Tuesday, 31 May 2011

How to offend the Families of Veterans...

Probably the title of a policy document put about by the Politically Correct Instigators of the move in Houston, Texas to ban the mention of Jesus Christ from Memorial day prayers. I did a double take when I saw that the Pastor concerned had had to take the organisers to court to force them and the Department of Veteran's Affairs to back down.

U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes told the department it was “forbidden from dictating the content of speeches – whether those speeches are denominated prayers or otherwise – at the Memorial Day ceremony of National Cemetery Council for Greater Houston.”

“The government cannot gag citizens when it says it is in the interest of national security, and it cannot do it in some bureaucrat’s notion of cultural homogeneity,” the judge wrote. “The right of free expression ranges from the dignity of Abraham Lincoln’s speeches to Charlie Sheen’s rants.”

“The Constitution does not confide to the government the authority to compel emptiness in a prayer, where a prayer belongs,” he said. “The gray mandarins of the national government are decreeing how citizens honor their veterans. This is not a pick-up-your-trash sign; this is a we-pick-your-words sign.”

Thankfully the Judge seems to have exercised that rare commodity these days, common sense. One hopes, but has no great expectation, that the Director of the Committee, Ms Arleen Ocasio and the Director of the Veterans Affairs wil reconsider their positions. Unfortunately, I suspect that next year they will simply invite someone else, willing to obey their dictats.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Humility versus Hubris

Something I read earlier got me thinking. It was a short poem entitled simply, "Humility." It set out very briefly the qualities of humility and what a true humility in dealing with others can bring. Chief among these attributes is the willingness to listen to the other side, to wish to discover truth and to find solutions acceptable to both. Note that it is to listen, to learn, to seek truth and find acceptable solutions to both sides.

Hubris, in sharp contrast, brings an unwillingness to hear any opposing point of view, to impose solutions and to demand obedience. Hubris seldom is concerned as to whether or not a situation is fair or justice is served to both sides, hubris demands imposition and acceptance of its view - no other matters.

Humility is often seen as weakness, as a willingness to shy away from confrontation, but that is not true. Christ, who had little reason to exercise humility and perhaps every reason to exercise hubris, chose the first. He never shied away from confronting oppression or injustice and he certainly never backed down.

Looking about me in our age, there is an awful lot of hubris on display among politicians, civil servants and individuals - most of whom have nothing to be proud of and every reason to listen - except their unwillingness to do so. History teaches a harsh lesson - those who live by the creed of hubris invariably see everything they believe in, have worked to create or taken by force, stripped from their grasp.

Humility has much to commend it and to teach us.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

The Green Thing

Thought I should share this one. I take no credit for it, it arrived by email, and it certainly touches on a range of things ...

In the line at the store, the cashier told the older woman that she should bring her own grocery bag because plastic bags weren't good for the environment. The woman apologized to him and explained, "We didn't have the green thing back in my day."

The clerk responded, "That's our problem today. The former generation did not care enough to save our environment."

He was right, that generation didn't have the green thing in its day.

Back then, they returned their milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled. But they didn't have the green thing back in that customer's day.

In her day, they walked up stairs, because they didn't have an escalator in every store and office building. They walked to the grocery store and didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time they had to go two blocks. But she was right. They didn't have the green thing in her day.

Back then, they washed the baby's diapers because they didn't have the throw-away kind. They dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts - wind and solar power really did dry the clothes. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that old lady is right; they didn't have the green thing back in her day.

Back then, they had one TV, or radio, in the house - not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief, not a screen the size of the state of Montana. In the kitchen, they blended and stirred by hand because they didn't have electric machines to do everything for you.

When they packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, they used a wadded up old newspaper to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, they didn't fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. They used a push mower that ran on human power.

They exercised by working so they didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.

But she's right; they didn't have the green thing back then.

They drank from a fountain when they were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time they had a drink of water. They refilled their pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and they replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.

But they didn't have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or rode the school bus instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. They had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And they didn't need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.

But isn't it sad the current generation laments how wasteful the old folks were… just because they didn't have the green thing back then…

Maybe if some of those who promote "Green" technology actually looked at what and where they are using power we didn't use or need "back then" they'd hang their heads in shame...

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Blackbird in the garden

We have a Blackbird in our garden - or perhaps its "his" garden. He gets excited about us using it or working in it anyway. As I type this he's sat on the grass about ten feet away letting me know in no uncertain terms that I'm intruding.

As for what he's saying to poor old Madam Paddy Cat who only came out to check the bird bath was full and the water met her quality standards - well, I suspect its not polite.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

American Diplomacy?

Mrs Clinton has certainly sunk even further in my opinion. It was pretty low anyway, but now its probably subterranean. Why? Quite simple really, how do you offend the British?

