"Mentally Diseased" and Political Correctness

You know, Joel Engardio's words seem more prescient each day. I wrote once that he was an apologist for Jehovah's Witnesses. He wrote back to say he wasn't. Still, his words seem more relevant with each passing day.

Through his film KNOCKING, Mr. Engardio offers Jehovah’s Witnesses as an excellent example, perhaps our last hope, of how groups with strongly polarized ideas can yet coexist peacefully. Jehovah's Witnesses are “moral conservatives who stay out of politics,” he observes. “They attempt to persuade, but not impose their beliefs.” Isn't that the key? “Persuade, but not impose.” Their door-to-door visits rank right up there with death and taxes as one of the constants of everyday life. But the exercise of free speech is as far as they go, and in today's world of malcontents, firebrands and terrorists, what an example that is of getting along! Even politics might be viewed as a form of personal violence, since it offers a means of imposing one's views by law upon others. JWs steer clear of politics.

“There was little tolerance for my explanation that we only worshiped God, and that God wasn't American,” Joel writes of his childhood upbringing. Those words, too, are prescient. For today there is considerable backlash against JWs by those who insist that God is American. Or at any rate, that he embraces traditionally American values, such as “rugged individualism” and "independence." But he doesn't.

Signing on with Jehovah's Witnesses is in some ways like joining an army; no one's ever said otherwise. And in an army, you can disagree with those taking the lead, but you can't go on a campaign to undercut them. You just can't. Everyone who has ever served in the military knows it. Now, Jehovah's army poses no threat to any nation. In aspects of personal fiber and morals, members are a great asset to any country. And surely, they're the largest “army” in history whose soldiers have never taken a life. People today join armies at the drop of a pin; daily we see news images of young men firing AK47s into the air. The only army people look askance at is the one in which they don't get to fire guns, the one whose weapons are words only.

Desperate to avoid absolute disintegration in human society, and having utterly failed to curb human violence, nations increasingly resort to “political correctness.” If you can prevent people from saying certain things, the theory goes, perhaps love and tolerance, peace and good will to all will one day come about. There's not much evidence it works that way, but one must try something. So woe to anyone uttering words suggesting lack of tolerance.

Has the Watchtower run afoul of that stricture recently? In its July 15, 2011 issue, for consideration in JW congregations, the magazine recommended (strongly) avoiding “apostates,” even calling them “mentally diseased.” You should have heard the howling from those who don't like Witnesses, grousers who immediately broadened application of those words to include all who left the faith, something the article never suggested. Government ought to investigate such “hate speech,” they insisted.

Look, most persons who leave JWs simply move on in life, some with the viewpoint that the religion just wasn't for them, some with minor grumbling over this or that feature of the faith that prompted their decision, some with the viewpoint that they couldn't live up to it. None of these are viewed as 'apostates.' To be sure, we don't think their decision is wise, but they're not “apostate.” A fair number eventually return. You could liken those leaving to a man or woman leaving a relationship, like a failed marriage. Most just move on. But there's always a certain few psycho ex-mates that can't let go, who devote all their time and energy to harassing the person they once loved. Sigh....with the internet, these ones have a voice and it's amazing how prolific they can be. One such character (I'm not suggesting he is typical) even hosted a website (does he still?) in which he offered expert testimony in legal proceedings against Jehovah's Witnesses and expert testimony in legal proceedings against pharmaceutical makers of anti-depressants, apparently not realizing that each offer undercuts his credibility for the other. In any other setting, he'd be a quite ordinary person, but put him on the internet and he looms huge.

That's the type that the magazine commented on, not at all simply everyone who departs.

Moreover, 'mentally diseased' was placed in quotation marks, indicating it was not meant as a medical diagnosis, but as an adjective to suggest a manner of thinking. Nor is the term anything original. It's merely a repeat of the Bible verse 1 Tim 6:3-4....."If any man teaches other doctrine and does not assent to healthful words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, nor to the teaching that accords with godly devotion, he is puffed up [with pride], not understanding anything, but being mentally diseased over questionings and debates about words."

Whoa, whoa, whoa! said guys like this one....that's not in any Bible I know of except the New World Translation, your Bible! He offered some alternatives, and I'll quote from his blog:

“That's not what it says in any English translation I know of. Here are 3 as a sample (courtesy of Unbound Bible):

If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions (NASB)

If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings (KJV)

If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to that doctrine which is according to godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but sick about questions and strifes of words; from which arise envies, contentions, blasphemies, evil suspicions (Douay-Rheims)

“But of course, translations are unnecessary for people like me who can read the original Greek:

“ει τις ετεροδιδασκαλει και μη προσερχεται υγιαινουσιν λογοις τοις του κυριου ημων ιησου χριστου και τη κατ ευσεβειαν διδασκαλια τετυφωται μηδεν επισταμενος αλλα νοσων περι ζητησεις και λογομαχιας εξ ων γινεται φθονος ερις βλασφημιαι υπονοιαι πονηραι (Wetscott-Hort)

“I will discuss the meaning of the Greek passage with you if you wish. In fact, I invite you to do so. If you can't read the Greek, then we have little to discuss about it. What I will say is that the NASB, in this case, happens to be nearest in meaning to the original. I will stand by that assessment unless you can demonstrate conclusively that it's not true.”

