Sunday, 31 July 2016

Simon Whom He Surnamed Peter - Part 21

The cave church of St. Peter in Antakya (Antioch)

For the next weeks, my Sunday postings will be a transcript of the book "Simon Whom He Surnamed Peter" by the Jersey historian, the Reverend G.R. Bailleine (1873 – 1966).

Most of Balleine's books are either currently in print - as for example his History of Jersey - or online in the form of PDF versions. This book is not, so this is something different. As well as being a Jersey historian, Balleine was also a priest in the Church of England, and Ministre Deservant at St Brelade's Church for a time.

Peter At Antioch
by G.R. Balleine

WHEN Peter reached Jerusalem, he found the Church disturbed by news from Antioch. During Peter's absence Paull had become a problem. When we saw him harrying the Church, we could not have guessed that his Jewish creed was failing to satisfy him. Yet such was the case. The Mosaic Law had been to him the very essence of religion. But, the more he tried, the more impossible it seemed to keep it. It set an ideal, but gave no power to reach it. Nay, by some queer kink of human nature, it provoked disobedience. The fact that a thing was forbidden seemed to make it attractive. No one ever gave the Law a fairer trial than Paul. He outstripped his fellow-students in `zeal for the traditions of the Fathers'. But the result was frustration.

Stephen had made him face a new conception of religion. After a miserable time of `kicking against the pricks', repressing the hateful thought that his creed would not work, a vision of Jesus convinced him that the Nazarenes were right, and he fled to Arabia to think out a new creed. As we have seen, after three years he reappeared in Jerusalem. Barnabas had persuaded Peter to receive him, and he met James. For a fortnight they talked; but their convictions were poles apart. Peter was still a loyal `son of the Law'. It was a relief when Paul went home to Tarsus.

Peter then lost sight of him for twelve years; but Barnabas did not. When he found himself in Antioch, the capital of Syria, where a Church was growing up, he summoned Paul to help him. Like many Jews Saul of Tarsus had two names, Saoul, and a Greek name, Paulos.

Later they went on a missionary tour through South Galatia; and here, when the Jews howled him down, Paul said, `If you feel unworthy of eternal life, we will turn to the Gentiles.' In four Galatian towns they founded Churches, composed largely of Gentiles, to whom Paul said nothing about circumcision or the Jewish Law. And, when they returned to Antioch, the Church there approved their action.

This was the problem that awaited Peter on his return from Rome. Circumcised Gentiles had from the first been received into the Church. One of the Seven `Deacons' had been a proselyte. The case of Cornelius had opened the door wider to uncircumcised, but Godfearing, Gentiles. But a mission to pagan Gentiles, and one that ignored the Law-this was a different matter!

To every Jew the Law was God's Law, something it was sin to disobey. And could anything be clearer than, `This is My Covenant, which you are to keep between Me and you; every male child must be circumcised.'

In his own heart Paul had renounced the Law. Faith was the secret of victory. He taught the Galatians: `Neither circumcision nor lack of it is of any importance. The thing that matters is a faith that finds expression in love.' He formed a theory that the Law deliberately set up unattainable ideals to make men feel their need of a Saviour. But he could hardly expect old-fashioned Jews to agree with him.

Visitors from Jerusalem came to Antioch; `false brethren', Paul calls them, `sneaking in to spy out our freedom'. They bluntly threw down the gauntlet, `Unless you are circumcised, you cannot be saved'; and `no small dissension' arose. To Paul this was heart-breaking. If the Mother Church was going to send censors to contradict his teaching, then he had `run in vain'. So he went to Jerusalem to thrash the matter out.'

James, the Lord's brother, a staunch Conservative, now led the Church there, and under him the Church had grown more strict in its Hebraism. This was partly due to Paul, for by scattering Stephen's group, he had left the Conservatives in control; and respect for James had drawn into the Church many whose piety, like his own, was based on the Mosaic books.

We read now of `Pharisees who believed' and of `thousands of Jews who believe and are all zealous for the Law'. Their position seemed unassailable. Had not Jesus said, `Till heaven and earth pass away, not a jot or comma shall pass from the Law, till its purpose is fulfilled?'

Peter's return to Jerusalem at this moment seemed providential, before Paul the Radical and James the Reactionary met face to face. Paul's critics arrived first, reporting that he was bringing with him, not only Barnabas, whom the Church respected, but an uncircumcised convert named Titus, to show how good a Christian a young pagan could become. This brought matters to a head. It was one thing to hear of uncircumcised Christians in distant cities. It was quite another to welcome one to the Jerusalem Love-Feast.

As in most Conferences, the vital decisions were made in committee. When Paul and Barnabas arrived, Peter and James and John met them, and talked matters over in private. `I laid before them,' wrote Paul, `the Gospel I preach to the Gentiles.' To the Three much of his teaching must have seemed question-able; but the wonder of the many conversions impressed them. If God was blessing this strange teaching, how could they condemn it? `They recognized,' said Paul, `that my Gospel was for the Gentiles and Peter's for the Jews, and that both had been given us by God.'

Then came the problem of Titus. Round him there was evidently a tussle. Months later Paul could not write about it calmly. The Three, who knew the feeling in Jerusalem, urged that he should be circumcised, if only for the sake of peace. `Not for an instant,' wrote Paul, `did I yield as an act of submission';

`Titus was not compelled to be circumcised.' These words have been interpreted in opposite ways. Did Paul refuse to budge an inch? Or was the stress on the word `compelled'? Titus became well known later. Paul left him in charge of Crete. If it was common knowledge that he had been circumcised (perhaps he had volunteered), Paul meant that this was not done under compulsion, but as a gracious concession. This view seems gaining ground.'

James called a Church meeting. At first there was `much disputing'. Many renewed the demand, `Gentile converts must be circumcised and keep the whole Law.' But Peter acted as moderator, reminding them that this point had been settled in the case of Cornelius. His speech gained a hearing, first for Barnabas, then for Paul, as they described `what wonders God had worked among the Gentiles'. Finally James summed up: `If God has chosen to take out of the Gentiles a People to be called by His Name, we may be surprised, but we dare not resist. We must not put obstacles in the way of men who are turning to God.' Paul had won.'

He and Barnabas returned to Antioch, and before long Peter followed, for the controversy had roused his interest in these Gentile Churches. At Antioch he saw for the first time Greeks, Syrians, and Jews united in one Church. Every Sunday they met for a Love-Feast, and Peter at first joined in these without scruple. But fresh critics arrived from Jerusalem. They were shocked to find Jewish Christians breaking the diet laws.

The Jerusalem Conference had freed Gentiles from the Jewish laws, but certainly not Jewish Christians. Peter began to feel uneasy about these common meals. Everyone brought something to the supper; so a Jew might be eating meat bought from a Gentile butcher. Peter chose a table, where he was sure of kosher food, and Barnabas and the other Jewish Christians did the same. Paul was furious. He saw the Church being split in two before his eyes. Luke with his usual tact does not mention this dispute, but Paul's Epistle to the Galatians shows how fierce it was. He publicly rebuked Peter: `I withstood him to his face.' `I said, so that all could hear, You, a born Jew, have been living as a Gentile. Are you now trying to make Gentiles live as Jews?'

How did it end? Commentators generally assume that Peter saw his mistake; but this seems doubtful. If Peter had owned himself wrong, Paul could hardly have failed to mention such a triumph. But he left Antioch, which had been his headquarters for several years, and never returned, except for one passing visit. Peter was left in control.

Tradition says that he remained there seven years. As soon as Christians began to take an interest in Church History, Peter was regarded as first Bishop of Antioch. Origen calls Ignatius `the second Bishop of Antioch after Peter'. Jerome, who was ordained there, says, `Having been Bishop in Antioch, Peter passed on to Rome.' Even Rome claimed no monopoly in him. It acknowledged the Antioch episcopate, and kept, and still keeps 22 February as the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter at Antioch.

Antioch was the third city in the Empire, surpassed in size and influence only by Alexandria and Rome. We have no details of Peter's work there; but if, as many scholars believe, `Matthew' was the Antioch Gospel,' certain things can be inferred. Clearly he must have left there most majestic memories. This is the Gospel, the only Gospel, that mentions the tremendous assertion, that he was the rock, on which the Church was built, the head of the household, to whom were entrusted the keys of office, the Viceroy, whose decrees would always be ratified in Heaven.

It is very doubtful whether these words were ever spoken by Jesus; but they show how deep an impression Peter left at Antioch. No ordinary leader leaves traditions like this behind him. The first test for his statesmanship was the problem Paul had left. Could Jew and Gentile unite in one Church? Peter had no misgivings about the admission of Gentiles. The case of Cornelius was conclusive. Even `Matthew' includes the command, `Make disciples of all nations.' But he hesitated about ignoring the scriptural plan of campaign. When the Old Testament thought of a converted world, Jews were always the converters. `They shall declare My glory among the Gentiles.' They were the missionary race, trained in the truth and scattered among the nations, to win the world for God.

