Monday, July 31, 2017

The Word in Remote Places

Update, toward the end.
Three in the morning is not the best time to be having conversations, but I am often collared by very slightly antagonistic people when the bars are quiet. They are in their cups usually.  Me too were the truth be known. Some seem to have a strong desire to tell me of all the things  theological and practical that Christ didn't mention, thinking that just because I manage a Tavern of His, I know all about deep theological matters and should know and agree with what they know. I don't and I don't.  I am a Knight.  

They harangue me with such matters as Popes and Bishops and Catechisms. And in particular,  Catholics. Oh, and Mary.  Apparantly I am supposed to worship Mary and I am not supposed to. And being a Catholic I am not just doomed but damned. 

There are many things Christ didn't mention when He was down here, I tell them as I wipe tables, pour drinks and fill the nut bowl for the nuts.  How to organise a Church, for instance; it was down to us to figure that. Or brushing teeth; not a word on oral hygene. Not a peep about flying planes either. He never said a word about them. Nor just what the Holy Spirit was going to tell us over the years which we could add to the Father's revelations. We would find out if we listened. Later.  He did hint that there would be smartarses, and worse.

But there would also be Good folk who would go where few others go and tell what He did tell and do. And so, it came to pass that Cherrypie, a favourite customer, showed m'self and a few others the work being done by the MAF.  
The Missionary Air Force 
- well, actually The Mission Aviation Fellowship. What a quiet, hard-working and hairy-flying mob they are too.

I like planes and have had a hand in the bizzo of bombs and bullets as you well know, but there are better ways for aircraft to deliver difficult news to people who are more inclined to pay attention. So let me tell you and let them tell you.

Our vision is to see 'isolated people physically and spiritually transformed in Christ's name.'

Imagine if your community had no roads and little access to the outside world.
How would you or your family reach a doctor if you're sick or injured? How can you receive an education or job opportunities?
This is the reality for millions of people.
Jungles, mountains, swamps, insecurity and a dilapidated infrastructure are all barriers to receiving physical and spiritual care and a hope for the future.
We are Mission Aviation Fellowship - or MAF - a Christian mission organisation that uses planes to overcome these barriers. Our pilots and personnel deliver relief workers, doctors, pastors, school books, food, medicines - everything that can only be safely and speedily delivered by air. Our supporters give and pray to make this all possible.
With an MAF plane taking off or landing every four minutes, the need is huge.
We enable thousands of aid, relief and mission projects in really remote places. Because that's where some of the greatest human needs are.

In today's 'connected world', the irony is that never have so many people been so isolated.
Flying onto desert and jungle airstrips, lakes and rivers, tracks and roads, MAF’s light aircraft and their mission pilots go the extra miles to provide a lifeline.
Working in partnership with hundreds of other Christian and relief organisations MAF 
enables practical help,
physical healing, and spiritual hope to be delivered to many of the most remote and inaccessible communities on the planet.

For 70 years, MAF has been flying for life.
Millions of people cannot access basic medical care, clean water, schools or receive the Good News of God’s love, simply because it’s too dangerous or time-consuming to reach them.
We provide flights for 1,500 aid, development and mission organisations to enable them to transform lives. It’s a great partnership
When it comes to reaching the most isolated people, MAF needs the best tools for the job.
The ability to land on water and land makes it perfect to bring hope to Bangladesh, a country that sits on the mouth of the Ganges, where one third of the total area is water, and seasonal flooding cuts off many communities from receiving much needed help.

A single turbo-prop (turbine PT6A-114) engine aircraft which is reliable and easy to maintain, the amphibious Caravan can land at over 200 sites, enabling our partners to reach more people with more help than ever before. This includes supplying the floating hospitals run by Friendship and Impact with supplies and doctors.

A large cargo door makes freight easier to load and the spacious air-conditioned cabin makes the journey more comfortable for passengers.
There are often requests for medevac flights in Bangladesh. The large cargo gives more space for loading stretcher patients, and once inside there is greater room for the patient and the medical team.
Gebrau airstrip - the facts

6,400 feet above sea level
540 metres in length
Average slope gradient 12.5 degrees (although is steeper in places)
Opens the door to healthcare, education and economic support.
The Twin Otter is well known as a dependable aircraft in rough flying conditions, making it ideal for MAF’s operations in Papua New Guinea (PNG). 
Rough and rugged terrain, deep valleys, rainforests and high mountain ranges make travel by road in PNG virtually impossible. With no real alternative means of travel, people are reliant on flying to enable them to reach other places, along with their goods and supplies. 

'Carrying up to 1,800kg of freight or 20 passengers, the Twin Otter can fly in and out of airstrips less than 400 metres long and with slopes of over 12%. It is a true bush aircraft, in a class of its own and providing access to communities that are otherwise unreachable.
The large capacity and large cargo doors make the Twin Otter great for a high volume of supplies and passengers. Even bulky items such as building materials, engines and livestock can be transported. Sacks of coffee, a valuable source of income for many communities, are transported to market to be sold, generating an income for many families.