 

 

To which I answered (starting with a requote of his words):

But of course, translations are unnecessary for people like me who can read the original Greek:

“Of course! [Why do people have to be such blowhards?] Fortunately, people like you produce translations so that dumb people like me can hope to understand the original. Surely we are permitted to use translations. If not, then all international dealings/relations ought to be suspended unless all parties involved are thoroughly conversant in all languages.

“By comparing many translations, even the dunce can get an accurate feel for the original.

“You've objected to "mentally diseased over questionings and debates about words." What do your other quoted translations say? Douay-Rheims says "sick about questions and strifes of words." In view of the context, what sort of 'sickness' do you think the translator had in mind? Tuberculosis, maybe? Or is it not a sickness of thinking, so that "mentally diseased" is not such a bad rendering after all? NASB, which you admire, offers "morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words." Does "morbid," when applied to thinking, suggest balance and soundness of mind? Or is "sickness", even "mentally diseased," more to the point?”

 

I'm okay when grousers who don't like the Bible denigrate Jehovah's Witnesses for that reason. But it burns me up when they suggest JWs...or the translation they generally use....misrepresent the Bible.

Here's a few other translations:

 diseased (Emphasized New Testament; Rotherham)

 filled with a sickly appetite (Epistles of Paul, W.J.Conybeare)

morbid appetite (A New Testament: A Translation in the Language of the People; Charles Williams)

 morbid craving, (An American Translation; Goodspeed)

 unhealthy love of questionings (New Testament in Basic English)

 morbidly keen (NEB)

unhealthy desire to argue (Good News Bible).

Do any of these other versions suggest soundness of mind to you? So the NWT's "mentally diseased" is an entirely valid offering, even if more pointed than most. Plus, once again, the term is an adjective, as it is in all other translations, not a medical diagnosis. Context (in that Watchtower article) made this application abundantly clear. But my blogging opponent declared all such context (apparently without knowing it) "irrelevant." The last time I carried on that way with regard to the remarks of some scientists, I was immediately accused of "quote mining."

Surely that sword must cut both ways. Malcontents who harp on that Watchtower sentence are quote-mining, totally ignoring (or disagreeing with) its context, so as to lambaste a religion they can't stand.

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Dr. Lonnie D. Kliever (1932 – 2004), Professor of Religious Studies of the Southern Methodist University in his paper The Reliability of Apostate Testimony about New Religious Movements that he wrote upon request for Scientology, claims that the overwhelming majority of people who disengage from non-conforming religions harbor no lasting ill-will toward their past religious associations and activities, but that there is a much smaller number of apostates who are deeply invested and engaged in discrediting, and performing actions designed to destroy the religious communities that once claimed their loyalties. He asserts that these dedicated opponents present a distorted view of the new religions and cannot be regarded as reliable informants by responsible journalists, scholars, or jurists. He claims that the lack of reliability of apostates is due to the traumatic nature of disaffiliation, that he compares to a divorce, but also due to the influence of the anti-cult movement, even on those apostates who were not deprogrammed or did not receive exit counseling. (Kliever 1995 Kliever. Lonnie D, Ph.D. The Reliability of Apostate Testimony About New Religious Movements, 1995.) [Submitted by “Jay” on the Beliefnet blog]

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Years ago Jehovah's Witnesses faced down another form of “political correctness,” that of compulsory flag salute. As with the present political correctness, it involved forcing certain speech or actions so as to foster desired attitudes. Observed a Court opinion of the era: "there are schools all over the United States in which the pupils have to go through  the ceremony of pledging allegiance to the flag every school day. It would be hard to devise a means more effective for dulling patriotic sentiment than that. This routine repetition makes the flag-saluting ceremony perfunctory and so devoid of feeling; and once this feeling has been lost it is hard to recapture it for the "high moments" of life." Yet for three years, until the Supreme Court overturned its own prior decision, compulsory flag salute in public school was the law of the land.

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Read ‘Tom Irregardless and Me.’    30% free preview

Starting with Prince, a fierce and frolicking defense of Jehovah’s Witnesses. A riotous romp through their way of life. “We have become a theatrical spectacle in the world, and to angels and to men,” the Bible verse says. That being the case, let’s give them some theater! Let’s skewer the liars who slander the Christ! Let’s pull down the house on the axis lords! Let the seed-pickers unite!

 


Advise and Consent and Sexual Orientation

Talk about politically incorrect!

Senator Anderson punches his gay ex-lover in the mouth. The poor fellow drops face-down in the gutter. Now...there's a lot of things that can happen to a guy when he's punched, but this guy goes in the gutter! Face down! The unmistakable symbolism: that's where he belongs!!*

That's how Otto Preminger treated homosexuality in his 1962 movie Advise and Consent. A former Academy Award winning director, Preminger took bows for his film. Today, he'd be crucified for it. When the movie was re-done for DVD a few years ago , the homosexual sub-plot was replaced with a Jewish one. (even though the original plot was based upon a true incident.)

 

Times have changed. It's anyone with an unkind word about homosexuality who belongs in the gutter today. The District Overseer can barely believe his own words as he observes: "nowadays, only homosexuals want to get married." Evidence, he maintains, that the world is "upside down."