Paul was making this impossible. He was putting the Jews' backs up, and forming a Church without them. Yet the older plan might prove more fruitful. If enough Jews were converted first, the world might be won more quickly. Jews generally succeed. `You and I,' said Disraeli to a young Jew, `belong to a race that can do everything but fail.' Epstein and Einstein, Strauss and Spinoza, Marx and Disraeli, Rothschild and Heine, show what success Jews win in almost every sphere. And they have a genius for religion. Paul proved that; and in recent years Booth's Salvation Army and Barnardo's orphanages show what can be done by Christians with Hebrew blood in their veins.

Moreover Jews are everywhere. The Bombay Jews are as Indian as their Hindu neighbours. Every negro accepts the Abyssinian Jews as fellow-Africans. For a thousand years there have been Jews in China, whom no Chinaman regards as foreigners. And this is no recent dispersion. Josephus boasted, `Jews form part of every nation on earth.' This point seems worth emphasizing, because it explains the line Peter took - 'We must not alienate the Jew.' He regarded himself as primarily a missionary to his own nation. And `Matthew' reflects this attitude. It alone reports Christ's saying, `I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel', and His order to the Twelve, `Go not along Gentile roads, but to the lost sheep of Israel', and His declaration of the permanence of the Mosaic Law, `Whoever relaxes the least of these commands will be reckoned the least in the Kingdom.'

On the question of table-fellowship Peter realized as clearly as Paul the importance of Church unity; but he secured it in a different way. To this period probably belong the Decrees, which Luke mistakenly attributed to the Jerusalem Conference.' These read like Rules made by Peter for Antioch Love-Feasts. If Gentile Christians would refrain from bringing to the table four kinds of food forbidden to their Jewish brethren-meat from idol-sacrifices, pork, strangled birds, and flesh containing blood-all obstacles to their eating together would vanish.

Two queer stories in `Matthew' may fit in here. One problem that confronted Peter was the half-shekel a member which each synagogue paid to the Temple.2 Should the Christian synagogue pay it? The collectors came to him, and he promised to pay. Then he wondered whether he had done right. That night he saw Christ in a vision, Who said: `Kings do not tax their sons. So as God's children you could go free. But, to avoid giving offence, it will be best to pay.' So far all is clear. But visions seldom are. They fade into the fantastic. This one became tinged with memories of an old folk-tales `Catch a fish,' the Vision said, `and you will find the coin in its mouth.' In the vision Peter did not see himself actually catching the fish; but he accepted the message, `Christian Jews had better pay'.

Another of `Matthew's strange stories may also be an Antioch vision. Peter seemed back on the Lake of Galilee. A storm was raging, and Jesus appeared. Peter sprang overboard to meet Him. While he kept his eyes on Jesus, he was safe. When he looked at the waves, he began to sink. Generations of preachers have used this story as a parable of faith. `Look at your difficulties, and you fail. Look to Christ, and you succeed.' This was probably its original meaning. Some sudden storm shook the Church in Antioch. Peter's faith almost failed. But the thought of Jesus clasping his hand brought him through safely.

Peter, however, did not spend the rest of his life in Antioch. The Liber Pontificalier makes him stay there seven years; and this may be correct. Claudius' Edict sent him back to Jerusalem in 49. The Conference and Peter's visit to Antioch followed that same year. Seven years later in his Letter to Corinth Paul mentioned that Peter and his wife were travelling as missionaries. Many Jewries had not heard his message. He must move on.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Holy Cross Day

This poem was written on 12th September 2005, but I'm posting it here as a dedication for French priest Jacques Hamel. It is based on the Gospel of Peter.

Holy Cross Day

In the night of legend, soldiers were watching
A voice rang out, and with a brightness shining
Appeared two men, who came to the great stone
That closed the sepulchre, and then as if blown
By a mighty wind, it rolled, gave way to the side
It was opened, and the two young men went inside
Then the soldiers roused the centurion and elders
Told them what they had seen, then these bystanders
Saw three men leave the sepulchre, shining in light
Two leading one by the hand, and he so very bright
Glory overpassing the heavens, and a cross followed
A voice sounded, "Thou hast preached to the abode
of them that sleep", and from the cross came a reply
"Yea," it said, "even to death and darkness so defy
Against all the suffering, against all the sorrow
Of golden dawn rising, of hope for the morrow."

Friday, 29 July 2016

Deputy Maurice Letto: An Interview from 1966

From the pages of Jersey Topic, and interview with Maurice Letto, Deputy in the States, who died in 1984 and at the time had just taken over as President of the Island Development Committee (IDC).

Deputy Maurice Letto

When you swish into the drive of Deputy Maurice Letto's lovely home at St. Lawrence, you instinctively know that you are going to meet a man of character and good taste.

The gardens are beautifully laid out in a formal style, the views superlative and everything is planned meticulously. There is nothing out of place.

I needed to find out a great deal about Deputy Letto because he is perhaps the greatest unknown quantity in Jersey politics.

As I entered his study the first impression of neatness carried on through. Yet again, everything was meticulously as it should be. His bookshelves revealed that certainly he was a man of humour. The Harold Wilson Bunkside Book, which lampoons Harold Wilson, has a pride of place. So do gardening books.

Deputy Letto is 48 and has been in the States as Deputy of St. Lawrence for two years now. He was educated at de la Salle College, and after leaving school he began at the Jersey General Investment Trust as the office boy. Today he is vice-chairman. A man who is self-assured, well-groomed, quietly confident.

Until the sudden IDC explosion he was known as a good Committee man. "But it was obvious to those who knew him that very shortly he would take on something big," a States member told me. That "something big" was to be the head of perhaps Jersey's most important and maligned committee.

"It would be true to say that it was not a job that I really wanted," he told me. "In fact, I had said in public that it was a job I wouldn't handle with a barge pole. This was mainly because of the enormous amount of time involved. But when it came w the crunch and I knew that I had a good chance of becoming president, I wanted it very badly. It is an enormous challenge. I am delighted that everyone I asked to sit on the Committee with me has done so. I think I have a first class Committee and I am more than pleased with the way in which everything is going already."

I asked him how he saw the role of the Island Development Committee.

"The role is very simple. I am sure it is the wish of everyone living in Jersey that the island should remain a beautiful place. No one wants to see the speculator take over and rape it. With that in mind we intend to follow the Island Development Plan as approved in the States. For instance, we will allow no eating into the green belt. We intend to be thoroughly ruthless about this.”

“But we must also bear in mind that the island continues to expand and that provision must be made to plan this expansion. With this in mind we have called for a report on the Island Development Plan to bring it up to date. For this we must take into account every aspect of Jersey life - tourism needs, agricultural demands and the wishes of the residents."

How did he intend overcoming all the mistakes made by the former Committee?

"First of all, let me put this in perspective. The previous committee did a great deal of good work. Their main problem was that their public relations were bad. Their other fault, it appears to me, is that they were too kind and too concerned with personal problems when dealing with matters of policy. This led to inconsistency. We are not allowing ourselves to get involved in personal matters. The beauty of the island matters much, much more."

The image of the previous committee was one of a committee that had no idea where it was going, which was strangling itself with red tape, and which was becoming the pillory on which the whole States was being placed. How do you intend to alter this?

"Well, we are planning to deal with the public in a different way. We have appointed a chief executive, who will handle the administration of the Committee. He will have the full responsibility of informing the public of decisions. Secondly, we intend to overcome the inconsistency, which has so galled the public. I can give the public this assurance that if any application to build on a site has been turned down, no one will be able to come along a few months later and get permission. Thirdly, we have instilled into our staff that the public do matter. Fourthly, we are having prepared a list of exemptions from planning permission. And lastly, we have given our professional staff guide lines along which to work, and they will deal with minor applications. However, they will not be able to refuse an application, no matter how small. This will be done by the Committee."

What did he see as the island's greatest planning problem?

“Undoubtedly greenhouses are one of them. My two years on the Committee of Agriculture convinced me that for the Jersey farmer to stay in business he has got to turn to greenhouses. This, of course, will present grave planning problems, for I believe that if Jersey were to become like Guernsey in respect of greenhouses it would be a planning disaster. Compared to this problem, the points raised by planning for tourism are minor ones."

I left Deputy Letto feeling that here was a political find. A man who will tackle a tough and onerous job without regard to personal issues, and who will lead an intelligent committee with flair and imagination. He knows that there are trials of strength ahead. And he knows he is going to win.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

The Police and Profanity

The recent transcript by police officers (reported in the JEP) discussing whether or not to charge the suspects in the Morgan Huelin case. There was a considerable amount of swearing by the Detective Sergeant and his plain clothes counterpart.

While the transcript was of an informal discussion between colleagues and never intended for public consumption, I thought it might be interesting to look at the subject or of the use of profanity by the police and for that matter, towards the police.

Verbal Profanity in interaction with members of the public.

There’s an interesting question asked about Profanity and the Use of Force (2010) with a reply given by a U.S. Attorney, Brian S. Batterton. The police officer had recently taken a course and was told that, according to the instructor, a ruling of the court stated: "In certain circumstances the use of profanity by officers could be an appropriate action by officers."

