Monthly Archives: March 2014

Dear Bishop Steven, Who benefits from “Gruffalo Economics” ?

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In the 1980′s the term “Voodoo Economics” was coined to describe economic nostrums which offered solutions, the consequences  of which could not be traced back to the original policy proposal. Voodoo Economics was the answer to the politician’s prayer for it offered the ultimate –  power without responsibility.

If you can assert ” terrible things will happen unless we follow my plan” then you profit in one of three ways.

If adopted, and your warnings were meaningless,  you claim the kudos of averting tragedy.

If it is not adopted then every bad event becomes attributable to the failure to have followed your lead.

In the unlikely event of your plan being adopted, and bad things happening, you can either blame poor implementation, or bemoan ” too little, too late”.

It goes without saying, as Harriet Harman might testify, that being a politician means never having to say you’re sorry.

Brother Ivo was reminded of this  as he read Bishop Steven Crofts address to the Sheffield Diocesan Synod, which you may read here . Bishop Steven devotes its entirety to the issue and  dangers of climate change, of which he is plainly a conviction Bishop and evangelist.

As he read Bishop Steven’s address,  Brother Ivo was been moved to identify a new economic ideology which paradoxically has a long pedigree. It is called ” Gruffalo Economics”.

If you have not read the children’s story or seen the film, it’s all splendid nonsense. Mouse walks through a forest meeting a selection of dangerous creatures whom he bamboozles by bluffing that he is going to meet an even more terrible creature called the Gruffalo whose arrival is imminent. The refrain is repeated” Silly old snake/fox/owl etc, don’t you know, there’s no such thing as a Gruffalo.”

Bishop Steven has a right to believe or promote such views as he wishes; he is plainly sincere, but Brother Ivo equally feels the need to offer a word of caution from his own lengthy experience in such matters

The Green movement has been operating on the basis of Gruffalo Economics for much of its life. For the early few years Brother Ivo was “in the room” as the movement tried to define itself, and remembers well how the different approaches to what a Environmental politics might look like contended for ascendancy. In those early days there was a wide coalition within the then Ecology Party.

It had been formed by conservationist Teddy Goldsmith, brother of Jimmy Goldsmith. Teddy’s   thinking encapsulated a rather William Morris suspicion of modernity and advocated a return to smaller communities, localism, craft skills organic farming and conservation. He was a fan of EF Schumacher’s book “Small is Beautiful” which stands at the polar opposite of Big Government solution politics.

His Daily Telegraph orbituary defined his problems with the party he founded rather well.

“Over the years this belief cost him friends and allies as the green movement drifted gradually to the political left. His stubbornly conservative vision, and his commitment to “stability”, “tradition” and the teachings of ancient religions were at odds with the views of “progressive” green proponents of “multiculturalism” and “social justice”.”

That contending Leftist faction included members of Sid Rawles’ Peace Convoy, which started the first Glastonbury Festival, and overwintered in Tepees in North Wales. There were factions of Libertarians, Greenham Common Feminists, and followers of the European radical leftist movements; older readers may recall that the 1968 Paris rioters were led by Danny the Red- well, he became Danny the Green, which probably explains everything one needs to know about how many old style conservationists came to be driven out, not least by an unhealthy dose of intolerance and political correctness.

Gruffalo economics emerged from the need of the radical Left to reinvent itself, as communism was then in full retreat after multiple failure. Mrs Thatcher was the political mistress of all she surveyed, so the Left gazed back with longing to the Second World War and the post war consensus when the country united and made sacrifice in the face of a common enemy. If only a sufficient existential threat could be identified, then the collectivist Statist interfering cause might not yet be lost.

So began the search for that threat, and the net was cast widely and frequently.

First we had the Silent Spring  theory, which killed millions of third world children as we prematurely rejected the use of the DDT that might have eliminated the malaria bearing mosquito which is the biggest killer of human beings, especially children, in human history.

Then there was the fight against nuclear power which has not only  delivered more, cheaper, energy than any other, but proved safer than any of us dreamed, Chernobyl and Fukushima, notwithstanding. It takes an earthquake or Governmental bureaucratic neglect to cause such problems, and yet, Govermental bureaucratic interference is what the Greens in their current incarnation favour and promote at every opportunity.

Do you remember the panic fomented over the Millenium Bug? The Y2K campaign imposed massive costs on businesses and multiple organisations as we were all encouraged to believe that the aircraft would fall out of the sky, our power stations would fail, our data systems be wiped out.

Chicken Licken was an eternal optimist compared to the folks who were selling the Y2K fixes.

Somehow we survived.

We also survived scares over 245T, genetic engineering of crops, Microwaves, electricity pylons, wi-fi, Global Cooling and  the exhaustion of oil and a vast number of other minerals which the ‘experts” of the 1960 Club of  Rome were certain would have peaked with catastrophic consequences by the year 2000 when they published the seminal work of the Green Movement “Blueprint for Survival”

Christians ought to be familiar with the concept of Millenarian existential angst, and why Brother Ivo gently invites Bishop Steven to approach these matters by asking the age old question ” Qui Bono”?