Refer to the Falkland Islands as "Los Malvinas" when addressing a British audience and then lecture us on "returning them to the Argentinians." Patently this arrogant woman is as ignorant of history as she is devoid of sense.

It is not form her, Washington, Buenos Aires or, indeed, Whitehall to decide who the Falklands belong to. The people there are the only opinion that counts and they wish to be British and remain British.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Public Service?

Regular readers will know I don't like civil servants or politicians. It's not that they are deliberately evil, obstructive or incompetent, it's just that they have collectively reduced Western Civilisation to a morass of garbled ideologies, unnecessary legislation and thrown away everything that was good or even valuable in the process.

Witterings from Whitney has an excellent video clip speech by a man we should all listen to carefully.

What he says about the mythology that has grown up to defend the passage of ideologues from University, through a Quango, Parliamentary internship and thence directly to senior office in a Civil Service post or as an elected politician without ever having worked in the real world is well worth hearing. Thomas Sowell knows what he is talking about.

Now perhaps someone will tell us why working for a fat salary, bloated pension and 'Honours' available only to bureaucrats should be considered any more of a "public service" than Joe, the Rag and Bone man who collects and recycles all the junk we're too lazy to take down to the dump? OK, so Joe can and sometimes does make a million out of doing the work for himself - its still a damned sight more of a "Public Service" than the toad in Whitehall who steeples his fingers and quotes "Treasury Rules" at you when you ask for some assistance in negotiating the tangled web of ideologically inspired and frequently contradictory legislation that same toad drafted, but now blames on "The Minister."

Seems to me its time to do a Mao Tse Tung and send all these folk to Labour Camps...

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Extreme Weather ...

The appalling images of the tornado that swept through the city of Joplin in Missouri yesterday speak loudly of the power of nature. I'm sure though that someone is already blaming it all on "Anthropomorphic Global Warming" and building the propaganda campaign for the "Climate Change" hysterics of Greenpeace et al. The truth is that the particular region of the US is known as "Tornado Alley" for a reason - it gets tornadoes on a regular basis annually. What does vary year on year is the number of such storms and the strength of the twisters they generate.

For some time now there have been predictions that sooner or later a big one would hit a town or city. Joplin may not be one of the major cities, but I think everyone now has a fair idea of what to expect the day one does hit Kansas City or one of the other major centres.

I think two things are at work here. The climate is certainly a part of it and it certainly is changing, but how much influence mankind has on that is what is, in my mind, very much open to debate. I am not convinced that reducing our CO2 output - and thereby reducing the world atmospheric CO2 level by something of the order of 0.0001% - will have any impact at all. The primary force at work here, according to the Climatologists whose work I am prepared to trust, is the North Atlantic Ocillation and a similar System at work over the North Pacific basin. It has all shifted slightly westward in the last couple of years and this has moved the jet streams - and they generate the weather.

One thing is certain, mankind has a lot to learn about our planet, our climate mechanisms actually operate. Reading up on the research behind what we do know (Or think we do) suggests that changes tend to take place on near geological time scales rather than in decades or even centuries. The second thing we need to take into account is the manner in which our ever increasing numbers place ever more people where they will be affected by extreme weather. A hundred years ago we didn't have anything like the numbers now living in flood plains, tornado alleys or on earthquake faults and the photographs from Japan, Thailand and New Zealand give us plenty to think about in terms of earthquakes. For me the image of a brick-built fire station torn apart, the appliance still inside but smashed to scrap says more loudly than anything else that we have no power whatsoever to divert or influence Mother Nature...

Monday, 23 May 2011

Warm and Sunny...

At least some of our planets like the warm and dry weather. These very colourful plants close at night and in rain, so they at least appreciate the sunny weather we're currently having. I'm afraid a lot of other plants aren't.

I expect the volcano currently sending vast clouds of ash and CO2 into the atmosphere will, eventually, have an impact on the weather in these latitudes, an ash cloud usually does. Will it accelerate the melting of the Arctic Ice or slow it? Will it bring us another cooler than average summer? Another colder than average winter? If the geologists are right, probably all of the above.

I wonder of the IPCC and all the "The Climate is Changing, we're all gonna die ..." mob will finally acknowledge that these volcanoes actually do more to make things change climatically than we human fleas ever can...

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Waiting for rain ...

We've been promised rain now for the last four days, but, apart from a few drops occasionally, we haven't had any. We've watched in hope as thunder clouds have built to the west of us, then swept majestically past on either side. On Friday it rained in the valley below us - heavily - but not a drop up here on our moutain top.

So now we've used the lawn sprinklers. Even that didn't encourage the rain ...

