to say” you know what I’d like Him to say? “John, you did it. I gave it to you to do and you did it.” That’s what I want here. Well – what? Done. I mean I want to do it. I like that. Paul came to the end of his life and says, “I’m ready to die. I did it. Finished the course, fought the good fight, kept the faith. Okay, Lord. I’m ready. I did it.”

Boy, I’ll tell ya, if we all did it what would be done? Do it, will ya? Whatever it is God is calling you to do, do it. You’ve got to have these characteristics – know your gifts, be bold, divine power, humility, persistence, follow-up, commitment, and give Him all the glory and do it.

Next time: Acts 15:1-3

On Sunday, January 7, 2018, Peter Sutherland died at St James’s Hospital in Dublin.

He had been ill since he suffered a heart attack in September 2016. The Irish Times reports:

“He was substantially impacted by this and was in hospitals in London and Dublin since then. Despite great efforts by his medical staff and his own indomitable spirt, he succumbed to an infection,” the family said.

The paper had a thorough obituary, which began with his background:

Peter Sutherland, the former European commissioner, attorney general and chairman of Goldman Sachs International, has died. He was 71.

Mr Sutherland served in a number of senior positions in the worlds of law, business and government during his career. Most recently, he was the United Nations special representative for international migration.

In a long career, he also held the positions of director general of the World Trade Organisation; chairman of the London School of Economics; a member of the UN commission on human security; chairman of the European Institute of Public Administration and chairman of British Petroleum.

Born in Dublin in April 1946, Mr Sutherland was educated at Gonzaga College in Ranelagh before going on to study law at University College Dublin. He worked as a senior counsel for more than a decade before being appointed attorney general in 1981 by the Fine Gael-Labour coalition, the first of two spells in the role.

Many of us in the UK will remember him as a globalist, particularly with regard to migration policies. A number of YouTube videos discuss his views. In fact, he was considered to be the ‘father of globalisation’.

He disliked European culture and wanted more immigration from non-European countries.

In 2012, the BBC reported that he disliked Britain’s immigration policy, which was and is quite open, then and now:

He also suggested the UK government’s immigration policy had no basis in international law.

He was being quizzed by the Lords EU home affairs sub-committee which is investigating global migration.

Mr Sutherland, who is non-executive chairman of Goldman Sachs International and a former chairman of oil giant BP, heads the Global Forum on Migration and Development , which brings together representatives of 160 nations to share policy ideas.

He told the House of Lords committee migration was a “crucial dynamic for economic growth” in some EU nations “however difficult it may be to explain this to the citizens of those states”.

An ageing or declining native population in countries like Germany or southern EU states was the “key argument and, I hesitate to the use word because people have attacked it, for the development of multicultural states”, he added.

“It’s impossible to consider that the degree of homogeneity which is implied by the other argument can survive because states have to become more open states, in terms of the people who inhabit them. Just as the United Kingdom has demonstrated.”

He also said that European countries were biased against immigrants:

The United States, or Australia and New Zealand, are migrant societies and therefore they accommodate more readily those from other backgrounds than we do ourselves, who still nurse a sense of our homogeneity and difference from others.

And that’s precisely what the European Union, in my view, should be doing its best to undermine.

Never mind the countless millions of immigrants European countries take in every year. He made it sound as if we are insular, which could not be further from the truth.

It turns out he was a devout Catholic. In 2015, he became president of the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC).

People like Peter Sutherland don’t have to live with the consequences of their policies. The Irish Times obit says he attended Mass at Brompton Oratory in London, which implies he lived in one of the richest boroughs of the capital — Kensington and Chelsea.

Peter Sutherland did average Europeans a great disservice. That’s putting it politely.

Last year, I wrote an extensive post on Plough Monday, which is the first Monday after Epiphany:

The English tradition of Plough Monday

I thought I had covered the waterfront with regard to this ancient festival but found more history about the day that signalled a return to full time agricultural work on the Tuesday.

Ploughing matches

When Plough Monday was widely celebrated, some farmers would have had their ploughs blessed at church on Sunday. Other villages had a communal plough at the church which was blessed annually.

In some areas, ploughing matches took place, which gathered crowds of onlookers. The Cottage at the End of a Lane has an old colour photo of one such contest, likely to have been in Suffolk.

The author points out:

The men who walked 10 miles a day in all weathers back in the day would have smiled to see people nowadays doing it for fun or to keep the memory alive. Most of them welcomed the arrival of tractors.

I bet they did.

Traditional poems

The Cottage at the End of a Lane also has a traditional poem:

Plough deep while sluggards sleep:
and you shall have corn to sell and keep.

Turn out for Plough Monday
Up, fellows now
Buckle the horses 
And Follow the plough. 