Batterton suggests that: “The use of profanity, in and of itself, is not likely to be considered a constitutional violation. It is a matter of courtesy, personal preference and, obviously and importantly, department policy. Thus, the use of profanity is most often a matter of department policy in the context of ‘courtesy’ and it is within the discretion of the law enforcement agency to restrict or prohibit the use of profanity when dealing with citizens."

In “Theoretical considerations of officer profanity and obscenity in formal contacts with citizens” by Barker and Thomas (1994), they look at the evidence and suggest that:

“Research indicates that verbal behaviour in the forms of profanity and obscenity by police officers sets the occasion for an aggressive response. Theoretically, these behaviours substantially increase the risk of a consequential physical altercation where the use of force becomes necessary. Obviously, numerous cases that involve the use of profanity or obscenity by police officer result in passive submission. Reinforcement resulting from such submission will likely strengthen this approach for the officer into a routine pattern for some categories of behaviour and of people.”

And they also note that “A potentially harmful effect is the formulation of negative attitudes toward the police”

Use of Profanity Against the Police

The UK situation was set out in a Court ruling noted in the Daily Mail 2011. Previous to this case, language deemed insulting could result in an arrest, but this changed as a result of the judgment.

The Daily Mail, of course, had its own spin on the matter:

“Police chiefs were accused last night of surrendering to foul-mouthed louts who subject their officers to vile abuse. Officers have been banned from arresting yobs who insult them with the most offensive swear-words in the language.”

"Many judges and magistrates have taken the view that police officers should have a thicker skin than ordinary members of the public. As a result police must prove that someone else found the suspect’s behaviour ‘abusive’ or ‘insulting.”

The Daily Mirror, 2011, also looks at this decision:

“Swearing at police is no longer a crime because officers hear foul-mouthed abuse too often to be offended, a High Court judge has ruled. The landmark judgement came as Mr Justice Bean overturned a public order conviction of a young suspect who repeatedly used the F-word while being searched for drugs.”

I have considerable sympathy for the police, who have to stay calm when being used as a verbal punch-bag by those who insult them. However, the likelihood is that the behaviour, designed to provoke, will cross the boundary of merely being verbal when it ceases to have any result. On the other hand, by judicious psychology, the officers may well equally manage to diffuse the situation. The police don't want confrontation if they can calm the situation.

I remember a situation when someone at a party I was invited to attempted to pick a fight by verbal insults, and eventually lashed out physically. Given levels of intoxication, as in the case I observed, lack of response to verbal assault has a high probability of escalating to attempts at physical assault.

In fact, Bernard Hogan-Howe, Scotland Yard Commissioner, said that "there were still opportunities for that arrest to happen' if a member of the public was being abusive towards an officer. Quite often they are threatening in their behaviour. They are being aggressive or moving towards you, waving their arms about or making threats as well as using abusive language". 

And he noted that "often when people are swearing at police officers, there are other things that are happening, for which they can be arrested. 'What we decide to make a charge on is a matter for either ourselves or the Crown Prosecution Service. So if we stick the charge at using obscene language, then it can be we make the wrong charge according to the Court of appeal, I understand, that's what I'm saying I accept. However, at the same time, if the person is using threatening behaviour or acting violently, or it looks as though there's going to be a breach of the peace but we decide not to charge that, we've missed an opportunity.."

Police and Profanity in an “In Force” situation

Neither of these addresses the matter of profanity used in the circumstances of talking "within the ranks".

US Lawyer Richard D. Alaniz sets out some basic rules of thumb:

“Virtually every workplace will have one or two, or even several, employees who use crude, obscene, and profane language. Many workplaces will also have employees who find such language deeply offensive. Balancing those competing concerns, while at the same time staying in compliance with all relevant laws, can be a tricky task unless employers actively address the issue before significant problems arise.”

“For some employers, profanity may be common and accepted. For others, it may be unacceptable. For some organizations, it may be both. At a restaurant, cursing in the kitchen may be a regular occurrence, but the same cursing may be considered unprofessional in front of patrons. Blue language that may be heard regularly on a shop floor is often unacceptable in the front office, where it might offend customers. “

So for instance, as anyone who has seen the fly-on-the-wall documentary behind the scenes at the “Fifteen Restaurant” apprentice scheme, Jaime Oliver swears profusely. And yet in his TV cooking programmes, there is no evidence of that.

The question then arises – what kind of workforce does the police fit into? Is it more akin to the kitchens and the shop floor, where profanity is more acceptable between colleagues? Is it perhaps close to the army, where profanity is permitted?

However, the use of language may be found offensive depending on circumstances. As Alaniz warns:

“The issue of profanity can seem like a no-win proposition for employers, so ignoring it often is the easiest approach. However, ignoring profanities can leave the organization even more vulnerable to complaints and lawsuits.”

This is the more so as Discrimination Laws are enacted, and language may seem to be making sexual slurs, or mocking religious beliefs. The whole area of profanity in a workplace can become a minefield. That is why context matters:

“Companies should also differentiate between the occasional outbursts of foul language, and sustained cursing directed at a particular employee or group of people. Rough language used as a weapon to intimidate or bully employees can lead to potential claims of a hostile work environment or harassment.”

That is of course always a problem. In the discussion in question, there is no sign of intimidation, but the use of profanity by and only by the senior officers present mean that such a risk could be present. When used to drive an argument forward, the use of profanity could be seen as giving an emotional force to silence dissent. As I note, there is no indication that it has done so here, but the fact that such a perception could arise does raise another issue about the use of profanity in that context.

It would be interesting to know, however, if the local force has any guidelines on its officers use of profanity both to members of the public, and within its own ranks.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Boris Johnson in Context

Boris Johnson said some of his outspoken comments had been "taken out of context" as he faced hostile questions in his first press conference as foreign secretary

In 2007, he wrote that Mrs Clinton, the Democrat candidate for US president, was "like a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital".

So let us have a bit more context. He was candidate for Mayor of London by September 2007, but was not elected until May 2008. He was still an MP for Henley, until after he was elected, whereupon he resigned, but he was a back bench MP, earning most from journalism in a rather satirical vein.

What was the context? It was in fact a comment piece written for the Daily Telegraph on 01 Nov 2007, when he was a backbench MP and part-time freelance columnist for the Telegraph. and it is clearly not a serious and sober analysis; it is Boris as he might appear on “Have I Got News for You” or “Mock the Week”.

Here are some of the snippets from the Daily Telegraph piece, and you can see from the entire tone of the article that it is not by any stretch of the imagination to be taken without tongue firmly in cheek. It is true that there is an element of seriousness if he was genuine about wanting Hillary to be president, and in fact, of course, as we know, it was Barack Obama who became the Democrat nominee.

You know, I never thought it would come to this. Over the past 24 hours I have been trying to imagine the kind of person I want to follow George W Bush into the White House.

I have been scanning the faces of the competitors for what some have called the most open presidential race for years, and I have screwed up my eyes and tried to work out who should be in charge of us all.

Who should have their finger on the nuclear button? Who should be Commander-in-Chief of the American military, the hugest and most lethal killing machine in history?

I hum and I brood and then to my amazement a face seems to form in my mind's eye. She's got dyed blonde hair and pouty lips, and a steely blue stare, like a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital; and as I snap out of my trance I slap my forehead in astonishment.

How can I possibly want Hillary? I mean, she represents, on the face of it, everything I came into politics to oppose: not just a general desire to raise taxes and nationalise things, but an all-round purse-lipped political correctness.

How could I possibly emit the merest peep of support for a woman who seems to have acted out the role of First Lady, from 1993 to 2000, like a mixture between Cherie Blair and Lady Macbeth, stamping her heel, bawling out subordinates and frisbeeing ashtrays at her erring husband?

Supporting Hillary means passing over the powerful claims of other good candidates. There is the plainly brilliant Barack Obama; there is the chap who acted in the Hunt for Red October, and above all there is Rudy Giuliani. How can we prefer Hillary to the man who did so much to sort out violent crime on the streets of New York?

For all who love America, it is time to think of supporting Hillary, not because we necessarily want her for herself but because we want Bill in the role of First Husband. And if Bill can deal with Hillary, he can surely deal with any global crisis.

Obama and Kenya

On Johnson’s other main insult, there is less justification. Here is the man who was by now a powerful MP, and one of the main charismatic leaders of the Brexit campaign. This was an article in The Sun, by someone who should have known better, but who clearly had not really grown up much from his schoolboy satire:

Here is the context again

Something mysterious happened when Barack Obama entered the Oval Office in 2009. Something vanished from that room, and no one could quite explain why. It was a bust of Winston Churchill – the great British war time leader. It was a fine goggle-eyed object, done by the brilliant sculptor Jacob Epstein, and it had sat there for almost ten years. But on day one of the Obama administration it was returned, without ceremony, to the British embassy in Washington.

No one was sure whether the President had himself been involved in the decision. Some said it was a snub to Britain. Some said it was a symbol of the part-Kenyan President’s ancestral dislike of the British empire – of which Churchill had been such a fervent defender. Some said that perhaps Churchill was seen as less important than he once was perhaps his ideas were old-fashioned and out of date.