Ah well, the weather forecast says it "might" rain next Thursday. I'll believe it when I see it. In the meantime people to the south of us have had more than they wanted or needed. At least it will put some more water into the rivers.

Friday, 20 May 2011

An absence of understanding ...

Seems to dominate the latest Obama Administrations proposal for a "Peace Settlement" in Israel/Palestine. If Mrs Clinton had taken the trouble to read a little more history than the condensed version from the back of a postage stamp, she might have come to realise that the 1967 boundaries were the result of an Arab sneak attack in 1956 that saw an invasion from Syria, Jordan and Egypt seize Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. A little more research and perhaps understanding instead of her preconceived notions and prejudices, might also lead her to realise that Israel will not surrender the one city above all others which is absolutely central to their identity as a nation. They will never consent to a partition of the city either or allow the Arabs to control their access to the Temple Mount.

It is time for Western politicians to stop meddling in matters they do not understand, or think they have some 'right' to interfere in.The 1967 boundaries allowed the Syrians to shell any town in Northern Israel from the Golan Heights, Gaza is a running sore, a cesspit that should be cleared and the murderous Hamas frontmen brought to the International War Crimes Court for trial. This latest "initiative" by Mrs Clinton should never have been given an airing, it will do nothing but incite the Palestinians and legitimise their continuing murder of Israelis.

I hope Mr Obama and his Administration will be prepared to accept the responsibility for the escalation when it commences, as I expect it will, within the next few months.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Justice or the pursuit of an agenda?

Several times in recent years I have watched the media circus attack some high profile "offender" in the run-up to their trial. The Press is, of course, only interested in a story which will attract sales, not in justice, but their pursuit of "truth" and "public interest" often compromises the first principle of "justice" which is that the accused must be presumed innocent until the prosecution has proved beyond reasonable doubt that the person is guilty. This legal "nicety" is invariably ignored by the media circus and one is left with the impression that merely to be accused is to be guilty.

This flows through into a number of "crimes" in our modern PC society. Teachers accused of misconduct or "abuse" are suspended, tried by often furiously biased bureaucrats more interested in making sure they are seen to 'act to protect the child' than in justice, and their lives and careers destroyed by the misreporting and misrepresentation of the media. It certainly doesn't help that every two bit politician immediately jumps on the band wagon and starts giving "briefings" and making political statements about the case. Small wonder then that most people no longer believe that courts can deliver either justice or be unbiased.

In fact, one very successful legal professional I know tells me bluntly that if I am looking for "justice" I will not find it in a court of law. As he puts it, the courtroom is the scene for a complex 'game' played by two legal teamswith a Judge as referee and a jury as an audience. The best theatrical performer wins.

As the Americans have probably noticed, the State of New York is having difficulty finding a jury for a certain high profile case at present. Why? The "rules" require that potential jurors should not have been unduly exposed to the facts of the case before the trial. With the media circus in full cry, I suspect they'll have to go to Afghanistan to find anyone that fits that bill!

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Garten Arbeit ...

Mausi and I are busy rebuilding the garden. The Herb Spiral now awaits its plants which have been ordered but won't arrive for a week or two yet. The surround has been cleared, levelled and decorated with small stones in which we have set a range of different size pots and these are gradually being filled with interesting and colourful plants.

The lack of rain is a bit worrying as the ground is now dry and the little showers we had a few days ago, soaked in and then evaporated. Our hopes are now pinned on the promise of rain tomorrow and Friday, though some of this is probably going to be thunderstorms.

This evening we dug out another flowerbed and planted some interesting flowering plants. All in all, within a few more weeks we should have a good show - as long as we get some rain.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Reality unreal?

An article sent me by The Postulant from the New Scientist makes interesting reading. Under the title "The Grand Delusion" it discusses how we see things, what we don't, what distracts us and ends up with the conclusion that we don't actually exercise any "free-will" over our actions, reactions and behaviour.

It is a fascinating article because it also looks at the divides between 'Green' and 'Skeptic' when it comes to "Climate Science" and at the biases at work on both sides of that debate. Though it uses that as a current example, by extension one can find a lot of other examples where people holding a "view" on something will simply refuse to see any other point of view no matter how compelling the evidence given for a different view point. At the same time both sides in the argument will consider everyone but themselves to be exercising some form of bias...

So, there you have it. You're all biased. Not me, of course ...

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Making choices ...

While walking down the street one day a "Member of Parliament" is tragically hit by a truck and dies.

His soul arrives in heaven and is met by St. Peter at the entrance.

'Welcome to heaven,' says St. Peter. 'Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see a high official around these parts, you see, so we're not sure what to do with you.'

'No problem, just let me in, 'says the man.

