Prioritised to Death

One of the nice things about socialised medicine is that it is reasonably easy to see a GP. You generally have to start calling at 8:00 am to get an appointment for that day, but they also run emergency appointments and will squeeze you in. However, when you need to see somebody other than a GP, your mileage, as they say, may vary.

I was fortunate in 2003 when I was rushed to the GP who decided that I needed to go to the hospital immediately. He called an ambulance and I was taken straight in, given morphine and stablised. They couldn’t figure out what was actually wrong with me, so after an overnight stay they scheduled me to come back in ten months to have a specialist look at me.

Stewart Fleming wasn’t so lucky. His GP gave him a note to take to the hospital saying he must be treated immediately. He was admitted after waiting six hours in A&E. By then it was too late. It took two weeks for him to die, but he could have been saved if the hospital had simple followed the GP’s instructions. He just wasn’t a high enough priority.

British Airways – The World’s Second-Rate Carrier

Despite the best efforts of British Airways, we made it to Texas for Christmas.

When Heathrow Terminal 5 opened in March as BA’s new home for long-haul departures and arrivals, it was a fiasco. Despite all of the hoopla about the high-tech, state-of-the-art facility, nothing worked. We gave them nine months to work out all the kinks, but when we arrived at Terminal 5 this week, it was a fiasco.

We got in the queue for the “Fast Bag Drop” behind about six other parties. That took 90 minutes. I had checked in online at home to save time. Gave all the passport details, printed off our boarding passes and everything.  The Fast Bag Drop guy still had to run the passports through the machine and who knows what else before he would tag our bags and send them on the conveyor belt into the abyss.

We then proceeded to security, as we were instructed. We were promptly turned away because our passports hadn’t been cleared by the guy at Fast Bag Drop. So we had to go to another Passport and Visa Clearance desk. The woman there did the same thing as the Fast Bag Drop guy and sent us back to security, who finally let us through to the queue for the scanners. Since we weren’t flying first class like Olympic runner Colin Jackson, we weren’t in the same queue. But really it didn’t take as long to process the cattle class as we had feared.

Since we were 2½ hours early to the airport, we told the kids they could have breakfast there before we got on the plane. We didn’t know that BA would take so unbelievably long or that the boarding time on our boarding passes was incorrect. By the time we got through security, the instruction was to go to the gate. The Woman had to quickly find some sandwiches and we had to hustle to the gate. Actually that should be “gate”, since what it was in name and what it was in reality were two different things.  It was a bus stop.

Yes, at high-tech, state-of-the-art Terminal 5, we had to board one of a series of buses and be driven nearly to Berkshire to board the plane out in the middle of the tarmac. Thenwe had to climb up the stairs into the 747. most of you have seen a 747 and realise that it is not a small plane with doors near the ground. I had to climb into a 737 in Bristol and that was no big deal. There are lots of steps for a handicapped man with carry-on luggage to climb to get into a 747. I honestly have no idea how the several wheelchair users got on that plane.

The food on the plane was the most awful I have ever had from an airline. British Airways had always done well in the past. I suppose economic cutbacks being what they are, they couldn’t help the awful turkey dinner with overcooked sprouts and carrots.

Now I can’t say it was BA’s fault that it took well over an hour to get our bags once we arrived in Houston, or that a sniffer dog found the leftover half of a Boots ham and cheese sandwich so that we had to have all our bags x-rayed by US Customs. They weren’t responsible for my unfounded fear when we walked into the Customs x-ray room and the first person we saw was pulling on a latex glove.

The rest of it, I put firmly on their shoulders. I hope the journey back is better.

Government Legalises Robbery Against Debtors

In American English, a bailiff is the deputy sheriff or other law enforcement officer charged with enforcing order in a courtroom. In British English, it is the term for a debt collector. Not the kind who ring you up at inconvenient times to remind you of your outstanding obligation, but the kind that shows up at your door demanding payment or his choice of your personal possessions to pay off the debt.  That’s the way debts are collected in this country.

Until now, a bailiff could not force his way into your home. You have probably heard the phrase, “An Englishman’s house is his castle,” or as William Pitt the Elder, the 18th-century prime minister, said, “The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the crown.” But the current Labour Government having systematically taken away the rights of Englishmen (and Welshmen and Scotsmen and certain Irishmen) for the last 11½ years, it should come as no surprise that this is also consigned to the dustbin of historical rights.