It may not be the world’s poor.

The principle beneficiaries of the Global Warming campaign will include:-

The academic community – especially Climatology Departments ( which previously predicted Global Cooling). Their research grants depend upon proven utility. There are no funds of prizes for saying “Nothing to see here, please move on”.

Politicians, who need lofty distraction from their more obvious failures. (See Al Gore)  In this country, a passing acquaintanceship with the MP’s Register of Interests of Climate Change promoting MP’s like Tim Yeo, is interesting.

Carbon Credit traders  the largest of which include General Electric and Johnson and Johnson ) GreenChip.com promotes its products thus

Carbon Market Potential

According to a recent New York Times article, carbon trading is one of the “fastest-growing specialties in financial services.” And companies are scrambling to get a slice of a market now worth well over 100 billion and that could grow to $1 trillion within a decade.

If you thought the last Banking crisis built on financial derivatives was the result of a scam you might begin to question a trillion dollar industry built on similar ephemera. 

Environmental journalists for whom climate change is the gift that keeps on giving. The BBC is committed to breaching its charter requiring balance, following a meeting on the subject at which 50 supporters and no opponents were invited; it took a Freedom of Information request and litigation to drag those facts into the public domain. Jimmy Savile was not the only beneficiary of BBC lack of transparency

Green industries especially those whose products are unviable in the market place and need subsidy. If you look at the story of the  bankrupt US firm of Solyndra you will see how public money can be lavished and wasted on total economic no-hopers in the Green Technology field. Hundreds of millions of taxpayer money was wasted. Money that could have been better spent on the actual poor.

Clergy in search of “relevance” Bishop Steven couches his concerns in an interesting way, appending it as a sixth evil to be added to the five identified by William Beveridge in his report which established the Welfare State. He also identifies those times as somewhat idyllic in their idealism. That ethos did also make Britain the economic sick man of Europe whilst the rest of the world flourished in post war boom.

The free market has subsequently made a rather good job of significantly reducing squalor, ignorance, want, and disease within our country. There are still things to be achieved, but those of us who recall 50’s Britain are well placed to remember how well we finally responded to those challenges.

There remains one of those identified Beveridge evils which is still unaddressed, even as the economy grows with the help of industrious immigrants.

Can anyone imagine any Bishop taking a stand on the issue of “idleness”? Not involuntary unemployment, but the evil of voluntary idleness, the lack of interest in the jobs that have been created but are taken by others who have travelled  far with independence ambition and a determined work ethic. 

This is not an attempt to demean Bishop Steven for whom he has high regard, neither is this an attempt to comprehensively “Fisk” his address.

As the Bishop has chosen to devote a significant amount of time to think about the issue, and to speak publicly however  he invites an intellectual challenge and will surely accept that his is not the last word, and there is more to be said, but first we must honestly examine and challenge everything, not least received wisdoms.

Reading the address, Brother Ivo sees no reference to the fact that there remain real climate experts who are are less than convinced of human responsibility for climate fluctuation, or that much can be done about it.

There is no cautionary reference to the fact that contrary to the predictions of the “majority of experts” there has been no increase in the earth’s temperatures for 17 years ( notwithstanding the Chinese economy booming without carbon capping) or that polar ice and polar bear populations have expanded rather than disappeared, as was formerly asserted.

Neither do we see reference to patent unreliability in some of the early persuasive tools of the Climate Change lobby. The famous “Hockey Stick” graph which depicted a sudden catastrophic surge of temperature unless we eviscerated the economy, bore no depiction of the medieval warming period which every serious climatologist will tell you existed and occurred in a period without significant carbon emission. That omission tells you something about the unbalanced nature of some of the expert opinion.

This is the biggest problem with Gruffalo Economics, the facts continually prove rather unamenable to the argument.

Bishop Stephen points out the problem is both very simple and very complex. He is right there, as he is when he repeats the mantra that 97% of scientists subscribe to anthropromorphic global warming. he also prays in aid the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Just think about that a moment.

The Clue is in the word “Government”.

The IPCC is not unrelated to the murky unscientific world of politics. It is headed by a “scientist” -an Indian railway engineer.

If an Intergovernmental Panel on Christianity were to be established, headed by a railway engineer, Brother Ivo suspects (and hopes) that Bishop Stephem might allow himself a few more caveats than seems apparent on this topic.

Readers may wonder if Brother Ivo is being simply contrarian as he invents Gruffalo Economics based upon his past close association with the Green movement and its scaremongering tactics. He therefore calls in aid the unquestioned expertise of MIT Professor of Climatology Richard Lindzen.

“Global warming, climate change, all these things are just a dream come true for politicians. The opportunities for taxation, for policies, for control, for crony capitalism are just immense, you can see their eyes bulge,” he says.

“Even many of the people who are supportive of sounding the global warning alarm, back off from catastrophism,” Lindzen said. “It’s the politicians and the green movement that like to portray catastrophe.”

