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Category: Current Affairs (Page 2 of 76)

Crimes against the Humanities

It is almost ten years since this incisive, but little-read essay appeared on the Imaginative Conservative website:

One of the most heinous crimes against humanity that modernity has perpetrated is its war on the humanities. And let’s not forget that the humanities are thus called because they teach us about our own humanity. A failure to appreciate the humanities must inevitably lead to the dehumanizing of culture and a disastrous loss of the ability to see ourselves truthfully and objectively.

The follies and fallacies of modernity and their dehumanizing consequences have been critiqued by some of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. T. S. Eliot’s Modern Education and the Classics, published in 1934, complements C. S. Lewis’s own ‘Reflections on Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English’ which was the sub-title of Lewis’s book, The Abolition of Man. Both works insist that education cannot be divorced from morality and that the latter must inform the former. Similarly Eliot’s The Idea of a Christian Society (1939) and his Notes Towards the Definition of Culture (1948) dovetail with Lewis’s position as regards the necessity of Christianity to any genuine restoration of European culture. Most notably, Eliot’s depiction of ‘The Hollow Men’ in his poem of that title, published in 1925, prefigures Lewis’s ‘Men without Chests’ in The Abolition of Man who are fictionalized to great satirical effect in Lewis’s That Hideous Strength, the latter of which contains a delightful parody of the disintegration and dumbing-down of the modern academy.

Now go read the rest…

AUKUS Defence Capability

Yes, it looks good, but…

Interesting. The same questions could be asked of both Australian and US armed forces. New Zealand, a former worthy ally, now has armed forces that might be useful for an afternoon of picking mushrooms, but not much more. From the valuable Conservative Woman website:

LAST week, while our only two aircraft carriers were moored in Portsmouth, the RAF sent four aging Typhoons via Cyprus to bomb Houthis in the hope of giving HMS Diamond a break from shooting down Iranian-made drones. They attacked in conjunction with the US Navy and, while they probably gave the Houthis a bit of a headache, they inadvertently revealed the appalling state of the armed forces.

The Red Sea is a vital shipping lane with some 10 to 15 per cent of world trade passing through it. The west has long had forces in the area and the nearby Persian Gulf to ensure freedom of the seas and the ready availability of hydrocarbons. Every once in a while those who hate the west, or Israel, or both, seek to interdict such trade. The producer states do it via OPEC and pricing, Iran with missiles and guns. Iran in the Houthis now has a proxy that can threaten a wider range of goods – most oil tankers don’t fit into the Suez Canal. Most liquid natural gas carriers and container ships do. The UK has had ships stationed in and about the area throughout my lifetime.

The Red Sea threat is such that Maersk, Hapag Lloyd and now Qatar Energy are routing vessels via Cape Good Hope. That adds about nine days to the journey time and thus costs will rise as more vessels are at sea for longer. According to Reuters traffic through the canal is down 30 per cent. 

That’s why some 20 countries have joined the United States in Operation Prosperity Guardian. The name says it all really; even the EU is muttering about sending support despite having no military organisation. Of course the UK could opt out, but we need the LNG for energy security and we have to justify our seat on the security council. Fortunately for the UK we have just the sort of ship needed and it happens to be there. Diamond is a Type 45 anti-air destroyer capable of shooting down all the missiles in the Houthi arsenal.

Those missiles range from indigenously produced Samad drones (also being used by Russia in Ukraine) through to Chinese copies of the Exocet (the missile that sank HMS Sheffield in the Falklands war) to simple ballistic missiles. At around 8,500 tons HMS Diamond and similar warships are much smaller than the 160,000 ships which  transit the Suez Canal, and might well survive a hit – unless they are an LNG carrier. Diamond and the other warships also protect against Houthi gunboats as they have anti-ship weaponry too. If they withdrew the Houthis would have free range.

The problem however is the logistics and expense of shooting $1.5million Sea Viper missiles at $20,000 drones. The availability of these missiles is constrained – Diamond carries 48. Some time soon they’ll need replenishment. Thus it becomes sensible to destroy the launchers, hence the air strikes.

The US can recruit sailors, and thus used its carrier in the Indian Ocean. The RAF sent four of its older Typhoons from (or via) Cyprus. They had to rely heavily on the US for airborne early warning and control (AWACS) because the RAF got rid of its AWACS in 2021 and the replacement hasn’t turned up yet. £20billion or so of combat aircraft are pretty much useless for anything more than airshows unless we are working in a coalition with someone who does have AWACS. Add that to the £10billion of uncrewed carriers and it’s hard not to conclude that the MoD is in disarray. 

