Tuesday, 31 January 2017

** FATHER FRANK’S RANTS Rant Number 792 30 January 2017 ON TORTURE


‘War for its own sake would be stupid’ taught St Thomas Aquinas. So would be torture, if done for its own sake. Because torture, like war, is a teleological practice. It must have a goal, an end. Not just any end, of course. The Marquis de Sade got pleasure out of torturing females but that imports no lawful end, only pathology, a perversion called sadism. The legitimate end of torture, if there is one, must be justice. Could it then ever be just to punish a man by torturing him?

Main theories of punishment divide into retribution, deterrence and reform. The latter can be ruled out – hard to see how you could morally ‘reform’ a person by torturing him. Does torture deter? Those opposed a priori argue that even painful penalties like flogging for fornicators and wine-drinkers in Saudi Arabia do not deter because such crimes occur nonetheless. But that won’t do. Few maintain that fear of corporal punishment totally deter. It is reasonable however that it deters some offenders, especially lightweight ones. On the other hand, when offences are not serious, unless mandated by a divine code, why fall back on something as extreme as torture? Aren’t there better ways?

Retribution. The ‘it serves him right’ maxim brings that out. You have done something socially and morally bad and wrong – so you deserve just, retributive and condign punishment. But to be fair the chastisement must fit the crime. It must be proportionate. Condemning a youth to death for jaywalking or scrimping apples would be disproportionate to the offence. Critics demand: ‘What’s the fitting penalty for arson? Or for rape? Burning the incendiary alive? Raping the rapist?’ Questioned aimed at disarming the advocates of retribution by pointing out absurdities involved.

Hhhmmm…not so obvious. Consider the revolting men who throw acid into the face of a former lover, disfiguring and blinding the poor woman – a horror far too frequent. The sharia judge of a certain Islamic nation years back ruled the criminal in retribution should have had acid poured onto his face. Uproar from usual Western quarters and NGOs followed, so the punishment was commuted. But would the penalty if enforced really have offended most people’s instincts and sense of justice in this atrocious case? Not revenge, I stress, but justice – just deserts?

The torture business is topical because President Trump – a real life Voldemort, the universal bogey everyone seems to hate - has come out in favour of it. However, the torture he spoke about was in the context of terrorism. Nothing to do with the three theories of punishment. Trump wasn’t aiming at terrorising or punishing terrorists but at extracting vital information from them. That implies both utilitarian and deontological or normative issues. Moral absolutists contend that torture is always impermissible, whatever the consequences. Non-absolutists might agree prima facie, unless proved otherwise, but still buy the torture option in extreme scenarios – e.g. terrorists about to unleash bacteriological mayhem on the population and only way to discover the bomb’s whereabouts is to torture a captive terrorist: what do you do? Discuss.

Suggestion that torture may at all be envisaged by a statesman has aroused storms of protests. Trump believes that torture ‘works’. That would not pacify moral absolutists but then nothing would, I guess. (Moreover, what counts as torture?) Anyway, even the President’s defence advisers don’t agree that torture is effective so…most likely a non-issue. And there would be big lawsuits and challenges. The Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution prohibits the federal government from imposing ‘cruel and unusual punishments’. Torture looks a bit like that, eh? And Trump has just sworn to respect and defend the Constitution!

Objecting to certain punishments, like torture, comes out chiefly of Enlightenment ideology. Same ideology that engendered the American Revolution. That would have surprised most previous cultures and civilisations. (Note though that the ancient Greeks disliked bodily mutilations as Oriental, ‘un-Greek’.) The Romans scourged and crucified, although only slaves could be tortured, never citizens. The Chinese practiced a variety of exquisite torments, like death by a thousand cuts. The Aztecs had human sacrifice. Turks would flay people alive. Moghuls had culprits crashed by elephants. Elizabethan Englishmen would thumbscrew and wrack victims, then hang, draw and quarter them. Robert Louis Amiens, the man who tried to kill King Louis XV, before being gorily executed was tormented with red-hot pincers, plus… details are not for the squeamish. Spaniards…ever heard of the Inquisition? ISIS: stoning, burning alive, beheading… Sorry if this gives you the creeps.