My Comments
In the Guardian, it was Boris Johnson said he has no regrets about claiming that Barack Obama’s “part-Kenyan” heritage had driven him towards anti-British sentiment. Johnson was asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he had any regrets about the way he phrased comments. “Of course not,” he said.

However, the same issue was raised in 2009 by Guardian columnist Owen Bowcott, who wrote:

“It also sharpens the intriguing question of whether the president's dual colonial inheritance – of Kenyan and Irish ancestry – is helping reshape America's supposedly "special relationship" with Britain. The darker days of the UK's relationship with Kenya may resurface soon when lawyers lodge a class action in the British courts from survivors of the Mau Mau rebellion who claim they were tortured by British soldiers in the 1950s; Obama's grandfather was among those mistreated during the independence struggle.”

So while Boris is giving a very broad brush comment on Obama, there is a context in which it can make sense, although to attribute such unworthy motivations to Obama is certainly a slur on the President’s character, as if he could bear a deep seated grudge for past generational wrongs. That, if anything, is the real matter needing apology – the imputation of base personal motivation to Obama.

And in fact, the situation with regard to the bust is an extremely muddy one, as the Guardian itself points out:

“The bust in question, by British sculptor Jacob Epstein, was given to President George W Bush by the British government in 2001 and was placed in the Oval Office. But the statue was not donated, it was simply on loan for Bush’s term in office (a loan which the British government decided to extend when Bush was re-elected in 2004). Churchill disappeared from the White House in 2009, when the loan ended at the same time that Obama moved in.”

“So how was the White House able to claim in 2012 that the bust was still there? When writing the blogpost, the then communications director Dan Pfeiffer simply neglected to mention the fact that there are two Churchill busts – the one on loan to Bush from 2001 to 2009, and a second bust which the White House has had since the 1960s and still has to this day – a fact which Pfeiffer later had to clarify in an update at the end of the post.”

“Boris Johnson is wrong to claim that the vanishing Churchill bust symbolizes Obama’s antipathy towards Britain – it was never Obama’s statue to give away. But the White House’s initial claim that the bust was still in the Oval Office was also a convenient spin on the facts.”

If Johnson had checked his facts, he would not have made this mistake. He might also have checked with Obama about where the bust was. It is now outside the the Treaty Room - his private office on the second floor of his official residence.

"Right outside the door of the Treaty Room, so that I see it every day - including on weekends when I'm going into that office to watch a basketball game - the primary image I see is a bust of Winston Churchill," he said. "It's there voluntarily because I can do anything on the second floor. I love the guy."

So what can we say about Johnson and his rash remarks. 

Firstly, that remarks have been taken out with regard to Hilary Clinton, but his background is unfortunate in that he inhabited a world in which light hearted political fun was a part. It is like Ian Hislop becoming Foreign Secretary and “Private Eye” jokes coming to haunt him.

With regard to Obama, his assessment of the facts was negligible, and his judgement of Obama’s character was patently unfair. This was a comment after the intervention of Obama in the Referendum campaign, and it was clearly designed to discount Obama’s intervention.

The problem is that it is also part of a campaign which misled the general public on a number of highly significant issues. Can a politician be trusted as Foreign Secretary when they have said anything to win? I think an element of distrust will continue to dog him, and that is largely of his own making.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Lighting the Way

Readers of this blog may have noticed that the lights at the junction at the bottom end of Mont Millais have been replaced, and also those at First Tower junction. Each traffic light set is a combination of control unit and lights themselves, run from the programs in the control box.

These upgrades replace the junction control box, which has been in place with the lights themselves, for around 17 years. As might be imagined, the technology has advanced considerably over that time.

In fact the 17 year old systems were the first with printed circuits; they replaced transistorised traffic lights controllers, which were prone to need re-soldering as the transistor joints became brittle and broke off over time!

Before that Jersey actually had traffic lights with controllers using valves, large cumbersome electronic devices the size of small light bulbs, which tended to break down, and were also used in the old TV sets of the 1960s. Older people may remember how long it took for the TV to warm up because valve technology was rather inefficient.

But let us go back to 1999, 17 years ago, and the time of the controllers and lights being replaced, and look at the kind of everyday technology. In 1999, only around 2% of homes had a DVD player and the main technology was VCR players. Flatscreen technology was only just beginning to come in for TVs, most of which had bulky Cathode Ray tubes. Mobile phones were in existence, but the first full internet service on mobile phones was introduced only in Japan that year. There were no smart phones or iPads or iPhones.

As can be imagined, parts for the 17 year old system are now difficult to come by, as the manufacturer has long since stopped making any spares! There are still some older systems deployed in Jersey, and the components of the systems being replaced will be stored and used as spares. Every opportunity to make savings has been made.

In terms of technology, the light systems from 17 years ago each had a transformer in the traffic light head, taking the voltage down from 240 volts to around 48 volts. As might be expected, water invariably got into the systems, and with that amount of power, transformer boxes broke down.

The new systems have one transformer inside the controller box, and the current is already reduced when it goes to the lights, so there is no need for transformers there, and less chance for anything to go wrong.

The lights themselves have been replaced. The new technology uses LED systems for lighting, rather than the older halogen bulbs. The result again is increased reliability, as well as less cost. The halogen lights would be replaced either annually or when they broke down, and about 20% of them broke down before the annual change. The newer LED systems are far more reliable, and also use around 1/3 of the power, which over a year, is a considerable saving.

The upgrade of traffic lights at the junction at the bottom end of Mont Millais uses the new ST950 Intersection controller. This traffic controller is the brains of the unit and changes the traffic lights based on timed settings, and feedback from devices detecting traffic flow.

Reduced power and cabling costs, and highly reliable lamp monitoring of very low power LED traffic and pedestrian signals, makes the ST950 the new benchmark for intersection control. It also allows for non-UK use because Jersey does not have the UK style "red-amber before green" phase but just goes from Red to Green.

There is also increased electrical safety for members of the public in the event of damage to the signal installation and personnel working on or around the intersection.

Often the most frequently damaged components within a traffic controller are the output drive switches, which are particularly vulnerable to cable faults and short circuits. The ST950 ELV design incorporates an active short circuit protection system on all lamp outputs, ensuring that even under direct short circuit conditions, the outputs are protected from damage.

The ST950 is used in conjunction with Siemens extra low voltage (48v), single light source LED traffic signals.. As anyone passing the junction will be able to see, the signal is extremely clear and easy to see in all weather and lighting conditions.

The signals at Mont Millais work on "max sets" which apply at different times of the day (am peak, pm peak, school peak, evening etc). These max timings are set to best allow for the varying traffic and pedestrian demands, and are brought in or removed by the controller time clock. For reasons of traffic safety, all significant timing and program changes are carried out on site, where the engineer can see the effect of the changes.

If you have ever wondered how the lights change, as well as the sets, there is a careful balance worked out to also allow pedestrians to cross, as all of these new junctions have pedestrian lights as well.

There is a problem of ever increasing traffic congestion, as people commute to most of their daily activities. Traffic-actuated signals have been created to alleviate this problem by efficiently managing traffic flow. The system is capable of detecting live traffic data and assigning the appropriate light cycle (for instance, turning on green lights at a desired time).

This is done by a number of additional systems in Jersey which feed information back to the traffic controller so that it can intelligently change lights particularly at times that are not as busy. These are called “actuation detectors” because a vehicle or a pedestrian activates them, either by vehicle detection devices or pedestrian push buttons.

Vehicle-actuated control uses information obtained from detectors within the intersection, to alter one or more aspects of the signal timing. These

• Can reduce delay (if properly timed).
• Are adaptable to short-term fluctuations in traffic flow.
• Usually increase capacity (by continually reapportioning green time).
• Provide continuous operation under low volume conditions.
• Especially effective at multiple phase intersections.

Jersey engineers use the following methods:

Vehicle actuated detection. Here junctions have a small device which looks like a camera on top of the traffic light. This detects any vehicle moving at more than 4 mph. These are not cameras but actually microwave radar detectors.

Another method of detecting traffic is by induction loops. When a vehicle drives over the loop, the traffic controller detector senses the change in electromagnetic field caused by the introduction of metal (from the vehicle) over the loop. This starts a countdown for the light to turn green.

The local traffic controller unit will automatically:

• Process these outputs,
• Compare processed detector information with some preset control
parameter or parameters, and
• Make a decision on intersection phasing and timing.

There is also a very clever system called Microprocessor Optimised Vehicle Actuation (MOVA). This maintains the optimum green stage, cycle time and control strategy to accommodate prevailing conditions to minimise queuing at traffic signal junctions…achieving significant improvement in performance.

It uses vehicle detectors cut into the road surface to monitor vehicles on the immediate approaches to signal controlled junctions to determine green times in real time.

As an example, consider approaching a junction at night. You are the only vehicle. The lights do not go through a full time of the peak cycle for all the other junction users, but change to green as you approach, so that you don’t have to wait.

It also creates more green time for congested approaches, at the expense of those uncongested, maximising control effectiveness. So if three lanes approaching lights are busy, and a fourth is largely empty, that will get less green time.