Plough Monday started with chores before everyone moved on to festivities. This was to show willingness to work hard in the year ahead. As I mentioned in last year’s post, a kitchen maid was given a cockerel for Shrovetide before Lent. A contest between the maids in the kitchen and the men in the fields took place to see if the maids could keep their cockerels. If one of the men was able to get some of his farming implements by the fireside before the kitchen maid got her kettle on, then she forfeited her cockerel — ‘cocke’ in the poem which follows.

In the 1500s, a gentleman farmer by the name of Thomas Tusser penned these lines, featured on Legendary Dartmoor:

Good huswives, whom God hath enriched ynough,

forget not the feasts that belong to the plough:

The meaning is only to joy and to be glad,

for comfort with labour is fit to be had…

Plough Monday, nest after that twelftide is past,

bids out with the plough, the worst husband is last:

If plowman get hatchet, or whip to the skreene,

maids loseth their cocke, if no water be seen.

Thomas Tusser (1524-1580) was born in Essex, the county to the east of London. He was part of the choir at St Paul’s Cathedral before studying at Eton and going up to King’s College, then to Trinity Hall, Cambridge, for his university education.

He spent ten years serving as a musician for William Paget, 1st Baron Paget of Beaudesart, before marrying and farming in Cattawade, Suffolk, near the River Stour. His first wife was sickly, and he abandoned farming so they could move to Ipswich. After her death, he remarried and resumed farming, with interruptions for illness or escaping the plague of 1572-1573. When he died in London in 1580, he owned a small estate at at Chesterton, Cambridgeshire. According to contemporary accounts, he not only farmed arable land but also raised livestock. He did not make much money and lived frugally.

Tusser wrote many agricultural poems which laid out the best traditional methods of farming and raising livestock, most famously in A Hundreth Good Pointes of Husbandrie, first published in 1557. In 1573, he expanded his original work and published Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry.

Tusser most likely saw his fair share of Plough Mondays.

Devon customs

Legendary Dartmoor‘s post, ‘Plough Monday’, reveals a local custom that invokes ‘The Spirit of the Harvest’:

In order to add some extra clout to the devotions to the ‘Spirit of the Harvest’ it was also imperative to plough the ‘neck‘ or ‘corn dolly‘ which was taken from the previous harvest into the first furrow ploughed either on or just after Plough Monday. To do this would ensure a good harvest but to fail to observe this tradition was to invite ‘tare and rook’ to decimate the growing crop.

Another is more modern:

I don’t know if it was just a family thing but I can remember uncle always sprinkled a, “drap o’ firejuice,” on the plough shares before the first furrow was cut. It must have been a pretty serious belief because it was unheard of for any relation of old ‘John Barleycorn’ to go anywhere but down his throat.

This is encouraging:

It appears that the tradition of Plough Monday died out on the moor around the late 1900’s but the church blessing has been revived by some Young Farmer’s clubs.

Regional celebrations

In 2018, Plough Monday was January 8.

Durham

Durham held their festivities on Sunday, January 7 (photo at the link):

Come and join us in our drawing of the Plough from Durham Market Place to the Palace Green to be received by the Dean of Durham Cathedral.

There we’ll welcome in the traditional start of the agricultural year with Morris and Sword Dancing, Music and Ceremony!

Celebrations for Plough Sunday, a traditional English festival, are being revived in Durham this weekend. Drawing a plough into the Cathedral, they will be invited inside by the Dean, who will give them a commemorative four pence in a re-enactment of Plough Sunday celebrations that took place in 1413.

The afternoon will continue with a music session and bar at the John Duck, Claypath.

All welcome!

That sounds very traditional.

Balsham

In Cambridgeshire, the village of Balsham revived Plough Monday festivities in 1972.

The Balsham Ploughmen site has their whole modern-day story. Incredibly, Plough Monday has been celebrated there every year since to raise money for charity.

In 1972, the original organisers studied the village plough, built between 1680-1720, and constructed a new one based on the design of the old one using 100-year-old wood.

The organisers and a team of volunteers go to houses and pubs to collect money and sell raffle tickets:

Money is collected at each stop and along the streets, from one end of the village to the other and there is a raffle at the finishing pub. However, the chief means of fundraising, which justifies such activity in what is usually one of the coldest nights of the winter, is the traditional “horseplay”. There is a great deal of banter among the Ploughmen, Cambridge Morris Men and the followers.

The cries of “pity the poor ole ploughboy” together with the rattle of collecting tins and the jingle of the Morris Men’s bells signals that Plough Monday is with us again.

Then:

The day following Plough Monday has evolved into “Harrowing Tuesday” when Ploughmen, members of the team and their families traditionally meet for lunch of bangers and mash and discuss the events of the previous evening – the name does tend to reflect the fragile state of the team rather than an agricultural reference.