Powered by two turbine (PT6A-34) engines which use readily available Jet-A1 fuel, the high wing Twin Otter is equipped with dual Garmin IFR GPS navigation systems for safe and reliable flying.
Noted for its rugged construction, the Twin Otter is highly manoeuvrable and versatile and can be flown slowly and in tight circles. The enhanced reliability and performance of twin engines makes it ideal for the terrain in which it operates. Excellent STOL (short take-off and landing) capability enables it to land comfortably on short bush airstrips scraped out of the sides of mountains or hidden away in deep valleys. 

To those at 3am who want to show their 'true' Faith and faithfulness, arguing the toss as to whether they are more worthy than thou, I suggest putting $5 in the MAF collection tin on the bar.  If MAF can go the extra miles, you can go an extra foot or two with wallet in hand.

I have to say this: it is mostly Protestants who berate me and call me a sanctimonous old shit whenever I excuse m'self to go down to the Crypt for a quiet prayer, but the MAF and their partners are mostly Protestants too. 

God Bless them, I pray.

They do well.

Update 16/1/18

CherryPie was back to remind me of just how this mob started. One of MAF’s founders Stuart King tells how the organisation took to the skies 70 years ago on its very first 'flight of faith’
A rainy day in Croydon

Traumatic at times, MAF’s story is an adventure of faith. Above all, it’s God’s story.
After World War II, in air forces throughout the world, the hearts of men and women were stirred by one question above all others – ‘Can aircraft that were used so effectively for death and destruction now bring God’s peace and love to isolated people in unreached areas?’ 
New Zealander Murray Kendon – who’d been an RAF pilot in Coastal Command – was one such airman inspired by this idea.  

Jack Hemmings, Ken Ellis, Tom Banham and I were among the first to join Murray and his new organisation, Missionary Aviation Fellowship. We all shared the feeling that God had called us to survey missionary needs in Africa by air. 
 It took two long years to raise funds for the twin-engined, four-seater Miles Gemini aircraft that became known as ‘The Mildmay Pathfinder’ in honour of our sponsor, the Mildmay Movement. Finally, on the afternoon of Tuesday 13 January 1948 at Croydon Airport – after an electrical fault had been corrected– Jack (pilot) and I (engineer) were given permission to take off. 
We promptly flew the Pathfinder into a squall of icy rain with a 70mph crosswind for good measure. There had been a brief debate about waiting for better weather, but we’d done crazier things in the war and couldn’t wait any longer to start this new adventure!  
Flying low across the Channel, a strong side wind made it necessary to correct our course by 20o all the way to France. Two hours later, we touched down safely in Paris – the first leg of our African adventure completed. Praise the Lord 
Throughout this 70th anniversary year, we will continue the amazing story of MAF’s beginnings. However, just before the Pathfinder left England that day, a supporter thrust a small movie camera into Stuart’s hands and urged him to film the journey. The resulting documentary is called Flights of Faith and is now available for a donation on DVD.  
To mark 70 years since the Gemini left Croydon on it's first MAF flight to Africa we are giving away a free 2nd copy of 'Flights of Faith' with every DVD purchase in our shop 13th -14th January 2018. 


Vixen: Gone but not Forgotten

It was a powerful and majestic beastie in its day, but the last one has gone, ignominiously. The Sea Vixen.  It will be remembered by anyone who has served in the Royal Navy and many more beside. Me for one.

Back in the day I (and my fellows) hosted a mob of them which off-loaded from the 'Ark' when that carrier called into Singapore. With cables rigged on the runway we took them into Tengah where they did QRA duty for a few weeks, taking over from the other impressive beastie the Javelin. 

(This is going back a bit !!  We were having a small war with a big country at the time. Indonesia)

In some respects they were a match for the Javs but took three minutes longer to launch from hooter to airborne.

But no more. I am not sure if Red Bull still flies one. At least they had the nous to try to keep one aloft.

It has a distinctive shape and a tail section which is rare these days. The cockpit off-set is also distinctive, with the nav-ops man sitting low on the right. The cockpit layout was also 'busy' as it is in most battle aircraft.

The last flying type was a great addition to any air display right up until this year.  Here is 'Foxy Lady' in its almost last appearance. Then.......

There are two sorts of pilots: those that have landed wheels up, and those that are going to one day. This was one of those days. 

The last remaining Sea Vixen aircraft, XP924 G-CVIX “Foxy Lady”, performed an emergency belly-landing at Yeovilton, UK, on May 27. A pilot had a lucky escape after the last remaining Sea Vixen plane, known as the Foxy Lady, did an emergency landing at an airfield in Somerset yesterday.The pilot was unharmed after the aircraft, which served in the Royal Navy in the 1960s, did a 'belly-landing' on return to its base in Yeovilton. The heart-stopping incident saw the pilot touchdown without landing gear after flying back from the Duxford Air Show in Cambridgeshire. The aircraft had taken off at 4.15pm and they waited an hour and 10 minutes for it to return. The aircraft returned from Duxford and flew up the runway. We then heard radio communications between the tower and the pilot asking for visual of the landing gear. The rest will be historical.

Repeat after me that famous last word.....


Drinks for the chap in the bar.