'Well, I'd like to, but I have orders from higher up. What we'll do is have you spend one day in hell and one in heaven.  Then you can choose where to spend eternity'.

'Really, I've made up my mind. I want to be in heaven,' says the MP.

'I'm sorry, but we have our rules.'

And with that, St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell.  The doors open and he finds himself in the middle of a green golf course. In the distance is a clubhouse and standing in front of it are all his friends and other politicians who had worked with him.

Everyone is very happy and in evening dress. They run to greet him, shake his hand, and reminisce about the good times they had while getting rich at the expense of the people.

They play a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster, caviar and champagne.

Also present is the devil, who really is a very friendly & nice guy who has a good time dancing and telling jokes. They are having such a good time that before he realizes it, it is time to go.

Everyone gives him a hearty farewell and waves while the elevator  rises …

The elevator goes up, up, up and the  door reopens on heaven where St. Peter is waiting for  him.

'Now it's time to visit heaven.'

So, 24 hours pass with the MP joining a group of contented souls moving from cloud to cloud, playing the harp and singing.  

They have a good time and, before he realises it, the 24 hours have gone by and St. Peter returns.

'Well, then, you've spent a day in hell and another in heaven. Now choose your eternity'.

The MP reflects for a minute, then he answers: 'Well, I would never have said it before, I mean heaven has been delightful, but I think I would be better off in hell. '

So St. Peter escorts him to the lift and he goes down, down, down to hell.

Now the doors of the lift open and he's in the middle of a barren land covered with waste and rubbish.

He sees all his friends, dressed in rags, picking up the trash and putting it in black bags as more rubbish falls from above.

The devil comes over to him and puts his arm around his shoulder. 'I don't understand,’ stammers the MP.  ‘Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and clubhouse, and we ate lobster and caviar, drank champagne, and danced and had a great time. Now there's just a wasteland full of rubbish and my friends look miserable.  What happened?


The devil looks at him, smiles and says, ' Yesterday we were campaigning ... Today you voted.'

Saturday, 14 May 2011

1611 and all that ...

This year many in Western Christian Churches will be celebrating the publication of what many recognise as the single most influential book in our history. It is four hundred years since the first edition of the “Authorised Version” also known as the “King James Bible” was published in London by the King’s chosen publisher, Robert Barker. When King James ascended the throne of England (He was already King James the Sixth of Scotland) in 1603 there were a number of English Translations of the Bible in circulation and use. Many of these were of decidedly dubious provenance and scholarship, some containing texts found in no other copies or in any of the original source documents. Some of the 'better' versions in use included copies of Wycliffe’s Bible and one published in the reign of Edward VI, which is popularly known as the “Breeches Bible” because it states that, on realising they were naked, Adam and Eve made for themselves ‘breeches’ of leaves. To add to the confusion the theologians and preachers using them could not agree among themselves what was an authentic text and what was not!

The King, himself a keen theology scholar and student of the Bible, decided that this state of affairs was not acceptable and so ordered a new translation which would replace all others in use. The result was the Authorised or King James Version which forms the foundation of all subsequent English Protestant and Anglican translations.

I suspect that the vast majority of those brought up in the English Speaking world in the Anglican or Protestant churches have, as I did for many years, assumed that the King James, or Authorised, Version of the Bible was a universally used canon of scripture. In fact I am pretty sure that somewhere along the line I was taught that it contained “all the books considered valid as ‘inspired by God’ by one or other of the Reformation Councils of the 16th and 17th Centuries. It came as something of a surprise therefore, to discover that the non-English speaking “Protestant” Churches, such as the German Lutherans and their ‘Family’ of churches, the Dutch Reformed Churches and others, use Luther’s translation of the Vulgate Canon as their Bible.

That got me thinking. How did the English speaking world arrive at the canon that makes up the KJV? Who decided what was ‘valid’ and what not? More importantly, how did they decide it? Believe it or not, this has taken some digging out!

Let us start with the question of the difference between the two canons of scripture.

The KJV or AV as it is more properly known, contains 66 books while the Vulgate version used by almost everyone else has 73. The reason is that the AV excludes the books known as the “Apocrypha” and which are now often included as a sort of “sandwich filler” between the Old and New Testaments in some versions. There is a problem there as well, since the Apocrypha contains 14 additional books, making a total of 80 books - 7 more than the Vulgate. In part this can be accounted for by the fact that the compilers of the AV and the Apocrypha have actually split books that appear in the Vulgate version into ‘Parts‘ to form new ‘Books.‘ The Anglican 39 Articles of Faith state that these books, which cover a historical period from 200 BC to about 100 AD, are of value ‘for the example of life and the instruction of manners.‘ The books of Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus (Sirach in the Vulgate) are particularly commended as providing high levels of religious and ethical teaching. Personally I have always regarded the Books of the Apocrypha as being an essential part of the whole canon of scripture, as valid as the rest.

