O Miserable man!

An apology coming so soon after the previous one? One would have thought that cartoonists might have learned a thing or two by now. It is fitting however when two interesting articles are placed side by side they provoke an interesting thought, but given that this morning’s sermon was on Romans 12: Be subject to the authorities, I wondered whether political satire may sometimes be haram rather than kosher. But we do have Rutherford’s teaching also on the matter who promoted Lex rex rather than Rex lex, aptly illustrated by when on the appointment of one of his governors, Trajan handed to him a dagger with the words: ‘to be used for me (As Paul said: they hold the power of the sword) and [if I do wrong] in me’. How different from the lèse-majesté of another nation. On the basis of this, the interesting (or not so interesting depending upon your point of view) thought becomes public at the risk of offending those who by their nature are afflicted with the plague of sensitivity to that which is ill aligned with the contemporary notion of politica rectitude, and given with apologies to those who will recognise that I, being ignorant of such matters, have used the incorrect case.

Now the cartoon which has been hidden from view by the author, but not by many others who are not, is clearly an abomination in the good tradition of political satire from at least the end of the 18th century exemplified by Gillray. To show a former prime minister sitting on a throne hidden behind a pile of whatever you may wish to describe it but would be quite at home in a farmyard, with such a grotesque visage is at the best described as insulting, but perhaps a gentler form of treatment of the gentleman, if a gentleman, could have been found. The other gentleman has a face which AI may easily have produced if it had been asked to cartoonise a photograph of the gentleman whom the cartoon portrays but has actually been produced by the real intelligence of a real man. What a jolly description it is indeed of at least one of the ills of our times.

In the other article we are presented with a protest against laws and regulations by a government by which under the cloak of a ban on fake news, as the nation’s own judges recognise by the way they have been written, it would be possible to silence fair criticism including satire and parody. Now I suggest that that other nation perhaps needs to look at the Western approach (except of course it cannot because that would be to allow itself to be subject to the colonialists) to the banning of satirical literature, ideographs and cartoons. The Western approach is simply to get the PC brigade on your side and never again a word shall be spoken against you ever – even if it would have been spoken in jest – for those very comedians and comediennes will regulate themselves and keep silent being more afraid of the wrath of the liberal elite than that of the government. So, it would seem that as well as exposing as intended one of the ills of our time, it also unintentionally exposed another of the ills. I suspect the putative claim of the ‘offended’ is a cover for the real reason which is closer to that from which the lèse-majesté are designed to protect those who would wish to sit upon a throne but have proven to be unsuitable candidates for it.

As for caricatures, they are necessary and are necessarily built upon actual characteristics of real people. ‘Paint me, warts and all!’ the man said for it was well known that if the warts were painted out it would be said that it was not a true likeness. If we are offended by a caricature of our culture, race, tribe or even locality then remember it is a caricature because it is like that in some way, and we then should ask why? What is it that makes that particular caricature? What is it in the caricature that is offensive? What is it of which we, as members of that class, are ashamed? If it is something bad, we then need to further ask ourselves: is it found in me? If it is then I must expunge it from myself.

So when I hear words spoken about or see a cartoon of a particular class or group of people to whom I may, or may not, have a relationship or a belonging: ‘Though their pockets are deep their arms are short’ remember that this is a caricature. And then ask does it apply to me as much as it does to the miser. O miserable man that I am!


Raising standards, improving lives?

It has at last been discovered. It is the time to speak openly and to come out. Coco has been found to be inadequate. There is no other one-word judgement that can be applied. So, it is now time to publish a parable that Coco heard many years ago, but first of all a brief explanation.