Bailiffs, who I want to emphasise work for private companies just in case there was any lingering misunderstanding, will now be allow to break into homes. The only proviso is that they cannot break in when no one is home. In other words, they cannot burgle you, they can only rob you. And when I say “rob” I am not exaggerating. They will have the right to restrain you, pin you down, or otherwise use reasonable force to keep you from protecting your valuables.

They will have the right to break down your door. According to the new guidelines, reasonable grounds for breaking down the door include the “movement of a curtain”, a radio being heard or a figure being spotted inside which “may be the offender” . It is interesting to note that the Government is now calling a civil defendant an offender.

Yes, this is legalised thuggery. And not just legalised – it is encouraged, because the Government wants to crack down on people who evade debts. This apparently does not include banks, who have received £20 billion, mortaged against the future generations of Britons, to make sure all the executive bonuses get paid. No, it is the people who own credit card debts to the banks who will be on the receiving end of the newer stronger-arm tactics.

It brings to mind Jesus’ parable of the unmerciful debtor in Matthew 18:23-35.  You may remember there was a debtor who owed the king 10,000 talents and was forgiven but he found his own debtor who owed him 100 denarii but couldn’t pay. The debtor turned creditor basically treated his debtor to British-style bailiffs. To get an idea of how close this is to the financial situation in Britain, read the commentary on this passage I wrote back on March 9 of this year where I calculated the value of the two debts.

Of course the difference is that the King in this case is encouraging his servant to be abusive to his fellow servant. I don’t think we can accuse the Labour Government of pretensions to so-called Christian socialism.

Joe Klein, Rick Warren, and Heaven

Time magazine political columnist Joe Klein doesn’t like Rick Warren. Why? Because Rick Warren thinks he’s going to hell.

Warren didn’t pick out Klein specifically. No, he just had the audacity to say that Jews are going to hell. He wasn’t preaching a sermon entitled, “All Jews are going to hell” or writing a book called “The Hell Driven Jewish Life”. Someone just asked him point-blank whether Jews are going to hell and he gave an honest answer. It’s not like he thinks Jews are especially going to hell. He just thinks that the only way to heaven is through Jesus.

Klein even gets silly, assuming that also sort of people fit into this category:

Indeed, if Jews–and all other non born-again Christians–homosexuals, feminists, and anyone who has either had an abortion, performed an abortion or reluctantly agrees that it’s none of our business who has abortions…if all those people are going to hell, then heaven’s got to be about as interesting as linoleum.

In fact, neither Rick Warren nor most evangelicals say homosexuals, feminists, or the variety of people Klein characterises in relationship to abortion, are going to hell. But what Klein wants to do is take the focus off of Jesus. That’s the real issue.

Regardless of sexuality, or sexual politics, no one gets in except through Jesus. It’s so basic to the Gospel that all these peripheral issues aren’t even mentioned by Jesus. It’s that whole the way, the truth, the life thing.

Even Jews are welcome, Joe. Jesus first disciples were Jews. Jesus Himself was a Jew. It’s just Jewishness itself is meaningless when it comes to getting into heaven, even if it is believing in that One Jew that makes the difference.

It is also interesting that Klein thinks heaven will need homosexuals, feminists, and people who have had, performed, or politically approved of abortions to avoid being boring. It seems Klein thinks heaven is about entertainment – some sort of extension of Hollywood. I suppose I can see where with that presupposition, and the prominence of homosexuals and feminist in the entertainment industry, he doesn’t see how the Big Heavenly Show can keep everyone’s attention for eternity.

There will be a Big Heavenly Show, with one Big (Bright Morning) Star. We’ve even see previews, and frankly I don’t think God cares that Klein would not be impressed. He would probably find it as interesting as linoleum:

Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice:

“ Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
To receive power and riches and wisdom,
And strength and honor and glory and blessing!”

And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying:

“ Blessing and honor and glory and power
Be to Him who sits on the throne,
And to the Lamb, forever and ever!”

Debating Whether or Not to Share the Gospel

Now you would have thought the answer would have been in the long tradition of missionaries sent throughout the world. Or maybe they would have seen the Great Commission in Matthew 28.  But no.

The General Synod of the Church of England is going to debate whether the C of E bishops should report to the Synod on “their understanding of the uniqueness of Christ in multi-faith Britain” and give examples of how the Gospel should be shared.  In other words, the issue is whether the church should try to convert non-believers in any religion and remarkably more controversially, adherents to non-Christian religions.

A lay member of the Synod put a motion forward for July’s meeting of the Synod, but it was not heard. It appears enough pressure was brought to have it put on the February agenda. Of course it could always be shelved at the last minute again.