Thank God civilised nations are free from such nightmares. Interesting though how public repudiation of torture and so on has historically emerged out of the modern Western cultural paradigm. How many civilisations have forsaken torture off their own bat, without being so persuaded from the old, bad West? If you know examples to that effect, please pass them on.

Lastly: ‘Crucifixion – the most dreadful of penalties’, wrote philosopher Cicero. Indeed, for the Romans no torment, no torture equalled that excruciating kind of death. Yet, Christians believe that painful Cross, with all its shame and degradation, was also Christ’s supreme triumph and exaltation. Thus, they bow to that symbol of torture, kiss it and venerate it.

Revd Frank Julian Gelli


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Sunday, 29 January 2017

Armenian Church News...

Armenian Church News, Volume 3, Issue 2

Please open the above in your URL by clicking on the link... Thank you

Armenian News... A Topalian...Britain, Holocaust MDay, & Armenian Genocide

The British Government, Holocaust Memorial Day and the Armenian Genocide

By Gregory Topalian
The British Government has rarely acted morally with regard to its foreign policy so it should be no surprise then that they have spent a great deal of time and effort denying the Armenian genocide that began in 1915 at the height of the First World War. Prior to the genocide the years 1894-96 had seen a wave of violence that saw “the streets of Constantinople (running with (the Armenians) blood"1 at the hands of Sultan Abdul Hamid II. Those events, committed publicly in a major city drew condemnation from across the globe and persuaded former Prime Minister William Gladstone to return from retirement at the age eighty six to rail against the Ottoman Empire’s campaign of slaughter.

In the intervening years, the Young Turk revolution overthrew Abdul Hamid’s regime and there was much hope of progress from the Armenians. However, the Young Turks desire to create an Empire in the East did not bode well for the ‘loyal millet’. When the Armenian genocide began in earnest in April 1915 the Western media faithfully reported the eyewitness accounts of appalling massacres being committed across the length and breadth of the Ottoman Empire whilst the British Government commissioned historians James Bryce and Arnold Toynbee to compile eyewitness testimony in what is referred to as the British Blue Book.2 Under conditions of total warfare the British Government were unable to intervene in any substantive way to halt the genocide that horrified a number of the Ottoman Empire’s German allies. Following World War One and the decimation of the Ottoman Empire’s Armenian population, realpolitik took hold. British Prime Minister David Lloyd George who had promised that Britain would not forget its responsibility to the Armenians watched from the side lines as the return of Western Armenia as detailed in the 1920 Treaty of Sevres was superceded by the dropping of that promise in1923’s Treaty of Lausanne. After 1923 the British Government curried favour with the newly emerging Republic of Turkey and has since only used the Armenian genocide as a bargaining tool with Turkey. It was as if the horrors of what happened in the Anatolian homelands of the Armenians had been conveniently forgotten. One person whose memory of the Armenian genocide lasted a little longer was Adolf Hitler who proclaimed on August 22nd 1939:

“Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”3

Hitler’s murderous methods borrowed much from those used by the Ottoman Empire in 1915 as the genocide against the Jews meant the Armenian genocide would soon be further consigned to the past just as the West was beginning to address what had happened, encouraged by the publication of Franz Werfel’s Forty Days of Musa Dagh.4

Meanwhile in 1943, a Polish/Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin coined the phrase ‘genocide’ to describe what had happened to both the Armenians and the Jews5 and yet the British Government has consistently refused to apply the word ‘genocide’ to the description of what happened in the Ottoman Empire in 1915.

In 2000 the British Government committed themselves to commemorating the Holocaust with a Holocaust Memorial Day to be annually recognised on January 27th. The statement of commitment for Holocaust Memorial Day in the UK included a vow “to remember the victims of Nazi persecution and of all genocides”6, something the British Government and the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust have actively attempted to deny with regard to the Armenian genocide, which when bearing in mind the events that were Raphael Lemkin’s inspiration for the term ‘genocide’, is shameful. As Britain prepared for its first Holocaust Memorial Day, British newspapers and magazines such as The Independent, The Times, The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Economist, and news channels such as the BBC and Channel 4 all commented on the strange anomaly that was the refusal to include the Armenians whilst writers, officials and academics attempted to justify the exclusion. Eventually the Armenian genocide was included but was and still is referred to on the Holocaust Memorial Day website as “atrocities against the Armenians”, not ‘genocide’. Meanwhile the British media (with the odd honourable exception) seems to have returned to framing the events of 1915 as a ‘debate’ despite the overwhelming evidence that the crime committed was genocide.

