Saturday, 30 November 2013

Misquoting Jesus

Bart Ehrman is that most valuable type of person, a serious scholar who loves to explain his complex field in plain English for non-specialists.  He has an extremely fancy academic title - the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina.  He is an expert on early Christian texts, including the New Testament and various other early writings that were not included in the canon of scripture.

His spiritual journey is like that of so many sceptical Biblical scholars and writers.  He started on the path of Christian fundamentalism, heading off to Moody Bible Institute straight from high school to study scripture, then wending his way through the slightly less conservative Wheaton College before finally heading for the quite sceptical faculty of Princeton Theological Seminary.  Along the way he became adept at Greek and Hebrew and developed a passion for analysing original texts of ancient documents.

I've been reading his 2005 book on that very subject, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why.  Potential readers shouldn't be put off by the sensational title.  The actual content is much more modest and sober than the title suggests.  If the facts he points out are unpleasant to face, they are nonetheless factual.

He starts the book with the tale of his own journey into biblical criticism, and in particular his assignment on the text of Mark 2, where Jesus is quoted as referring to David taking show-bread from the temple during the high priesthood of Abiathar.  The problem for this passage, at least for a Moody-trained inerrantist like the young Ehrman, is that the original of this story in 1 Samuel 21 takes place when Ahimelech is high priest.  Ehrman accordingly developed a complex and convoluted argument intended to demonstrate that Mark didn't mean quite what he said, only for his teacher to comment, "Maybe Mark just made a mistake".

This may seem a trivial problem (in fact, it is a trivial problem) but as I have pointed out previously, the notion of inerrancy sets the bar incredibly high.  A single error, however trivial, can bring the entire house of cards tumbling down because an inerrant Bible must be completely so. 

The problem is not simply that the New Testament sometimes misquotes the Old, or that there are discrepancies between different New Testament accounts of the same event.  The more fundamental problem, and the subject of this book, is that it is not clear exactly what the words of the New Testament are.  The various New Testament books were originally written by hand, on parchment or papyrus, by their original authors or their authors' secretaries in the first century CE.  None of the original manuscripts survive, but the books were copied and re-copied down the years as they circulated more and more widely.  We now have thousands of manuscripts (hand-written copies) of these books, but our earliest copies are from centuries after their original composition.

The problem is, not all these manuscripts are identical.  It is easy to understand why - they were copied by many different hands.   The earliest copyists would not have been professional scribes, just ordinary literate church members.  Copying a manuscript by hand is a difficult, time-consuming job and the copyists made mistakes.  Later copyists copied these mistakes, but also made further mistakes of their own.  The result is that the thousands of surviving manuscripts contain over a hundred thousand discrepancies.

The vast majority of these are trivial - missing words or lines, spelling errors, jumbled sentences, substitution of synonymous words.  We are all familiar with these types of mistakes - it is rare to find a book that does not contain a few - but before the invention of the printing press such errors were much more common because manuscripts must be produced by hand, one at a time, so each one will contain its own unique set of mistakes.

More significant is the fact that some of the differences between manuscripts seem deliberate and purposeful.  These are not simple mistakes, but subtle alterations which bolster a particular theological point which was in dispute at the time the copy was made.  Ehrman cites a number of passages to show what he means. 

For example, there was a strong minority view in the second and third century that Jesus was "adopted" as God's son, probably at the time of his baptism by John, rather than the "eternal Son of God" of orthodox theology.  To make the orthodox view clearer, copyists made changes to certain passages which could have been to support adoptionism. 

Some of these are very simple and would almost slip under the radar.  For instance in Luke 2, after Simeon has blessed the infant Jesus, early manuscripts say "his father and mother were marvelling at what was said to him".  The notion that Jesus had a human father could easily be used as an argument in favour of adoptionism, so a large number of manuscripts instead read "Joseph and his mother...". 

Other differences are more blatant.  For instance, in the story of Jesus' baptism in Luke 3 a voice from heaven makes a declaration about Jesus.  In most manuscripts the wording of this declaration is the same as in the counterpart story in Mark - "You are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased".  However, some early manuscripts say "You are my son, today I have begotten you" - a statement which appears to support an adoptionistic view.

Ehrman argues, based on what he and other scholars regard as strong textual grounds, that the potentially adoptionistic readings are in fact the older ones, and that they were edited during the controversy to make them more orthodox.  It is of course possible to argue the reverse - that the orthodox readings are the originals.  This, however, doesn't change the core point - that the text is not immutable, that there are a number of different versions and not all the differences are inconsequential.

How much does this matter?  Well of course, if you are a fundamentalist it matters a lot, because you will have a lot invested in the precise words of scripture.  How does this work, if we are not sure what these words are?  However, this is not exclusively a fundamentalist problem and historically in the church there have been two main responses to it.

The Catholic response, also held in a slightly different form by the Eastern Orthodox church, is that the use and interpretation of scripture is determined by the church through its official doctrinal statements.  Hence, in a sense, scripture is only part of the story and goes hand in hand with church tradition and the authority of the church hierarchy.  Indeed, the canon of scripture is itself a product of this tradition.