For once this is not a money problem – since 2019 the defence budget has increased 20 per cent in real terms, thanks largely to the previous Defence Secretary Ben Wallace. Unfortunately, as Grant Shapps is finding, spending may have gone up but capability has diminished. We’re throwing good money after bad.

The Navy can’t crew its warships, or even find a retired admiral. The Army has the same number of soldiers as the Cold War British Army of the Rhine yet delivers just 20 per cent of the combat power. As I’ve said, the RAF has no AWACS and even the Red Arrows struggle to field sufficient aircraft to put on a show.

Worse, recruitment has collapsed and indiscipline is rife. Even the famed SAS have problems with some of their number moving into the drugs trade. All this is a sign of failed leadership. 

How to fix it? Good question. Firstly all parties need to accept that there is a problem and that it is their fault because it happened on their watch. Then we must find the people to fix it, which is unlikely to include many in the upper echelons of the Armed Forces.  Who is going to drive reform through?

Can it be done? The British Armed Forces are not yet in the desperate state that the Americans were after Vietnam. They recovered from a drug-ridden laughing stock to a formidable fighting machine in a little over a decade. But the challenge to rearm physically and morally is still formidable.

What is Restored in Restorative Justice?

In 2003, based on my various roles as Police Chaplain, prison visitor, and parish priest, and with some experience in youth advocacy, I was invited to participate in a meeting with a young offender. In a police interview this offender had confessed that, in company with another seventeen year old whom he declined to name, he had broken into a home belonging to an older couple. The home had been chosen because the couple had a regular routine which made it easy to predict when they would not be home. In addition, the offenders believed the couple could easily be overpowered if they did return home unexpectedly.

It had been suggested to the offender that if he was willing to meet with the victims, and express repentance and a willingness to make amends, this might make a difference to sentencing. This was described to me as “restorative justice.” It was a process, I was told, that was victim-centred.

Social workers and the offender’s solicitor had not been willing to supply me with any details about exactly what the offenders had done in the couple’s home. Police were more forthcoming. I was able to meet with the couple at their home prior to the scheduled meeting with the offender.

He and his companion had defecated on the lounge room carpet, urinated on furniture, pulled paintings and photographs from the wall, destroyed personal property including items that had been gifts at the couple’s wedding forty years previously, and stolen cash, cards and a few items of jewellery. The couple were on an age pension and did not have contents insurance. They had been left to clean up the mess as best they could. There were stains on the carpet, and there was still a distinct and unpleasant odour in the home. They explained that they no longer felt safe in their home, but had nowhere else to go. They could not afford to replace carpets or furniture. Some items; photos of family now deceased, paintings, glassware and porcelain which had been wedding gifts, and jewellery including the woman’s engagement ring, which had not been recovered, were not replaceable.

The couple did not wish to meet with, see, or talk to the offender. But they had been told that they might reach some “closure” by explaining to him the hurt they had suffered, and listening to him talk about his background and why he done what he had done, and to an expression of remorse. If they felt able to offer him forgiveness, they were told, that would be good for them and him.

During the preparatory meeting, at which the couple were not present, the offender asked what the meeting was for. The social worker explained that this was to help him prepare for his meeting with the couple whose home he had broken into, to give him ideas about what he should say.

O.        (offender) Oh yeah. So I should say, like, I’m sorry.

SW.     (social worker) Yes, that’s right. But you have to look sorry too.

PW.    (me) Are you sorry?

O looks at social worker for reassurance. Social worker nods.

O.        Oh yeah. For real.

PW.    What would you do if someone broke into your parent’s house and did what you did?

O.        I live with me mum.

PW.    OK, so if someone broke into your mum’s house and did what you did?

O.        I’d kill the cunt.

PW.    So you know what you did was wrong. You know that it caused harm, and you are willing to make amends?

O.        Yeah

PW.     Does that mean you are happy to pay to get their carpets replaced, to buy them new furniture, and to co-operate with police in apprehending your companion and getting the couple’s jewellery back?

O, horrified expression on his face, looks at the social worker.

SW.     Ah, no, no. That’s not what this is about. It’s about achieving a better outcome for the victims, and for O.

Restorative justice claims to be an alternative to retributive justice. Instead of identifying and punishing offenders, it is victim-centred and focussed on remedying harm and on reconciliation. Despite the fact that restorative justice claims to be victim-centred, I could not see at the time, and still do not see, how any part of that process was directed at achieving a better outcome for the victims. What exactly was being restored to them?

A clarification may be needed at this point. This paper is particularly concerned with restorative justice in the context of crime and responses to crime. There are other contexts in which it is sometimes suggested the philosophy and processes of restorative justice may be applied, for example, in schools and workplaces. Those situations are not part of this discussion, although they will be mentioned briefly later.