The Balsham Ploughmen have been highly successful:

Plough Monday 2017 has broken all fundraising records!

We were once again out and about on 9th January 2017 with the Cambridge Morris Men fundraising for Balsham 2nd Brownies, Buttercups Community Pre-School and a village defibrillator …

This year’s total was a massive £3,219.50!

I hope they had another great success this year.

It is marvellous that people in England still care about Plough Monday, an ancient tradition that deserves to keep going for generations to come.

This week I learned of another old English tradition, St Distaff’s Day — the day after Epiphany.

While there is no St Distaff — a facetious name — January 7 was the day when women returned to spinning wool, flax or other fibres after the twelve days of Christmas.

A distaff is a ‘roc’ or ‘rock’ — a rod or dowel — used in spinning. It was used before spinning wheels were invented. It holds the unspun fibres and keeps them untangled. Wikipedia has an excellent entry with ancient illustrations of distaffs.

January 7 is also known as Distaff Day or Roc Day.

As spinning was a female occupation, the English language has two words emanating from it: spinster (never-married woman) and distaff (referring to the matrilineal branch of a family, e.g. ‘distaff half’ for ‘wife’). A distaff race means that all the horses running are female.

Breathing in books has a poem by Robert Herrick (1591-1674), which he wrote for January 7. It involves a custom of:

high jinks in which men and women engage in a battle of the sexes with the men trying to steal away and burn the women’s flax while the women respond by trying to throw water over the men (not much fun in January in my opinion!). However, [Steve] Roud [author of The English Year] points out that other, later, sources all seem very similar and vague and it seems likely that they all used Herrick’s poem as their sole source on the tradition.

This is Herrick’s poem:

St. Distaff’s Day or the Morrow After Twelfth Day

Partly work and partly play,
Ye must on S. Distaff’s day
From the plough soon free your team;
Then come home and fother them.
If the maids a spinning go,
Burn the flax, and fire the tow:
Scorch their plackets, but beware,
That ye singe no maiden-hair.
Bring in pails of water then,
Let the maids bewash the men.
Give S. Distaff all the right,
Then bid Christmas sport good night;
And next morrow, every one
To his own vocation.

In closing, the Monday after Epiphany is Plough Monday, which sometimes coincides with St Distaff’s Day, depending on the calendar year.

Tomorrow: More Plough Monday traditions

In November 2017, CBS dumped Charlie Rose from CBS This Morning and NBC sacked Matt Lauer from Today.

It’s ironic that two sex pests hosted breakfast shows — designed for family viewing.

Both Rose and Lauer were long-time media legends. As such, they came with a high price tag.

On January 5, Fox News reported that NBC has since found better breakfast broadcasting ratings for less money. NBC is leading ABC’s Good Morning America (GMA) since Hoda Kotb has moved into Lauer’s spot on Today and Savannah Guthrie co-hosts with her:

Kotb will make roughly $18 million per year less than her disgraced male predecessor — reportedly earning $7 million per year while Lauer pulled in $25 million, according to the New York Post

In fact, Kotb’s co-anchor Savannah Guthrie also is believed to earn around $7 million per year …

The Fox article focussed on another highly-paid personality, ABC’s GMA host, George Stephanopolous. He makes between $15 million and $18 million per year. His co-host Robin Roberts reportedly earns the same salary.

The Fox article points out:

With “GMA” now trailing “Today” in viewership, ABC will be under increased pressure to justify its hosts’ exorbitant salaries to ABC’s notoriously parsimonious owner, Disney.

A media analyst agrees:

Media analyst Jeff McCall told Fox News that NBC’s success in recent week proves that the high-paid Lauer wasn’t necessarily the reason people tuned in to the “Today” show. In Kotb, NBC may have a more popular host while saving the network roughly $18 million per year.

“I think a similar case could be made now for George Stephanopoulos at ‘GMA.’ The show can be successful whether George is on the set or not,” McCall said. “’GMA’ is really not a serious news program anyway, and George’s supposed D.C. insider persona just isn’t that essential for a show that wants to focus on fads, entertainment and emotion.”

A network insider agrees:

“He doesn’t bring much to the table anymore,” said an ABC insider, who noted that “’GMA’ covers barely any news. It’s not clear why he’s sitting there.”

Another insider:

called Stephanopoulos “merely a fig leaf for the ugly truth that ABC no longer covers news.” The insider pointed not only to “GMA’s” soft focus, but also to “World News Tonight” frequently leading with weather stories, “20/20” rarely covering news and “Nightline” – increasingly the last bastion for news coverage at ABC – now occupying the graveyard shift at 12:35 a.m. “when nobody watches.”

McCall, the media analyst, says that no one will ever mistake Stephanopoulos for a journalist. Indeed. The man President Donald Trump dubbed ‘Little George’ — the GMA desk had to be modified for him — rose to fame as Bill Clinton’s White House Director of Communications and as his senior adviser.