So here is the challenge to Bishop Steven and his fellow Bishops. 

Before aligning the Church too readily with this overtly political movement, do help us with a helpful deconstruction of the self interest of those most vociferously advocating it. There is good precedent for putting the mighty down from their seats and there are many enhancing their power and their wealth  by riding upon the coat tails of anthropomorphic global warming. 

Who benefits from Gruffalo Economics? 

Let Brother Ivo offer a useful starting point. 

It is those who want to enrich themselves at our expense and those who wish to extend power over our lives. Not everyone who wrings their hands and cries ” Think of the poor, think of the children!” is to be trusted. 

We are enjoined to be gentle as doves – but also as wise as serpents. 

Ps In the story there is a Gruffalo

PPS It is just a children’s story 

 

Hound of the Basket Cases

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Copyright Getty images

It was Brother Ivo’s own fault for falling asleep with the radio on.

He was woken by the sound of a BBC  “comedy quiz”, which has come to mean a group of four left of centre people talking to an uncritical audience which regards the height of wit as being  someone asking ” Isn’t Sarah Pallin stupid?”. That always goes down well.

Before he could turn it off, he had been irritated into wakefulness  by one of the contributors, Mr Rufus Hound, fulminating against “balance” in the public space and the publicly funded national media.

Mr Hound is not a man of tolerant judgement. He showed himself to be foolishly prejudiced when, in the course of an earlier controversy over how the aspirations of the National Health Service might best be delivered, he declared that the Prime Minister “wants your children to die-unless you’re rich”.

He was later reported to be standing in this year’s European Elections to “defend the NHS”. What exactly the EU can do about this issue remains unclear and unexplained. 

Brother Ivo fears that he would take an unworthy pleasure in watching Mr Hound on election night, trailing in, tens of thousands of votes behind UKIP and others he purports to loathe. Tsk Tsk.

The more he has thought about it, however, the more he has realised that as with many other issues, his reaction is more complicated than at first appears.

The problem is partly about Mr Hound and his shallow views but that is not the end of it.

There is the underlying problem with the BBC which, by constantly commissioning such shows  is steadily slipping from the previous standards of maintaining balance within its public service broadcasting role. There are many witty people of more diverse views than Mr Hound, only the BBC just can’t seem to find them.

The problem goes beyond the light entertainment and current affairs programing and even touches Breakfast television

Recently, three three major Labour figures were regrettably implicated in excessive liberal attitudes towards the Paedophile Information Exchange. It had laid inadequately explored for years. The facts are largely un-controversial because they have been minuted with occasional notes in the politicians’ own handwriting. Specifically, the current Director of the National Council for Civil Liberties has already offered an unqualified apology for the organisation. Shami Chacrabarti enjoys a high reputation for integrity, not least at the BBC.

When newspaper headlines linked these Labour figures to the promotion of paedophilia, the front pages were studiously omitted from the array of front pages displayed on breakfast television, yet barely a week later, when an adviser to the Conservative government was arrested in connection with the alleged possession of child abuse computer images, there was no such reticence.

Without labouring the matter, we could readily agree a long list of issues on which the BBC has a broadly discernible cultural bias.

EU – pro
Abortion – pro
Israel – anti
Democrat – pro
Republican – anti
Atheism -pro
Cannabis legalisation – pro.
Anthropomorphic Climate Change scepticism – anti

Yet happily, there does still seem to be a conscious inclination by the BBC to offer contributors from both sides of a debate on prominent issues. It may not always be fair and equal, there may be some bias, but some respect is shown to balance. That was always the intention of Lord Reith who shaped its ethos during the 1930’s when intolerances were also prevalent in politics.

Mr Hound evidently finds this irksome. He would like it to change and lets be clear. This is not comedic exaggeration. Many on the Left think that they are so obviously right, that opposing views are not only wrong but morally repugnant. That is why they call their approach “political correctness”. There is no nuance, no room for reaching across to one’s opponent to seek find common ground.

There are, according to Mr Hound and his uncritical audience, issues where one opinion is so obviously correct that offering a tangential view is unacceptable and serves only to confer unworthy credilibilty upon deceivers and fools.

Brother Ivo wonders how much history Mr Hound knows.

Galileo was vilified when he first dared to suggest that the earth was not the static centre of the universe. “Everybody” knew that was nonsense. “What a dangerous fool!”

Thomas Clarkson and William Wilberforce were similarly regarded as dangerously eccentric for threatening the economic order of the day by campaigning against slavery. Wasn’t slavery part of the Natural Law identified by Plato and Aristotle? It was to be found in almost every country from Africa to Mexico, China to New Zealand, though oddly, since 1102, not in England.

This was thanks to Archbishop Anselm, a  fact that is frequently overlooked by progressives. We need a film about that, perhaps with the working title ” 900 years not a slave”

The Big Bang theory proposed by George’s Lemaitre was similarly initially offensive to the scientific consensus of the day because of its worrying echo of Genesis; it overturned the scientific assumption of a solid state universe and re-opened the philosophical question about how everything emerges from nothing. Atheists still haven’t cracked that problem so they rarely talk about it on comedy shows and prefer to vilify Creationists.