Home invasion. What does restorative justice restore?
Home invasion. What does restorative justice restore?

There are various ways of understanding what constitutes a crime. These include the view that a crime is any action that is defined as a crime by law or custom in a particular jurisdiction. Alternatively, a crime is something that everyone in a particular culture recognises is wrong and deserving of punishment. Or a society may hold some combination of these views, for example, that there are some crimes that are crimes because they are obviously wrong (eg, rape), while others are crimes because they are defined as such in common law or legislation (eg, possession of marijuana). The nature of crime may also be understood through theoretical or philosophical frameworks such as class struggle or feminism.

What all of these definitions have in common is that crimes are actions (or sometimes failures to act) in which the community as a whole takes an interest. They are not taken simply to be the private actions of persons which concern only themselves, or even the actions of one person  against another, but actions which cause harm to the community. This is so even when the action is indeed at first sight that of one person against another, for example, when a drunken party-goer punches a stranger in the head outside a nightclub.

The view of almost all societies, from tribal groups to modern industrial states, is that when any member of the community is grievously harmed, the whole community is harmed. This means the whole community has an interest and is involved, whether directly, or through a delegated group,  or by proxy through police and courts, in understanding what happened, in taking suitable action to remedy the harm done, in punishing offenders, and in preventing further harm from occurring.

The justice system in any society, however differently expressed, is the structures and processes which, when a crime has occurred, enable a society to:

  • Identify what has happened including events, perpetrators, victims, and harm done.
  • Remedy the harm if possible
  • Punish offenders
  • Prevent further harm from occurring

These structures and processes are not, and cannot be, successful in every detail and at every time. It may not be possible to ascertain every detail of a crime, or every perpetrator, or all the harm that was done. It may not be possible, even with rehabilitation programmes or an extended period of incarceration, to prevent criminals from offending again. The priority given to each aspect of these processes may vary according to culture, government policy, public opinion, or fashions in philosophy or social practice.

Restorative justice is sometimes described as an alternative to retributive justice. Retributive justice, we are told, focuses on punishment of offenders. Restorative justice seeks to arrive at a consensus about how best to remedy harm and restore relationships.

But this dichotomy is misleading. No modern liberal democracy has a justice system whose primary focus is retribution. On the other hand, there is little evidence that restorative justice, at least in the setting of criminal justice, is in practice victim-centred or primarily concerned with remedying harm and genuine restoration.

In fact, for many victims, not only is nothing restored in restorative justice, but their experiences of loss and pain are glossed over in a process which seems designed to benefit not them, but the offender. John Braithwaite noted (British Journal of Criminology 2002 42 pg 570) “We actively seek to persuade participants that they ought to listen respectfully, but we do not urge them to forgive.” The first thing that comes to mind here is that it is an astonishing dismissal or belittling of victim’s experiences, or at least a gross  lack of sensitivity, to suggest to a woman who has been raped that she ought to listen respectfully while the man who violated her speaks, or to a man whose child has been murdered that he owes a duty to the murderer to be silent while the murderer talks about his feelings.

Regardless of Braithwaite’s assertion to the contrary, many victims do feel coerced into participating, and pressured  into expressing forgiveness. Braithwaite’s own views about this are expressed more revealingly in the paper Principles of Restorative Justice:  “… if a victim rejects an apology, choosing to hate, the ideal is that the conference empowers them to do so… ” These are the options, apparently – forgive, or be a hater. Although restorative justice conferences make declining to forgive an option, this is regarded as indicative of personal failure, vindictiveness or weakness. This is very far from being victim-centred.

Being the victim of a crime does not create any obligation to the perpetrator of the crime. Apart from the duty to be truthful, a victim owes nothing to a person who has violated their property or person. That includes participation in programmes designed to produce better outcomes for the offender.

It is sometimes claimed that restorative justice reduces recidivism and, by offering an alternative path to traditional judicial procedures, reduces incarceration. This, it is suggested, is not only a benefit to offenders and society, but also to victims, since the changes in thinking and behaviour in offenders engendered by the restorative justice process mean fewer offences committed and therefore fewer victims. But there are at least three issues with these claims.

First, even if these claims were true, they do not make restorative justice victim-centred. Victims of crime are not simply part of some anonymous conglomeration whose harms, needs, and interests can be treated as if they were a single object. They are individual human beings. A possible marginal benefit for victims as a whole is not the same thing as, and may even be opposed to, caring for and meeting the needs of a particular victim.