2015 saw the centenary of the State sponsored genocide of the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire. In the run up to the event the British Government sent out guidelines on how best to avoid making reference to the event as fifty four documents from between 2009 and 2014 (with some information removed and names redacted) released under the Freedom of Information Act attest. The language used in the documents is interesting as it show definite bias on the part of the British Government and a desire to subvert historical fact. The documents also illustrate on the British Government’s part, an absolute refusal to engage with current independent and verified research and indeed the historical facts of the case.

In a document dated 15th January 2010, the British Armenian All Party Parliamentary group are described as being “up to something”. In correspondence dated 14th/15th/16th April 2009 the word ‘genocide’ is written in quotation marks.

Why would the British Government imply that the British Armenian All Party Parliamentary group was “up to something” in such a derogatory manner? The group were simply trying to publicise historical fact that has been distorted. Many of the documents suggest paranoia on the part of the Government.

In June 2010 it is noted that “The Minister was grateful for your submission. He agreed with your recommended Option A, i.e. that the Government should not recognise the Armenian massacres as genocide”.

One might question why Minister’s in positions of authority cannot be trusted to make their own minds up by simply addressing the historical evidence?

On the 17th June 2010 a brief sent to Justine Mckenzie Smith, Minister for Europe suggests the term ‘genocide’ cannot be attributed retrospectively.

The irony of this lies in the fact that Raphael Lemkin did exactly that when coining the term.

In correspondence from December 23rd 2011 Government officials seem content that following France’s decision to criminalise denial of genocide, “the media, politicians, the public and parliament have followed Turkey’s lead in condemning the action by France”.

Just imagine the furore the British Government would have engendered if they had reacted in a similar fashion to the number of countries who have codified Holocaust denial as a crime.

Attachment 20 which has no date is a fact sheet on the issue of the Armenian genocide; a prediction of what questions might arise, and advised answers on how best to deal with those questions whilst still denying genocide.

Once more,it would appear that the British Government feels the need to direct and control individual Parliamentarians lest they upset their Turkish Ally who has in the past threatened to withdraw the use of the strategically important Incirlik Air Base.

Another undated attachment, number 22 attempts to refute Geoffrey Robertson Q.C. suggestion that Ministers have misled Parliament on the issue without offering any concrete evidence to back up the assertion.

The reason for the attack is straightforward. Anyone reading the Human Right’s barrister Robertson’s paper7 would indeed come to that conclusion.

Meanwhile Parliamentary events presided over by Baroness Cox, a long term supporter of a genocide resolution, are reported on in the released documents and many of these documents are classed as being of “High” importance.

It would appear that any time the Armenian genocide is discussed at formal events there are Government representatives’ present charged with reporting back on the nature of the discussions. Some might call it “spying”.

The official British denial of the Armenian Genocide is an active process and reflects poorly on British democracy and commitment to international laws. A lengthier critique of these documents will soon be published and the sample I have given illustrates the concerted effort by the British Government to continue its denial of the Armenian Genocide, despite the historical facts collated in its own sponsored Parliamentary Blue Book.

In the documents the same responses appear time and time again, and any Armenian who has written to the Government on this issue will be very familiar with them. They express “regret” over the “massacres” and suggest that Turkey and Armenia address the issues via a truth and reconciliation commission. 
As we approach the 2017 British Holocaust Memorial Day, the first genocide of the modern era – the Armenian genocide - will probably be little more than a passing reference. I can only hope that Armenians and their friends will take more forthright action to have their voices heard in next year’s commemoration.

* Gregory Topalian is a British-Armenian historian based in Manchester.

Armenian Institute ... Town Hall meeting ... Challenges facing Armenia and Armenians in the 21st Century.