It sure seems that way from any historical perspective.  In my lifetime, I've seen homosexuality go from reviled fringe to cutting-edge alternative. There once seemed nothing more unlikely than this verse becoming reality:

Therefore God, in keeping with the desires of their hearts, gave them up to uncleanness, that their bodies might be dishonored among them, even those who exchanged the truth of God for the lie and venerated and rendered sacred service to the creation rather than the One who created, who is blessed forever. Amen. That is why God gave them up to disgraceful sexual appetites, for both their females changed the natural use of themselves into one contrary to nature; and likewise even the males left the natural use of the female and became violently inflamed in their lust toward one another, males with males, working what is obscene and receiving in themselves the full recompense, which was due for their error.    Rom 1:24-27

It's an unflattering view of homosexuality, but I don't include it for that reason, rather, for it's implication that homosexuality would become commonplace. Nobody of my generation would ever have foreseen it. Seemingly, the going against what is "natural" was enough to rule it out. When you work with plumbing or electricity, you link the male end with the female end. Always. That's the way it's done. Nobody thinks it's cutting edge plumbing to solder two male ends together, or female. It doesn't happen. And it's always been that way with human sexuality. Doubtless, that's how we came to apply those terms to electricity and plumbing.

Preminger's portrayal plays mean-spirited today, yet it was right in sync with popular sentiment of that time - indeed,  of any time. Homosexuality used to be perverted. Now, however, it is edgy, and heterosexuality....well, a little unimaginative, if not downright dull. The very words straight (inflexible, efficient, but monotonous) vs gay (happy, live life to the full!) are rife with the implication. Tabloids breathlessly speculate about this or that star. Are they attracted to .....yawn, how boring....the opposite sex, OR are they enamored with.....cross your fingers, oh please, please, please....the SAME sex! Yes!! That's what I'm talkin about!!!

It's unbelievable!! How can this be the rage? How can it be mainstream? Yes, as a small fringe...that has always been, but how can it seriously rival "natural" sex attraction? Can they all really have been born that way?

Are any of them born that way? Freud used to say that sexuality was determined at a very early age based on interaction of the parents. He's shouted down today on that point, but is there reason to shout him down? Or is his theory, which implies abnormality, just not what people want to hear today?

Or are there yet other factors at work?

Otto Preminger pioneered in introducing taboo subjects to film: homosexuality in Advise and Consent, rape in Anatomy of a Murder, drug addiction in The Man With the Golden Arm. You can count upon films making abundant use of these juicy themes today, but in Preminger's time they were unheard of. Yet, from Advise and Consent (1962) on, every film treatment of homosexuality was more favorable than the one before. Today, there's no film stigma whatsoever about gays, as there was then. Quite the opposite. The gay character is cool, intriguing, hip, contrasting well with other dullards on the show.

I don't pretend to know how to weigh these 3 factors - genetics, Freud, media - or if there are yet other ones. The endorsement of the psychiatric profession, for example. Excess hormones, for another, readily found in modern food and water supplies. Not that this would cause homosexuality, I don't imagine. But it may push sexuality to be much more fluid, more susceptible to other influences. Pure guesswork on my part. I don't really know. But I'll tell you one thing. Never would my generation have anticipated that sexual identity would be so pliable as it has proved to be. That the Bible forecasts this, against all then-common wisdom, is a major point in its favor.

 

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[EDIT    Feb 21, 2010] The newly emerging field of epigenetics also suggests some possibilities.

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Tom Irregardless and Me                 No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

 


Things Younger than McCain and the Governing Body

We know now we‘re in a sexist country.

We know it because the first woman ever to campaign for President was rejected. What reason could there possibly be other than sexism?

But there is yet one more “ism” that will condemn us before we’re through. Racism, if Obama goes down. Ageism, if McCain is defeated. Such is the nature of this election. It’s a win-win-lose for the politically correct.

Opponents are painting McCain as too old to be President, same as they did two or three elections ago with Bob Dole. Back then, someone pointed out that Dole’s social security number was 6. Of course, it was actually much higher. Similarly, some wise guy has come up with a website collection of things that are younger than John McCain……things like Scrabble, polyester, the minimum wage, teflon, and duct (or duck) tape. I read about this site in the Economist magazine. In fact, since two of the things younger than McCain (Mildred Loving and LSD synthesis) are two things prominently featured in recent Economist issues and nowhere else, and since the website itself is only 2 months old, I suspect the author reads Economist. Perhaps he is even an employee.

Now this “younger than McCain” idea is intriguing to me because I have often thought of doing the same: putting together a list of things that have come about during my lifetime.

Tamper-proof bottle caps, for example. I well remember how you could once buy a bottle of pills or anything else and simply pop the cap and take one. You didn’t have to be a safecracker. It was inconceivable that anyone would tamper with a product. Oh, you might want to poison a specific person, like in an Agatha Christie novel, but to contaminate a product so as to harm random people? It had never happened and was impossible to imagine.   

The Tylenol scare changed all that. In 1982, someone laced bottles on Extra-Strength Tylenol with cyanide. Seven people ultimately died. Johnson & Johnson pulled the product promptly, redid the packaging, and we’ve had to dynamite open containers of anything ever since.