Second, there is very little evidence that restorative justice does reduce recidivism and incarceration rates. There are many studies which claim it does, but the credibility of these is impaired by small sample size, poor study design, deficient analysis, and the remarkable co-incidence that in almost every instance, researchers find exactly the results they are hoping to find.

Finally, where restorative justice practices have been implemented within the criminal justice system, they are implemented in addition to, and not as an alternative to, normal courtroom and sentencing procedures. It is hard to see how it could be otherwise, since once a crime is demonstrated to have been committed, the prosecution of the alleged offender rests with the relevant government authority, not with the victim. This is because, as explained above, part of the definition of a crime is that it is a harm so serious that the whole society considers itself to have been harmed. Despite the interminable frippery of American law and order TV programmes, there is no such thing as a victim deciding “not to press charges.” The broader community has been harmed, and the broader community decides the action to be taken.

Restorative justice conferences inevitably add an extra layer of bureaucracy to an already expensive and for many people, confusing and over-long process, while adding nothing of value.

In democracies where rule of law is taken seriously, understandings of what is just are moulded by the values of the community. Different groups in society may have different views about what acts or omissions should be considered crimes, the threshold for delineating crimes and torts, and what is the appropriate response to particular crimes. In a state which takes representation seriously, all of these perspectives will go into the mix of ideas that eventually coalesces into legislation, regulation or policy. This is part of what democracy means.

Regardless of how distasteful it may be to some academics, most people believe a measure of punishment is appropriate in at least some criminal cases. Where offenders have used sexual violence against children, where vulnerable people to whom every cent matters are cheated out of income or savings, where a family is murdered, or in instances similar to the one I described at the beginning of this paper, most kind and reasonable people will insist that punishment is called for. More than this, they believe that a failure to punish is a failure to act justly. Refusal to punish perpetrators of serious crime is injustice to victims.

This does not mean that ordinary citizens or victims of crime are vindictive. In most people’s view, it would be wrong for offenders who cause grievous harm to suffer no consequences. Those consequences, however, are not simply retributive. They are to be purposeful.

The purposes of consequences imposed by society for criminal acts may be summarised under the following headings:

  • Protection of society against further offences for the duration of any incarceration.
  • To deter those tempted to criminal acts, and to deter criminals from reoffending.
  • To rehabilitate prisoners: to model respectful and positive thinking and behaviour, and to offer classes and programmes to give prisoners skills for life.

Restitution is sometimes added to this list. Restitution via incarceration is the theory that prisoners are paying their debt to society by being imprisoned. This is clearly nonsense. A criminal does not pay his debt to society by costing society $250 per day ($400 per day if capital and maintenance costs are included) to keep him in prison.

Consequences imposed by courts for criminal acts are not imposed randomly. Within guidelines and accustomed practice, they are adjusted for particular circumstances including the severity of the crime and offender’s background including prior offending.

This makes it clear that even if restorative justice really was victim-centred and focussed on restoration, restorative justice and retributive justice are not the only two possible options. The dichotomy between restorative justice and retributive justice claimed by restorative justice proponents should be rejected.

In recent years, restorative justice has been suggested as an effective method of bringing about reconciliation in schools and workplaces. Conferences between bullies and the bullied in schools, for example, can help to bring about a deeper understanding of the situation and feelings of victims by the bullies, and encourage them to apologise, take responsibility and amend their thinking and behaviour. In a similar way, conferences in the workplace between those whose work has been claimed by a workmate, or who have been the victims of unfair discrimination, can restore relationships, and set the stage for more positive, open, and productive workplaces. However, this is no more than appropriating to the cause of restorative justice, practices which are well-established common-sense conflict resolution and behaviour management techniques.

Even in schools and workplaces, explicit introduction of restorative justice does not seem to bring about any positive change. Some research shows that replacing school disciplinary procedures with restorative justice conferences has a negative impact on student behaviour and academic outcomes, while the same practice in the workplace leads to more lost time and victims feeling less safe and less satisfied with the outcome of disputes.

Provisions for restitution in some tribal and ancient civilisation legal codes are also sometimes claimed by restorative justice proponents as precursors of contemporary restorative justice practices. In fact they are simply evidence that remedying harm has been part of most justice systems, at most times, in most parts of the world.

Theory is important. When based on careful, objective research, it can give new insights, make useful predictions, and help set priorities for practice. The most important question for criminological theory, for justice, and for offender rehabilitation is “What works?” Restorative justice does not work. It offers no benefits or solutions in practice. Nothing is restored. Like Marxism, restorative justice theory is a failed coagulation of idealism and coercion. It is time it was discarded.