Also where more than one junction is situated too close to be considered as isolated, there are ways in which two or more junctions can be linked by the use of MOVA control. At First Tower, two such traffic light systems are linked together. Mova also maintains historic data for each lane so it can use previous flows to guide how it behaves, rather like having its own “memory”.

The changes in technology in traffic control are improving all the time to help resolve the increased problems of traffic congestion. Whereas in the past, simple traffic lights were adequate, today’s local traffic engineers have to use all the means in their toolkit, both in assessing traffic flow, programming traffic controllers, putting in detectors, and improving the technology. At the same time, the newer systems also are more reliable and energy efficient.

Easing traffic also cuts the time an individual car spends during a normal commute, reducing fuel consumption. To continue to ease the problem of traffic congestion, engineers need to make a continued effort to improve roads and signal systems.

It is clear that in Jersey, we have at the Department of Infrastructure, traffic engineers keeping up to date with the latest improvements and techniques to keep Jersey’s traffic flowing.

Monday, 25 July 2016

The Looking Glass War

“Revolutionists are accused of sowing fear abroad. Every barricade seems a crime. Their theories are incriminated, their aim suspected, their ulterior motive is feared, their conscience denounced. They are reproached with raising, erecting, and heaping up, against the reigning social state, a mass of miseries, of griefs, of iniquities, of wrongs, of despairs, and of tearing from the lowest depths blocks of shadow in order therein to embattle themselves and to combat”

(Victor Hugo, Les Miserables)

Streets blocked off, barricades raised, a call to overthrow the government in  the name of the people and restore basic freedoms.

It is not exactly democratic, but that, of course, is not the attempted Turkish Coup, but part of the narrative in Les Miserables, Victor Hugo’s masterpiece.

The students are, of course, defending freedom against an increasingly oppressive state.

But it got me thinking about the Turkish coup, when President Erdoğan called for people to rise up and “defend democracy”.

For years, the President has played the democracy card just as well as President Putin has in Russia. He has been elected by a majority of the people. But he has used his power to stamp out dissent and create a society that is considerably less open.

Turkey is one of the least friendly nations for independent journalists. Many have been jailed and an estimated 900 have been forced from their jobs. The government simply seized television stations and newspapers from private owners

So what happened? The transcripts of what was forced to be broadcast are in fact remarkably hard to come by, although they were apparently also sent to media outlets by email, so they must exist somewhere. One I have located I have printed below.

These were the significant elements in the timetable:

8.25pm - Turkish military says has taken power to protect democratic order. In a statement sent by email and reported on Turkish TV channels, the military says all of Turkey's existing foreign relations will be maintained.

9.05pm - Turkish state broadcaster says reading statement on the orders of the military - that new constitution will be prepared, accuses government of eroding democratic and secular rule of law, that the country is being run by a "peace council", that martial law imposed, curfew imposed across the country.

Most importantly, the message broadcast was that the coup was “to reinstall the constitutional order, democracy, human rights and freedoms, to ensure that the rule of law once again reigns in the country, for last and order to be reinstated.”

After the coup failed, Western nations were quick to condemn the anti-democratic nature of the coup, and the opposition parties with Turkey also issued statements of condemnation. They may now be beginning to regret this.

President Erdoğan’s own narrative is that this is a plot by one of his former allies, Fethullah Gülen, an exile, who left the country when a financial corruption scandal broke. The Turkish Prime Minister told journalists that anyone attempting to enmesh him in the scandal would be "left empty handed”, but two of his sons were implicated. In a classic example of scapegoating, Erdoğan accused Gülen of being behind the corruption investigations, and diverted attention away from his own position.

Erdogan defended Halkbank chief executive Süleyman Aslan, describing him as "honest person". Aslan was charged with taking bribes by the prosecutors while the police are said to reportedly have found US$4.5 million in cash stored in shoe boxes in Aslan’s home!

Now he is following the same modus operandi, blaming Gulen for the attempted coup, and diverting attention away from the reasons for the coup.

But it is clear that the statements read out (Google Translation below) have everything to do with the increasingly repressive regime, the move towards a Sunni state away from the secular state founded by Atatürk into one which silences political dissent and removes women’s rights.

Meanwhile, about 60,000 soldiers, police, judges, civil servants and teachers have been suspended, detained or are under investigation since Friday’s attempted coup staged by a faction within the armed forces. And the justice minister said Turkey would not bow to pressure from the European Union to rule out restoring the death penalty to execute the plotters.

On Wednesday Erdogan announced a state of emergency. Emergency rule permits the president and cabinet to bypass parliament in enacting new laws and to limit or suspend rights and freedoms as they deem necessary.

On Saturday the Turkish government issued its first decree under new powers authorised by its declaration of a state of emergency. The decree dramatically increases the amount of time detainees can be held without being charged from four to 30 days. T

Amnesty International has gathered credible evidence that detainees in Turkey are being subjected to beatings and torture, including rape, in official and unofficial detention centres in the country.

Detainees are being arbitrarily held, including in informal places of detention. They have been denied access to lawyers and family members and have not been properly informed of the charges against them, undermining their right to a fair trial.

RT television network reports that according to the evidence obtained by Amnesty, 650-800 male soldiers were being held in the Ankara police headquarters sports hall. At least 300 of them had signs proving that they were beaten, with some of them even having broken bones. About 40 were unable to walk because of serious injuries sustained in custody.

Meanwhile, Erdogan told France 24 on Saturday that the arrested coup plotters “are starting to confess.” He also justified the imposition of the state of emergency by saying that it is actually aimed at supporting and strengthening democracy. He also said that it could easily be prolonged if necessary.

This has become a “looking glass war”, where under the name of democracy, Erdogan is justifying detention and abusive practices in Turkey.  Everything that you have seen and heard has been reflected and distorted in a mirror. What we had was a coup in an attempt of an ideal: a restoration of freedoms. In the name of democracy, what we have under Erdogan is a repressive tyranny which uses the vote as a means of legitimising its oppression.

The failure to take into account the real aims of those attempting the coup, simply because it was not taking place according to the forms of democracy, overlooks the fact that those forms can become very hollow indeed.

As Tom Wright noted:

 “The former Secretary General of the UN, Kofi Annan, insisted in his retirement speech that democracies, like all other rulers, need to be called to account, both in what they actually do and in what they actually are. Simply voting every few years — though that is a whole lot better than not voting every few years! — is not a very effective way of achieving this. In the UK, the majority of parliamentary seats are ‘safe’, so that the real ‘election’ takes place behind closed doors in a small room where the local party activists choose their candidate. We will only recover a sense of genuine participation, and hence the reality of democracy, when we deconstruct some of the grandiose claims that have been made or implied, and rethink our social and political practices from the root up.

Coup Statement in Translation

"This text, all the Republic of Turkey to be published in the channel is a desire and command of the Turkish Armed Forces. The valuable citizens of the Republic of Turkey, in a systematic way sustained Constitution and law violations, important for the presence of the state's basic characteristics and vital institution that has become a threat to the Turkish Armed all institutions of the state, including the force has become the ideological motives began to be designed and therefore can not perform their duties.

Heedlessness, misguidance, even fundamental rights and freedoms based on the separation of powers injured secular and democratic rule of law by the President and government officials are in infidelity are virtually eliminated. Our government has lost its credibility it deserves in the international arena and has been universal disregard of basic human rights, governed by autocracy has become a country based on fear. A lot of innocent people stand back from the fight against terrorism as wrong decisions taken by the political authorities and climb our security mission that has cost the lives fighting terrorists. Bureaucracy in corruption and theft has reached serious proportions. Countrywide has been made in the system can not handle the law to combat it.

These circumstances and our nation under the leadership of the supreme Atatürk under circumstances which he founded with extraordinary sacrifices, the founder of the Republic brought to the present day Turkish Armed Forces Peace at home, peace principles of the movement homeland's territorial integrity in the World, the nation and to maintain the state's survival, faced the achievements of our Republic to eliminate the danger, to make available to all our citizens regardless of their distinction the basis of universal human rights, sect and ethnicity open effective ways to combat and eliminate de facto obstacles to the rule of law to prevent corruption, which has become a national security threat, terrorism and all kinds of terrorism secular, democratic and social state of law policy on sitting constitutional order to re-establish our state and our nation regain lost international credibility of the peace in the international environment, a stronger relationship to ensure stability and peace and has seized power in order to establish cooperation.

State management will be undertaken by the Council of Magistrates which are formed in the country. Council of Magistrates in the country, the UN has taken all kinds of measures to fulfill the obligations created by NATO and other international organizations.
Dismissed political power has lost its legitimacy hand taken. "

Text in Turkish

TRT Haber'de okunan metinde şu ifadelere yer verildi:

"Bu metnin, Tüm Türkiye Cumhuriyeti kanallarında yayınlanması Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri'nin bir isteği ve emridir. Türkiye Cumhuriyeti'nin değerli vatandaşları, sistematik bir şekilde sürdürülen Anayasa ve Kanun ihlalleri devletin temel nitelikleri ve hayati kurumlarının varlığı açısından önemli, bir tehdit haline gelmiş Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri de dahil olmak üzere devletin tüm kurumları ideolojik saiklerle dizayn edilmeye başlanmış ve dolayısıyla görevlerini yapamaz hale getirilmiştir.