Dear Pope Francis,

You have compared Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler. You must be expert in these matters. Because in your native Argentina you experienced a notorious Hitleresque dictatorship. The military Junta launched a savage ‘dirty war’ on revolutionaries, lefties and opponents. Death squads killed thousands. Many disappeared forever. But why, when you headed the Jesuit Order there, you never spoke out against the repression? Fearless Christian leaders like Pastor Niemoller and Cardinal Von Galen publicly denounced the Nazi regime, risking their lives. You yourself did not attack the Junta. You may now safely bash Trump and terrible Adolf but…why didn’t you have a go at your little Hitlers, the Argentinean Generals, when it was morally imperative? Odd.

Maybe you are a little confused? Four of your Cardinals, led by American Cardinal Burke, have expressed ‘dubia’, Latin for ‘doubts’ about your leadership. You may be in need of ‘fraternal correction’, they say. Wot! Correcting the Pope! Unprecedented, eh? The four Cardinals argue the teaching of your Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of Love, confuses faithful Catholics. About access to key Sacraments of the Church, like the Eucharist and Marriage. At stake are hallowed teachings like the indissolubility of matrimony and the wrongness of divorce. Giving Holy Communion to the remarried or divorced or, as the old Catholic Church used to say, those ‘living in sin’, is what you appear to suggest. Or maybe not? All very unclear. And very confusing to the people of God.

To justify their audacity the Cardinals have invoked the example of St Paul’s. The Apostle who corrected St Peter: ‘And when Peter came to Antioch I withstood him to his face, because he was in the wrong’ (Galatians 2:11). Well, all right for St Paul to do that, as he had received a direct revelation from Christ. The Cardinals are only the Pope’s appointees. So, doubly brave of them to challenge you!

Bit of a cheek on my part, I confess. I am, for my sins, an Anglican priest. Belonging to a Church which permits divorce, the remarriage of divorcees, blesses gays, the lot. My Church ladles out Sacraments like confetti to all and sundry. Therefore I know I live in a glass house. Still, I can’t help caring for all of Christendom. Including the Catholic Church. Of which I am very fond. Was I nor born in Rome? By birth I am a bit more Roman then you are, I daresay…

It must great for you to know you are infallible. The 1870 infallibility dogma states that the Pope cannot err. (When speaking ex cathedra, in his official Pontifical capacity.) Bracing thought. Of course, papal infallibility does not mean you are like an infallible meteorologist. If you look out of the Vatican window and hazard, ‘It is going to snow’, that is not bound to happen. The dogma only applies to matters to faith and morals. On faith you are kosher – more or less. You have not declared that, say, Christ is not divine or that the Trinity is a quaternity: God forbid! Nor have you, ex cathedra, uttered straight moral untruths. It’s the confusion, the unclarity that worry the Cardinals. And the silence. Your silence.

Yes, the silence. When in Marrakesh I listened to your Midnight Christmas Mass homily. You preached passionately about the plight of child refugees. Well and good. But why did you not breathe a word about those other innocent children, the unborn babies, slain in abortion? Dear Pope Francis, in the UK alone 8.400.000 babies have been ‘terminated’ since 1967. Eight million four hundred thousand! Innocent babies! Killed in the womb! Were they not human children? Did they not deserve protection? Wasn’t their life sacred? And yet not a word about the unborn children in your homily. You kept mum. As dumb as a fish. How could you, the Vicar of Christ, do that? How could you?

You will counter that ‘Joy of Love’ reiterates the Church’s condemnation of abortion. Indeed it does. A short passage, tucked away in a sea of pages. But what matters is not only what you say occasionally but what you repeat. A vital teaching must be proclaimed loud and clear, again and again. Previous Pontiffs like St John Paul II did that. He was never half-silent about the grave sin of abortion. He attacked it, clearly and frequently. Unlike you…

You are popular, nonetheless. Because you stand up for the poor, the homeless and the underprivileged. That’s right and proper. The Gospel commands it. And that makes the secular world like you. Alas, religious practice doesn’t reflect that. Vaticanologist Sandro Magister observes how in Latin America – your continent - the Catholic Church is crumbling. In the last two years alone in Brazil those giving allegiance to Catholicism have fallen from 60 to 50 per cent. In a formerly steadfast Catholic nation! And in Europe, in the progressive Germany of frumpy, pseudo-Christian Merkel, churches are emptying. A very rich but moribund Church.