Where does the Bible come from anyway? I’m sure most readers will be able to say instantly that it is the collection of Hebrew texts that are accepted by the Jewish people as their Torah, plus the four Gospels, the Acts, the Letters of the Apostle Paul and others and the Revelation of John... The original collection of Christian ‘Books’ actually differed widely from community to community and region to region and therein lay a large part of the problems. By about 314 there were so many ‘gospels’ and letters that heresies were two a penny. In 325 AD the Emperor ordered the First Council of Nicea to get together and sort it out, not an easy task at all. St Jerome, originally from the Province of Gaul, settled in Jerusalem and began to collect all the texts, examining the provenance of each and cataloguing those that could be assigned with confidence to the writer and setting apart those that could not.

For the Old Testament canon he adopted, with excellent reasoning, the Jewish Septuagint Canon, then in use throughout the Jewish synagogues in the Empire, though not in the East and in parts of the Holy Land itself. The Talmudic Canon of Jewish scripture does not include the ‘Hellenic’ books, such as Maccabbees, Tobit and Baruch. This collection was in use among the Jewish communities in Arabia, Persia and parts of North Africa. jerome and his team laboured long and hard to produce an authentic canon of post Crucifixion books, all of which could be proved to have been written in the first century by either the Apostles or their disciples.

All others were rejected as not being close enough to the events to have anything to add not already more authoritatively covered by those books included. The Council of Nicea accepted this collection (admittedly with some heated debate at times) and the Vulgate Bible was born. Interestingly, the single book which caused the greatest controversy was Revelations. It was finally only included when the very ancient St Bonifice was carried into the Council and confirmed that his teacher had been a disciple of John and that, as a young scholar, that teacher had in fact written down the book to John’s dictation.

Jerome’s next task was to produce a Latin ‘standard version’ of all the texts in a single book. This took, according to some authorities, twenty-five years, but it was received by the Council and approved. You can imagine how many copyists there must have been needed to copy it by hand for every Christian community, and therein lies another problem.

So how did the compilers of the AV canon decide what books to include and what should not be included?

The problem in England in 1603 was that there were a number of ‘English’ translations in use. All of them copies of copies of the Vulgate, by then some 1300 years old. Even in Rome there was, at this time, considerable concern that the copyists had, over the centuries changed the text, added bits and discarded bits. As early as 700 AD this problem was being identified and written about, one bishop railing against copyists who modified texts of the Bible to suit their own style and ideas, and at others who omitted texts and added others from their own sources. In 1512 the Pope had ordered a complete revision of the text and a group had been set up to agree a single ‘true’ text and ensure that this alone was copied and distributed. At the suggestion of the President of Corpus Christi College in Oxford, it was decided that for the new English version for use in the Anglican Church, a new translation should be made from original Hebrew and Greek documents rather than the corrupted and inaccurate copies of the Vulgate then available in England. Fifty-four scholars were invited by the King to work on the project, only forty-seven actually took part and the King, himself, took an active interest and part in the work.

The obvious first task was to determine which texts were authentic and which not. That proved quite a task, but the scholars drew deep on resources and traced copies in Arabic libraries of original documents in Greek and others from Jewish sources for the Old Testament Books. Faced with two canons of Hebrew Scripture they combed the text of the New Testament to see what was quoted and from which books, determining in the end to include all of the Talmudic canon and to exclude the Apocryphal books as they did not think Christ would have known them. In this choice there may have been a small element of political influence, since certain Roman Doctrines and Dogmas draw upon, among others, Maccabbees, for their source authority.

The scholars laboured in six ‘companies’ divided between Oxford, Cambridge and Westminster, beginning work in 1605 and each ‘company’ dealing with a separate part of the whole. That they achieved the outcome they did in six years is a remarkable feat in itself.

As the text of Chapter 44, verse 1 of Ecclesiasticus says; “Let us now praise famous men, and their fathers that begat them.” Ironically, it is one of the books they excluded from the AV, yet there are hints in places of the Gospels that Christ did, in fact, know this book and quoted it. Their names may now be unfamiliar to all except serious scholars of the Bible, but their living memorial is surely the wonderful prose they created in this translation.

Those who set out to produce a single authoritative text in 1605 have created a truly remarkable document. Their memorial is the lasting mark this single book has left upon our world and our society. There are some interesting variations in the text, when read in English, between the AV and the Vulgate Douay-Rheims Version (1534) which do give some subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, differences in interpretation. There are also, in places, some marked differences in the content, but this could be down to the fact that the Douay-Rheims scholars worked from an existing Latin text which was a copy of many copies.