I am also older than airline hijackings. It used to be you could park your car at the airport, buy a ticket, and hop on the plane. Nobody wanted to strip search you. You didn’t have to walk through wands and buzzers. Show up ten minutes before departure time? Not a problem.

According to this report, there were 15 hijackings worldwide between 1948 and 1957, one a year. Between 1958 and 1967, it was about 5 a year. But in 1968 alone there were 38, and the next year 82! For the next ten years: 41 per annum.

Strictly speaking I am not older than all hijackings, but almost. I am older than all hijackings in the western world. The first instances here involved flights to and from Cuba. I vividly remember public dilemma following one of them….how old could I have been? The hijackers had made some demands. This was a new tactic. Nobody in the media knew what to do. Should they report every tidbit of information they learned? Or, by providing a stage, would that only encourage future hijackings? Maybe they should treat the hijackers as simple thugs, and publicize neither their demands nor cause.

The uncertainty lasted a day or two. Then the news people decided to spill all, moralizing that the public “had a right to know.”  I’ve often thought the popularity of hijackings would have fizzled had they not played along.

I have no idea if a young person makes a better President than a old person. I suppose you can’t be taking your afternoon nap when some crazy launches World War III, though the Economist reports that McCain’s indefatigable energy leaves the kids covering his campaign panting and exhausted.

But in a spiritual organization, age is a great virtue. The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses is comprised of people who are old. Sometimes ancient. The downside, I guess, is that they don’t know much about ipods and reality TV. But the upside is that they don’t go carrying on as if skyjacking and lacing medicine is normal. They’re old enough to realize human society is getting sicker and sicker, and they’re human enough to realize that increased gadgets and technology don’t compensate for that.

Over the years, the governing body has delivered on its promises. Unlike politicians, they've not promised that the world will get rosier and rosier. They’ve said all along that world conditions are rough and will get rougher as humans display their total inability to govern themselves. The present day reeling in view of energy and food spikes is entirely in keeping with the Bible’s take on the “last days” and just one more evidence of human ineptness and mismanagement. “Light at the end of the tunnel” does not shine from any human leaders, but from God’s promise of renewed conditions on earth under Kingdom rule. Focus on those promises, despite unceasing and deafening claptrap about human efforts, and the specific accusations of some soreheads that the GB is out of step with modern times, is a monumental achievement.

Human leaders usually don't lead. More typically, they figure out which way the wave is flowing so as to ride the crest and give the appearance of leading. The governing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses has not been afraid to lead, pressing ahead with a message distinctly unpopular with those who put all their trust in human efforts. Telling about the four horsemen....on the gallop for most of the past century....doesn’t win you friends from that crowd. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tell it.

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I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.

When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, "Come!" Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other. To him was given a large sword.


When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, "Come!" I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, "A quart of wheat for a day's wages, and three quarts of barley for a day's wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!"

When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, "Come!" I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.    Rev 6:2-8  NIV

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Sure, the politically correct today would have the second horseman wailing about sexism, the third ageism, the fourth racism. But the ailments afflicting humankind go even deeper than that.

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Tom Irregardless and Me              No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


On Day 439 Everything Changes: From Spitzer to Peterson

Taunters are taunting me. “What’re you going to do with your Eliot Spitzer category, Sheepandgoats, hmmm? It’s right there on your front page. What you going to do, now that he’s gone down in flames?….sigh….Oh, very well. I guess we can close out the category. He’s been such a colorful character, and local, that I just had to post a few times about him, here, hereand here.

“On Day One, Everything Changes!” That was the promise following his crushing (69%) victory to become New York State Governor. We all waited for day one to arrive - he was almost a messianic figure. He’d nailed several Wall Street firms with billions of dollars in fines and sent some fat cats to jail. The Sheriff of Wall Street, he’d been nicknamed. Some pictured him a future President. What he did with corrupt financiers surely he could do with the obstructionist politicians that plague New York! But on Day 439 everything changed in a way he hadn’t foreseen, or anyone else. He was caught with prostitutes and  resigned in disgrace. Cheers broke out on the NYSE trading floor [!], and  prices soared*, temporarily snapping a dismal down trend.

*perhaps not for that reason, though there are pundits who maintain it was exactly for that reason.

These were no ordinary prostitutes. The one that triggered his downfall cost him $4300. For a single stand! Who would have thought they could cost so much? Had he economized with cheaper ones he might have escaped detection, for he had to transfer large sums of money to various shell corporations to pay the bill… allegedly $80,000 through the years! Now, in the United States, if you transfer $10K or more from a bank, that bank must notify the feds. And you can’t bust up the transfers into lesser amounts to avoid the $10K trigger…that’s a crime here, and that’s what they say Spitzer did. They dreamed up that law to thwart terrorists. But it’s netted many unintended victims, like philandering politicians. Crossing state lines to promote prostitution is also a crime here (the Mann Act).