Responding to Jehovah’s Witnesses

When Jehovah’s Witnesses come to your door, they may offer you a pamphlet, compliment your house or garden, and ask if they can come in to share some important news about the Bible. Whether you say yes or no, they are then likely to launch into a memorised script about one or all of three things. These are:

“Did you know that all modern translations of the Bible are inaccurate?”

“Did you know Jesus wasn’t crucified but put on a stake?”

“Did you know that the churches have deliberately removed the name of God (Jehovah) from the Bible?”

The media delight in portraying the Church as shifty and hypocritical, and most people are aware that there are many different translations of Scripture, so these questions may echo thoughts that are in peoples’ minds already. We will certainly meet people who have been confused by the JWs, and we should know enough about JW teachings to be able to reassure them. Christians should also look on visits from JWs and others, as evangelism opportunities. But this means we need to be prepared!

Truth cannot be decided on the basis of a majority decision. But it is important to remember that the JW’s ideas are rejected by highly qualified men and women from every kind of Christian and academic background.

There is substantial agreement between all mainstream denominations about how the Scriptures should be translated. The differences between modern translations are in most cases simply differences of emphasis or style. For example the Good News Bible is written in simple English and uses a limited vocabulary, the NIV tries to translate fluidly, phrase for phrase, while the RSV adheres as closely as possible to the word order and sense of the original languages.

The JW’s translation, the “New World Translation” stands completely outside the context of any serious academic study. Here are quotes from just a few well-known scholars:

  • Dr. Bruce M. Metzger, professor of New Testament at Princeton University, calls the NWT “a frightful mistranslation,” “Erroneous” and “pernicious” “reprehensible” “If the Jehovah’s Witnesses take this translation seriously, they are polytheists.”
  • Dr. William Barclay, a leading Greek scholar, said “It is abundantly clear that a sect which can translate the New Testament like that is intellectually dishonest.”
  • British scholar H.H. Rowley stated, “From beginning to end this volume is a shining example of how the Bible should not be translated.”
  • Dr. Julius Mantey, author of A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, calls the NWT “A shocking mistranslation.” “I have never read any New Testament so badly translated as The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of The Greek Scriptures…. it is a distortion not a translation.” “It is neither scholarly nor reasonable to translate John 1:1 ‘The Word was a god.”” (Julius Mantey, Depth Exploration in The New Testament (N.Y.: Vantage Pres, 1980), pp.136-137). Dr Mantey also described the JW translators as ‘diabolical deceivers.’

All of this sounds harsh, but it should hardly be surprising. The Jehovah’s Witnesses were founded by Charles Taze Russell, a draper from Pittsburgh. Russell claimed to be an expert in the translation of the Scriptures, but could not even recognise the letters of the Greek or Hebrew alphabets. Subsequent Jehovah’s Witness “translators” have had little greater knowledge.

Chief translator (and later president of the JWs) Fred Franz had studied Greek for two years at the University of Cincinnati (he never graduated), but was ‘self-taught’ in Hebrew. Asked in a Scottish courtroom if he could provide a translation of Genesis chapter two verse four, Franz said he could not. His explanation of the process of writing the New World Translation was that God “passed them to the Holy Spirit who, invisible, communicates with Jehovah’s Witnesses – and the publicity department.” Fred Franz ran the publicity department at the time.

This information is from the book Crisis of Conscience by Raymond Franz, Fred’s nephew and a former member of the governing body of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

It is simply not true that all modern translations of the Bible are inaccurate. We have manuscripts of most books of the Bible which date back to within two hundred years of the life of Jesus. There is wide consensus amongst Christian and non-Christian academics and translators about how these manuscripts should be translated. And we have hundreds of letters and sermons from the early, pre-Constantine, Church which show us exactly what was taught and believed from the earliest days.

Even in the absence of this overwhelming evidence, mere common sense would tell us that it cannot be true that after nearly 2,000 years Jehovah’s Witnesses alone have discovered the truth. This would mean that every teacher and preacher from the time of the Apostles was wrong in understanding who Jesus is, and that God allowed a complete distortion of the Gospel to be proclaimed everywhere until Mr Russell, and subsequently “Judge” Rutherford came along to put everyone right.

If nothing else, the JW’s history of failed predictions would show that their interpretation of Scripture is not to be trusted. Deuteronomy 18:22 says “If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken.”