Those of you with whom Coco worked will fully understand why this judgement has been applied (many others will have a partial understanding, and some will know that it is unquestionably just). The behaviour of Coco was so audacious as to risk the bringing of the whole group into disrepute. It was well-known that Coco (and not only he, but the others Coco shall not name here) rode roughshod over systems, policies, regulations, even at times of standards in order to achieve for the client what the client needed at that time. This failure to adhere to proper controls (preparing a change document, designing functionality tests and user tests, which would provide measurable results; building a safe programming environment in which testing could take place; proper separation of duties and therefore accountability for the several parts of the process of implementation of the change; as well as the modification of design and help documents and systems, which followed their own separate processes for change) often resulted in a few short words of correction being spoken, and ignored but ensured that the client was happy and the client’s timetable was not disrupted by an internally imposed process when all we had done was incorrectly spell Xiannopulou’s name in the formally approved release two months earlier. It was for this reason that someone was always allocated to Coco who understood the need for these things – in other words a compliance officer (please don’t take that as an insult, Coco says it in jest, you were always admirable in your work, correcting Coco where needed, and without your help Coco would not have remembered or done anything that was required and it provided you with an opportunity to manage a recalcitrant and incorrigible colleague). Every attempt to change that behaviour simply provided a new and interesting opportunity to design new ways to beat the system.

The parable was along these lines:

It was Monday morning, the weekend had been longer and more tedious than usual, and Norbert was preparing to leave for the office, when there was a knock at the door. Norbert was surprised to find Jeremy the local bobby outside.

N: Good morning, Jerry. What brings you here today?
J: I am very sorry, sir, but I must take you away to a place of confinement where you will remain for an indefinite period.
N: I don’t understand, are you saying that you are taking me to gaol?
J: Yes, sir, that is what I must do. You were condemned by the Court yesterday, and I have been instructed to escort you to The Lawful Place Of Confinement.
N: I know you must do your work, Jerry, but perhaps you would enlighten me. For what have I been condemned?
J: I have not been told, sir. I am aware that your statement was presented to the court, one witness was called and then came the judgement, but I was not permitted to enter into the courtroom.
N: May I have a few moments to pack a bag? Please come in and take a seat. I shall not be long.

As he packed, Norbert reflected upon the situation. He had been called into the station several weeks ago to give an account of his movements on a particular day in December. He thought carefully about what he had said in that document. He had been out of town all of that week on business, and could think of nothing in it that could give rise to what was now taking place. He mused thoughtfully, as the absurdity of the situation pressed home upon him. Here he was about to be committed to a place of confinement on the judgement of a court at a hearing of which he had no knowledge. He supposed that had he troubled himself to go to the court every day, he would have seen his name on the list of cases to be heard: Person or persons unknown v Norbert Smith Defendant 1230 Room B, he imagined to himself. What had been said about him? Why had he not received a call to attend the hearing and reply to his accusers?

He resigned himself to his fate. He remembered that the wise man said: the first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him. (Proverbs 18:17)

Coco added his own comments to this, which at the time seemed to be appropriate:
Coco wonders how many of us feel a little bit like Norbert. There are flaws in many processes which would not be permitted in the legal process in a liberal state. And if you wonder why Coco wrote this, it is quite simple, there are two reasons. Firstly, the [assessment] document appears to be empty. Nothing has been said, so there is nothing to which a reply can be given. And secondly, there has been no process meeting with the preparer of the assessment, but merely an informal chat with the one who has been interposed. It is of course nothing less than is expected to happen or not happen however you may wish to look at it.

There was however an opportunity to respond to the electronic document, so Coco entered this parable, only to discover that having made the entry it was not possible to remove it or even edit it. It was once only effort – make a mistake in it and the mistake is forever written in stone or at least electronic bits.

It now appears, in the light of the reports of certain Government bodies that such things do happen in a liberal state, as, although the documents promulgated by that body are not empty, the evidences to support the assessments are not disclosed so no answer can be given.

I understand that to break the law in one part is to break the law as a whole, for the law is one; but you do not label a pupil as inadequate if they fail in English but excel in all of the others.

You may care to refer to Coco’s blog on targets which considers raising educational standards from a slightly different perspective and for a different purpose.