Saturday, July 29, 2017

Feminist Fallout and the Aftermath

Feminism is a disaster for women. It is the fascinating flame that draws moths to it, only for them to perish in its destructive heat.  So many woman have succumbed to this awful ideology over the past half-century.  It begs the question though. Can a feminist be redeemed?  Can a feminist  eventually turn out to be a good woman after all ? One can hope and one can look for positive results. 

A cursory glance around our society, so riven at all levels and ages by feminism as it is, gives one little hope. It has been the ruin of women, the ruin of men and the ruin of children. Family has suffered greatly. Motherhood has been diminished and demeaned. Equality, the feminist claims, is the aim but what they have achieved is an equality of societal wreckage and of rubbish.

Being a chap who holds tight to a sword and to the three Gifts of Faith, Hope and Charity, I look too for signs of women turning around to look at the wreckage they have left in their wake, and I do find some occasionally. Some show signs of remorse. It is a good start. They have a chance of recovery and of joining good women who have resisted being feminist and have been fighting for some respect for their points of view.

One such hopeful (my hope that is) came into the Tavern to tell her tale. I poured her a drink. Jeanette Kupferman has achieved some semblence of wisdom in her late years, and she wanted to share it. I was waiting to be impressed by her apology.
Will my baby granddaughter pay the price of my fight for equality? 
Sixties feminist sees the emotional emptiness facing women today and despairs
Jeannette Kupferman has been a high-profile feminist since the 1960s
But the writer is terrified of the world her new baby granddaughter is entering 
She says: 
'Our battles have robbed today's women of the soul of femininity'
The moment I held Amber Ann in my arms — just minutes after her birth — an unexpected cocktail of emotions nearly floored me; what can best be described as a mixture of unbridled joy mingled with apprehension.
My first grandchild was so perfectly formed, her eyes blinking in the bright hospital lights, her little fingers intertwined with mine. Of course, every baby is an individual miracle — but Amber was something of an actual miracle too, as my daughter-in-law Ewa, who suffered from endometriosis, had never believed she could conceive. Then, suddenly, she’d fallen pregnant, announcing it on my 75th birthday in a West End restaurant. I almost fell off my chair with excitement.
Older, wiser ? sadder.