Ultimately, McCall says:

ABC, and all the morning shows for that matter, should stop throwing huge money at personalities and simply find relatable anchors who have some journalistic instincts and a sense of the nation’s mood.

Indeed.

Even if he were to get bumped from GMA, Stephanopoulos still has his roles as ABC’s chief news anchor and host of the Sunday morning news show, This Week.

What astounds me is the high salaries these people get. Why not take early retirement and spend time with family instead? What about volunteer work? Oh, I forgot: that would put them in touch with ordinary Americans. Never mind.

On Saturday, January 6, 2018, Newsbusters posted an article about a BBC interview with Michael Wolff, author of Fire and Fury, which is about President Donald Trump.

Incidentally, the book is currently available for free online. As such availability likely violates copyright law, I have not posted the link.

Nicholas Fondacaro’s article, ‘Wolff Touts Book “Will Finally Bring Down…This Presidency”’ recaps a BBC interview Wolff gave to the BBC’s Nick Robinson last Saturday. Excerpts follow (emphases in the original):

In an interview with BBC Radio on Saturday, Michael Wolff, the author of the dubiously sourced gossip book targeting President Trump, boasted to host Nick Robinson that “the story” that he told, “will finally end…this presidency” once and for all …

Now, all of this is fascinating, it’s an insight, it’s gossip some of it, it may not be enough to stop him from being president. Whereas, the allegations about Russia may be,” Robinson prefaced. “Do you believe that anything in the book will actually change the chances of the allegations of collusion with Russia being found to be true and therefore leading to the impeachment of the President?

Wolff said:

You know, I think one of the interesting effects of the book so far is a very clear emperor-has-no-clothes effect. That, the story that I have told seems to present this presidency in such a way that it says he can’t do his job. The emperor has no clothes. Suddenly everywhere people are going: ‘Oh my God, it’s true, he has no clothes.’ That’s the background to the perception and the understanding that will finally end this – that will end this presidency.

As retired courtroom lawyer Lionel says, such talk is potentially dangerous:

Incredibly, Wolff told Robinson that Trump hardly has any staff and that he will do little as president. Despite stellar economic results in 2017, Wolff said:

The economy is booming possibly because you’ll have someone who’s not capable of actually implementing any policies or regulation.

In a way, that makes no sense.

In another, such a statement implies that the economy does better with less government interference.

Trump’s insistence on rolling back Obama era regulations has helped the economy improve. Trump was also busy last year negotiating various trade initiatives, such as coal.

In June, the New York Post published an article on coal by Salena Zito, who does an excellent job of covering small town life in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

‘Don’t be so quick to dismiss Trump’s coal mining initiative’ is an eye-opener. For the first time in a decade, a new coal mine opened in Acosta, Pennsylvania. Trump sent his congratulations via video shown to local residents (emphases mine below):

The Acosta Deep Mine in Somerset County marks a dramatic upturn for the area. And while President Trump cannot claim that he brought the industry back here personally (this new mine was already being developed before the election), he is an effective cheerleader for folks who’ve been discounted by the political elite.

“We will begin by employing 70 to 100 miners and we hope to open a total of three new mines in the next 18 months — and that will mean additional hiring,” said George Dethlefsen, CEO of Corsa Coal, which owns the mine.

More than 400 people applied for the first wave of jobs that will pay from $50,000 to $100,000, Dethlefsen said.

In a region where the median household income is $29,050, and nearly 12 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, the economic injection is huge.

It also creates a ripple effect: For every new job generated by the mine, even more jobs like waitresses, hotel workers, barbers or grocery workers are needed to support the community.

Absolutely.

Furthermore, the coal mined in Acosta is being used for steel production:

The coal from this mine is not going to be used for energy — instead, it will be used for the production of steel for the next 15 years. (According to the World Steel Association, coal is used to make 70 percent of the steel today.)

Every single one of us relies on steel in our daily lives. It’s found in our cars, bikes and public transportation. Those wind turbines so loved by environmentalists? Made of steel. The utensils we use to eat? Steel. Medical devices used to save lives? Steel.

Roads, bridges, appliances and even iPhones and computers all contain steel.

Exactly.

This is a great move.

And there is more good news on the coal front. In July, The Conservative Treehouse reported on the increase in American coal exports. This came as news to me:

U.S. EIA data shows a gain of 60.3% so far this year in exports of both steam coal (used to generate electricity) and coking coal (metallurgical coal used for steel manufacturing) as a direct consequence of President Trump’s common sense energy policy.

Interestingly, the largest destinations for the growth in American coal export are the U.K. (+175%) and a doubling of tonnage to both France (+100%), and Asia (+100%). High transport costs to ship coal to the EU are being offset by U.S. coal manufacturing efficiencies and improvements in mining productivity.