All of these ideas offended the received wisdom of the day, and would have fallen foul of Mr Hound’s ostracising  of the innovative.

Brother Ivo is all for diversity of opinion and tolerance. He opposes the democratic basket cases like Mr Hound who are uncurious about received wisdom especially when it comes from the Left.

Brother Ivo tries to be fair.

He did explore the idea to see if there was any merit in it, and in one regard he has to  concede that Mr Hound might potentially have a point.

Karl Marx never held down a job, could not feed his family and was depended for much of his life upon the  fortune of the mill owning family of Friedrich Engles. Whenever his theories have been put into practice they have failed miserably, and more importantly,they have always brought misery to millions.

Brother Ivo has never heard Mr Hound or any in the progressive movement treating Marxism and its followers to the same kind of visceral rejection and scorn that he reserves for David Cameron or Sarah Pallin.

As Venezuela falls into as much unrest as Ukraine, none of our cultural warriors of the Left are contrasting the outcomes there with the salutes and praise heaped upon the Chavez Government by Diane Abbott and George Galloway.

“Hugo Chavez was a democrat, not a dictator, and showed a progressive alternative to neo-liberalism is both possible and popular” Owen Jones.

Venezuela is an oil rich country where Mr Chavez supporters have created riots on the streets and a toilet paper shortage. You need $40,000 to contemplate buying a car. What do you think are the chances of Mr Hound and his fellow BBC panellists of building a comedy routine references these facts and the premise, “Isn’t Owen Jones stupid?”

The problem is that without balance there is no progress of human thought. Mr Hound and the Left prefer a pre-primed default cultural laughter for their propositions.  It is incidentally a lazy approach. Thus they will never explore the concept ” Isn’t Marxism dreadful”.

Marxists like Mark Thomas are still feted, whereas Ms Palin – who did actually identify the risks to Ukraine from Russia – continue to be reviled.

Despite being sorely tempted to support the notion that the nations comedians should be hounding Marxism from our airwaves and cultural respectability, Brother Ivo is a passionate believer in open and respectful debate, and subscribes to the view that he must defend the rights of all shades of opinion to be expressed proportionately and lawfully whether he agrees with them or not.

This is not entirely as noble as it sounds.

Once, maybe just once, Rufus Hound, by pure chance, must one day say something sensible -or funny.

Brother Ivo would hate to miss it.

The cup that cheers

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In England, we think there is nothing like a nice cup of tea.

We routinely offer one to guests when welcoming them into our homes and offices, and take tea on other occasions in a variety of other forms. There is the screw top of the thermos flask punctuating the long journey or the hike. It is vastly different from genteel high tea at at hotel or restaurant which we might take as a celebration of some life event. We still enjoy a cuppa even if it is only from a plastic cup at a sporting event or boot fare on a winter day.

Sharing one confirms fellowship and reinforces bonds of friendship/kinship.

In other contexts it is comforting or reassuring.

We often suggest one to someone who has had a nasty shock. We bring them to the sick as a service and small sign of comfort and sympathy.

Brother Ivo used to detach from a tricky working problem by going to make tea, partly as a displacement mechanism but also knowing that by making some space in his life and by slowing down , his mind was given time to unwind when it was busy confusing itself with too much information and activity.

A biscuit helps too, if you haven’t given them up for Lent.

The practice is not so much about sustenance as human need. It is a kind of reset button in life to bring us back to basics, making time for oneself and other people, recognising that if the basics are in order the rest has a better chance of falling into proper place.

All of the above applies in similar measure to the taking of communion.

It too has taken place in a variety of circumstances and contexts.

We use special wafers or supermarket bread. Prisoners in the Korean War celebrated the Eucharist with plain water; in one or two french wine producing villages they give of their best and use white wine.instead of red.

Sometimes Holy Communion is a quiet and intimate occasion, perhaps in an early morning morning Chapel where two or three are gathered in His name. Sometimes there is a grander public setting with robes, incense and a robed choir singing. Some are summoned to it by a formal staving of Church Wardens whilst elsewhere there is a joyful chaos of toddler activity, buggies being manoeuvred and folk standing because anything more formal is impractical at the “All Age Service”.

There is no bad way to accept the gift of the Eucharist unless it be with hardness of heart and an absence of thanksgiving.

Brother Ivo is licenced to  administer the elements of the Eucharist and considers it a great privilege to do so. You see and learn so much both specifically and generally.

Feeding someone is an intimate act, one that implies a high degree of both love and trust. When we are infants we turn in confidence to our parents, grandparents and siblings to give us what we need. When we are sick, we express our dependency on those who nurse us. A lover may surrender volition to one who offers or playfully withholds a treat. When old and dependent, we give ourselves over and are comforted by the devotion of those who do for us what we can no longer do for ourselves.