Much as I’d always longed for grandchildren, when I turned 70 I’d almost given up.
Both my son, Elias, a historian, now 52, and daughter, Mina, an editor and photographer, 50, married late in life, and I knew the chances were diminishing. Yet here was Amber Ann, my son’s first child, snuggling into my arms.
But as she did so, the emotions were more complex and bittersweet than the straightforward joy I’d anticipated. Of course, for now we can hold her safe, nurture her talents and encourage her development — but what will her future hold?
Just that morning another headline had caught my eye about schoolgirls feeling pressured to sleep with boys before they are ready. Not to mention the endless stories about the increasing numbers of teenagers experiencing depression, self-harming, eating disorders, atrocious bullying, sexting and gender uncertainty.
All cheered on by feminists and the rest of their fellow lefty travellers. Or is that running dogs? 
It makes me wonder what happened to the Brave New World we’d envisaged for our daughters and granddaughters. A world of unlimited possibilities, choices and equality for girls to become or do anything? 
A world I — like many women — fought for in the Sixties.
Has feminism made life worse, not better, for today’s generation of girls?
Certainly, women have never existed in such a bleak emotional landscape.
Liberation meant Jeanette could show her pudenda to the world
The porn culture has virtually taken over every area of life, perhaps born from those Sixties cries for sexual liberation that you should have as much sex as you like, with whoever you like.
Today, even the most intimate acts are lived out onscreen. The ITV2 reality horror show Love Island, mercifully now finished, is just the culmination of years of the drip-drip effect of pornography; it’s bubble-wrapped candy floss with poison at its heart. Those involved might as well have been robots as there was precious little ‘love’ on show.
Meanwhile, traditional roles have become ever more ideologically despised — so much so that last week the very act of being a housewife or mother was banned from advertisements for perpetuating ‘outdated’ gender stereotypes.
I polished a glass and thought, as she spoke, "well you feminists told yourselves and us that being a wife and mother was slavery, didn't you. What did you say to that back then when you were bravely wearing a skirt so short we could see your breakfast". 
For all the efforts of feminism, and the enlargement of women’s opportunities, it seems it’s also made that world more painful, complicated and unrewarding.
Burn your bras and wear miniskirts, we cried. Be free!
But aren’t young girls today just as imprisoned by the drive to bear (sic) their flesh as the cliched Victorian wife in crinolines? It’s almost as compulsory for a young woman to take a pouting semi-naked selfie today as it was for a teenager in the Fifties to wear bobby socks.
Tawdry female fantasy: male nightmare.
It’s somehow ironic that the one section of society which still dresses modestly — women in ethnic and religious minorities — say they do so to protect their sacred space as females.
Meanwhile, the majority of other young women brutally expose their bodies, catering to every tawdry male fantasy, as a sign of their ‘freedom’.
She just cannot help herself ! 
Who could have predicted such an obsession with thinness or worship of celebrities for the near-Frankensteinian outrages they inflict on their bodies?
The growing sexualisation of children continues with unsuitable tiny ‘bra’ bikinis and make-up and sex education at an unnecessarily early age. TV and the internet expose children to everything from crude language to sexual practices.
Look Mum, No bobby socks.
These may well be little Amber's 
teachers in a few years.
The things I worried about as a mother — failing exams, unwanted pregnancy, drinking too much — seem tame. How I fear for Amber Ann, in this age of endless choice and freedom.
The well-meaning battles we embarked on in idealistic youth have somehow robbed young women of the soul of femininity. We’ve lost something precious, distinctive and unique. 
My own life — one where loss, hardship and struggle has always played a part — has taught me that simple pleasures matter just as much. And that’s the message I want to now share with my granddaughter’s generation. We’re in danger of losing the essence of womanhood in this brutal landscape.
A war baby, I was born while my mother, Eva, was an evacuee, and only returned to a grim post-war East London after my father, Nat, who eventually became a clothes manufacturer, was demobbed.
Though we had little money, I went to an exceptional primary school where a few inspirational teachers made all the difference, encouraging me to believe it was only education that would make for a better future.
Later, I walked miles alone every day to my grammar school, and had a freedom few young girls today have as they are pressured into extra-curricular activities or hooked on phones: freedom to think, imagine — just be.
Those school years weren’t only about doing well in exams. It was about enabling yourself to reach your full potential regardless of the job you would end up doing.
When boyfriends came along (aged about 14), via the youth club and jiving competitions, there was no compulsion to have sex. We wouldn’t have dreamed of anything more than kissing in the cinema, and sending passionate love letters.
Virginity was still expected until an engagement was announced or some commitment made, and I had the sort of father who would stand waiting for me on the pavement after a date. A boy had to make some effort at courtship even to get that first kiss.
Contrast this with the recent scenes in EastEnders where a teenager agonises over whether to strip off in reply to her new boyfriend’s ‘sexting’ and is given conflicting advice by friends, as if it would be the most normal thing for a young girl to do.
Would I want my granddaughter to think this was normal — even desirable? I feel so sad for young girls who will never receive a beautiful love letter or go on a romantic date with no strings attached.
I didn’t receive any sex education at school, apart from basic biology. I had the rather awkward talk from my mother, but we picked up most of it from our friends and forbidden books.
What we did know was that — whatever the urge — you did not go ‘all the way’ as a pre-Pill unwanted pregnancy was not only a disaster for the girl, but a tragedy for everyone involved.
This attitude appears inhuman now, but I’m not sure it hasn’t gone too far the other way, making for uncaring short-lived relationships with teen girls often the victims.
I suppose the main difference is we had boundaries. 
We knew what was expected of us, even if we kicked against it. I meet so many young women who don’t and they grow up feeling confused and unhappy. We argued with our parents — often bitterly — but we still listened to them. We threatened to leave home, but mainly didn’t, even if, like myself, you were a rebel.
I annoyed my father with my black eyeliner, long fringe and tendency to associate with ‘unsuitable’ poets and jazz musicians. But throughout, I wanted to please my parents.
There was no ‘diet industry’. Three square meals were put on the table daily, including thick soups, meat, potatoes and two veg, puddings with custard — and jam sandwiches to keep you going in-between.
We ate every bit and, amazingly, kept our tiny waists and figures without gyms or starvation, probably because we walked miles every day, danced a lot and junk food was unknown.
In my childhood, chubby babies were admired and even plump teens were reassured it was ‘only puppy-fat’ (which it usually was).
Back in the era before liposuction, women weren’t made to feel insecure about their figures. Obesity was unknown. How ironic that in our era of juice diets, toxins, and superfoods, women are fatter and unhappier with their bodies than ever.
I had to remind her, gently, of women's magazines. Self-inflicted injuries. 
After studying social anthropology at the London School of Economics, I became a dancer and a model for a while, escaped to New York and briefly worked as a research librarian.Then I made my parents very happy by marrying my late husband, Jacques, a painter, finally returning to London and having two children by the age of 24.
Inspired by my own teacher, the great anthropologist Mary Douglas, with whom I studied at University College London, I could already see that the women banging the drum for equality were going too far.
The spiritual joys and physical pleasures of womanhood had become ‘mechanised’ as I put it then; things that needed rectifying with political schemes to make us more like men, or medical treatment to quell our hormones and control our childbirth pangs.
Even birth has become too dominated by ‘choice’, overly technologised in the extreme.
Once a midwife came to your home to help you through birth. Now, the quest for equality — and medicalisation and male involvement in this once female domain — means many women have lost confidence in their capable bodies.
Although it’s seen as a great advance to involve fathers more in pregnancy and labour, and to have surgical teams on standby to assist in any birth, in some ways this has eroded women’s belief that she can do it alone.
Can it then be any coincidence that a growing number of women are terrified by what was once the natural way of things, and are having induced and difficult labours?
What was once a woman’s space has vanished.
Really ? 

Er... you might have noticed that women have invaded men's space while retaining and developing new 'women-only' spaces.  Erzatz, true, but more denigrating of men than back in your earlier times. 