Gaflet, dalalet hatta hıyanet içerisinde olan Cumhurbaşkanı ve hükümet yetkilikleri tarafından temel hak ve hürriyetler zedelenmiş Kuvvetler ayrılığına dayalı laik ve demokratik hukuk düzeni fiilen ortadan kaldırılmıştır. Devletimiz, uluslararası ortamda hak ettiği itibarını yitirmiş ve evrensel temel insan haklarının gözardı edildiği, korkuya dayalı otokrasi ile yönetilen bir ülke haline getirilmiştir. Siyasi idarenin aldığı hatalı karar ile mücadeleden geri durduğu terör tırmanarak bir çok masum vatandaşın ve teröristle mücadele eden güvenlik görevlerimizin hayatına mal olmuştur. Bürokrasi içindeki yolsuzluk ve hırsızlık ciddi boyutlara ulaşmış. Ülke sathında bununla mücadele edecek hukuk sistemi işlemez hale getirilmiştir.

Bu ahval ve şerait altında yüce Atatürk'ün önderliğinde milletimizin olağanüstü fedakarlıklar ile kurduğu bugünlere getirdiği Cumhuriyetimizin kurucusu olan Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri Yurt'ta Sulh, Cihan'da Sulh ilkesinden hareketle vatanın bölünmez bütünlüğünü, milletin ve devletin bekasını devam ettirmek, Cumhuriyetimizin kazanımlarının karşı karşıya kaldığı tehlikeleri bertaraf etmek, hukuk devleti önündeki fiili engelleri ortadan kaldırmak milli güvenlik tehdidi haline gelmiş olan yolsuzluğu engellemek terörizm ve terörün her türlüsü ile etkin mücadele yolunu açmak temel evrensel insan haklarını mezhep ve etnisite ayrımı gözetmeksizin tüm vatandaşlarımız için geçerli kılmak laik, demokratik ve sosyal hukuk devleti ilkesi üzerine oturan Anayasal düzeni yeniden tesis etmek devletimizin ve milletimizin kaybedilen uluslararası itibarını yeniden kazanmak, uluslararası ortamda barış, istikrar ve huzurun temini için daha güçlü bir ilişki ve işbirliğini tesis etmek maksadıyla yönetime el koymuştur.

Devletin yönetimi, teşkil edilen Yurtta Sulh Konseyi tarafından deruhte edilecektir. Yurtta Sulh Konseyi, BM, NATO ve diğer tüm uluslararası kuruluşlar ile oluşturulmuş yükümlülükleri yerine getirecek her türlü tedbiri almıştır.
Meşruiyetini kaybetmiş siyasi iktidara görevden el çektirilmiştir."

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Steps on the Road to Freedom

Rachel Barenblat, the "Velveteen Rabbi," is an American poet and blogger who was ordained as a rabbi in 2011 and as a spiritual director in 2012. In 2013 she was named aRabbis Without Borders fellow by Clal, the Center for Learning and Leadership, and in 2015 was named co-chair of ALEPH: the Alliance for Jewish Renewal along with Rabbi David Markus.

I love her writing, even though I am not Jewish, because it seems to be to be very much continuing the wisdom tradition, and bringing it to today's world, bringing together, in Tony Thiselton's words, the Two Horizons of Past and Present.

Here are some quotations from her writings on change, on the journey of life, both inner and outer, and on healing wounds; in each, she challenges the reader to think again, and think differently, on these matters.

On Change
One season gives way to the next. Summer vacation gives way to school. On the Jewish calendar, we’ve just moved from an old year into a new one. All of these transitions come bearing gifts – as well as challenges. And if that’s true for annual transitions like the shift from summer to fall, how much more true it is for emotional transitions which may not follow any calendar or arise predictably. 

The illness of a pet, or of a family member. Facing mortality, or a marriage, or a divorce. Losing a job, or starting a job… All of these are transitions, and all may challenge our equilibrium and our sense of self.

Can I make a practice of welcoming whatever arises in my life with open arms – and then with equally open arms, letting it go when it’s time to transition to what’s next? Loving what comes and loving what goes requires equanimity. It requires that I not numb myself either to joy or sorrow. It also requires that I maintain awareness of the bigger picture, within which the joy and the sorrow, the coming and the going, are all contained.

On the Journey
Some of the things we accumulate, over the course of a life, are merely practical. I can’t say I have any particular attachment to the flatware in the silverware drawer, or to the mixing bowls, or to the couch. Other things have emotional associations: the print we bought to celebrate our engagement, or the giant and slightly misshapen ceramic bread bowl that my former partner gave me during my first year out of college.

The Torah tells us that the children of Israel journeyed in the wilderness for forty years, and that as they wandered, they were accompanied by a cloud that served as a visible reminder of the presence of God. When the cloud lifted from above the portable tabernacle that they had built, they set off on their journeying. When the cloud stayed put, so did they. Whether they were encamped or on the move, the cloud was always in their sight.

The commentator known as Rashi notes “A place where they encamped is also called ‘a journey’… Because from each place of encampment they set out again on a new journey, therefore they are all called ‘journeys.'”

Even the places where we make camp — the homes in which we settle, with all of their objects and memories — can be journeys.

On Brokenness
When a wound is infected, ignoring it or pretending it isn’t there won’t help. The only thing to do is grit one’s teeth and clean out the wound, and maybe suture it gently so that it can finish closing on its own. When the wound is emotional rather than physical, the same holds true.

No one likes to look at what hurts. But if we don’t face our own brokenness, we can’t sweep away the shards and prepare to rebuild.

That’s the lesson of this time of year on the Jewish calendar. We’ve entered a three-week period dedicated to sitting with what’s broken. In historical memory, these three weeks mark the time between when the ancient city walls of Jerusalem were breached and when the Temple was destroyed. In our own lived experience today, they’re an opportunity to notice our own places of brokenness. They’re an invitation to resist the temptation to turn away from what hurts.

When I was a hospital chaplaincy intern I learned that the greatest gift I could give someone who was suffering was not “the right answers,” but being with them: walking with them, sitting with them, opening myself to their experience instead of giving in to the temptation to plaster a band-aid over their hurt. I owe myself the same gift of presence. We all do.

When we can face what hurts, without flinching or turning away, we begin the journey of healing.. The wound begins to grow closed.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

The Dark Dimension

Of late, the world has seen some very evil men engaged in the destruction of fellow human beings. This rather bleak poem reflects this reality. I remain optimistic. In Munich, a hash tag was used meaning "open doors", ordinary people offering refuge and shelter to those caught up in the terror attacks. There are more "good samaritans" than we might think, but we should not be naive in our optimism: there are also those consumed by evil, reflected in the images of this poem.

The Dark Dimension

Onward, death comes riding,
marching as to war
A skeleton in armour
going on before
Death, the final horseman
Turning friend to foe
Forward into battle,
Lets destruction flow

There can be no triumph
And innocents to flee
Bullets flying, bomb explodes
There is no victory
Hell ‘s chains are unbound
False the shouts of praise
The crying of unholy voices
As the death tolls raise

Dark the unseen army
Following their god
Plotting, planning, killing
Blood where children trod
Make the world divided
Distrust twixt you and me
The shadow angel’s doctrine
Ending charity

Onward, fleeing migrants
Seeking happy throng
Want to escape the bloodshed
That evil triumph song;
False glory and no honour
Cold comes the Grey King
No wisdom and no sages
Death his anthem sing.

Friday, 22 July 2016

The Observatory – Claims to Fame

The second, and final, part of the article in the Jersey Catholic Herald:

The Observatory – Claims to Fame
By Father Pere Ray

Father Dechevrens did not wait until the observatory and tower had been completed before beginning his weather investigations, as the first published readings are dated January 1 , 1894.

A 'Stevenson' screen was erected nearby to house the thermometers, thermograph, hygrograph, evaporimeter, etc. The Stevenson Screen or thermometer screen is a standard shelter (from rain, snow and high winds, but also leaves and animals) for meteorological instruments, particularly wet and dry bulb thermometers used to record humidity and air temperature

Later inside the observatory building, the barometers, barographs, terrestrial magnetism instruments were placed, and in a special room, the fiat roof of which could be lifted, a transit instrument was put on a pillar, as, at that time, before wireless telegraph, the only means to keep the right time was to observe the passage of the sun or stars on the meridian. 

Soon the top gallery of the tower received the wind instruments, connected to the observatory itself by a multicore conductor, transmitting the electrical impulses to the recorders. A wind vane and anemometer were also installed on the top of the observatory.

Father Dechevrens made a very extensive study of the wind at two different levels. It is amazing to see how he has used all the data. making graphs calculating averages, percentages, for direction, speed, frequencies. Later a very complicated wind vane was put on top of the mast, crowning the tower, registering the direction and the horizontal and vertical current, of air, as well as their velocity.