The Jehovah’s Witnesses claimed Jesus had returned in 1873, and that this would be made manifest in 1914. Sorry, 1915. Well, 1918 then. No, we made a mistake, it’s 1920, when the advertising slogan “Millions Now Living Will Never Die!” was first used. Definitely 1925. OK, 1975. Or maybe not …

What of the claim that Jesus was not crucified, but hung on a stake? JWs base this claim on the fact that in classical Greek the word “stauros”, translated “cross” in the New Testament, means stake, and only stake. They will sometimes argue that well-known Christian scholars like Westcott and Hort support this view. But this is not true. No one disputes that in the Greek of Homer, “stauros” usually meant stake. But the New Testament was written some six to eight hundred years after Homer. The Greek of the New Testament (Koiné, or common Greek), is different in a number of ways from classical Greek, and many words, including stauros, have changed or broadened in meaning. We only have to consider the changes in the English language over time to understand how this happens. Words in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, or even in Shakespeare, do not always mean the same thing they mean now.

We know that stauros can and does mean cross in other examples of Koiné literature from New Testament times. Early Christian art (and even Roman graffiti mocking Christians) shows Jesus on a cross. Roman writers, writing in Latin, talk of Jesus having been crucified. We know from archaeology and written records that crucifixion, not impaling or hanging on a stake, was a common Roman punishment. There has never been any dispute about the fact that Jesus was crucified. To suggest that after 2,000 years the JWs suddenly discovered the truth about this, a truth unknown even to those who were there, is ludicrous in the extreme.

But isn’t it true that the name Jehovah has been removed from the Bible? Mostly yes, because Jehovah is not the name of God. It is a spelling mistake by medieval Bible translators.

The Massoretes or Jewish scribes who kept and copied the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament) invented a system of dots and other symbols to show where the vowels should go. This made reading Hebrew a lot easier, because originally Hebrew was written without vowels and with the words all running together. Ycnshwdffcltthswldhvmdttrd (You can see how difficult this would have made it to read).

The name of God, usually written YHWH, was too holy to be pronounced. The practice in synagogue when reading aloud was to say the word ‘adonaï’ – ‘Lord’. So whenever YHWH appears in Hebrew, the Massoretes wrote the vowels for adonai, indicating that this was what the reader should say. Early Bible translators didn’t know this, and mixed up the consonants YHWH with the vowels of Adonai and came up with the nonsense word Jehovah.

We don’t know with any certainty how the name of God was pronounced (perhaps Yahweh or more probably Yahu) so most modern translations follow the Jewish scribes and write LORD, the capital letters indicating that this stands in place of the divine name.

Finally, JWs will sometimes claim that their beliefs are shown to be true by the fact that they live upstanding lives, that there is no dishonesty or abuse in their congregations. But is this true?

In 1914 Charles T. Russell sued The Brooklyn Daily Eagle for libel when the paper exposed him for fraudulent attempts to sell ordinary wheat at the then extraordinary price of $60 per bushel claiming it was “Miracle Wheat”, and claimed that his religious activities were a money-making front. Russell lost this case in court.

Earlier he had sued a Baptist minister, J.J. Ross for publishing an article that claimed Russell mistranslated the bible throughout, had no higher learning and did not have the adequate knowledge to translate Greek or Hebrew. Russell tried to stop the circulation of these documents and failed.

Russell not only lost the suit in court, but also was found to have committed perjury when he lied under oath about his knowledge of the Greek language. In the end Russell admitted that he had no knowledge of biblical languages, and Ross won the case. This is part of the trial transcript:

Question: (Ross’s Attorney Staunton) “Do you know the Greek Alphabet?”

Answer: (Russell) “Oh yes.”

Question: (Staunton) “Can you tell me the correct letters if you see them?”

Answer: (Russell) “Some of them, I might make a mistake on some of them.”

Question: (Staunton) “Would you tell me the names of those on top of the page, page 447 I have got here?”

Answer: (Russell) “Well, I don’t know that I would be able to.”

Question: (Staunton) “You can’t tell what those letters are, look at them and see if you know?”

Answer: (Russell) “My way…” [he was interrupted at this point and not allowed to explain]

Question: (Staunton) “Are you familiar with the Greek language?”

Answer: (Russell) “No.”

In 1908 Maria Russell (Charles T Russell’s wife) was granted a divorce from her husband. Divorces were much harder to obtain at that time. But Maria testified, with the support of others, that her husband had been seen kissing and fondling Rose, an orphan girl who shared their house. Rose was thirteen and fourteen at the time. Amongst other things the court was told that that he called Rose his little wife and jelly-fish, and told her that a man’s heart was so big he could love a dozen women, but a woman’s heart was so small she could only love properly one man.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses are not in any position to point the finger at other groups in relation to child sexual abuse. There is a website – , run by and for people who have been sexually abused within the Jehovah’s Witness community, and particularly for those who have been discouraged or mistreated when they reported this abuse. The claim that there is no dishonesty or abuse in Jehovah’s Witness congregations is simply false.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses are very badly misled. Their beliefs are a mixture of ridiculous inventions and ancient heresies long ago rejected by the Church as contrary to the Scriptures and to the teaching of the apostles.