In the Church of England they like to avoid controversial things like sharing the Gospel.  In February the Synod meeting will also debate whether clergy should be banned from being members of the British National Party. This is probably because there were C of E clergymen on the BNP membership list that was stolen and published on the Internet.

There will be a presentation on “the implications of the financial crisis and recession”. The Church is worried that the economic downturn could damage the its billion-pound investment in the stock market as well as takings in the collection plate.

This is all much easier to deal with than the claims of the Gospel. After all, if you go around saying Jesus is the only way to God, then you are likely to offend the Muslim community. If you dare to state the obvious that this means you should attempt to convert Muslims, then you stand in direct confrontation with the stated Muslim aims of convert Britain to Islam, and the C of E doesn’t like confrontation.

As the Rt Rev Stephen Lowe, the newly appointed Bishop of Urban Life and Faith (wherever that diocese is) said earlier this year, “Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs are learning to respect one another’s paths to God and to live in harmony. This demand for the evangelisation of people of other faiths contributes nothing to our communities.”

At the same time, a church spokesperson explained, “We have a mission-focused Christian presence in every community, including those where there are a large number of Muslims. That engagement is based on the provisions of Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which provides for freedom of thought, conscience and religion.” That’s right, the C of E’s engagement with missions is based on the ECHR, not the Bible or the Tradition of the Church.

A Film I’m Destined to See

I don’t know how this one slipped under my radar, but a book I read a number of years ago has been made into a film. Stone of Destiny is current showing in Scotland and will be released across England on Friday.

It is the true story of the Scottish students who stole – or perhaps re-appropriated – the Stone of Scone from Westminster Abbey on Christmas Eve, 1950. The Stone had been used for the coronation of every Scottish monarch  since at least Kenneth MacAlpin in the mid ninth century (it may have been used as early as 574 when Aedan was anointed and crowned King of Dalriada by St Columba) until it was stolen by Edward I in 1296. It had been fixed under the St Edward’s Chair (the coronation throne) since that time.

This incident prompted the only ever closing of the border between Scotland and England, as police searched for the 336 lb rock. The cops were unsuccessful and the Stone was only recovered in April 1951 after the students chose to leave it at Arbroath Abbey.

I’ve seen the Stone three times, twice in Westminster Abbey and once in Edinburgh Castle, where it sits since it was sent back to Scotland by the last Conservative Government in 1996. It stays there with the understanding that it will be returned to London for future coronations.

The film has received a number of favourable reviews. I doubt that I will get a chance to see it before we leave for Christmas. I hope it is still in cinemas when we get back. It is not often that I specifically want to see something on the big screen, but this is one of those times.

UPDATE: There is a good article in the Daily Telegraph about Ian Hamilton, QC, who was the ringleader of the students. It was his book that inspired the film.

False Alarm – Potato Record Safe

Some of you may have missed this, but there was quite a kerfuffle in potato growing circles when Lebanese farmer Khalil Semhat claimed to have unearthed the world’s largest spud. It weighed in at just an ounce shy of 25 lbs!

Mr Semhat called in the good folks at the Guinness Book. They were obviously quite interested because a 25 lb tater would be over three times the size of the existing record. Such a find would be almost too good to be true.

Turns out, Mr Semhat doesn’t know his Solanum tuberosum from his Ipomoea batatas. Yes, that’s right, Khalil grew a sweet potato, which despite it’s English name is only distantly related to the white potato. Now you may be thinking that’s a pretty big sweet potato, and I’d have to agree. However, it is nowhere near record size, that being 81lb 9oz.

The world record for a proper potato is still held by Kenny Sloane of Patrick, Isle of Man. It is reported in the Isle of Man news that upon hearing his 1994 record was safe, Mr Sloane was “pleased”. That’s about as exciting as it gets in the Isle of Man. This is the top Manx news story for today.

They Call It Democracy

Before Wednesday’s election, the island of Sark in the English Channel was the last feudal outpost in the world. Power was held by chief tenants, who were by right members of the Chief Pleas, the legislative body on the island. The head of the government is the Seigneur who holds the whole island as a fief from the Queen. There is a judge known as the Seneschal.

Everything was going happily along until the owners of The Daily Telegraph, Dave and Fred Barclay, bought a number of businesses on the island, including hotels, restaurants, and shops. They became the employers of about one-sixth of the island’s population. Then they insisted on government reform. They didn’t like the feudal system and wanted to install democracy.

So under threat of personally destroying the Sark economy, they forced elections to be held. There would be a 28-member Chief Pleas elected by the island’s residents. They tried to get rid of the Seigneur and Seneschal. They filed a lawsuit in the High Court in London alleging that these offices were in contravention of European human rights legislation, but the judge ruled against them. But at least there would be an elected legislative body for the population of 600.