The defiled mind

Der Spiegel: India anger over ‘racist’ German magazine cartoon on population

A good man once said: To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure. So now, in the light of this and the recent reaction to a cartoon depicting a race between two trains which was perhaps as much of a contest as the legendary race in which a man and horse competed to be the first from London to York. To pit a new HSR (‘Bullet’ train) against an old diesel is surely a foregone conclusion, just as the outcome of the horse-man race would have been in the seventeenth century. Oh! distracted again so that my first intended sentence became little more than a noun and a qualifying subordinate clause I should resume where off I had left. So, in the light of the afore described colourful line drawing, if there is any element of race in it, and of course there is but perhaps not in the sense that has been expressed elsewhere, should I not now consider that there is an element of race in all things that are or could be said in the minds of some? It has often been said: ‘it takes one to know one’, but I would add that it is often incorrectly said in order to attribute, perhaps insinuate is a more appropriate word in this context, to attribute to the accuser the imputed qualities of the accused.

Whilst seeking to avoid the claim to any kind of purity in myself, if one sees impurity in a thing that is not in itself impure, does that not in the light of the words of our good and wise man, suggest that there is some impurity in the one who sees what he thinks is a kind of impurity in it? In which case the often ill-used saying: ‘it takes one to know one’ may also in this instance be true, that those who cry wolf are in fact wolves themselves, and that the same kind of impurity that they found in the pure thing is the very impurity which defiles them. But if you simply look at the cartoon as a cartoon depicting a race, is it not simply, purely, funny?

On the other hand, had the cartoonist given us the identities of the drivers perhaps we may have different views of the world.

The relations between the two drivers were quite cordial until the red train began to move ahead.

With thanks, and apologies for any possible infringements of copyright which may be found in this not-for-profit educational use of a small part of the material of the copyright holders, and in particular to Chappatte, Stuttmann, knowthenation, the Chinese Embassy authority and the BBC, without whose article this blog would never have been written.

Be careful how you say

When you are a marketing executive it becomes you to ensure that any advertising you do will not raise the expectations of your customers and potential customers to an unsustainable level even if you write the most taxing spreadsheet in the world; are the best in the market place; everyone knows that and you always get AA ratings. So that, anecdotally, if you had bought a Rolls Royce, in the days when quality was quality and you had a problem with it, there would be no questions asked when you took it back to the showroom. A new vehicle would be provided. Coco has a suspicion that the one you returned was later rebranded as a Bentley, but that might be an apochryphal addition to the tale.  

You also need to ensure that there are no gaffes in the material you publish. The should be no germlings introduced as a result, as happened to the government of Wales when they suggested that those who were in Slovenia should remain in their ski resort in the event of an emergency arising in Wales, which seems to be fairly good advice if it is safer to be there than it is to be at home, by the use of autocorrections in the processes used to produce written output, though clearly we would not want any shcool boy errors to slip in.  

So, it behoves you as a marketing director to ensure that your marketing moderates those expectations in a way that is potentially quite subtle and may be difficult but perhaps not impossible to achieve without indicating any diminution in the value of the goods or services that they would wish that you would purchase.  Now response times for certain types of service can be quite critical, whereas in other cases they may not be very important at all. For many of us however we would regard a short response time as a necessity if we have, say, a car engine issue on a long journey you will want help within an hour. It appears that such service is the industry standard. In the winter months we would want a similar response time from our home service agent, so it was heartening to see on a long journey the back of such a serviceman’s van, surprisingly however not a white van, but nevertheless well emblazoned with the marketing directors’ material.

It was only when once more we entered a slowly moving queue that the truth became apparent.

The use of alien languages

Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau*

If Coco had written:
Gan nad yw rhywun yn disgwyl gweld Firenze mewn erthygl am Fflorens neu 臺北市 mewn erthygl am brifddinas y weriniaeth Tsieineaidd, pam mae disgwyl i un ddarllen Snowdon mewn erthygl Gymraeg am yr Wyddfa?