The Church flourishes in black Africa, though. Of course, African Christians tend to be conservatives. Guinea’s Cardinal Sarah even wants priests at the altar to face East, not West, towards the people. That’s anthropocentric but ‘God is the focus of the Mass’, not the congregation, he says.  That made the Vatican – you - hopping mad. Still, he is right. Ex Africa lux, it seems.

‘Build bridges, not walls’, you exhort, gunning for the US President. But when I look at your Vatican City, where you live, I see it surrounded by a very, very high wall...

Revd Frank Julian Gelli


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Monday, 23 January 2017

Armenian News ... A Topalian... Australia, Berejiklian NSW Premier...

Sky News Australia
Jan 23 2017
Berejiklian sworn in as NSW premier
Monday, 23 January 2017 

Gladys Berejiklian has been appointed Premier of NSW after winning leadership of the NSW Liberal Party.

Gladys Berejiklian has been officially sworn in as the Premier of NSW at a ceremony at the governor's house on Monday. 

Ms Berejiklian was elected as the liberal leader unopposed at a party room meeting on Monday following Mike Baird's surprise retirement announcement last week. 

Finance Minister Dominic Perrottet has been elected as the deputy leader of the NSW Liberal party. 

Nationals leader John Barilaro will remain as Deputy Premier. 

Ms Berejiklian held her first news conference as NSW Premier on Monday and thanked her NSW Liberal colleagues for trusting her with the position. 

The new NSW Liberal party leader has also pledged more infrastructure and a stronger economy will become hallmarks of her government. 

'I want to give this commitment today ... I will be governing for everyone, I'll be delivering for everyone. 

'I'm proud of the fact that NSW has the strongest economy in the nation.' 

Policy priorities that she vows to focus on are local infrastructure, housing affordability and continuing to build a strong economy. 

NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley said Ms Berejiklian needs to include services in her priorities. 

'The key services the people of this state rely on for a good life are failing...particularly our health and education systems,' he told reporters at a press conference. 

'If we can't build the schools we need now, when the rivers of gold from the Sydney property boom are flowing into the state coffers, when can we?' 

Mr Foley also questioned Ms Berejiklian's commitment to housing affordability. 

'We all know that when Rob Stokes brought suggestions to the cabinet-table to tackle housing affordability that it was blocked by treasurer Berejiklian,' he said. 

'She's been the person in the government who's stubbornly insisted that boosting supply is the only tool to solving housing affordability...well it's not, it hasn't worked. 

But Ms Berejiklian said she was open to other options, insisting that her job now as the new Premier is to make sure the community across NSW will get its fair share, and that her government will listen to their concerns. 

With two years until the next state election, Ms Berejiklian has time to impress voters and will seek to find her own way forward with other possible changes to freshen up the cabinet. 

A significant cabinet reshuffle is expected, with Health Minister Jillian Skinner and Community Services Minister Brad Hazzard tipped to be moved out to make way for new blood. 

Mr Baird revealed his surprise exit from politics last Thursday citing the serious health challenges his parents and sister were facing. 

His tenure ended on Monday after being in the top job for two years and nine months. 

As he left the party room following the short 10-minute meeting, Mr Baird said it had been a privilege serving as premier. 

'Words can't describe my gratitude. I will always reflect on it as a special time,' Mr Baird said. 

The state of NSW should be very pleased and delighted with Ms Berejiklian's appointment, he said. 


'I want to give this commitment today to those 7.5 million people, I will be governing for everyone, I will be delivering for everyone.' 


'My father was a boiler maker, a welder and one of the first jobs he did in Sydney was working on the Sydney Opera House. My mum left school at 15 to support her family and became a nurse. Both were shift workers and ... when I was older it wasn't uncommon for me to look after my family.' 


'When I started school I couldn't speak English. I know what a public education can do for somebody. If I didn't have access to that education, I wouldn't be standing before you here today. That is why you will have in me, the strongest supporter of Gonski.' 


'I am not going to judge anybody on their personal circumstances. I am here to govern for everybody and I hope that people judge me on my merits and what I can do.' 


'I am pretty much a regular girl who likes to do regular things.' 


'This is about the best people being on the paddock to take our state forward.' 