Bear with the lady while she continues with her still-squint-eyed view of the changes. You might point out some of the things she is seemingly still oblivious to.
I felt so strongly about this that I trained as a National Childbirth Trust teacher and breastfeeding counsellor, teaching at Hammersmith hospital for a time, to try to help women rediscover the joys of this most natural, female act. It was an uphill battle.
I have learned, over the years, that the ‘stereotypical’ roles of femininity can give a sense of identity and security unmatched by anything in the corporate or professional world.
Having babies and showing domestic prowess doesn’t mean you have to be limited or stifled. On the contrary. And not having children — either through choice or circumstance — is no barrier to these nurturing, feminine roles.
After having my children, I got two further degrees, taught briefly and then built up a career as a writer and broadcaster.
Yes. Hasn't she done well. Gained the whole world and now is suffering the loss of her soul. She was warned.!  
Simultaneously, I tried to run a traditional household, cooking, entertaining and finger-painting with my toddlers. I often worked through the night and sometimes succumbed to the strain.
But I was there for my children. The overarching lesson of my life is that the people in it matter, and my ability to be there for them — as a woman, wife and mother, in all the many and varied expressions of both those roles — is vital.
I learned that life turns on a sixpence, and sadly you can lose ones you love. I was widowed young, aged 44, when Jacques died of cancer at 61. As a mother, I did overload my daughter with activities at times, encouraging her to aim high, perhaps placing a bit too much emphasis on work. But that was all part of the ‘Superwoman’ having-it-all ethic, which we now know isn’t true.
I had to put my towel down and interrupt. Mansplain, if you like. WE knew it wasn't true from the start. That is 'WE' men and the sound women who resisted the urge to show their bums and boobs at every opportunity.  She is just catching up. And it does not seem at this point that she is taking any responsibility for her not knowing it wasn't true. 
I’ve long been happy and secure enough in myself that I will don a pinny, scrub a floor and make jam, not seeing it as a threat to the other professional and public roles I have.
Indeed, I find it relaxing, almost spiritual in a way, to express myself as a woman in these traditional ways.
We’ve forgotten that even everyday tasks can nourish the soul — and you can find contentment in the boring certainties.
I hope my little Amber Ann discovers this, too.
She will if you and your daughter do not fill her little head with narcissistic nonsense. 
Whatever she becomes, she can create a good home-cooked meal, sit quietly in the garden with a book, or enjoy a day at the seaside with her own children.
I hope she has the faculty to be excited by some wonderful music, or transported by a ballet or painting.
I want her to feel euphoria because of the rare richness and uniqueness of life, and because of pride in her own innate womanhood — not be sozzled with booze or worse, ending up destroying body and soul in some demeaning, meaningless sexual encounter.
A rich and rewarding life isn’t one necessarily filled with endless choices. I hope she will have the luxury of more time than most girls today, to have a stillness and peace that will encourage creativity and daydreaming.
I want her not to be imprisoned by all those supposedly ‘equal’ choices out there, but to be loyal to her true self.
As a loving grandmother, my wish for her is not only to be kind, resilient and resourceful, but above all, confident as a woman in every single sense of the word.

But little Amber is doomed unless she escapes that heritage. She is destined to be a little girl blue, as predicted by one of Jeannette's peers. Janis was defeated early. 

I would hope she gets around to teaching little Amber the value of gratitude. It is MEN who have strived to provide everything this woman has. And every woman. Roads, homes, health and protection. All men. Barely a thing stands or moves that was not made by men. Despite women convincing themselves that they can do anything at all, it has not yet occurred to them to actually do anything at all. 

I said I was hopeful. There is still hope to be deployed. Redemption of Jeanette's soul is still awaiting the stamp of approval.

Once, back when Jeannette was proudly showing us her underwear, we worried about the sins of the father being passed down the generations. Today it is the sins of the mothers that dominate.

I still gave her a drink because.... I have Charity too, and Faith.  I hope she looks up the Red Pill sometime.


Friday, July 28, 2017

The Church of Down at Heel.

I had a 'discussion' the other day with a chap who was berating the Catholic Church. OK, a discussion is a bit of a misnomer. He was ranting and calumnising as some do. Just why he held such hatred for Catholics we did not get around to exploring.  Whenever I have tried to approach that question with others of his ilk, the result is never illuminating.  They don't know themselves. I pin the blame on Henry the Eigth's spin doctors, m'self, for want of a better explanation. 

                       Lies have long legs.
But one fairly common 'accusation' came up, as expected, and I was somewhat without the wherewithall to answer adequately.  ( I was busy filling glasses at the time).

All the Wealth of the Church.

If only we nasty Catholics would sell it all, all the Vatican's treasures, we could solve child poverty, and all poverty overnight, it seems, according to him. I pointed him to the poor box on the bar but he failed to get even a coin from his pocket let alone into the slot. I can't see him beating the wall in Ninja Warrior. I told him that.

I started to ask him just who he proposed would buy all the treasures of the Vatican? Bill Gates? Could he perhaps take the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and ship it to his own palace in the USA for a couple of hundred million bucks. That would relieve a bit of poverty in Uganda.  Melinda and he could gaze at it from time to time. Or maybe Facebook could buy 'rights' to it, in situ, and put some discreet logos in the squares. That might get a fair few bucks on an annual basis. And all the statues and paintings could be sold to private buyers to hang and stand in their own places, away from the millions of people who look at them in wonder and awe every year. Think of the auction sales. 