All these elements are to be seen in the manner in which people come to receive communion.

It is frequently received  reverently and quietly: some will not touch the bread or the cup, it being ” too holy” for them. We place the bread on the tongue and retain control of the cup. Others take the initiative boldly, accepting the gift and the promises it symbolises. They stretch out their hands with confidence and take the cup from the hands of the server.

There is joy in the eye of some, others show sorrow. Brother Ivo’s friend with cerebral palsy always raises a smile with his cheerful “Thank’s mate!” -and there’s nothing wrong with that either!

Most kneel, but others have to stand. We stretch across the communion rail to others in wheelchairs. The hymn “Just as I am” comes frequently to mind .

Children smile or coyly shrink from the prayer for blessing, appropriately wary of strangers, and reminding us that every generation needs to be shown the unconditional love and acceptance of our Lord, so that trust is built. Teddy sometimes gets a prayer of blessing too, for this is not the time for rejection or theological debate.

Sometimes one knows or suspects that an unfamiliar face has no familiarity with the communion rail, but it is best to err on the side of generosity. Jesus knows his own, regardless of our doctrinal niceties.

Whilst this is one of his favourite aspects of Ministry, Brother Ivo would mention the occasional practical difficulties usually encountered with a  lady of a certain age who presents what he has come to describe as “the shelf”.

With ample bosom padded out by a heavy coat, and a scarf or fur collar, she also wears a wide brimmed hat which she lowers. She closes her eyes and tucks in her chin whilst Brother Ivo tries to figure out how he is going to angle a full chalice under the hat brim and up and over the enhanced bosom without unseemly spillage! Humanity kneels to receive God’s gift – and still  gives problems!

All human life is to be found at the communion rail… thanks be to God.

“Known unto God”

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How old does one have to be to become a connoisseur of funerals?

One needs to have been to a fair few and so it can scarcely be a condition of the young. Yet Brother Ivo is beginning to think that he has seen enough to be getting the hang of what he might or might not like. This is not an inappropriate thought on  Ash Wednesday for later this evening he shall attend a service to receive the imposition of ashes upon his forehead and a timely reminder that time is passing.

Yesterday was a suitable preparation; he attended a funeral of a fellow parishioner whom he has known for many years but not well. She had no close family but a goodly number of the congregation came to pay their respects to a private almost reclusive lady whose foibles included doing without a door knocker. A washing up brush sat next to the front door which could be used to bang on the door. Kirsty Allsopp would not have approved.

The funeral was utterly different, and yet not unrelated, to another one that sticks in the mind.

The other was of a young man from a Care Home associated with our congregation. He was dreadfully limited in his life experiences through physical and mental impairment, yet those with whom he lived needed to grieve and they came to us to celebrate the life they had shared with him

A minister of another “church”, chosen originally by some of the distant family had been first approached by the Care Home but had declined to even talk to the young man’s friends to construct a eulogy because ” They are all non compos mentis, anyway”, so the Care Home manager, an atheist, gave him short shrift and said she would take her folks to a Church where she knew they would-be loved and respected.

These two funerals were amongst the most impressive Brother Ivo has ever been to.

The one saw the Church family engaged in a rather fine Requiem Mass as our departed friend wished, with her coffin resting in the sanctuary surrounded by candles and incense,and  blessed with Holy Water.

For perhaps the first time in her life, this quiet faithful fader into the background was lifted up before her God and celebrated, as perhaps never celebrated in life, and we heard the story that she had never told.

Most of us never knew she had been a sister in the Church Army until her elderly mother’s needs required her full attention. The rich and symbolically charged funeral placed her in the centre of all our minds, perhaps seeing her for the first time as she was “known unto God”.

She was directing our attention both to whom she truly was, and what was truly important; not the small dowdy lady, inevitably late for Church (though always reliably there) but as one whose faith carried her into God’s presence at the last and at that last meeting with us , making a clear statement to the rest of us that she had got her priorities right.

The other funeral had been totally different.

The mourners were principally from the Care Home home. Most could not read or sing, and so again the community of Christians gathered round to support them in their grief and their need to celebrate a life that we could not fully know. Neither the deceased nor the friends could have said much about the theology behind the funeral and yet the core meaning of hope, celebration, and love was present in spades.

In neither case was there much scope for entertaining anecdote, neither treated us to their favourite pop song as they were carried out of Church, but in each, a life “known unto God” was recognised, valued, and commended.

As we move into the sombre season of Lent we may have occasional insights into our own      mortality and consider whether our earthly parting from family and friends will prove half as rewarding to them as these two retiring characters.

On Ash Wednesday you might appreciate one of the prayers we used, to refresh your own spirituality in the penitential season.

” Joan has fallen asleep in the peace of Christ

We entrust her, with faith and hope in everlasting life

to the love and mercy of our Father

and surround her with our love and prayer

In Baptism, she was made by adoption a child of God

At the Eucharist she was sustained and fed

God now welcomes her to his table in heaven

to share in eternal life with all the saints.

May you be enriched by your lenten devotions.