Spitzer resigned on TV, wife at his side. “I cannot allow for my private failings to disrupt the people's work. Over the course of my public life, I have insisted — I believe correctly — that people take responsibility for their conduct. I can and will ask no less of myself. For this reason, I am resigning from the office of governor." The couple has three teenaged children. The wife’s plight provided silent ammunition for those feminists who say that a woman should never, ever, put her career on hold  (which Mrs Spitzer had done, sort of) for the sake of raising children - you just can’t trust husbands and when they go bad you’re behind the 8-ball.

Learned psychological types, the sort who buy into evolutionary psychology, quickly weighed in. At last we know the real reason for Spitzer’s zeal in crushing wrongdoers, they lectured knowingly. It was all a sham! He’s just an alpha male, with all the vulnerabilities of the species. And what about the prostitution rings he’d broken up? Even more Freudian: he was just exorcizing inner demons, purging his own soul through nailing others! But I’m not so sure how valid that argument is, or how relevant. After all, he was elected to knock heads together, not to teach Sunday School. Still, once exposed, he hadn’t a chance. Americans want their politicians squeaky clean, a reflection of what they imagine themselves to be.

Besides, his “knocking heads together” style hadn’t worked well of late. Opposing politicians aren’t like corporate shysters whom who can throw in jail. They get mad, and they fight back. Though Spitzer scored some impressive early wins, he later bogged down amidst a style so abrasive that there was nobody to stick up for him when he got in trouble.

I’m not so sure the abrasiveness was wrong. At any rate, what had proceeded it sure hadn’t worked. New York is well known among states for its dysfunctional government. Years ago then-Governor Pataki appeared on TV with leaders of the two opposing parties. He hoped to project the image of firm and steady moderator, guiding these powerful but noble opponents to a consensus for the lasting good of New Yorkers. Instead, the two foes squabbled like children, and Pataki looked like an ineffectual ass, the other parties themselves being immune to embarrassment. The governor steered clear of TV after that.

With Spitzer’s resignation, state leadership defaulted to David Peterson, the Lieutenant Governor. Unexpected, the politically correct media had something to swoon about, for not only is Peterson black, he is also blind. A new category! He’s black and he’s blind, they gushed, as if one quality somehow augmented the other. Plus, he’s amiable. He gets along with everybody, they gushed again, forgetting that a year ago they had praised Spitzer for his being the exact opposite.

No sooner had Peterson been sworn in than he, too, confessed to some extramarital affairs. He wasn’t going to be blindsided the way Spitzer was! But all was cool with the media….he’s black and he’d blind, after all, and he enters with lots of good will. We’ve never had a black and blind governor! Besides, his marital woes were more garden variety. He hadn’t broken any laws, and he hadn’t hired any prostitutes.

A week later he admitted that in his younger days he had used marijuana and cocaine.

Alright, Mr. Peterson, don’t push it! Sure, Bill Clinton smoked (but didn’t inhale) pot and George Bush drank (but didn’t swallow) booze, but you’re only a governor. He’s probably okay for now, but one more Oprah confession, like shoplifting at K-Mart, and he’s outta here.

As NYS Attorney General, Eliot Spitzer took a lot of bad people out of circulation, including some high finance types usually thought untouchable. That should not be taken away from him. New Yorkers can be grateful. Advocates for market fairness say he’s done more to clean up Wall Street than anyone else in decades. For that, anyone who invests can be grateful. Still, I confess I wondered a bit when I read about the Theodore Sihpol casein the Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Sihpol wasn’t a Big Guy, at least not in the financial world. He was mid-level. He had allowed a hedge fund to secure some closing prices after hours. There was no price favoritism. The fund got the closing prices, but it was after hours. Spitzer’s office threw everything they had at this fellow. He might even had settled, but the plea bargain they offered included jail time. So he fought back. At trial, his attorneys called no witnesses. They simply read the law. And it was clear he’d not broken any! Case dismissed.

Now, what are we to make of this apparent abuse of power? You can’t make omelets without cracking a few eggs? But as George Orwell said, any time someone uses that line on you, you should immediately ask to see the omelet.

All in all, it’s rather a sad story. Isn’t there some scripture somewhere about humans not being able to rule themselves?

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Tom Irregardless and Me          No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Tom Sheepandgoats Rated R!

In the time-honored bloggers' way of wasting time, I discovered a colleague bloggerwho's blog is rated G. He crows about it. And he gives the website where you can rate your own blog.

Of course, this is irresistible, so I entered my own url. Surely, if this fellow gets a G, then my blog....pure and clean and beautiful....will also score a....

I'm rated R!  R!!!! Me! Righteous, pious, loveable Tom Sheepandgoats!!! Surely this is a ruse of the devil, and I only wish that nonsense about him having horns and pointy tail was really true and that I could trade places for a moment because then I would hunt down those internet clowns and jab them in the tush with my pitchfork!

The rating is based on key words and how often those words appear. I had some shockers:

death  (8x)
hell (2x)
murder (1x)

Look, this is a blog that deals with religious notions. Sure, "death" and "hell" have been mentioned. I don't quite recall where "murder" was used, though. Before logging on to a certain web rating service, the notion of murder had never occurred to me.

Now, in this politically correct age, before anyone take that last remark seriously, allow me to point out that it should not be taken seriously. It's a joke. Ha ha.