Coco is quite sure there would be much support for the view expressed, which is why Snowdon in Wales is known as, and probably ‘always’ has been known as yr Wyddfa.  I quite understand this, for if Coco were to speak in Italian, which Coco cannot, it would be intolerable to refer to Florence and not Firenze, and in French, which the French do not permit, to refer to Paris as Paris (euphonically speaking of course). 

But if Coco asks:
As one does not expect to see Firenze in an English article about Florence or 臺北市 in an English article about the capital city of the Chinese republic, why is one expected to read yr Wyddfa in an English article about Snowdon?
will Coco receive a similar response?

The editors of the BBC seem to take a different view and give more regard to those who would detract them for reasons of being PC, which you will understand is nothing to do with pure chocolate, than to their intended audience. For, when they write for an English speaking audience, then they do not write in English but introduce other tongues. If there is a need to write in another tongue, and from time to time there must be such a need, as Coco has demonstrated in the foregoing, then a translation should be provided for those who do not understand what is written. In the slightly better article from this perspective, to which we thought we had already referred, but have not so the link must be edited later, though the explanation was rather lacking in due care, at least an attempt had been made to provide an explanation. In this one* (Snowdon: Yr Wyddfa could be the first plastic-free mountain) however, whilst Yr Wyddfa is the proper name for Snowdon in the Welsh language, it is not the name for the mountain in the English language.

As a great man once said: If I come to you speaking in tongues [you do not understand] how will I benefit you? So with you, if you utter speech that is unintelligible how will anyone know what is said? You will be speaking to the air. If I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker, and the speaker a foreigner to me. … I would rather speak five words and be understood than ten thousand words in a language that is not, but if I must speak in another tongue, please let there be an interpreter.

With apologies for not providing a translation of the Welsh and to those who know for Google’s bad Welsh.

* Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau – The land of my fathers

* There is an appearance that since Coco first saw the article, a change has been made to make it clear that yr Wyddfa is Snowdon, but still we have Eryri National Park. Is this a location in Transylvania or near the great lake of a slightly similar English name?

Trade Marks

My surprise is not so much in the way Lidl managed to win, but how they managed to gain a trademark for a yellow disk on a blue background in the first place.

Has no-one looked at the sky recently?

I suppose it was the fiery red ring which cannot be seen with the naked eye that tipped the balance in their favour.

Who is she who looks forth as the morning,
Fair as the moon,
Clear as the sun,
Awesome as an army with banners?
The Song of Songs

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows his handiwork.
Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.
Their voice has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.

In them he has set a tabernacle for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoices like a strong man to run its race.
Its rising is from one end of heaven, and its circuit to the other end; and there is nothing hidden from its heat.
Psalm 19

The feint red ring

A word you should not use

He was twenty minutes into the sermon when he heard the sound of a little girl’s voice in the congregation. She was speaking to her mother, who was desperately trying to tell her, quietly, not to speak. Then everyone one heard it: ‘But mummy, he used the word which you said we should never say’.  He thought back for a moment at what he had just said, and wishing to take away the mother’s now very public embarrassment, he addressed the little girl:

My dear, he said, you are quite right, and your mummy is quite right also, we should never use that word. It is all too often used in quite the wrong way, and for the wrong reasons. Let me explain to you, and to everyone else here why that is, but first of all I must say that we must not forget that the place described here really does exist and we have to give it a name, otherwise either no-one would know what we are talking about or we would have to use a very long-winded name for it which would be quite a mouthful to use as I hope shortly you will understand, and also understand why your mother said that you must never use it.

Let me first of all describe it, and the deprivations that all who go there would feel and know, and then I shall tell you why we should not use the word.

The Bible is not afraid to speak of that place, and the Lord himself gave us a number of descriptions of it, but I would like first of all to remind you of some words which you will have heard here which to me provide, perhaps quite unexpectedly to some, one of the most terrifying descriptions of what that place is like. It is found in Psalm 129, which is one of those Psalm that the children of Israel would sing as the made their way up to Jerusalem for one of their feasts. It closes with the words: The blessing of the Lord be upon you; We bless you in the name of the Lord!