When they arrive at your door, see this as an opportunity to share the life-giving truth about God’s love for them in Jesus. You may not wish to engage them in debate, but you could agree to accept some of their literature, if they agree to take and read some of yours (perhaps a copy of this paper). Finally, remember to pray for them, knowing that Jesus loves them and gave his life for them, just as he did for us.

Uluru Statement from the Heart

The first words of Prime Minster Anthony Albanese’s victory speech following the 2022 Federal election were these:

“I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet. I pay my respects to the elders past, present and emerging. And on behalf of the Australian Labor Party, I commit to the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full.”

Does he know who the aboriginal inhabitants of that region were two hundred and fifty years ago? How many of the “elders past, present and emerging” has he met and does he know by name? Without any contact with history and with real people, the opening of his speech smacks more of trying to look virtuous than of any genuine attempt to grapple with the issues that plague remote aboriginal communities.

The Prime Minister committed the Labor Party, and the Federal Government led by him, to implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full. “The Voice” is the first step in this process. It is important that he, and all Australians who are called to vote or have a say in how this is done, be aware of what the statement is, and what specific policy proposals it contains.

Mr Albanese has repeatedly claimed in response to questions, that the Statement is a single A4 page document. This claim has been dutifully reported by a largely compliant media. But it is simpy false. The single A4 page document is an executive summary, largely cleansed of more alarming demands including rent, reparation, control over property development, and a treaty.

The full, multi-page Uluru Statement from the Heart can be downloaded and read here:

The larger part of this document is minutes and proposals made by various bodies in meetings around Australia. It is worth reading through these with care. Proposals include, for example, that a future treaty must allow for:

  • Land and sea rights
  • A fixed percentage of Gross Nation Product. Rates/land tax/royalties
  • Right to self determination
  • Timeline to achieve
  • Aboriginal control

The actual Uluru Statement from the Heart is document 14 in this collection. It begins on page eighty-seven. The present government is committed to implementing this statement in full. Read it.

A Voice, but Shut Up

The last thing proponents of The Voice want you to do is to listen to the voices of indigenous people. The Voice proposal is not about a voice, it is about power.

Say no to racism. Say no to division by race. Say no to racism in the Constitution.

Click the image above to download the PDF of Quadrant Magazine’s free edition on the proposed Voice. It won’t help aboriginal people. Giving people special rights or privileges on the basis of race is racism. Entrenching racism in the Constitution is a bad plan.

Acupuncture is a Scam

In case you still did not realise, acupuncture is a scam. It doesn’t work. Not for anything. It doesn’t reduce pain or inflammation, it doesn’t release the flow of energy in your body (much the same claim as is made by chiropractic, also a scam) and it certainly doesn’t cure anything, from addiction to cancer.

Acupuncture is a scam

Acupuncture has risks. Poking needles or anything else sharp into your skin can cause infection or allergic reactions. It is sometimes necessary, but only when there is a clear benefit, and only with careful attention to sterilisation, not necessarily the case in your shopping mall acunpuncture shop.

It costs money which could be spent elsewhere, including on treatment which actually works. And perhaps most importantly, people who rely on scam treatments and zero scientific diagnosis are more likely to delay or forego genuine, life-saving treatments.

AC/DC, Brian Johnson, and Geordie

People still think of Bon Scott when they think of AC/DC. He should not be forgotten, of course, nor his earlier work, like My Old Man’s a Groovy Old Man, with the Valentines. But Brian Johnson was lead singer with AC/DC for nearly three times as long, and it is easy to forget how much AC/DC’s sound owes to Johnson and Geordie. If you heard this for example, and didn’t know it, I’d be willing to bet you would guess AC/DC as the artists.

FIFA Women’s World Cup

Excitement builds to fever pitch as the FIFA Women’s World Cup gets underway…

Excitement at the FIFA Women's World Cup.
A thrilled crowd enjoys the FIFA Women’s World Cup

The FIFA Women’s World Cup takes place every four years. This is the year, so it is also the year of incessant whining by women soccer players about the fact that they are not paid as much as male players.

Are they right to complain?

Are they as fast as male players? No. Are they as strategic as male players? No. Are they as skilful as male players? No.  Do their games generate as much advertising revenue as male games? No.

The simple fact is that women do not play soccer. They play women’s soccer, a slower, less skilful version of the game, which is consequently less interesting to watch.

There are excuses. Well, there aren’t, but they are offered anyway. It is sometimes admitted that women are not as strong or as fast as men, but, proponents insist, this is balanced by the fact that women are more skilful and more strategic, less selfish in play. No one who has watched a professional women’s game and then watched a professional men’s game could believe this for a minute.