Which, incidentally, reminds me of the time in my youth (late 50's, early 60's) when it was routine for someone to say "I'll kill you," or "I'll kill you for that," as a means of expressing disapproval, or even in jest. Reacting to some childhood shenanigans, I vividly recall my mother saying "I'll kill you." It was said almost approvingly, with affection, as if acknowledging that "boys will be boys." She never did kill me, because if she had, then I wouldn't be here wri....well, she just never did.

Take, for example, that 1957 movie Twelve Angry Men, which I highly recommend. The twelve jurors are ready to quickly convict a kid for murder. ("Murder" again! Rats! There goes any hope of cleaning up my blog rating!) It seems an open-shut case, with eyewitnesses! But in deliberations, one juror votes "innocent," not because he thinks the kid is innocent, but only because he thinks anyone on trial for his life (yes, these were the days of the electric chair) deserves to have testimony patiently reviewed. Discussions uncover some things not given due weight during the trial. By degrees, the jurors all come over to the acquittal side. The 2nd last juror is tough to sway, and the last is next to impossible. Emotions are high, overshadowing (as the frequently do) reason. In frustration, the last guy shrieks "I'll kill you!" "You didn't mean that literally, did you?" comes the retort, and the stubborn fellow crumbles. There goes the last piece of substantial evidence, for the kid had been heard to say "I'll kill you!"

How far we've come through the years. Now, no one would ever say such a thing as "I'll kill you"....you'd have the hate-speech police all over you. But people have fewer qualms about doing it, something infrequent in the old days.

Rated R, my rear end! This system is almost as hokey as the movie ratingsystem.

 

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Tom Irregardless and Me                 No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Rochester and the Curse of the Fast Ferry

It's the curse that keeps on cursing.

Anyone from Rochester will know what is referred to....the fast ferry, that lake-going vessel that is yet plunging the city through descending levels of financial hell which even Dante never imagined.

It seemed like such a good idea. Bring a high-speed ferry to Rochester, so that the folks in Toronto, whom we all know are itching to visit our town, could hop over the big lake in no time. Sure, it was expensive, but then, great ideas are never cheap! Where's that checkbook? Whadyamean, you're opposed? You got something against progress? But the operation lost money the instant it touched shore....like a million dollars a month. A new administration decided, within days of taking power, that enough was enough, and put the boat up for sale, pleased to escape with a taxpayer tab of only $20 million (now $28 million), assuming they could sell the boat. It was an optimistic assumption.

There was this outfit, Euroferries, that straight off said they wanted the vessel, and city luminaries gave each other high-fives. But that was almost a year ago. You can only drag your feet so long, and so Mayor Duffy sent the city lawyer to go eyeball to eyeball with those guys. Yes, look them in the eye, just like a TV anchorman, and peer into their soul. It was a wise move, for their soul revealed that they did indeed like the boat, but they didn't...um...have the....uh....dough. So the city cut them loose and retreated to square one. That way the boat won't sit ten years awaiting a new owner, or at least awaiting Euroferries as a new owner.

Alas, throughout this long saga, it's hard to avoid the impression that sharpie businesspeople have been playing city officials like Prince played his guitarat the Superbowl. I mean, our boys are politicians, for crying out loud! It hardly seems fair.

Many projects are achieved by trampling the opposition under your feet. If you wait for all the bickerers, backbiters, and foot draggers to come on board, you’ll never get anything done. Noble projects get done this way. This, they tell me, was the story behind the fast ferry. If it works out, the doer is a visionary. A hero. Who cares how he got it done? Running down the whiners is brilliant, an absolutely essential, strategy! But God help that doer if the vision doesn’t pan out!

Isn't there a war somewhere following this general pattern?

Too bad for the first mayor, Bill Johnson. He worked tirelessly and obviously had the city’s interest at heart. But he will be remembered only for “Johnson’s folly.” Fortunately for him, since the next administration scuttled the deal, he will always be able to say "if only." If only they had hung in there. If only they had marketed more. If only they had gone to other places, say the 1000 islands, not just Toronto. If only they had prayed more. And maybe he's right. Nobody will ever know for sure.

Nor can they say they weren't warned. Contrary to popular belief, the city was advised beforehand that the project didn’t have a snowball’s chance in you-know-where. Not wanting to rush blindly into a deal of such magnitude, the city engaged the Carriertom Into-Wishin Research Institute to provide a feasibility study.

Carriertom completed its report in record time, a mere three days, since they are fun-loving people there at the Institute, and could not resist calling their report the fast fast ferry study. True, the haste was at the expense of accuracy, but it was not thought to be out of harmony with the company’s motto “That’s Close Enough!“ After all, Carriertom doesn’t charge much, and in these days of high fuel prices, that’s always a valid consideration. As it turned out, it didn’t matter anyway.

For, not wishing to be ambiguous nor make local politicians do a lot of reading, the report arrived in a dust jacket with bold lettering: Fast Ferry Won’t Work! Alas, this tactic backfired, because they are very politically correct over there at City Hall, and the mail room clerk, upon seeing the dust jacket, misinterpreted it to be a slur against gay people! And a groundless slur at that, since the city has hired several gay persons, and has found they work just fine. Indeed, they are model employees. Enraged, the clerk hurled the report into the trash! Thus, valuable research, which city fathers desperately needed, never reached their eyes.