But he sneered as he walked off.

Fortunately Marcus l'Estrange was at hand and he'd brought a friend in for a quick whet of the whistle. And the friend, Sebastian Campos had just the arsenal of arguements at hand. I wrote them down for next time. 
If the Vatican Has so Much Money, Why Doesn’t It…?

7 Things To Know About the Finances of the Church
Like every good Catholic, surely you have had to explain the Pope, the Virginity of Mary, priestly celibacy, and refute the nonsense that appears in tabloids and on TV – which includes everything from claiming Jesus had children to conspiracy theories about the worldly power of the Church. 
Within those piles of rubbish, there is always someone who asserts authoritatively, “The Vatican is the richest institution in existence, if it would sell everything it has, it could eliminate poverty in the world.”

Does the Vatican have more economic power than global giants like Walmart, Apple, and Coke? Fortune magazine, which specializes in economics, has published an article in which it refutes the notion of the “Vatican’s great wealth”. 
In fact, it verified that the .....
Vatican would not even be among the 500 most wealthy on its famous “Fortune 500”.

For your spiritual peace of mind, and so that you can share the information with others, here are some facts which will serve you well if you need to explain the finances of the Vatican and the Church.
Thank you Sir. I shall post them up here. 
1. The most valuable assets of the Vatican are invaluable and are not for sale. 

The Vatican’s possessions are treasures of humanity. They are as priceless as the first love letter you received from your spouse. Immensely valuable to us (and perhaps to some eccentric collector), but they cannot be sold. 
In its museums, the Vatican has some of the greatest artistic treasures of the world, accumulated throughout 2000 years of Christian history, not to mention the pre-Christian artifacts also found in its museums. Though they are treasures, they cannot be sold.
In the year 2015, Pope Francis was asked, “Do you ever feel any pressure to sell the treasures of the Church?”. His response was clear, “This is an easy question. 
They are not the treasures of the Church; they are the treasures of humanity.”

As an example: when John Paul II made his first visit to Brazil, he broke protocol after a ceremony, went to a favela, and visited a family. Moved by the encounter, he left them his Papal ring. Do you think that family sold it for its weight in gold to buy food and clothing? No. It’s a treasure, which they still keep it in the chapel of the favela. The poor are poor, but not stupid.
2. The new administration of Francis
We are not saying that other Popes have been poor administrators, but it is true that there were irregularities in some pontificates which, far from generating wealth, put the Vatican in debt. For this reason, Pope Francis instituted a new policy of the administration to alleviate some of this operational deficit.
Indeed, the Pope appointed a fairly hard-nosed and reliable Cardinal from Oz to do the job. Cardinal George Pell. Perhaps there is a reason here for why there is so much animosity toward him in our needia.  He is exposing a lot of corrupt financial goings-on. He is currently 'On Trial' in Oz for unrelated matters. 
The austere lifestyle of Pope Francis is not just rhetoric; it has permeated the pocketbook of the Vatican and the way the finances are managed from month to month. For him, financial management is a pillar of his mission to help the poor and disadvantaged. Pope Francis has said that he wants a more agile Vatican administration, more efficient and “self-sustaining”. 
This would free up more money for its charitable works.

“The Holy Father’s message was crystal clear, ‘Let us make money to go to the poor.”, remembers Jose Zahra, member of COSEA, a pontifical commission in charge of the economical reorganization of the Vatican.
Pope Francis is considered by Fortune magazine to be an “elite manager”. In 2013, under his leadership, the Vatican had a small surplus of 11.5 million dollars, demonstrating that even though some may believe that the Vatican is a global economic power, if it were a company it would not even make the Fortune 500.
Despite the prudence of this administration, in 2013 the Holy See recorded an income of $315 million, with $348 million in expense, for a deficit of $33 million. So the surplus might cover some potholes, but nobody is swimming in gold.
3. The Vatican employees
The Pope does not believe in firing current employees, but neither does he believe in waste and inefficiency.
He believes that the Vatican would function better with fewer employees (assuming that they do their work well and do not retire early, which would result in long-term retirement costs).

Almost two-thirds of the Vatican’s income goes to the salaries of its 2886 employees. 
Would the Queen of England sell off the Household Guard, Bearskins and all? Should the Beefeaters at the Tower of London be retired to save a few bucks to be handed out to the homeless on London's streets?
The average employee, (including priests and religious), earns less than market salary, nearly 25% less than the wages of Italian workers in the private sector. However, despite having lower salaries, they aren’t required to pay income tax and they do have access to benefits such as health and retirement.

4. Diocesan Independence.
Although the Vatican has subsidiaries all over the world, each of the approximately 2800 dioceses is a separate corporation, with its budget and assets, and they are administratively independent.
This is documented by financial statements regularly published in each diocese. The Church is economically decentralized; in fact, economically, the Vatican is basically on its own.

It is important to know that although the dioceses of the world send money to the Vatican each year, the vast majority of this money is destined to missionary activity or the charitable works supported by the Pope. However, this sum is less than 4.5% of the total income.
The same applies to real estate. Even though the Church is present all over the world, the buildings and land do not belong to the Vatican. The dioceses and the 296 religious orders throughout the world are the proprietors of this real estate and administrate them on their own account.