 

Ukraine – “If the trumpet does not sound a clear call who will get ready for battle?”

obama and putin

Brother Ivo has surely not been alone in his response to the news stream from Ukraine. He has veered between anger, frustration, and no little fear for the people of that country, who relied upon western promises of protection as they undertook significant disarmament to appease their Russian neighbour, which they agreed to do as part of the price of moving away from the sphere of influence of their former Soviet compatriots.

Now they are fearful of how far Russia will go to reassert its hegemony in the region, and their insecurity has inevitably been compounded by a clear realisation that the West has displayed uncertainty and weakness.

During the course of last week we heard Germany disinclined to invoke sanctions relating to Russian energy and the UK refusing to deny them financial services. The EU “Foreign Minister” Cathy Ashton has demonstrated a complete waste of her £400,000 salary by calling an “emergency meeting”- for Monday morning. It has not yet occurred.

No wonder some wag on Twitter suggested that the worst the West was prepared to do it is dock 10 points from Chelsea’s Premier League campaign.

Our discomfort is nowhere near as acute as the citizens of that country, and yet we too are fearful. We remember that this is the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War when a series of promises, treaties, and misjudgements in such a region precipitated a holocaust.

A generation that has never lived under the threat of the Cold War is learning that there was a reason some of us promote the teaching of history in our schools; those who do not learn from history truly are condemned to repeat it.

We have yet to hear from the UK “Peace Movement”: some are talking of leaving Ukraineans to their fate, doubtless in ignorance of a former time when we turned our back on a ” faraway country of which we know nothing”. For readers who do not recall that phase- it did not turn out well.

Such sentiments are however tinged with a sense of guilt. We are learning the wisdom of Roger Srutton that the default position of humanity is not one of rational tolerant democracy but tyranny, and whenever institutions break down, there is great danger to the society that suffers it. Worse, it sucks other countries into the dispute and uncertain consequences then happen.

We should never have got here and would not in times of earlier clearer thinking leadership.

Ukraine is a country whose component peoples lack the cohesion of older countries like the UK where Scots, Welsh, Irish and English have centuries of commonality to hold them together, even as some try to weaken the bonds.

Ukrainian institutions lacked the deep roots of our own as the brawling in its Parliament demonstrates. If the crisis teaches us nothing else, respect for and the need to value our own stable cultural institutions, however imperfect must surely be at the top of the list.

The situation is made worse because so much of the ideology of western progressives is being shown to be inadequate to the challenge.

President Putin may have parotted the need for United Nations support for any interventions in other countries during the debates over Iraq or Syria, but he has shown beyond doubt that  faith in the UN is nonsensical. That institution is a busted flush when the big players perceive their vital interests to be threatened. Russia and China will veto any UN action: they always do and they always will.

Advocating recourse to the UN and “International Law” truly is to engage in the “science of imaginary solutions”.

If ever a crisis called for a strong leader of the West, this was it, and the PR stunt which is the Presidency of Barack Obama is certainly not that.

Reuter’s White House Reporter reported that the Leader of the Western World did not even attend the White House briefing on the crisis as it unfolded last Friday but received an account of it from his National Security Advisor Susan Rice. This leads to a simple serious question.

What exactly was he doing that was a greater priority in these dangerous times? Date night with Michelle?

Whatever one thinks of any of his predecessors, one cannot concieve of any of them being so lazy, cavalier and ineffectual. The Illinois Senator who routinely preserved a record of abstention before his Presidential run by simply and consistently  voting “present”, has continued that practice by absenting himself on vital occasions. We do not know what he was doing on the night the unprotected Benghazi compound was stormed and its Ambassador killed and we do not know what he was up to as this crisis unfolded.

A President is supposed to be present, and this one is not, intellectually or apparently, physically.

The UK Prime Minister has been no more effective either in restraining the Russian President or assuring his electorate that a robust response would be forthcoming. Today we learn that a Government adviser has been photographed imprudently carrying a briefing document into Downing Street which revealed a distinct lack of robustness. One hopes that was inadvertence and not the triumph of “management of expectation” over principle.

As readers might deduce from this, Brother Ivo had joined the majority of folk in concluding that our leaders are either uncertain or that they have decided there is nothing to be done save a few diplomatic niceties.

It was thus with considerable relief that Brother Ivo came across  proposals of US Senator Marco Rubio.

Whilst all the major western politicians seem to have have failed the test of leadership, Sen Rubio has published a list of 8 specific proposals which would represent a series of robust peaceful practical measures to exact a price from the aggressors and form the basis upon which “normalisation” would thereafter be negotiated.

Normally Brother Ivo would post a link but it is so important to make them available that he reproduces them with full attribution.

We need to publish the fact that some are thinking intelligently.

Here is what Sen Rubio proposed in Politico Magazine on Saturday.

8 Steps Obama Must Take to Punish Russia

By MARCO RUBIO

Russia’s illegal military incursion in the Crimea region in Ukraine is a grave violation of a nation’s sovereignty and cannot go unpunished.