The next day, the city of Rochester spent God knows how many millions to purchase and transport the boat to harbor. Six months later, a new administration canned the floundering operation, and it's been root canal sailing ever since.

That’s the true story, which the Carriertom Institute is eager to tell so that it may not be unjustly blamed for the failed project. They tried, they really did.


Getting Along in this Year of the Pig

The missionary spoke to the District Overseer and the District Overseer told the Circuit Assembly. "If you want to know the problem with the American brothers, I'll tell you, said the missionary. It's not materialism. It's not immorality."

"The problem with the American brothers is that they can't get along with each other." Was it just me or did I imagine a slight gasp in the audience? Everybody knew he had nailed it.

We are Jehovah's Witnesses, but we are also American Jehovah's Witnesses. And is there a people more headstrong, more self-willed, less willing to cooperate, dare we say belligerent? than Americans? It is the baggage we carry into the congregation and it takes a long while to lose it.

Other peoples have other characteristics. For example, China next month enters the year of the pig. But Muslims don't like pigs. (ceremonially unclean, a view they share with Orthodox Jews [!]) So China Central Television has banned images or references to pigs to commercials, even those tied to the new Pig Year! "China is a multi-ethnic country," the network explained to advertisers. "In order to show respect to Islam, and upon guidance from higher levels of the government, CCTV will keep any 'pig' images off the TV screen." [WSJ 1/25/07, article by Gordon Fairclough, Geoffrey A Fowler] A significant conciliatory gesture toward a minority culture!

Can you imagine a parallel move in this country? All hell would break loose! "We are proud Americans and we are not giving one inch to Muslims or anyone else! If they don't like it, let em go back to where they came from!"

Of course, another reason for opposition is that we all know reasonable meet-you-half-way accommodations could never be made here. Pig rights extremists would use the opportunity to insist on climate controlled pens, free pig health care ensured by government inspectors, and if you said anything bad about pigs, you'd pay a $500 fine.

For example, if you told this joke: Howie Blunkus was walking his pet pig, when a passerby said "Hey, where'd you get the pig?" And the pig said, "I picked him up at the market," you might get some luke-warm laughs. I hope they're worth $500 to you.

Um....now, where were we? Oh yes....Americans are contentious and we track it into the congregations. A new person would never notice, of course, because to a considerable degree we have succeeded in putting on the Christlike personality. But hang around long enough and you'll see cracks on the surface.

They told Brother Rutherford that Brother Klein had said some nasty things about him. "Ah, well, Carl talks a lot, and he says things he doesn't mean." Now that's an example of getting along, of not attributing bad motives.

Interesting thing is that Carl never said those things. He made this clear when his recollections were published in the Watchtower (10/1/ 84 issue) some years back. Yet Brother Rutherford responds as if he fully believes it. Whether intentionally or not, it teaches a lesson. Obviously, if Carl never said it, there's nothing to overlook, no obstacle to getting along. The challenge emerges in the case that he really did shoot off his mouth. So Rutherford answers as if he had.

Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely if anyone has a cause for complaint against another. Even as Jehovah freely forgave you, so do you also.    Col 3:13

Notice that the reason to put up and forgive is not that maybe you have misunderstood something. No, you have a cause for complaint! He really did say rotten things! Therein lies the test.

Ah, well, Carl talks a lot and he says things he doesn't mean.

Another reason to go  easy on one another can be found here:

Also, do not give your heart to all the words that people may speak, that you may not hear your servant calling down evil upon you. For your own heart well knows even many times that you, even you, have called down evil upon others.    Eccles 7:21,22

Yes, you've done it. Don't even think of denial. And just as we hope that our brothers will go easy on us when we unwisely shoot off our mouths, so we ought to do the same for them.

So there's hope. We'll work hard on incorporating those scriptures into our lives and then we'll send that busybody missionary back to wherever he came from, and he'll say "I never saw anything like it. Those American brothers really know how to get along!"

 

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Tom Irregardless and Me             No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Disabled Kids and Three Aborted Planets

For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open.   Mark 4:22  NIV

A long-dark secret of school textbook publishers has, at last, come into the glaring light. When you see a kid in a wheelchair in your school textbook, interacting with other kids, he is actually able-bodied and doesn’t need a wheelchair at all!

Why photograph  a kid in a wheelchair when he can walk around like everyone else? Because disabled people are one of the social groups contributing towards our rich diversity. So if you show a bunch of kids at school or anywhere else, one of them had better be in a wheelchair. Trouble is, they can’t find enough disabled kids to model, so Houghton Mifflin sticks able-bodied kids in the “house” wheelchair, kept on hand for just such emergencies. (WSJ 8/18/06) Only a quarter of the disabled kids in photos really are disabled. Publishers therefore have to be careful that a kid in a wheelchair is not seen, a few chapters later, playing football.

Sometimes the light from one news story can illuminate another. Such is the case here. We are now in position to understand the sudden rush to classify new planets,with our present nine planets expanding to twelve, if the International Astronomical Union’s executive committee has its way. It plainly is an effort to project our wonderful diversity into the very heavens.