About one in eight residents of Sark stood in the election. When it was all said and done last night, only five pro-reform Conseillers were elected. In other words, most of the people want to keep things pretty much as they are.

So after causing the end of a happy fiefdom that has existed without any trouble since the Middle Ages, the Barclay brothers are now shutting down their Sark operations in retaliation against the democratic vote.  As their lawyer told the BBC:

“Today, via their agents in Sark, they [the Barclay brothers] have authorised and decided to close down their ongoing operations in Sark as a result of an election last night of a majority of the new assembly which is called Chief Pleas who are standing on very much an anti-Barclay platform”.

He added: “It was clear the Barclays were clear on their commitment to the island with support – they got no support at all.

“Sark doesn’t appear to want or appreciate the Barclays’ investment and so it doesn’t have it.”

That’s right. “We are going to take our ball – and your jobs – and go home. We wanted democracy so you could vote the way we told you to vote out of a sense of obligation because of our goodness to you.”

Sir David and Sir Frederick are bastards. Bullies and bastards.

Family Failure

Gareth Gilmore has turned being scum into a family business. He and his son Liam Gilmore and his brother-in-law Craig Marsden decided to rob a post office in Somerset. They travelled down from Manchester to Taunton and stole £2,200.

They could have had £58,000 except that stupidity also appears to be a family trait. They insisted that postmaster open the safe. They didn’t believe him when it told them it was a fridge. There wasn’t any money inside. It was, after all, a fridge.

It was easy for the cops to spot Liam Gilmore. He was running through people’s gardens. The older men parked their stolen car outside the house where they were hiding.

The 2½ years at taxpayer expense each of them will serve (out of their five-year sentences) is part of the cost of doing business, but perhaps when they get out they ought to find jobs a little more suited to their limited abilities.

Honest Hate

At least he’s honest. Anjem Choudary has been telling Muslims they shouldn’t be celebrating Christmas. “How can a Muslim possibly approve or participate in such a practice that bases itself on the notion Allah has an offspring? The very concept of Christmas contradicts and conflicts with the foundation of Islam.”

He sees that all this bunkum about worshipping the same God is as offensive to Islam as it is to Christianity. Either Jesus is the Son of God, the incarnation of Allah, or He is not. To say that the Babe in the manger is the Most Holy One is direct contradiction to the very essence of Islam.

So I don’t see why it is such big news that he is saying this. He’s just being a good Muslim.

Why didn’t it make bigger news when Choudary, who is the chairman of the Society of Muslim Lawyers, praised the Mumbai attacks? Nobody seemed to notice when he called for the assassination of the Pope.  It is almost forgotten that he organised the demonstrations over the Muhammad cartoons, which included incitement to murder.

And why it is only mentioned in passing that his family is not supported by his legal work and he apparently isn’t well paid as Principal Lecturer at the London School of Shari’ah.  Perhaps he doesn’t have time for that with all of his preaching since he has to fill in for his mentor Omar Bakri Mohammed, who has been exiled from the UK. I’m just guessing that’s why they receive  £25,000 a year in state benefits.

It’s like, sure he is bigging up the deaths of 163 people in the name of Islam, but now he hates Christmas, too? Good grief. Why not actually expose that we are supporting the work of a domestic terrorist who doesn’t just hate Christmas. He hates us.

The Divorced Patriarch

How am I the last to find out that Patriarch Alexei was divorced?

I was reading his obituary in The Daily Telegraph and it says at the very end: “He married, in 1950, Vera Alekseeva, the daughter of a priest from Tallinn, but the marriage was dissolved within a year.” But somehow I missed this in the Wikipedia article about him and various other sources.

He got married on Tuesday, deaconed on Friday, and priested on Sunday, all in the same week.

Now I used to know a man who was an Orthodox priest (though admittedly not a Russian), whose wife ran off with someone else and divorced him and he was defrocked as a result. I understood this to be the more normative response to the divorce of clergy. Yet not only did this not prevent Alexei from continuing as a priest, but it was also not a bar to the episcopate and further elevation within that.

How does this work, exactly?

Freedom From Religion and the Politics of Abortion

The Christmas wars are here. It appears that this year, the atheists are out in more militant strength than usual. There is a new missionary spirit to atheism. Not content with just not believing, more and more atheists want you to not believe, too.