The Vatican also has properties, in fact, nearly 2000. Most are apartment buildings in Italy rented to people who work for the Church at a price that is significantly less than market value. That is to say, they aren’t making any money.
5. Some things are sold and the money is given to charity.
The Pope receives mountains of gifts, from handcrafts to brand new vehicles, all given with tremendous affection. However, Pope Francis has preferred to use these gifts to finance his charitable works. 
An example of this was in 2014 when the American business “Harley-Davidson” gave him a motorcycle. Pope Francis never used it. He signed the fuel tank and donated it to Caritas, a Catholic association in Rome. It was auctioned off for $327,000, and the money was used to renovate a homeless shelter and soup kitchen.

Having said this, it is clear that the Church – that is, the Cardinals in the Vatican but also you and I – must always seek to improve. We can always do more and each one of us must do our part. Whether you are a Cardinal, a sister, a parish priest, a businessman/businesswoman or a teenager, we are all invited to take a look around and discern what is truly essential and what is not. What prevails in our lives? Love of goods or love of our brothers and sisters? Why not put all that stuff gathering dust in the storage room to good use? Why not turn our goods into gifts for others?
6. Other costs and other income…
There are many administrative costs which do not generate any income, for example:
The Vatican Radio, which has 330 employees and spends $37 million annually, but makes less that $1 million dollars in advertising.
The Apostolic Nunciatures, which function as embassies in 113 countries, require more than $30 million dollars annually.
Not to mention that the Vatican is a city and needs to generate income. The majority of this comes from tourists and pilgrims who visit the museums. This generates approximately $130 million annually. Another considerable portion of income comes from donations which approach $85 million per year.

To finance its operations, the Vatican does like every responsible country and makes foreign investments. It possesses almost $920 million in actions, bonds, and gold. Its gold reserves, in the Federal Reserve of the U.S., amount to $50 million. The Vatican typically earns between $15 to $25 million from its investments. Although it invests money, it makes relatively little from which to pay its debts.
A report on the finances of the Holy See can be seen here.
7. But, does the Church do anything to help the poor?
Perhaps the most absurd argument is when people say, “The Vatican is flooded with wealth. If it would sell its assets that money could be given to the poor.” 
This statement insinuates that the Vatican does not help the poor and that the Pope surely gets up every morning to swim in a pool of gold coins surrounded by extraordinary luxury without ever concerning himself with the poor. This could not be further from the truth.

In all of history, The Church is the institution which has done more than any other throughout the world to help the poor and the invalid, the sick and the orphaned. 
There is no other single institution which sustains as many hospitals, homeless shelters, care centers for the elderly, orphanages, schools, universities, etc.

Let’s end on good note. “Fortune” magazine, when speaking about the administration of Pope Francis, points out that economic matters are truly important to Pope Francis. Although some may consider the Vatican to be among the wealthiest organizations in the world, it is not. However, with the money it does have, the Vatican significantly helps the world’s poor, sick, and oppressed.

I think Sebastian earned all the Ale I took to his table, don't you?


Thursday, July 27, 2017

Australia's Barmy Army

I am a chap that likes the Military. I served several decades in uniform. But that was in a far more aggressive and competent Armed Force than Australia's almost suburban paint-ball mob. Staunch fellows they may be in some formations - the Oz SAS is a fine and manly mob who can inflict damage as required in battle - but on the whole the Defence Forces here are 'managed' by the most woeful weenies imaginable.

The leadership situation has taken an even worse turn recently than the fiasco of transgender advancements of last year.

The leadership of our armed forces - people who are to lead troops into battle to defend our continent from enemies and kill them before they can damage us - are too aggressive, it seems. They must be told how to appreciate diverse cultures. Yes, those diverse cultures that are quite unlike us and want to kill us.  You can name them yourselves to suit.

I recall many years ago being an Hon Member of the RAAF Officers' Mess in St Kilda. We had just finished a fine Dinning In with a first rate meal in good company; it was time to toast the Queen. The PMC stood up (instead of Mr Vice) to announce that in keeping with 'Elf & Safety rules there would be no smoking afterwards. I was shocked. Here we were, men whose profession was to kill as many of the enemy as we could and drive fear into the rest, who suddenly had 'elf & safety' rules that stopped us smoking a traditional cigar. !!