Well, then, they claim, it may be true women don’t play as well, but this because women haven’t been playing as long, so they have had fewer opportunities to learn and train. But the first FIFA women’s cup was held in 1970. No woman playing in any FIFA team this year was born before 1970. All current professional women players have had the same opportunities to learn and train as male players.

But no, shout the equal pay demanders. It isn’t fair, because men’s teams have far better resources, and that’s why they play better. No. Men play better, and that’s why men’s professional teams have better resources. And in any case, in reality, at the highest levels the difference in resources available to men’s and women’s teams is negligible.

The difference in male vs female play is not because of deficiencies in resources. The highest ranked women’s teams in the world, with the best training timetable and resources, will be beaten by any decent district boy’s under 15 team. The boys at that age may not be as disciplined; they will almost all be studying fulltime, and struggle to get to training once a week,  but they will be faster, stronger and more skilful.

If players in women’s FIFA and professional teams should be paid as much as male players, shouldn’t the fifteen year old boys who will beat them every time also be paid as much? No, obviously, because professional and FIFA football is a business, and as in any business, outgoings have to be proportionate to income. High school boys can’t be paid as much as professional male players. Where would the money come from? Neither can female players. Women’s soccer does not generate the same revenue.

The only way women players could be paid as much is either through government subsidies, that is, increases in your taxes, or by taking money from the male players whose skill and efforts actually earned it, and giving to players at nowhere near their level.

The reality is that if you want to watch matches at the same level as the highest women’s soccer teams, including the FIFA Women’s World Cup, go and watch your local high school boys’ competition. It won’t cost you anything, and local teams will appreciate your support.

And of course, watch the women as well. They deserve support, and the same pay as the high school boys.

Ridley Scott’s Napoleon

Ridly Scott’s historical movies always need to be taken with a grain of salt. I love Gladiator, but as a history lesson, no. Kingdom of Heaven was dire, both as a movie and as history. Alien (not a historical movie, obviously!) was very good. Prometheus less so, and annoyingly riddled with unnecessary scientific inaccuracies.

But I am looking forward to Napoleon. As long as there are no egregious attempts to preach, and no obvious anachronisms in attitudes, it will be possible to overlook any minor inaccuracies, and just enjoy it as a movie.

A Voice for Whom?

Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Linda Burney has made emotional appeals for Australians to agree to the Voice, a constitutionally enshrined extra body of representation for people of a particular race, on the basis that this will resolve problems in aboriginal communities.

She says the Voice is necessary to resolve problems of health, housing, jobs and education. But some $30 billion per year is allocated to aboriginal welfare, including these areas. This is more than either Medicare, which provides health services for every Australian, or the NDIS, which provides support and care for people with a disability.

People claiming aboriginal descent make up about 3% of all Australians. Nine percent of members of government have aboriginal heritage. Aboriginal people have the same voice in government as every other Australian. If there are still problems in aboriginal communities, how is an additional layer of bureaucracy in Canberra going to help?

Secondly, there are already multiple bodies which represent aboriginal issues and which provide advice to government. Chief among these is the National Indigenous Australians Agency, which receives funding of some $3 billion per year, to do exactly what Linda Burney claims she wants the Voice to do. If considering issues relevant to aboriginal people and lobbying on their behalf is not being done adequately, most Australians would want to know why, and what has happened to the vast amounts of money those agencies have received.

Finally, while proponents of the Voice claim to represent most aboriginal people, it is becoming very clear they do not. Aboriginal leader Warren Mundine says the Voice is not what aboriginal people want.

“Let’s start with the supposed claim that 80 per cent of Aboriginals support the Voice based on an Ipsos poll in January. The poll was commissioned by the Uluru Dialogue, the lobby group for the Uluru Statement. And it surveyed only 300 people. I guess it depends which 300 people you speak to. I’ve personally spoken to well over 300 Aboriginals from all over Australia, including from remote and regional Australia. Almost without exception, all have told me they either oppose the Voice, don’t understand it (or haven’t even heard of it) or are deeply cynical about it.”

Some voices are not welcome in Canberra.
Part of the delegation the Voice refused to hear

A large group of aboriginal people from around Australia travelled to Canberra to meet with Voice proponents. They wanted to explain that they did not want to be separated from other Australian by race, and that they believed the Voice would nothing for them or their communities. Labor leaders and other Voice proponents refused to meet them. No wonder Jacinta Price has said that they do not need another voice, that what they needs is ears.

Aboriginal people do not want to be divided by race. Say no to racism. Say no to the Voice.

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