Few books have been subjected, down the years, to as much criticism, abuse, misuse, misinterpretation and misrepresentation as the AV. It must also be said that few books have inspired so many to make changes to themselves and to the world around them in search of a better life for all than this book, in reality a ‘library’ between a single set of covers. Interpreting scripture is always going to be difficult and should never be attempted without understanding the context of the particular section or the society in which it was first produced. There is a great deal of ‘background’ information which the original writers did not include because their audience would ‘know’ it. Two and three thousand years later, we do not always ‘know’ what has been omitted and we also suffer from the fact that we are reading a translation.

Whichever version you read, you cannot help but be moved by the incredible effort that the preservation, correction and translation of these texts represents. Is one version more valid or more accurate than the other? I do not believe so. God has guided the men and more recently the women who have worked to bring it to us, guiding the hands of copyists down the ages and eventually those who brought us the printed versions.

Who can fail to notice when reading the Old Testament, that whenever the leadership of the Jewish nations turned away from faith and God, their people suffered? Who can fail to notice that whenever the greed of the upper classes led them to adopt the practices and ‘gods’ of their neighbours, Israel and Judah were torn apart by those neighbours? For me, as a forensic investigator, there are endless parallels between these ancient societies and the behaviour of our own leaders and nations. Prosperity seems inevitably to lead to greed, in a few, deprivation and hardship for others. This is, perhaps, one of the greatest achievements of those who translated the Bible so carefully; it provides a mirror to each and everyone of us and our society.

To those who argue that “the Church” has altered the text, changed the meaning or inserted passages, I say this: Where is your evidence, where your proof? If you refer me to the Nag Hamadi ‘library‘ or the Dead Sea Scrolls, I can respond by saying that the Nag Hamadi texts are all at least 200 years younger than the youngest of the books in the Bible (Revelations) and written by the followers of Docetism and Arianism, against whom John rails in the Revelations. If you say the Dead Sea Scrolls, nothing in them is Christian, they are the work of a Jewish Messianic Sect who chose the wrong side in the rebellion against Rome in 70 AD.

Whether you use the AV or the Vulgate is immaterial. Unlike the Quran which Muslims hold is the Word of God, Christians believe the Bible contains words inspired by God. For the Christian, God’s "Word" is the Living Christ, the Bible is His gift to us for our enlightenment and guidance. In the magnificent opening phrases of the AV translation of St John’s Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

I found the research for this fascinating. I hope you will join me in celebrating what must surely be one of the most remarkable exercises in scholarship for all time, both St Jerome’s heroic effort and that of the 47 scholars assembled by King James.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Publishers Block?

There is a lot of debate at present about publishing and publishers, and not unnaturally, the relationships between authors, publishers and agents. A relatively new author on the block, Michael Kingswood, has quite a bit to say about it in a recent post to his blog "Michael Kingswoods Writing Blog."

He contends, and I confess that I tend to agree, that the idea that authors are "artists" who haven't got the business savvy to handle dealing with publishers, is wrong. Certainly the example he presents is a powerful one. Another writer who comments on the state of the publishing industry and some of its shibboleths and myths is Dean Wesley Smith and K K Rusch is also quite vocal on the issue as well.

There are a lot of frustrated and angry writers out there. The problem is that the publishing industry has changed a lot in recent years. No longer do editors look for good writing so much as for "current topic" and "fashionable ideas." Nor do they provide an author with editing assistance, now they don't have time and want the book delivered, fully edited and ready to go. This is why so many 'Best Sellers' are riddled with typos in inconsistencies.

I've been writing stuff for years and I'd be the first to admit that I'm not good at editing my own work. But that is precisely what is now expected of a writer. He or she is also expected to market and sell their own work, something that was previously tackled by the publisher. The truth is that these days to get into a traditional publisher your work has to be passed by the accountants first as marketable and they are looking for an angle. If you're an ex-politician spilling the beans on your years in office, or an ex-con you're marketable, everyone else needs a second angle to get in...

That said, I get a lot of offers to publish through "Joint Venture" schemes. In short, I put up the money and a traditional publisher publishes the book and hopefully sells it. Having burned my fingers on one such effort, I am now extremely cautious about these. In the meantime I should soon be able to wall paper the staircase with rejection slips as I continue to explore the traditional route. And herein lies another part of the problem - almost all the imprints are now owned by the same five or six Holding Companies, all of them run by accountants ...