You know that we enjoy many blessing from the Lord in this world. He gives us our daily bread. He gives us homes, and families, people who love us and care for us, and whom we love and for whom we care. He gives us friends, and a place in our community. He gives us sunshine and rain, seed-time and harvest-time. He clothes the fields with flowers, the trees with blossom, and provides such beauty as we see all-around us. He gives us the ability to make beautiful things, and to enjoy them, to have some understanding of the world around us and to influence it. He gives us his Word, by which we learn about him, and people in his church who will teach us, and point us to Jesus. Above all else he has given us Jesus, who died on a Roman cross in our place.

These are but a few of the countless blessings that we enjoy from the hand of God our Maker and Saviour, from the Lord our God. Where would we be without them? What would life be like if all of his blessings were taken away from us. It is unthinkable, is it not, that we should have to live without them for even one hour? What if the sun were darkened for one hour? I have heard that even in the few minutes that an eclipse takes we start to feel the cold. The hottest desert becomes at night a cold bleak place. What if this blessing were removed for ever? Could we bear it? But even still this is only the removal of one of his blessings.

What if he removed all of his blessings for one hour? Could we bear that? Perhaps we could for we would have some hope that after the hour had ended they would be restored to us. But what if they were removed for ever without any hope of restoration?

You may lose one of your favourite toys and find that it has gone forever, but you have another, you take comfort in that which is left; but if all of them are removed and you are told you shall never have another what then? What loss do you feel? You may sometimes find yourself alone in the shop and start to be afraid – but mummy and daddy are actually there still watching you – what relief you have when your parents come back into your view.

The blessings of the Lord, are countless, innumerable and manifold. How good he is to us. The absence of his blessing is intolerable for us. Our situation becomes hopeless.

Now consider, what appears to be the blessing of this psalm is not in fact a blessing it is an imprecation: Let not those who pass them by say: The blessing of the Lord be upon you.

We enjoy the blessings of the Lord because he has put them upon us. If they had not been put upon us we could not enjoy them, they would be far away out of our reach. This psalm is talking about those who hate Zion. Now Zion is the house of the Lord. To hate the place where God lives is to hate God. So the psalm is about those who hate God. We read about them here and elsewhere, perhaps more famously where the psalmist says: Why do the nations rage and the peoples imagine a vain thing? In Psalm 2. Here in psalm 129 the Lord tells his people they are not to put the blessing of the Lord upon those who hate Zion. The blessings of the Lord are not for the wicked, as we read in Psalm 1, who are like the chaff which the winds blows away.  

This is why the description is so terrifying. The blessings, that we all here today enjoy, will one day be taken away from the wicked. They shall no more know the blessings of the Lord upon them, and never have any hope that they shall ever even have one smallest drop of those blessings to cool their tongue.

Can you, my dear, imagine such a place as that, where you have no hope that anything good will ever happen again?

There are many other descriptions of that place, but this one that tells us that it is a place where all of the blessings of God are absent is terrifying enough. The Lord Jesus provides us with a great deal of information, as we may read in the Gospels, about that place.

So, we should not say that anything is like that place. There is no other place like it at all, just as there is no place like heaven: eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it entered into the heart, the imaginations, of men, what God has prepared for those whom he loves. There is nothing like it and nothing can be compared with it. But it can be compared to other things, even though all of those comparisons are inadequate. Comparisons do not always work in two directions. You can say that an elephant’s legs are like trees, but to say that trees are like elephant’s legs simply does not work.

Nether should we wish that anyone should go to that place, or even suggest that they go there, for when we do, do we not forget that we are just as equally deserving, if not more deserving, to be sent there as anyone else? Do we really want the person who made us angry, or has upset us, to suffer the deprivations that I have described? We may feel that they deserve it, but do they deserve it any more than you do? Remember what the apostle said: How can a man say he loves God whom he has not seen if he does not love his brother whom he has seen? If we do not love God, then we are haters of God, and fall under the imprecation in this psalm.