Reuters has more:

“Simply to know that coal no longer has to fight the government – that has to have some effect on investment decisions and in the outlook by companies, producers and utilities that use coal,” said Luke Popovich, a spokesman for the National Mining Association.

Shaylyn Hynes, a spokeswoman at the U.S. Energy Department, said: “These numbers clearly show that the Trump Administration’s policies are helping to revive an industry that was the target of costly and job killing overregulation from Washington for far too long.”

Coal could also be a major economic weapon used against North Korea, one of China’s principal coal suppliers.

Recall that China’s president Xi Jinping met with Trump at Mar a Lago on April 6 and 7, 2017. On April 11, Reuters reported:

Following repeated missile tests that drew international criticism, China banned all imports of North Korean coal on Feb. 26, cutting off the country’s most important export product.

To curb coal traffic between the two countries, China’s customs department issued an official order on April 7 telling trading companies to return their North Korean coal cargoes, said three trading sources with direct knowledge of the order …

The Trump administration has been pressuring China to do more to rein in North Korea, which sends the vast majority of its exports to its giant neighbor across the Yellow Sea …

North Korea is a significant supplier of coal to China, especially of the type used for steel making, known as coking coal.

To make up for the shortfall from North Korea, China has ramped up imports from the United States in an unexpected boon for U.S. President Donald Trump, who has declared he wants to revive his country’s struggling coal sector.

Eikon data shows no U.S. coking coal was exported to China between late 2014 and 2016, but shipments soared to over 400,000 tonnes by late February.

This trend was exacerbated after cyclone Debbie knocked out supplies from the world’s top coking coal region in Australia’s state of Queensland, forcing Chinese steel makers to buy even more U.S. cargoes.

I digressed from Wolff. However, he and his fellow ilk in the media deserve to have their collars felt by the authorities. What Wolff is doing with his book and what the media have been doing with fake news could be construed as advocating the overthrow of government, or, as Lionel tweeted, sedition.

On December 31, 2017, Fox News had an excellent guest editorial by financial columnist Liz Peek.

A summary and excerpts from ‘Liz Peek: What Trump DIDN’T Do in 2017’ follow.

Casting our minds back to 2016, after President Donald Trump’s victory, an ‘expert’ made the following predictions:

Paul Krugman predicted the stock market, which initially sold off on the unexpected outcome, would “never” recover from the blow.

… a despondent Krugman said Trump would plunge the country into a terrible recession.

In fact, on November 9, 2016, the day after Trump won:

the Dow soared 257 points, and has barely paused for breath ever since.

After ‘Trump can’t win’, we had ‘Trump won’t last’:

Columnist David Brooks, who fancies himself a moderate, said Trump would “probably resign or be impeached within a year.”

There were also widespread predictions that Trump would start World War III. Europeans, in particular, lost their collective mind.

Remember, too, that Trump was going to mess with monetary policy and start a trade war.

Earlier in 2017, ‘experts’ predicted Trump would:

fire Special Counsel Mueller or Attorney General Sessions.

None of the ‘expert’ predictions came true.

In reality:

President Trump accomplished a great deal in his first year of office: helping to pass a massive tax overhaul, putting Neil Gorsuch on the court, snuffing out President Obama’s regulatory excesses, signaling a more robust foreign policy and damping illegal immigration, for starters …

Moreover, the president surprised many by following through on his threat to withdraw from the TPP trade deal (a promise also made by Hillary Clinton), his disavowal of the Paris climate accord and, most recently, by declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel.  There is nothing incoherent or reckless in these decisions however; they are compatible with Trump’s focus on jobs, and applauded by his supporters. While 66 percent of Democrats worry about climate change “a great deal”, for example, only 18 percent of Republicans are so concerned. Trump voters, like the president, see the Paris deal as bad for our economy.

A realistic assessment of Trump’s first year would note a transition to a smoother and more disciplined White House, better coordination with Congressional allies and a more integrated messaging on foreign policy.

Yet, people are still freaking out about Donald Trump.

Peek concludes by saying that the media and other Democrats will continue to push the same talking points in 2018, particularly impeachment. That said:

If the economy continues its steady climb, wages move higher (as is almost certain), and the stock market follows suit, they will need new talking points. Judging from surveys of consumer and business sentiment, Americans do not think the world is coming to an end.

I will post a list of Trump’s 2017 accomplishments soon.

Bible and crossThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy have omitted — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

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

Acts 14:19-23

Paul Stoned at Lystra

19 But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. 20 But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. 21 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. 23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.

————————————————————————————————

My last post on Acts, three weeks ago, was about Paul and Barnabas’s ministry in Iconium, which turned divisive, with the Jews trying to poison the Gentiles’ minds against the two preachers. Once they learned of a plot to assault and stone them, Paul and Barnabas left for Lystra.