'The system we have in place hasn't changed for decades, in terms of how the states and commonwealth deal with each other and I have some strong ideas about what I would like to see happen.' 


'I have to confess there is one thing and Mr Trump and I have in common and that is the number 45 and it pretty much stops after that.' (Ms Berejiklian is 45th NSW premier, Mr Trump 45th US president). 

Sydney Morning Herald, Australia
Jan 19 2017
Hey, men in the NSW Liberal Party: here are five reasons to give Gladys the top job
Jenna Price

"Your time is now. You go, girl." 

Gladys Berejiklian received hundreds and hundreds of messages of encouragement and support on Thursday as soon as news broke that Mike Baird would step down as Premier. But there was one particular message from a former politician, a former colleague, who has deliberately kept herself out of the political limelight, until now. 

That message was from Robyn Parker, the former NSW minister for the environment, who says Berejiklian is worth shouting about. Parker has refused to comment publicly about politics since she left NSW Parliament in 2015 but she and Berejiklian started in Macquarie Street at the same time. And she, among others, have all the reasons why Gladys Berejiklian should be the next premier of NSW. 

1. Her time really is now. She was a strong contender when O'Farrell stepped down but the numbers didn't stack up. While we know the current NSW Minister for Transport Andrew Constance is busy counting votes, Gladys has spent her time in Parliament in charge of two major portfolios: transport and treasury. She's ready. She's also got a tonne of experience before Parliament. 

"The extra time has only given her room to grow and mature. She brought stability to her two major portfolios and we are reaping that in NSW," says Parker. 

"I think she would be outstanding. For her, it's not about political games, it's about delivering on the ground. It is about solid achievement and stability. I think as a role model for women, she shines." 

Like Parker, Anne Henderson, the deputy director of the Sydney Institute and author of Getting Even , has known Berejiklian for decades. She agrees the Treasurer is ready for the top job. "Gladys gave up a good career [in banking] to go into politics. She is a very experienced party member and has worked her way solidly through all the hurdles, been through the hard grind of politics. Gladys is good at all that stuff and she has done it forever. [Former prime minister John] Howard was the same." 

2. This is not about how women are better than men – no need to remind us of Margaret Thatcher or Pauline Nyiramasuhuko. But Berejiklian is not a man and that's a bonus. Her colleagues today described her as humble and hard-working without being self-deprecating. She doesn't do the big brash glad-handing thing that men do. Parker says: "She has substance over ego and made politics her life and NSW benefits from that." 

3. She's no social conservative. Even a Labor member of NSW Parliament describes her work on reproductive rights as excellent. "She was really good on Zoe's Law and that gives us more hope than the current crop. She is also really good on LGBTQi rights. She's been a strong voice for women within that quite conservative party room and she certainly stood up to them." Also, she's used compassion and refugees in the same sentence. And a former member of Parliament described her as a warrior for the moderate faction, which certainly needs warriors. 

4. She has an unpronounceable surname. Think that's trivial? She's in a party filled with straight white men with straight white names and those people don't represent us any more. Her surname is a metonym for Australia's multiculturalism. In her inaugural speech to Parliament in 2003, Berejiklian expressed her great good fortune at being born and raised in Australia to Armenian parents and said she was proud of her cultural background.

"This includes being proud of my surname. I thank the good people of Willoughby who voted for me, even though they could not pronounce it." 

Plus, her director of communication is Ehssan Veiszadeh, husband of Daily Life's Woman of the Year, Mariam Veiszadeh. 

5. It's OK. It's no longer a bad sign to have a women premier and she can actually do the job. In Australia, we have moved on from turning to women premiers only when the blokes have trashed the hotel room. Professor of government at the University of Sydney Rodney Smith says that while that was the case in the past, "the experience of women premiers has been much more diverse since then and this is not a crisis point in NSW politics. 

"It is not the case any more that you turn to a female premier when the regime is in trouble." So, this is not a case of a glass cliff and it's over two years until the next election. 

Plus Smith says Berejiklian has actual achievements under her belt including improving the economic performance of NSW compared to other states. Introducing the Opal card might sound easy but no previous transport minister ever pulled it off. And she did that. 

"She even managed to get transport off the front page," said Smith.