First, President Obama should speak unequivocally and call this what it is: a military invasion. The Obama administration must publicly acknowledge that its “reset” with Russia is dead. The president must now accept that the only way to deal with tyrants like Vladimir Putin is with a clear understanding that they can’t be trusted and that only decisive action will deter their provocative moves.

Second, President Obama should dispatch Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to Kiev to show U.S. support for Ukraine’s transitional government, and urge our allies in the European Union and NATO to send representatives there as well. The United States should convene an emergency meeting of NATO to develop a strong united response from the trans-Atlantic alliance. And we should send high-level delegations to our allies in Central and Eastern Europe to reinforce the fact that we are standing by them. As part of this work with our allies, we should develop a series of economic and security assurance measures to help the transitional government in Kiev remain stable and carry out a democratic transition.

Third, the United States should rally our allies to boycott this June’s G-8 summit in Sochi, Russia. And if Russian troops do not leave Ukraine immediately, Russia should be expelled from this group altogether.

Fourth, any and all discussions and negotiations with Moscow on any issue unrelated to this crisis, including trade and other matters, should be immediately suspended.

Fifth, the U.S. and our allies should put forward a condemnatory resolution in the United Nations Security Council. A Russian or Chinese veto would make clear to the world the hypocrisy of these governments, since they say they oppose foreign intervention into the affairs of sovereign countries—unless of course they are the ones intervening.

Sixth, we should renew a push for eventual membership in NATO by the Republic of Georgia and aim to provide the country with some of the defensive capabilities the Georgians have requested ever since they were invaded by Russia in 2008.

Seventh, the Obama administration should immediately add more Russian officials to the Magnitsky list, which places travel bans and other sanctions on them – something President Obama failed to do in December. Living in Miami, I have seen in recent years the wave of Russian tourists coming to our city and state to spend money and buy property. Many are government officials or allies whose wealth stems from allegiance to Putin, and we should limit their ability to travel here.

Finally, in the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid should immediately halt his effort to force a Senate vote on Rose Gottemoeller next week to be under secretary of state for arms control and international security. As I, Sens. John Cornyn and Jim Risch said yesterday, we shouldn’t even be thinking about arms-control negotiations with Russia anytime soon. And especially not negotiations led by a State Department official, such as Ms. Gottemoeller, who has tried to play down and potentially kept information from Congress and our allies about Russian violations of arms-control agreements.

This is a critical moment in world history. The credibility of the alliances and security assurances that have preserved the international order is at stake. If Putin’s illegal actions are allowed to stand unpunished, it will usher in a dark and dangerous era in world affairs.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/03/8-things-obama-must-do-about-ukraine-104128.html#ixzz2uz0c8Q6d

Brother Ivo holds no specific brief for Sen Rubio, yet warms to him for simply offering hope of confident and competent leadership when so many others seemed to be faffing around. He has subsequently made clear that he does not envisage military intervention.

One cannot help but think that if such clarity of thought had been displayed at the start of the crisis, President Putin might have considered riding his horse off into the sunset instead of seeking to exercise power in the face of western weak leadership.

Coupled with Sarah Palin’s reminder that she and Mitch Romney were mocked when she predicted this danger, and Douglas Carswell’s  that he warned of Europe being too dependant on Russian Ukranian oil, it seems to have been a better week for those of a more conservative mind.

A reflection on St Peter

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We constantly remake our picture of Peter.

Peter the rock: Peter the impulsive; Peter the coward; Peter the martyr.

It is not wrong to centre upon certain aspects of his – or any other historical figure’c character traits for we are all complex individuals, with different aspects of iurselves presented to different people in different contexts. After all you could talk about me as a husband father,grandfather, lawyer preacher -driver, or in many other ways.

How we look at character will depend on why we might be doing so.

I have been looking at Peter within the context of a healing service. Through Christ, Peter was a healer, but that healing was built on faith. It is his faith rather than his healing which  I wish to centre upon

The two are however linked.

Saint Peter is often spoken of as a simple fisherman, and with that description comes a host of assumptions, and implications which may be misleading.

If that description is intended to convey that he was no intellectual, no man of learning, no part of the religious Establishment locally – still less nationally, then that is unquestionably right, but he was no fool either.

He was a fisherman, but let us reflect for a moment on his necessary skills responsibilities and social status.

He was no pauper. He was a man of modest substance: he owned boats and nets. He may have had the skills to built a boat capable of withstanding the power of a stormy sea – and recently haven’t we all seen what power that entails.

People depended upon him and men like him, not only his family but his crew perhaps and indeed the wider community. If he did not work they did not eat. He would have traded his catch and spent what he earned with other specialist workers and tradesmen. His fish would have fed those in the surrounding area. He and men like him were an important part of the local economy.

He would have been a trader, negotiating the price of fish with his buyers enjoying greater profit,  perhaps at times of festival, and suffering when a bumper catch left him with too many fish on his hands in a hot climate. Perhaps he gave them to the poor.