In Lystra, also discussed in my post, the crowd listening to them nearly worshipped them as gods — Zeus (Paul) and Hermes (Barnabas) — and nearly offered them sacrifices. Paul and Barnabas had a most difficult time trying to convince the people that their blessings came from God, not false deities.

However, the Jews in Iconium were still furious with Paul and Barnabas. Jews from Antioch in Pisidia were equally enraged. Groups from both places — in Asia Minor (Anatolia), by the way — went to Lystra to stir the crowd up against the two men. They stoned Paul, because Barnabas was less of a threat, and ‘supposing’ he was dead, dragged him out of the city (verse 19).

John MacArthur tells us a bit about the author of Acts — St Luke’s — use of the Greek word for ‘supposing’ (emphases mine):

Now the word “supposing” is the word “namidsoe”. Now this word is an interesting word. It has two meanings. The first meaning is to have a custom, like it was a custom to do this or it was a custom to do that, but the second meaning is to suppose something. It is very obvious when it is used to mean accustom and when it is used to mean supposing. It is obvious from the context of any passage where it appears. Now it is used to mean supposing many times in the New Testament. Far and away the vast majority of those times – get this – it means to suppose something that is not true. Got that one? That’s the key to the interpretation. Far and away, in fact I think only two or three times, it is used otherwise. It is used far and away to mean to suppose wrongly and that is its use in the Book of Acts.

What happened to Paul in Lystra is interesting for two reasons.

First, it partially parallels what happened to Stephen, the first martyr, at the end of Acts 7. The Jews were so outraged at his apologetic for Jesus that they stoned him. They took him out of the city first, whereas they stoned Paul within the city limits then removed him.

Secondly, who was behind Stephen’s stoning? Saul of Tarsus — this same Paul who was stoned. Then, Saul had his Damascene conversion (Acts 9), discussed here, here and here. After Saul had been blind for three days, the Lord appeared to someone who did not know him, a Christian Damascene by the name of Ananias. The Lord told Ananias where to find Saul and to lay hands on him so that he would regain his sight. Ananias knew that Saul was a chief persecutor of Christians and he told the Lord of Saul’s fearsome reputation:

15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”

Now Paul had experienced what Stephen went through, albeit not fatally.

Another aspect of this stoning shows how fickle people can be. A short time before, they called Paul Zeus and wanted to worship him. Matthew Henry’s commentary puts it this way:

they were irritated to such a degree that the mob rose and stoned Paul, not by a judicial sentence, but in a popular tumult; they threw stones at him, with which they knocked him down, and then drew him out of the city, as one not fit to live in it, or drew him out upon a sledge or in a cart, to bury him, supposing he had been dead. So strong is the bias of the corrupt and carnal heart to that which is evil, even in contrary extremes, that, as it is with great difficulty that men are restrained from evil on one side, so it is with great ease that they are persuaded to evil on the other side. See how fickle and mutable the minds of carnal worldly people are, that do not know and consider things. Those that but the other day would have treated the apostles as more than men now treat them as worse than brutes, as the worst of men, as the worst of male-factors. To-day Hosanna, to-morrow Crucify; to-day sacrificed to, to-morrow sacrificed … Popular breath turns like the wind. If Paul would have been Mercury, he might have been enthroned, nay, he might have been enshrined; but, if he will be a faithful minister of Christ, he shall be stoned, and thrown out of the city. Thus those who easily submit to strong delusions hate to receive the truth in the love of it.

Some disciples — converts — followed the men taking Paul out of the city. Paul stood up (verse 20). They all re-entered Lystra. The next day, he and Barnabas went on to the nearby town of Derbe.

That Paul stood up and continued as normal demonstrates that a restorative — healing — miracle had taken place. Henry tells us (addition of a definition mine):

Though he was not dead, yet he was ill crushed and bruised, no doubt, and fainted away; he was in a deliquium, so that it was not without a miracle that he came so soon to himself, and was so well as to be able to go into the city. Note, God’s faithful servants, though they may be brought within a step of death, and may be looked upon as dead both by friends and enemies, shall not die as long as he has work for them to do. They are cast down, but not destroyed, 2 Corinthians 4:9.

MacArthur says that we can be sure that Paul had not died, that he was instead, as Henry describes, seriously injured:

the Holy Spirit is not in the business of minimizing resurrections. If this was a resurrection of the Apostle Paul I think you would have a lot more said about it that is said there, especially in the Book of Acts. The Book of Acts is dominated by a careful explanation of miracle after miracle after miracle. For the Holy Spirit to do a miracle like that and not make it clear means that the very purpose of the miracle is disallowed. What is a miracle for? A sign that points to the truth, but the sign there is so small you can’t even read it, and the Holy Spirit is in the business of making billboards. If this was a resurrection of Paul you’d have a lot more information about it than just there, and Luke is in the business of making clear cut, precise statements about miracles.