This invention which he had realized in his workshop, Father Dechevrens had built by an instrument maker in Paris (not without arguments between the master mind and the craftsman!) and proved very efficient.

The director of the observatory was helped in his work, which at some moment involved readings day and night, by another Father his own age, and of course by young students of the Maison Saint Louis training for their future work in other observatories

From personal experience, between 1917 and 1921, I know that it was not always an easy job to climb the 250 steps of the tower to adjust an instrument on the small top platform, in all kind; of weather.

Being always on the alert to find new grounds of investigations, Fr. Dechevrens began a study of some electrical phenomena, known as telluric currents (from Latin tellūs, "earth") measured by galvanometers, between two electrodes pegged in the soil, showing the existence of an electrical tide, connected with the sea tides and the insulation. The Island had not then an electricity supply, and it was a choice place for such investigations.

Apart from regular detailed yearly bulletins, the work of Fr. Dechevrens and his colleagues is represented by some 130 memoires and contributions to scientific periodicals. The amount of copy books filled with column after column of figures in his small clear hand writing, preserved at the Observatory, is amazing. A few months before he died in 1923, he saw the publication, by the Office Meteorologique National de Paris, of his Etude du Vent a Jersey , 20 annees I' Observations: 1895 - 1914 a I'Observatoure Saint Louis. He died on December 6, 1923, awed 79.

Before we come to the work of his successors, a few words must be said about a machine invented by Father Dechevrens, the Campylograph, now exhibited in the mathematical section of the Palais de la Decouverte, in Paris.

By means of the horizontal movements of a pen on a revolving platen, complicated curves could be produced, according to mathematical formulae, on the principle of Lissajous designs. When Father Dechevrens had worked out on paper all the shapes arid sizes of the pieces, he sent the detailed specifications to an instrument maker, who insisted that the machine would never work. After assembly, however, it proved to be a very clever piece of machinery.

It was not to be a very successful commercial proposition, though we do know that another one was ordered by an Indian Prince. It could have been of use for the design of intricate regular patterns, as printed on currency notes. The inventor used it for science, as we can see from a memoire presented to the Société Astronomique de France, dated February 1907, entitled 'The Movement of the Planet Venus, in Relation to the Earth, Traced by the Campylograph Dechevrens, and Seen in Space with the aid of a Stereoscope.'

After the death of the founder of the Observatory, it seemed that his intensive work could not he continued on the same scale. At that moment the Zi-Ka-Wei Observatory needed more instruments and some were sent there from Jersey and as it was felt that to keep two important observatories was too onerous, China would have the preference. Therefore the local observations were reduced and would have ceased altogether when in 1924 someone interested in science always ready to help and undertake new tasks came again in Jersey.

He was Father Christian Burdo who with much enterprising courage and with the help of the mathematics and physics master at Maison Saint Louis kept the Observatory going. Ingenuity, skill and patience were rewarded and soon the recorders ticked away again and more students came to help and be trained.

Unfortunately the tower had suffered much from lack of paint and repair during the war years. In 1920 I undertook with some fellow students to hammer out rust and repaint the metal, beginning at the top as no workmen could be hound to undertake this somewhat perilous job. Later, when the working level was nearer to the ground plenty of labour was available and it seemed that the tower still had a long spell of life. It was not to be. The expenses of' keeping it in good condition of repair were too high and it was decided that it should be pulled down. There was at some moment a hope of reprieve. Only the top part, the most unsafe, would be taken down, leaving the structure two thirds of its original height. Messrs Hunt Bros, of 35 Commercial Street in a letter dated October 5 1928 stated that after due consideration they did not feel disposed to do the work. The Morning News on January 28 1929 wrote under the heading 'Going, going’:

'If you wake up one morning and can't see what we call the Jesuits' Tower (for want of a better name) don't imagine your eyesight has gone wrong. This old landmark has apparently outlived its usefulness, due no doubt to wireless(!)--for I hear that the owners are seeking suitable offers to have the tower taken down as far as the second tier. Demolishing such a structure from the top is not an easy business short of pitching it over in section, and doubt if the material saved would pay for the gear and labour needed to demolish it piecemeal.

The demolition was performed by A.O. Hill of the Dockyard, Dover. It proved to be a tricky operation as can be read in the Jersey Evening Post of February 20.

'The Jesuits' Tower has gone for at 11 this morning one of the finest landmarks the Island possessed swayed after a couple of seconds as the cables and tackle were tightened and then begun to fall, finally to crash in the exact place which had been marked out for its fall. So that in spite of several failures yesterday today has crowned the work of those responsible for the demolition with complete success.

Several other attempts were made yesterday evening but the tackle broke and eventually it was found necessary to produce new gear. This morning in addition to the new gear the two legs which had not been completely cut through had a little more cut away. At 11 o'clock the attempt was again made and this time as described met with success.

"So the Tower which was erected nearly 35 years ago is now nothing but a mass of twisted iron. The work of erecting it was carried out by a Belgian firm in 1894 . the work of demolition occupied just 24 hours but a great deal of breaking up requires to be done before the iron can be shipped to England. There is believed to be 40 odd tons."

"We understand that before the final decision to demolish the Tower was taken Maison Saint Louis offered it to the States of Jersey 'if the States were willing to defray the actual cost of keeping it in repair an amount expected to be somewhere about £120 every four years. The offer was declined."

The Climatological reports published annually in the Bulletin of the Société Jersiaise show the name of Father Christian Burdo, Director of the Observatory up to 1933. In 1934 another name appears and remains the same until now.

The successor to Fattier Burdo started his training under Father Dechevrens between1917 and 1921.

He gained more experience in another Observatory, in Madagascar, during two different periods, 1921-1924 and 1929-1932. That year the difficult task of positioning a new transit instrument for the verification of the longitude of Trananarive, posed too much for his sight and he had to return to Europe.

Within it year he had arrived back in Jersey, and was put in charge of the Observatory where no astronomical work was done. In Madagascar one of the duties of the new Jersey Observatory Director had been to look after the seismographs.

He undertook this new line locally, and in June 1936 made the first recordings of an earthquake, at precisely 15 hours 11 minutes, 45 seconds, some 90 minutes after the final adjustment had been made to the instrument and the recording mechanism put into action. This first record was that of a seism near the Kamchatka Peninsula, 5,450 miles away!

The seismograph the same as the instruments of Tananarive, is a Mainka, weighing more than a ton, set deeply on the rock in the basement of the Observatory. The static mass weighs half a ton, and the recording is made by means of levers which amplify the local movement of the soil 150 times, on a sheet of smoked paper progressing at the rate of a yard per hour' under a fine tracing pen.

Lent by the Faculte des Sciences de Strasbourg the centre of the International Union of World Geophysics for a period of at least two years, the seismograph is still here. It is estimated that since June 1936, some 4,000 earthquakes from all over the world, have been recorded locally, 'read' and interpreted.

A monthly bulletin is prepared and sent to Strasbourg and Kew Observatory, for publication, and classification in International Summaries, of some 700 stations.

During the German Occupation, the Observatory was kept going. (the seismograph had to be idle for lack of recording paper), not without untimely and unwelcome visits of' the Gestapo, the Feldgendarmerie, and officers of the Konmiandantur 515. By special permission the wireless set was allowed to be kept with the specification that it could be used only for scientific purpose.

One result of this unique (in the minds of the occupants) wireless set in existence on the Island was that the Observatory was put officially in charge of' giving the correct time to a jeweller's firm in town, in order that it could be shown to the public on a dial specially displayed. Thus according to the Germans, the public had no excuse not to know the correct time, when caught outdoors after curfew!

So, the work which Father Dechevrens began in 1894, with observations high up in the air at the top of the tower, has been continued, more humbly now, even underground, with seismology, with much reduced staff, especially since the occupation, and the end of the Maison Saint Louis, indeed, reduced to only one now, the writer of this historical account.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

The Observatory – Early Years

From "The Catholic Herald", I unearthed this little gem. Part one today, part two on Friday.

The Observatory – Early Years
By Father Pere Ray

Recent publicity in the Jersey Evening Post made readers of the Herald realize how little most people know about what goes on in this rather Mary Poppins type house called the Observatory.

There is no big telescope as you would expect, but a wealth of other research instruments that has made Jersey famous in scientific circles. Father Charles Rey, SJ the Director since 1934, let us take a look round, and continues his story of The Jesuits who lived at the Hotel de France (printed in December 1971 and January 1972) with this present chapter on the Observatory.

It was in 1893 that the founder of the observatory arrived in Jersey. Father Marc Dechevrens, born in Switzerland in 1845, went to China in 1873 to take charge of the newly founded Jesuit Observatory in Shanghai, in the town district of Zi-Ka-Wie (located in the Xuhui District), where the missionaries had established their residence.

He gave that Observatory a reputation which remained undisputed and acclaimed over the whole world, until the Communist Government took it over, expelling all the Fathers and their faithful helpers.

In 1887, Father Dechevren's health compelled him to return to Europe, and in 1893 he arrived in Jersey at the Maison Saint Louis, a house established since 1880 as a training college for young Jesuits studying philosophy and science.