We already have, commendably, a planet for women, Venus, to offset Mars, the one for belligerent guys. There is also a planet for dog lovers, Pluto; a planet for automobile aficionados, Saturn; and a planet for practical jokers: Uranus. (is there life on Uranus?) But, except for women, these groups reflect the diversity of another age. We must now demonstrate sensitivity towards more up-to-date minorities. Thus the three new planets will, no doubt, consist of a gay planet, an Hispanic planet, and a disabled planet.

The government, of course, will spend an obscene sum of money in naming the new planets. The Whitepebble Religious Institute is angling to land a soon-to-be-awarded naming contract, and it’s track record is good in this regard, since it has mastered the fine art of the low bid. In it’s proposal, the Carriertom organization tentatively suggested Provincetown, Poncho, and FranklinDRoosevelt as new planetary names, just to show that they are on the ball. The real contract money will be made from exhaustive testing to ensure that, God forbid, whatever new names are decided upon do not offend anybody.

Better still, the contract may be open-ended. There’s lots of rocks and stuff out there that may qualify as planets under the new definition. Tom Whitepebble  eagerly awaits the day when every minority, no matter how tiny, has its very own planet, at $200,000 a pop for the Research Institute.

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Update: The IAU has voted. They did the completely unexpected! In a contemptuous show of insensitivity, the organization not only declined to recognize the new planets, but they delisted Pluto. Now there are eight planets, not nine, much less twelve.

This is a politically correct age. Do not think dog lovers will take this lying down. We can expect protests, which will probably begin when they refuse, in retaliation, to clean up after their pooches from now on. One can only hope that when members of the IAU saunter through the park and step in you-know-what, they will reflect upon the great injustice they inflicted on the noble dog lover.

As for the Whitepebble Religious Institute, looks like it's back to parking cars on its front lawn for nearby stadium events.


Oh No! Politically Correct Ancient Scribes!

Elihu listened to days and days of speeches, enough to make anyone antsy. When he’d heard all he could stand, he spoke himself. As it turns out, the young man was the only one who knew what he was talking about.

A short summation of the Book of Job, the ancient exploration of suffering: Job, the account goes, was a wealthy and honored man, deservedly so. But he ran into very hard times. In short order, he lost possessions, family, and health. He exiled himself from the city and waited to die. Only he didn’t die. He just suffered.

News gets around, and Job receives three visitors who, rather than empathize, keep watch vulture-like for days. When they finally speak, it’s not to console the sick man, but to condemn him! Job has only himself to blame, they point out, because he’s been such a skunk, and so God is getting payback.

Only, Job has not been a skunk. He’s really been a good man. So he defends himself. Vehemently. He has to, because his visitors become more and more vicious, furious that their words should not be taken to heart. They keep goading him, by degrees, till Job, too, shoots off his mouth: Nobody’s ever been more worthy and free from blame as he, and  nobody’s ever suffered more at the hands of an unjust God, who must be unjust to pick on him this way, when He surely ought to be able to find better things to do with His time.

This is when Elihu, up till now silent, speaks. He’s steamed. But who is he steamed at?

Everyone.

Against Job his anger blazed, because he justified himself rather than God; and against his three friends too, his anger blazed, because they had found no answer, and yet they had pronounced Job wrong.    Job 32:2,3 Berkeley Version

Most Bible translations agree with the last phrase: …they had pronounced Job wrong. But the New World Translation and a few others, render it that God is the one who’d been pronounced wrong!

That’s a significant deviation. What accounts for it?

Since papyrus and vellum, like paper today, disintegrates over time, and yet the scriptures were preserved for centuries, someone had to have copied and copied and copied. Before Christ a class of scribes called the Sopherim were charged with this work. They did nothing but reproduce manuscripts, maintaining accuracy. After Christ, a class called the Massorites did the same thing. The latter made copious notes in the margins, mostly things to ensure correctness, for example counting individual letters per line to make sure their maunscript didn’t vary from that they were copying. But there’s a few places where they note that the earlier Sopherim had tweaked the Scriptures a bit, to improve readability.

Job 32:3 is one of those tweaks. It apparently says, originally, that God was pronounced wrong. But scriptures were read aloud in the synagogue on Sabbath day, and the notion of God being made wrong struck those scribes as so offensive that they changed the subject to Job, who could be wrong as rain without causing any harm! The Massorites note the substitution and give a margin footnote: this is one of the 18 emendations of the Sopherim. [Google the expression] Only, after they recorded the number, they found a few more, so the 18 emendations is really more than 20. They are scattered throughout different manuscripts.

Thus, we have political correctness way back in ancient times!

Which rendering really fits: Job or God?

Sometimes when translating, and there is a genuine choice of terms, you use context to determine which one fits. Oddly, for Job 32, both renderings will do.

Job fits, for his pals clearly accused him of vileness, without giving any evidence. They did pronounce him wrong. If you’d read Job only up to this chapter, you might prefer this rendering.

But God fits too, and seems more likely in view of what Elihu goes on to say….he speaks up in defense of God, not Job. And the three pals did level wrong charges against God, for example, telling Job that his goodness was meaningless to God, since there was no pleasing Him anyway. 

At any rate, writers of the New World Translation concluded that, since over-pious scribes took out the subject God, they should put it back in. The large print edition explains the decision in appendix 2B

Job 15:15;  42:7