On of the groups that has come to the forefront this year is the Freedom from Religion Foundation. This is mostly because they put an anti-religion sign next to the Nativity scene at the Legislative Building in Washington State. The sign, which concludes with, “Religion is but a myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds” made the news because it was stolen almost as soon as it was put up. (The same sign has been used in the Wisconsin State Capitol for years.)

The public face of the FFRF is Dan Barker, who used to be involved in various aspects of Christian ministry, including stints as a pastor and fulltime touring musician. He now goes around debating Christians and writing “freethought” music.

Dan is the co-president of the FFRF with his uber-feminist wife Annie Laurie Gaylor. The FFRF was founded by Annie and her mother Anne Nicol Gaylor.  They aren’t as effective as spokespeople because they didn’t covert from anything, but come from a heritage of anti-religion. Anne’s father regarded religious belief as embarrassing.

Anne made her name as an abortion advocate. She was editorialising in favour of it as early as 1967 in the newspaper she owned with her husband. By 1970 she had founded ZPG (Zero Population Growth) Abortion Referral Service. According to the FFRF website, between 1970 and 1975, she made more than than 20,000 referrals. This was despite the fact that abortion was illegal in Wisconsin prior to Roe v. Wade. In fact, it was illegal in every state surrounding Wisconsin. It was only legal in New York, Washington, Alaska and Hawaii. So unless she was referring women to facilities in those states, she was referring women for illegal abortions. She wrote a book called Abortion is a Blessing.

I don’t find it particularly surprising that “freedom from religion” is tied so closely to abortion.  After all, it is religious morality that is the basis for saying abortion is wrong. It is religious morality that says there are certain boundaries for expressing sexuality and abortion is often the solution to dealing with the consequences of operating outside of those boundaries. What better way to support abortion than to attack the moral basis that opposes it.

Its just a bit ironic that it is the philosophy and politics of abortion that comes to the forefront at the Feast of the Nativity.

Giving It All Away

In the course of recent research on my book, I came across political history of which I was entirely unaware. I was looking at information about Cordell Hull, Secretary of State under FDR and known as the Father of the United Nations. I’m sure you’ve heard of the United Nations, that rather useless organisation headquartered on American soil, with 20% of its budget funded by US taxpayers, opposed to most everything the US does or collectively believes. Yeah, that’s the one.

The only relevance of my book to Hull is that one of the characters may have once owned a house later owned by Hull’s father and I was just trying to suss that out. Both of them lived in an area now under Dale Hollow Lake. I get easily sidetracked when I’m doing research.

What I didn’t know was that Hull – in addition to giving away as much US sovereignty as possible – also authored the original Federal Income Tax law of 1913 and the Inheritance Tax law of 1916 when he was a member of the US House of Representatives. He had the audacity to argue that an income tax would restrain Government spending because Congress would realise that it was spending money directly taxed from the American people.

I can’t find what excuse he gave for the inheritance tax. I’m guessing he figured he’d pulled off taxing the living, so why not tax the dead. After all, Democrats vote when they’re dead, so why shouldn’t Republicans pay taxes at the same time?

Yes, that’s right, this man gave away both your country and your money. Cordell Hull influenced Al Gore. He must be Barack Obama’s hero.

Giving the Gift of Death

Give the gift of death for Christmas! Do you know someone who needs a little extra cash to get that abortion? Buy them a Planned Parenthood gift voucher.

First alerted to this by Mere Comments, I found a more comprehensive story on Indianapolis Star website. I checked the PP of Indiana website (link intentionally not provided, but easy to Google) and sure enough they can be purchased in increments of $25, $50, $75 or $100.

The website does not indicate how much as abortion costs. You would think that would be a FAQ worth answering. Perhaps they don’t want the casual website viewer to know how cheap life (or death) really is. However, you can probably ring for that information before you buy your vouchers.

Endless Research

I’ve been a bit scarce of late, but it’s not because I haven’t been writing. The creative juices have really started to flow with my novel and I have been spending every available moment doing research. I even have the tentative first couple pages drafted.

Do you know how difficult is it to find out the price of a train ticket from Nashville to Algood, Tennessee in 1912?

And what about the statutory interpretation of a 1881 Jim Crow law that railroad companies were “required to furnish separate cars for colored passengers who pay first-class rates”. If a white person and a black person were to both buy second-class tickets, could they then ride in the same car? And before you think that there wouldn’t be provision for black people to go first-class, the law was amended in 1882 so that railroads were “required to supply first-class passenger cars to all persons paying first-class rates.” It’s not the sort of thing a lot of people need to know.

And what was travel like in a day car? Photo archives that I’ve seen only show the inside of first-class carriages. I have a fight to stage and I need to know what I’m working with here.