Soon he discovered that Jersey was an ideal place to install an Observatory, and had a very encouraging response from his superiors to begin his work, with the double aim of studying the weather and taking general observations already inaugurated in China: and secondly to train young Jesuits for their observatories in the Mission lands.

The rest of his life was to be spent here, till he died in December 1923. His first task was to build an Observatory, on top of the property, on a site well exposed to the wind. Ile drew the plans with the help of another Jesuit Father who had been an architect, for a building, simple in its interior arrangement, comprising a central room well lit from above, surrounded by six smaller rooms for living quarters, library, darkroom, transit instruments, magnetic recorders, workshops, etc.

The central room was to house all the meteorological recorders placed on shelves all round the walls. The top part of this room forming a flat roof, made of one inch thick rolled glass slabs, supported a gallery, on each corner of which were secured wind instruments for direction and speed. There was also a sun recorder, some 30 feet above the ground, and 170 feet above sea level.

We still have the specifications given by Mr. S. Cuzner, of 22 Great Union Road, for the building, some details of which are interesting. The foundations' walls were to be ten inches thicker than the respective walls above, and these were to be eighteen inches thick. The work was to be completed not later than the 15th day of September of the same year, 1894, with the penalty not exceeding £4 per week after that date. Unfortunately we do not know how long it took to build as the month was not mentioned on the tender. A receipt, dated November 21, 1894 mentioned the sum of £493, as per the contract, plus extras, making the total cost of £531.15.2d; the 15 shillings 2 pence being graciously ignored.

But, to make a proper study of the wind, Fr. Dechevrens was dreaming of a high tower, far away from surface disturbances. With the help of another Jesuit who had been an engineer in the French Navy, he began his enquiries and had a voluminous correspondence with metal frame builders in England, France and Belgium. The problem was complex and full of difficulties, concerning the kind of material to use, the solidity of the foundations, its resistance to the wind, its weight and height, and price.

Some of the estimates offer interesting information. From Archibald D. Dawney of London Bridge House, London E.C.:

"A small structure for £1,564 delivered in eight weeks, to be erected by Mr. S. Cuzner,” from Les Etablissements Baudet-Danot, Paris, an uninteresting project costing 40,000 francs (£1,600) which led indirectly to the final decision, from the Société Anonyme des Fonderies d'art et de Batiment, Paris, a proposal to build a structure like the Eiffel Tower (erected in 1889), but with doubts expressed about its resistance to the winds of the Channel. They preferred a chimney like structure well anchored to the ground, and maintained by wire strands if the layout of the property permitted. The structure would be 50 metres high with tests being carried out at the famous Le Creusot works; cost: 60,000 francs (£2,400).

A British firm, Malher and Co. of 21 Water Street, Liverpool sent a great amount of letters, written in beautiful French, and many plans, but in a second letter asked cautiously: 'How would Mr. Dechevrens intend to pay as the final amount would be very high?'

They insisted on the ornamental aspect of the tower and intended to keep strictly to Board of Trade Regulations. Their plan was grandiose. The tower would weigh 90 tons. When Father Dechevrens raised an objection they suddenly dropped the whole project, as 'they do not want to undertake a work which would not be to the credit and reputation of the firm'.

Another firm, Newton Heath Ironworks of Manchester, Contractors to the Admiralty, insisted on their great reputation since they had built the 507 ft Blackpool Tower (1894), weight 3730 tons, and were working on the project of' the London Tower, which was to be 1,150 ft high, the highest tower in the world!

'I am the only man in England who has experience in building towers. I submit that you should have the base of tower not less than one fourth of its total height, that would he forty feet. I suppose that you would want the design as simple as possible, without any ornamentation whatever. It should weigh at least 200 tons, and the cost would be between £6,000 and £7,000 sterling, erected painted, and finished complete.'

Another letter, dated February 20, 1 894, stated:

'Of course we know our business and we strongly advise you to consult some civil engineer of undoubted repute.'

A few lines below the letter continued:

'Last Sunday week it blew such a gale at Blackpool that the steel flagstaff standing on the tower, 555 ft high, was bent over like a whip. The dimensions of the flagstaff were 20 ft high, 6 inch steel tubing, 1/4 inch thick, tapering to three inches at the top.'

Later in the correspondence the firm stated:

'I never pretend to do cheap work, but I will guarantee good work, which is always cheapest in the end . As I said before, if you mean business, I will run down and see you, and could commence deliveries six weeks from now. My price at such a distance must be £30 per ton'

A letter dated March 19 begins:

'What have you done about your tower? If you would like to run the risk of getting it erected in Jersey, or possibly you can get the work done cheaper locally than I could, being on the spot, and acquainted with the district, I will design you a tower, and deliver free on trucks in Manchester, at £20 a ton, giving it all one coat of paint. You shall pass the drawings before I start work.'

The correspondence did not go further.

In a long correspondence with a Monsieur Zeigler an old boy of one of the Jesuit Colleges in Paris, the name of Monsieur T. Seyrig, who built the bridge on the Duoro River appears for the first time. He is mentioned as a first class engineer in the Société Anonyme de Construction et des Ateliers de Willebroeck, in Belgium. He was to be the architect of the Jersey Tower. The specifications are given in a long memoire dated April 2, 1894, and long studies and discussions follow.

It was finally decided that the tower should be 50 metres high, on four stone pillars, 4 metres deep underground, two and a half above ground level, with a cavity and gallery so that the four bolts fixing the metal tower to its foundations could be tightened from below.

The structure was to be twelve metres wide at the base, tapering to two metres at the top supporting a large platform capable of hearing the weight of twenty people. A hollow mast at the centre would then support another smaller platform, to which access could be gained by mean, of two ladders.

The blue prints of all the details are kept at the observatory, with the studies of the strength of the metal, which was to be of mild steel, the whole structure conforming to the logarithmic curve which it had to have to support its own weight of 37 tons and resist to the force of wind calculated at 300 kilos per square metre. The tower would he assembled in sections at the Willebroeck works, dismantled, and shipped from Antwerp to Jersey, with all the bolts and rivets.

The price was fixed at 31,500 francs (£1,260) including the stone foundations and pillars, payable in French currency, 60%° when the parts arrived, 30% at the end of erection, and 10% at the end of a one year's guarantee. The contract was signed in Paris on April 6, 1894.

On May 16 a start was made on digging the foundations: September 18 saw the first horizontal beam in place and by November 3 the erection was complete.

The masonry was done by Mr. Cuzner; the foreman for the metal work, a Mr. Mest who had come over from Belgium with his team of specialists.

Apart from some controversy about the salary of the men who claimed an increase as the work went higher, it appeared to be a straightforward job. There were no accidents recorded, nor any record of festivities for the opening ceremony which consisted of a blessing given by the Father Rector of the Maison Saint Louis.

The gradual appearance of this metallic frame against the skyline attracted the attention of journalists. On October 23 the Jersey Express reported:


Great interest is being manifested in the erection of an observatory which is now being constructed by the Jesuits on their property in St. Saviour's. The tower, which is built of iron, has already reached a great height, from the summit of which a splendid view is obtained not only of the town but also of the country.

It is stated that when the observatory is completed it will be possible to see what is taking place in the armoury of Fort Regent. Should the observatory he opened to public inspection we doubt not that many will eagerly embrace the opportunity of witnessing an indescribable coup d'oeil which must well repay any difficulty incidental thereto.'

The Nouvelle Chronique dated October 24 reported:


As we have already said the Jesuits are at present constructing a real Eiffel Tower in Jersey. This tower, an observatory, is built completely in iron, and even today, although it is not yet finished, has reached such a great height, that from the top it is possible to have a most splendid view, not only of all the town, but a large part of the country as well. We are told that when the tower is completed it will be possible to see what is taking place in the armoury of Fort Regent. We wonder how the army feel about the prospect of prying eyes noting their movements. If only by curiosity our readers should take a walk up Wellington Road to have a look at this tower.'

After the erection of the tower Father Dechevrens invited Mr. Seyrig to visit Jersey to sec his work.

In a letter dated February 1 896, the architect thanked the Father for a photograph of the tower, and said that he was pleased to know that the tower was giving every satisfaction. He wrote: but there is only one point where I do not entirely agree with you it is that the structure is elegant. I am afraid I don't always find that my constructions are smart and graceful. I hope that other qualities make up for this. I am not at all enthusiastic about architecture in metal, but as you declare yourself satisfied, I am delighted.'

Was the Jesuits' Tower a beautiful asset to Jersey? At that time there was not yet a Comite des Beautes Naturelles to give the final verdict!

Though built for science, the tower was on some occasions used for a very different purpose. On June 24, 1897, the Jersey Evening Post reported the illuminations for Queen Victoria's Jubilee:

'A magnificent searchlight that could be seen from miles around, gleamed from the top of the Eiffel Tower-like observatory. The tower itself being also gaily decked mill lights throughout the whole length.'

In 1919, for the peace celebrations, it was used as a giant flagstaff, with bunting on the four corners from top to bottom, with the Allies' National flags displayed from the top of the tower to the roof of Highlands College.