He may have sold the catch on behalf of other boat owners and any partner or co-operative member would need to be trusted when he gave his word, and returned to pay out the wages or share out the profits.

It was doubtless the personal integrity and leadership qualities that Jesus saw in him, when he invited Peter to ” follow me”. He later made him the chief disciple and rock upon which His Church was founded

The departure of such a pillar of the community would have been significant. Imagine the gossip as the neighbours heard he had abandoned his boats nets and family to follow the itinerant preacher Jesus.

Some may have judged him harshly, but perhaps his religious integrity was impressive – if such a man takes this teacher Jesus seriously then perhaps there might be something in it.

It is not just Jesus giving Peter credibility, but Peter and the others giving Jesus a vote of confidence.

It is not the case of pauper Peter having nothing to lose as he follows one who can give free bread, wine, fishes and health care!

From the day he meets Jesus, his relationship with him is one of sacrifice. He leaves behind business, assets, social position and family and friends. He sacrifices them at the start of journey with Jesus and, agonisingly later, his life.

I hope you are getting the picture I intend.

This is a man who had choices; he could have lived his known life, as secure as any in those more difficult times, and yet he is brought to a decision point, and takes the bold option. He chooses to let everything else go and followed Jesus.

The more one appreciates what he left behind, the more we can and should admire and value his choice.

Painting him only as a poor fisherman devalues what he gave up, what he did.

Of course in our terms, he was poor. He had no running water in his house, let alone a TV iPad or anti sceptic medicine.

My old history teacher used to say that Henry VIII would have given away his kingdom for the benefits of anaesthetic surgery  – I know I would.

But Peter was used to being a man in a leadership role, a man people looked up to and a man you could depend upon. If your boat building was faulty or you were steering a dangerous course on Lake Gallilee Peter was the man whose eye would see the danger and put you right.

In the days of persecution in the second century AD  letters attributed to him were circulated. They may or may not contain a lot of Peter’s own words, for letters attributed to disciples were not uncommon. They do however contain much of Peter’s influence, given what we know of him.

Peter had the opportunity to turn away from Christ once he saw where discipleship led. In fact – he took it.

When all the promise of the Messiah seemed to go wrong, Peter shook his head and said “Nothing to do with me” when accused by the servant girl of being Jesus follower.

Yet that denial did not last.

Plainly, he withdrew his denial, and Pentecost saw him out in the streets broadcasting the faith to the world and his wife.

Why he did so is explained in his letters.

His behaviour was founded on witness.

He says he was there when God spoke to Jesus on the mountain top declaring him to be God’s Son; this occurred at the transfiguration -when he saw Jesus in the company of Moses and Elijah – and he was also privileged to be present when the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost.

Note the language employed in that latter context.

It was under compulsion of the Holy Spirit that people spoke as messengers of God.

Think about that

Compulsion.

It was a greater compulsion than that which tempted to give up his faith.
Even witnessing the grisly nature of crucifixion did not have the same compulsive force.

The practical man who was Peter, knew that his testimony would be questioned , but plainly his position was communicated in plain form leaving no room for doubt.

” it was not on tales however cleverly concocted that we relied when we told you about the power of our Lord Jesus Christ and his coming, rather with our own eyes we had witnessed his majesty”

Peter places the integrity of his character on the line here so you may be in no doubt.

You can believe it, you can reject it, but what you cannot do is misunderstand the claim.

It is upon that unequivocal testimony that all of us approach the Christian faith.

At some stage we all reach a decision point: both Peter and his fellow apostle Paul say the same thing about this. Either what they say is true or it is not.

It is not an easy decision. Those of us who have lived within the faith a long time are blessed with having heard many echoes of this teaching and perhaps that makes it easier for us through repetition.

When we reach difficult parts of our lives, let us say plainly that if Peter is right, these are descriptions of real events and not myths. If God has broken into the flow of world and redeemed it then there is ultimately nothing to fear.

Peter did not have a trouble free life. He met a martyr ‘s death and probably knew and chose it so that others might be strengthened by his example.

By showing the strength of his faith based upon witnessing real events he adds the weight of a man who is reliable and trustworthy to the account we have heard of Christ being revealed as the saviour of the world.

Upon the basis of what he had witnessed, and seen, Peter could take seriously Christ’s teaching that we should not be afraid, we should not worry about the small things of life, and even the big things can be out in perspective – the perspective of the love and good intentions of an ever loving God who sent his Son to save us from our sins, our follies, stupidities – and occasionally the arrogance of self reliance.

So whatever troubles we may have, whatever anxieties, Peter tells us to be of good heart. Faced with terror Jesus reached out to him and said ” stand up, do not be afraid”.

Peter was there, Peter was no stranger to doubt, Peter saw it  – you may rely on that testimony.
The Holy Spirit compels him to tell you plainly what he saw, and this he does today.

Peter the rock speaks to us across the years.

He was there, and can tell us what we need to know in times of trouble.

Whatever troubles you do not be downcast ” Stand up – do not be afraid”