Derbe appears to be a footnote. Luke did not write much about it other than to say that Paul and Barnabas preached the Good News and made many disciples (verse 21). Paul did not write about Derbe, either.

Henry has an interesting detail about Derbe:

And it should seem that Timothy was of that city, and was one of the disciples that now attended Paul, had met him at Antioch and accompanied him in all this circuit; for, with reference to this story, Paul tells him how fully he had known the afflictions he endured at Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra, 2 Timothy 3:10,11. Nothing is recorded that happened at Derbe.

Derbe was also their final destination. After facing all the physical and mental persecution, they retraced their steps back to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch!

How dangerous was that? Most people would have said, ‘We don’t want to get killed. We went, we made disciples. They’ll be okay.’

MacArthur explains the determination of these men:

They went all the way back. Why? Because the Great Commission is not to make people Christians, it’s to make them what? Disciples. So it was dangerous to return. I mean they’d been kicked out of every town they’ve been in and it was taking their life in their hands but they believed so much in follow-up that they took their life in their hands.

They went back to the town where they’d been stoned, they went back to the towns where they’d been thrown out and their lives had been threatened. They went back fearlessly because they believed in follow-up. Sure it was dangerous. It was dangerous to go back but it was more dangerous for those new babes not to have meat and milk so they went back. I love that verse 21 ’cause that teaches follow-up. Don’t ever lead anybody to Jesus Christ that you’re not willing to nurture.

Verse 22 lists what follow-up entails: strengthening the disciples, encouraging their faith and telling them of the trials and tribulations of believing in Jesus Christ. (There is one final step in verse 23: organisation of the local church.)

The Cross offends. Even Baby Jesus offends! Everything about Christ offends those hostile to His everlasting Light.

Taking the follow-up steps one-by-one, strengthening — in some translations, ‘confirming’. MacArthur explains the Greek word for ‘confirming’:

Now the word “confirming” comes from a Greek word that really is made up of two wordsIt’s made of “epi” which means a pawn and “sterics” which means a prop or a support, and when they went back they went back to prop up the disciples.

You know a new babe can’t stand up, right? It’s like a new little baby. They just flop and lie there, and when you start to teach them to walk you’ve got to lift them and prop them up and hold their little arms and wiggle them around and get them to kind of get the feel of what it’s all about and away it goes after a while but that’s exactly the way it is as a Christian. You’ve got a baby and the baby is gonna have to be propped up. This word … is used four times in the Book of Acts to talk about propping up new believers. Acts 15:32, 15:41 and 18:23 in here, and it talks about each case of propping up the new believers. So they went back to prop them up. Literally it means to strengthen them, to help them to stand on their own, to be strong, and that’s the goal for every Christian minister, isn’t it?

The props — support — entailed:

Teaching doctrine, teaching principles, giving them props. That’s basic.

The next step is to encourage the new disciples in their faith. This is where exhortation — encouragement (not criticism) — comes in:

Now you can give them the doctrine but you don’t stop there, right? You don’t say, “Well we’ve had our doctrine for this morning. Goodbye.” You say, “What are you going to do about it?” And then you whammo and you get in there with the charge and all that, and that’s what’s in verse 22, “Confirming the souls of the disciples and then exhorting them.”

You know what exhorting means? It means to push a person toward a certain kind of conduct. It means to say, “Now here are the facts. Now go do it!”

That sounds a bit abrupt, but MacArthur reminds us that Paul was kind and patient:

Listen to what Paul says, 1 Thessalonians 2, “We were gentle among you.” That’s a good thing to remember in your exhortation. You don’t want to be like a bull in a china closet. “Gentle as a nursing mother and we being affectionately desirous of you we were willing to impart unto you not the Gospel of God only but our own souls.” We just gave ourselves. That’s part of it, isn’t it? Follow-up, giving yourself. Verse 9 he says, “We labored and travailed, laboring night and day” and the idea here is a painful work, just excruciating, agonizing in follow-up, and verse 11, “As you know how we exhorted and encouraged and charged every one of you as a father does his children that you should walk worthy.” That’s not teaching; that’s exhortation. Exhortation is teaching’s companion. Here’s the doctrine, now go do it! That’s exhortation. Exhortation is important, isn’t it?

The final point is setting the expectation for trial and tribulation. Think of what happened to the preachers in Acts. When they did not die or were stoned and otherwise persecuted, Satan was there with sorcerers to fill in the gaps. Imagine these converts witnessing the events that took place in their respective towns and cities. They must have been verbally and physically abused, too. Belief in Christ is costly.