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Going through the motions

I note with interest that opinion in the UK seems to be divided between those who want out of Europe at any price and who blame Brussels for every ill that has befallen the UK and those who think the current coalition is a disaster. I have to say I have no sympathy with either view. Labour did terminal damage to the UK economy, not Brussels, and not the EU. They have left a legacy of incredibly damaging legislation as well, so no matter what the current government do to try and stimulate the economy, the Liebor legacy will torpedo it.

The Coalition faces an almost impossible task, one which will, inevitably, be unpopular with the socialist press/media and the ignoramuses who vote Liebor or failed to vote or exercised what they consider a 'protest' vote. Labour bankrupted Britain and left some ticking time bombs to make sure it was terminal. The Equalities Act, the Climate Change Act and one or two more will eventually destroy what is left of Britain's independence and her commercial and industrial viability.

Brussels may not be popular in the UK and the EU certainly isn't, but the current situation is not the fault of the EU, nor of Brussels, the finger of blame has to be pointed squarely at Whitehall and the hordes of gold plating parasites in the Civil Service and those now occupying the Opposition Benches in that House of Cards in the Palace of Westminster.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Monday under pressure

Had a lot to do today, mainly in preparation for my language class tonight, so Madam Paddy Cat enjoying the sun in the garden gets the top spot today.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Rhine Wine ...

We have spent a very pleasant day on the wine estate owned by the Raddeck family just above Nierstein on the banks of the Rhine. Mausi took some pictures of the view to be obtained from the vineyard and we bought a few bottles of their excellent reds and one white. The pictures are taken from a point above the town and looking north-north west - downstream for the rhine.

Friday, 6 May 2011


I dare say there will be rejoicing in some quarters over the rejection of the Alternative Voting system in the UK, but I do wonder how valid it is when less than 50% of the voters bother to vote. Not voting is NOT the same as voting no. If anything it shows that those who don't vote, don't even begin to understand democracy. This is why Britain, and I dare say other countries as well, so often find themselves saddled with huge bureaucracies (unelected) and permanent politicians who never seem to get the message from the voters.

No, I'm not suggesting they don't occassionally listen to the violent mobs who take to the streets, the people they don't listen to are those from whom they take regular payments in the form of tax, and 'redistribute' it to all the worthless parasites in Whitehall and their own bank accounts, friends and relations.

The AV system is probably not the best in the world but it would be an improvement on the first past the post dinosaur which allows and encourages the growth of 'Safe' Seats where particular parties can put up talking baboons as candidates and still get elected. This is why, I suspect, so many no longer even bother to vote. They've worked out that it is a pointless exercise, the Party of Choice in their area will be elected whether they vote or not.

The anti-change vote is amusing from one aspect, the AV system is already in use in Wales and has produced what is likely to be a shake-up as the Liebor Party has lost its majority. It is in use in Northern Ireland and in the EU elections and has demonstrated some advantages in those. Perhaps voting should be made, as it is in Australia, compulsory. That way at least people would have to make their preferences known, and Australia uses a form of AV ...

In the meantime Liebor-Labour has lost ground in Scotland and in Wales, gained some ground in its usual heartlands in England and the big losers are the LibDems who are now trying to blame their partners in government for the loss. Heads, methinks, will soon begin to roll in some quarters.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Revenge is mine ...

The Dragon is dead; long live the Dragon. Watching the news regarding the death of Osama Bin Laden several things must become apparent to those who take time to look objectively at this affair. On the one hand the man who apparently masterminded - certainly he claimed to have - the attack on the USA in 2001, has been killed. Perhaps executed is the better term since there was evidently no intention of placing him in a court or subjecting him to any sort of legal process. It may draw a veil over the conflicts in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Iran and Iraq, but, somehow, I doubt it.

I have long believed that it takes a rather sick and twisted psyche to embark on the sort of campaign Bin Laden fronted, and it is not unique to the “Arab” world or to Islam. Many of these terrorist organisations have their origins in the so-called Cold War, with Moscow and Washington/NATO funding groups of “freedom fighters” in each other’s “client” states. Sometimes both parties were funding similar groups in the same state, usually with the same objective in view. Bin Laden and Al Qaeda is a product of that process as are the many terror groups scattered around the world and active in places like the Philippines, the Congo and several South American states.

Much of the explosion in drugs use and drug trafficking can also be traced to “Black Operations” managed by both Super Powers in the late 20th Century.

Following Bin Laden’s death I do not believe Al Qaeda will die with him. A new leader will emerge and new campaign will be planned. Al Qaeda and similar groups have no trouble recruiting followers, the “Madrasa” system operated in Pakistan and other impoverished Muslim states as “schools” provide a solid grounding in a twisted and extremely fundamentalist Islamic interpretation and thinking. The real problem with these “schools” is that anyone can set one up and no real qualification other than being able to read the Quran is necessary.