So, you see, it is quite right that we should not use that word in our everyday speech. We should not tell people to go there, nor should we say that this is like it. The place is one of indescribable deprivation and suffering. My attempt to describe it, it is quite inadequate. The comparisons that I have made, and that we find in the Bible, all in some way fall short of what it is really is, but every one of them tells us something of what the place is like. A great preacher once met with another preacher one Monday, Monday being a day of rest for them. They knew each other well. ‘On what did you preach yesterday?’ one asked the other. ‘On the place of death and misery’ he replied. ‘And you did that with tears in your eyes, my brother?’.

There is no other way to use this word that to use it with tears in your eyes. Tears that it is necessary for such a place to exist, and tears that there are those who will find their way there having chosen to walk on the broad road that leads to destruction, and tears that they have refused the free offer of a place in the kingdom of God purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ who on the cross suffered all of the deprivations of hell including the abandonment of the goodness of God, so that he cried out: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Should you ever find you need to use this word, little one, and you shall have need to use it, let the tears roll down your cheeks as you warn your friend by telling her what it really means, why you would never want anyone to go there and that there is no place on this earth that is as dreadful as it is. Then remind her that there is a way to avoid it. Go to Jesus, he will keep you safe from it.

Not at the occident


Ukraine war: Leak shows Western special forces on the ground

Does it really matter who leaked them? What really matters is are they true? Are NATO troops involved in the war? Some may argue that it is OK to sell arms to Ukraine, even to give them, and continue to claim that we are not involved in the fighting, but when we are on the ground? Surely that claim, if it has not already done so by the provision of arms, falls flat?

According to the document, dated 23 March, the UK has the largest contingent of special forces in Ukraine (50), followed by fellow Nato states Latvia (17), France (15), the US (14) and the Netherlands
(1).The document does not say where the forces are located or what they are doing.
The numbers of personnel may be small, and will doubtless fluctuate. But special forces are by their very nature highly effective. Their presence in Ukraine is likely to be seized upon by Moscow, which has in recent months argued that it is not just confronting Ukraine, but Nato as well.

UK special forces are made up of several elite military units with distinct areas of expertise, and are regarded to be among the most capable in the world.
The British government has a policy of not commenting on its special forces, in contrast to other countries including the US.
The UK has been vociferous in its support of Ukraine, and is the second largest donor after the US of military aid to Kyiv.
US Defense(sic.) Secretary Lloyd Austin said the Department of Justice had opened a criminal investigation and he was determined to find the source of the leak.
“We will continue to investigate and turn over every rock until we find the source of this and the extent of it,” he said.

Steak knives

11/04/2023 19:50

By Julian O’Neill

BBC News NI home affairs correspondent

‘Freddie Scappaticci denied he was the Army’s most high-ranking agent in the IRA during the Troubles.’

Stakeknife: Alleged Army agent in IRA Freddie Scappaticci dies

… Freddie Scappaticci, the man suspected of being Stakeknife, the Army’s top agent within the IRA, has died.
Mr Scappaticci, who was in his 70s, always denied he was Stakeknife. …

Why would he not be telling the truth even though it may be entirely casuistically? He was never the most high ranking agent in the IRA at all. There was another who held a much higher rank than Scappaticci did. It is his identity that has been successfully concealed by the investigations into Scappaticci and his own vehement denials.

Just criticism


China jails prominent legal activists Xu Zhiyong and Ding Jiaxi

The BBC reported that ‘in response to past criticism about its human rights record, Beijing has said “only the 1.3 billion* Chinese people have a say on China’s human rights”.’ It could well have added: ‘and if any of them exercise their right to have their say, we shall listen to them. In due time there shall be no more criticism’.

* A slight exaggeration may be seen to exist here. The number may be correct if an average lifespan were 50 years and the country had had a population of the current size for about seven times longer than history would allow, otherwise the figure should be 1.3 milliard, roughly 1‰ of the number quoted.