MacArthur says:

In fact, Jude said, “You’re really gonna have to earnestly contend for the faith. Fight for it.” New babes, Satan tries to rip it away. The second thing he says, not only exhorting them but continue in the faith, this is beautiful, “We must through much tribulation enter the Kingdom of God.” A guy is going along in a pretty happy go lucky life, just winging it. All of a sudden he gets saved and he realizes he’s in a war. He’s saved, he’s come to Christ, there’s peace and joy, blessedness, and the guy gets saved and wham, smash, bam. I mean Satan belts him from every angle and problems that he can’t even believe and all kinds of things begin to trouble him and the guy doesn’t know what’s going on so immediately when dealing with a new Christian you must exhort him to anticipate … tribulation, trouble.

Get ready, my friend. You got saved, Satan’s coming, and he’s gonna unload, and I don’t think we’re fair with a new believer unless we tell him that. They need to be exhorted about the fact that tribulation is part of it. All that live Godly are gonna be suffering persecution and you’re gonna contend for the faith. You’re gonna fight for it

The whole system is against the Kingdom of God and when you enter the Kingdom you are one of the enemy of Satan and his hosts, and so people need to be exhorted to hang on and continue in the faith. From God’s standpoint salvation is secured eternally by sovereignty. From the human’s viewpoint it is secured visibly by continuance and so he says, “Get ready for trouble. It’s gonna come.” But I’ll tell you something, and I’ve said it before, if you don’t have trouble you don’t have victory, right? And who wants to live a life where there’s no victory? What a dull life. You say, “Yeah but there’s no battles.” That’s dull. I mean everybody wants to win. There’s got to be a contest if there’s gonna be a winner.

After the completion of these three steps — strengthening, encouragement and setting expectations for trouble — one more remains: organising the local church (verse 23). Paul and Barnabas appointed elders — senior leaders. MacArthur explains:

Organization. Now notice the interesting thing here, the ordained elders. Now elders are to rule in the church. Often the question is, “What kind of church government do you believe in? I believe in the kind of church government where the elders rule the church. You say, “Well does that mean that they just dictate?” No it doesn’t. It means they’re sensitive to the people and answerable to God.

Other translations of ‘appointed’ include ‘ordained’, which is a more straightforward verb. Paul and Barnabas ordained the elders. MacArthur gives us the ancient Greek ritual of ordination, which involved a consensus of raised hands among the congregation:

“ordained”, very interesting word in the Greek.

The term originally meant, “to select by a vote of raised hands.” Now people have always said, well, should a church vote on its leaders? The word progressed from that meaning and by the time Paul wrote this it meant simply to appoint or choose but it had a lingering significance of the raised hand idea, and incidentally it is used one other place in 2 Corinthians 8:19 and there it definitely does mean the idea of a congregation selecting. So the word means “to choose then with approval of the people by raised hands.” You know that’s probably how they did it.

It is likely that Paul and Barnabas chose the nominees, and the congregation voted with raised hands.

The second part of verse 23 is profound. Paul and Barnabas prayed and fasted after ordaining the elders. Henry says:

It is good to join fasting with prayer, in token of our humiliation for sin, and in order to add vigour to our prayers.

MacArthur says:

Boy, that’s a serious business, you know? Remember what Josiah said? “Like people, like priest. Nobody ever goes higher than its leadership” so they prayed with fasting, concentrated prayer, and I think people when you talk about fasting that’s where fasting really becomes what I think God intended it to be when you’re so lost in prayer over some spiritual battle or some spiritual issue that food becomes insignificant, and they poured out their hearts before God in prayer because they knew they had a critical decision in every town they went to. If they chose wrong leadership Satan could destroy what they had begun. Prayer and fasting.

Finally, Paul and Barnabas committed the elders to the Lord. Henry has a succinct, beautiful explanation of this:

When we are parting with our friends, the best farewell is to commend them to the Lord, and to leave them with him.

MacArthur tells us that Paul and Barnabas had done all they could humanly do:

You know I’ve spent myself on some people and I get down to the last and I say, “God, I’ve done everything I can do.” I’m giving this one over to the head of the church, Jesus Himself. You have to do that, don’t you? … I’m glad that that’s the final knot on the string of follow-up, aren’t you, that it’s God’s?

He tells us what Paul and Barnabas did next:

You say boy, they must’ve been tired. Tired? How about bruised? How about weary? How about overdone physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually? How about wiped out? I mean they had had it. It’s just unbelievable what they had gone through, and this had been going on for at least a year and a half untiringly. Now they’re going back home. They finished. They’re going home. Gonna have to cross the Taurus Mountains again with all the robbers and all that stuff and fast rivers. Oh, brother.

Their story continues next week.

Next time — Acts 14:24-28

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