Al Qaeda will not die simply because Bin Laden is dead. It now has a martyr who is an international figure. We should take note of the hysterical demonstrations on the streets of Hamas controlled Gaza. Summary justice certainly has been seen to be done, but whose justice is served by it? His supporters see his campaign as justifiable because of the damage we have done to their belief system, to the countries they live in and, of course, our Christian heritage which the Madrasa teachers identify as an offence to God and Blasphemy. Citizens of the US feel that his death in some way brings “justice” to a close for the deaths of those who died in the attacks of 9/11 and perhaps they are justified in so thinking. After all, the scenes of mass rejoicing in cities and nations across the Middle East after those attacks appalled and sickened all of us, but we need to take care we do not sink to the same level.

We need to be concerned about the uprisings in the Arab world and North Africa because these are being and will be used, by radical fundamentalists, to seize the reins of power. We need to look carefully at the abuses and failures in all our societies which promote and encourage the rise of such organisations and the “causes” they claim to promote.

Now, more than ever, we need to exercise restraint and demonstrate that we do not regard the ordinary people there as the enemy. Nor do we have, as some seem to think, to give up everything our forefathers have worked and fought to create in our societies. We do need to reform and rethink some aspects and many of our current attitudes and practices, but we must also seek reconciliation rather than revenge if we are ever to find a solution.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

History in Fiction

I started writing a new historical fiction story as a challenge from Mausi. I have set the tale in the Baltic beginning in 1809 and it will track the events that eventually led to Napoleon's downfall after the disaster for the French at the gates of Moscow. In the process of doing the background research for the story I uncovered a fascinating side show of the history of the French Revolutionary Wars that fed directly into the Napoleonic War. It is fascinating as it was a key 'domino' in the chain that eventually toppled Bonaparte and gave rise to the British Empire.

It is fascinating for several reasons, not least because, until Napoleon succeeded in imposing a blockade on trade with Britain through the Baltic, British Trade in this area was worth more than 43 million Pounds a year. In 1809-10 the blockade began to bite and trade fell steadily until it was only 5 million pounds in 1812. The British economy almost collapsed, but was saved by the opening of new markets in the Mediterranean, the Caribbean and the Americas. In part, the disputes over who carried what to where and under what flag also led to the War of 1812 with the USA - a war which was fortunately resolved quite quickly, probably because both sides realised they had better things to do.

The Baltic Trade recovered, once Sweden, Russia and the Northern German States evicted the French and re-opened their ports and harbours, but it never again held the primary importance it had in 1809.

Equally interesting is the fact that these upheavals and the French invasions and threats of invasions also led to a series of alliances and agreements between the rulers of the Germanic Principalities and Kingdoms which paved the way for Bismarck's Grand Plan of a Unified German State and People. Prussia - once covering all of what is today Northern Poland, Mecklenburg Strelitz, Schwerin Mecklenburg, Schleswig and the Danish province of Holstein, Brandenburg, Saxony, Thuringen and the Hanseatic City States of Rostock, Wismar, Lübeck, Hamburg and Bremen were all part of these early beginnings. Until 1836 the English Royal House were also the Electors of Hannover and the English Crown held onto the Islands of Heligoland
until a Treaty was agreed in 1900 with the Kaiser, handing them back to German control.

Having always been fascinated by the way in which seemingly unconnected actions and events lead to consequences and events elsewhere, this is a fascinating journey for those interested in the history of the 19th and 20th Centuries.

My story is entitled 'A Baltic Affair' and can be found online by clicking on the title. I hope you'll take the time to read the chapters posted so far and perhaps leave some feedback.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Gardening ...

We spent Saturday cutting things, weeding out, relaying a part of our patio and laying out the area around our "Krauter Schneckel."

It was a very satisfying day, but the work is far from finished and I will post pictures when it is.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Nonentity Celebrity

I confess I have never understood the handing out of medals and honours to Civil Servants and actors. For the most part they have always been very well paid to do what they do, the main difference, of course, being that actors generally do it well and the Civil Servants ...

Friday's Royal wedding list had some strange invitees, though these things are usually diplomatic occassions as well as weddings. The strangest was David Beckham, honoured under the Blair regime for playing football occassionally at vast cost to his club and its supporters. Blair and his coterie handed out MBEs (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the Britsih Empire), OBEs and Dame and Knight of the same to all their actor chums (Labour's Luvvies) and to dustmen, housekeepers and hordes of civil servants for doing their jobs. And to the likes of Beckham.

Who paraded himself yesterday wearing the decoration on his right lapel. The moron doesn't even know which side of the chest to wear a medal...

What an insult to all the men and women who have actually earned it by doing something way beyond what they were paid to do or indeed, needed to do.