Joe Hildebrand was hoisted onto a chair to address the customers in the Oz room. I was unsure for a moment as to shutting the doors to the other bars to save embarrassment.
‘Self-aware’ Army officers to get coached in ‘cross-cultural competence’
Wotta lotta bullshit.  A soldier has to be ready to fight, not to hold hands, said JJ.
THE Australian Army is hiring private “executive coaches” to teach its senior officers “self-awareness”, “emotional intelligence”, “cross-cultural competence” and “interpersonal maturity” in an effort to combat perceptions that they are....
Wait for it. WAIT for it !! 
too “authoritarian, assertive and angry”.
It has also commissioned “psychometric and psychological testing” as part of the Australian Defence Force’s push to transform its culture to fit with modern standards.
The Defence Minister
The Department of Defence has tendered for “executive coaching services” for private and group sessions with its top brass that would not be out of place on the bureaucratic satire Utopia.
We have a Defence Minister who could not run half a kilometer with a full bergen and carrying a rifle. She could not even run ten metres without getting too puffed for another step.  Yet she can give the order to MEN !!  Soldiers. It is the 'Christine Nixon' syndrome writ large.
The top priority referred to in the tender documents is “Self Awareness of Strategic Leadership Style”.
Defence describes this as: “Exploration of personal values, beliefs, attitudes and associations and their impact on personal leadership behaviour.”
The 12-month contract — which can be extended for further years — is for a program of up to six sessions for 24 officers, with individual coaching for Brigadiers and Major-Generals and group coaching for Lieutenant Colonels and Colonels.
In an accompanying document entitled “Why the Australian Army needs a co-ordinated Executive Coaching Program”, the tender refers to an open letter by Chief of Army Lieutenant General Angus Campbell to his senior leadership group.
I have mentioned before that the size and capacity of our Army does not warrant a Lt General.  It is far too small. There is no liklihood of any Australian Army Officer having autonomous authority over an entire foreign region. That is the level of the rank and has been for 2000 years. 
“General Campbell reflects that perceptions of Army officers as bureaucratically authoritarian, assertive and angry do not fit with the evolving cultural requirements of Army and are not helpful in a joint strategic environment,” the document states.
So, to prove the point he is being auhoritarian imposing this crap  and would no doubt get angry if some chap just below him in rank told him to shove it up his backside. 
“General Campbell suggests that what is helpful is ethically informed, values based leadership that inspires, resources and enables subordinates to achieve their best work.”
The General points to the problem; not that he can bring it into focus

One characteristic the Army is seeking to instil in its officers is described as “cross-cultural competence”, which it defines as “understand(ing) cultures beyond one’s professional and national boundaries”.
How did such people get to such level? Is the Peter Principle alive and driving our Defences? 
Officers will be expected to “work effectively with those from other cultures, generations, departments and gender”.
Another is called “interpersonal maturity”, which is described as “the ongoing development of self-awareness and emotional intelligence”.
It also seeks to develop “‘small p’ political sense”, which is “exerting influence across organisations and teams” and communications skills to “succinctly help others to understand complicated issues” and exert “interpersonal influence”.
They will NOT, of course, try to kill people. They may water ski in exotic places; they may travel to meet strange and interesting people and suss them out. They may NOT have a plan to kill everyone in the room. That would be insensitive. 
The document also expects officers to know their “identity” which is “understanding of one’s own values and how they shape leadership style”.
So, let us poke the nuances here, with a pointy stick. A chap gets to Colonel level, or Brigadier, and he is assumed to not yet have grasped his 'identity'?  His own values would still be a mystery to him? We do already know that one or some had failed in that regard even to the point of not grasping their manly appendage frequently enough to know they were blokes and not blokesses. Will the 'consultants' help them? Leave the other men to manly matters.

Just a day after President Trump has put his Defence Forces wellies on and his gardening gloves and spent a day weeding out weenies and others whose 'identity' is unknown e'en to themselves, we have our mob getting dress patterns out and passing lace and ribbons around.

Will someone speak out? Please.  

Thank goodness some older and wiser, harder-headed one can and did.
Australian Defence Association executive director Neil James said it was a mistake to think the Army needed to change its leadership style. “You don’t want your army to change too much,” he said. 
“You want your army to win wars.”
Mr James, who served in the army for 31 years, also said it was a popular misconception that the Army was full of officers who were too aggressive. “Armies don’t work because people yell at people,” he said. “It’s teamwork that drives the army, not shouting.”
He said leadership skills were already taught extensively within the Army and this program seemed to be more directed at officers dispelling that misconception when dealing with other people and organisations, rather than actually changing themselves.
But even he is struggling. It is no 'mistake' at play here. 

It is a deliberate attempt to emasculate our armed forces. 
“It doesn’t matter what coaching you give, there’ll be people out there in society who think that. But that’s society’s problem, not the army’s.”
The individual coaching would apply to 10 Brigadiers and/or Major Generals for six two to three hour sessions each in one year. The group coaching would involve six four hour sessions for 14 lieutenant colonels and/or colonels.
The tender also asks for providers to have expertise in applying psychometric testing during the coaching sessions.
“It is preferred that the supplier is also able to demonstrate suitable qualifications and expertise in the use of a range of psychometric and psychological testing and assessment tools for use within coaching, as determined by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency or similar body,” it states.
No. No. No. Any advisor to men of rank should be marksmen first and be able to do a route march with full kit. Until they can do that they should STFU. 
It also raises the question of officers being psychologically re-evaluated over their careers and whether this should be included in the course, stating: “Defence does not have a standardised program that assesses personality styles or psychological types throughout officers’ careers.”
Military skills and military arts are what leaders need.

Their troops demand it and rely upon it. They respect that. 

They will follow proper leaders, not the 'pretty-please' weenies with ribbons in their hair that our fat controller Defence Minister is trying to make. 

Pray they do not get called into action until this is sorted.

Drink up.

You need it.