This solution, however, is problematic for us Protestants because we have rejected this authority and, along with it, many elements of historical Catholic teaching.  Implicit in the doctrine and ecclesiology of the various Protestant churches, and explicit in their history, is the notion that the Catholic Church has corrupted the gospel of Christ and therefore can't be trusted to have interpreted scripture correctly.

Hence the preferred Protestant solution to this problem is to attempt to work out, through detailed textual and historical analysis, the "correct" text of the original New Testament.  This project is, as you might say, "ongoing".  It involves decisions and judgements based on technical grounds that very few scholars, never mind working pastors or lay church members, really fully understand.  It seems to me that the chances of a final solution are relatively slim.  What are the chances of modern scholars being inerrant?

How much this bothers you will depend on how much you have invested in the question.  For me, it just seems part of the marvellous and fascinating variety of human belief.  Perhaps we will find out the final solution in heaven.  Perhaps not.  In the meantime, our uncertainty should at least keep us humble and open to learning.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

"Stress Related Illness"

I really enjoyed the recently completed Brisbane Ashes Test, especially since Australia won so convincingly after such a long drought.  I certainly enjoyed seeing the Australians dominate Jonathan Trott, a player who has scored plenty of runs against them in previous series.

However, I'm not enjoying the aftermath, with Trott returning home with a "stress-related illness".  Naturally I feel sad that Trott is unwell, and hope his recovery is swift and complete.  I also feel disturbed by the euphemistic description of his illness and the hush-hush way in which everyone seems to talk about it.


Cricketers, like other elite sportspeople, are prone to frequent physical injuries.  It's the nature of elite sport, where people push themselves to the limit of their physical capabilities.  We hear about these injuries in forensic detail.  Everyone who cares about cricket knows all about Michael Clarke's degenerative disc, Kevin Pietersen's chronic knee problem, Shane Watson's dodgy calves and hamstrings and the struggles of teams the world over to manage fast bowlers' risk of back injury.  We know when the injuries happen, the dates and times of their scans, the grading of the tear or sprain, the treatment process and the expected recovery time.  It's all out there in the public realm.

Of course opponents are not slow to try and exploit any weakness.  England bowlers know that Clarke's back can make playing the short ball more difficult and so he was peppered with bouncers in both innings.  It was spectacularly successful in the first innings, a failure in the second.

The same seems to apply to mental health problems.  Players certainly seem aware when their opponents are struggling psychologically and don't hesitate to exploit it.  Hence before, during and after the Brisbane Test Trott was sledged mercilessly on and off the field.  It worked.  He was out cheaply in both innings and now he's gone home. 

That's the ruthlessness of sport, win at all costs and all that.  It's ugly, but it's the same for everyone.  What I find more problematic is that elite sporting organisations seem to be so far behind the rest of society in the way they deal with mental illness.  Now that Trott has gone home, the English hierarchy reveals that he has been "struggling with a stress-related condition for some time".  In other words, he probably brought it to Australia with him, and was possibly also suffering from it in the mid-year series in England when his performances were definitely below par. 

Yet unlike Clarke's back, Peterson's knee or Watson's hamstring, it was never mentioned.  Even now we don't know for sure what the illness is.  Journalists writing about the event have referred back to similar events involving England players Marcus Trescothick and Michael Yardy, both of whom suffer from depression, so that's where I'd be putting my money. 

In a perceptive article written for Cricinfo in 2011, Australian batsman and occasional author Ed Cowan shone the spotlight on the issue.  Estimates vary, but perhaps 5-10% of the population at any time is suffering from depression or anxiety, and up to 20% will at some point in their lives.  Cowan suggests that this figure is far higher for elite sportsmen, including cricketers - perhaps twice as high.  If this is true, it is almost certain that other members of both teams are currently struggling with similar conditions. 

There are various reasons why sports people are more prone to mental illness than other people.  Elite sports tend to attract people who are driven and obsessive, and OCD is strongly linked to depression.  Elite sportsmen and women operate in high pressure environments where their performance can be judged vary harshly and opponents exploit any weakness.  International cricketers travel constantly and hence are separated from their families for long periods.  Professional sport can be an emotional roller-coaster ride and the emptiness that comes after success can tip people over the edge just as much as the self-doubt brought on by failure.

However, Cowan laments the lack of openness about these issues.

Sadly, despite growing awareness about mental health issues outside of the change room, it is still something of a taboo topic within. While cricketers know there is a fantastic support network available through the players' associations, these issues are rarely, in my experience, openly discussed among the players themselves.

The consequence of such secrecy is also clear - players often don't seek treatment, and attempt to self-diagnose and self-medicate.  I don't know about cricketers, but former rugby league star Andrew Johns and former AFL star Ben Cousins have both attributed their cocaine addictions to misguided attempts to self-medicate for chronic anxiety. 

It is telling that Cowan himself only names two cricketers who suffer from depression - former West Australian wicketkeeper Ryan Campbell, and former New Zealand fast bowler Ian O'Brien.  Neither are team-mates of Cowan, and both have spoken publicly about their depression.  Cowan must know many more - otherwise why write the article? - but he is obviously not free to name them.  Maybe naming would be seen as equivalent to shaming.

I long for the day when cricket captains and coaches will feel comfortable saying, "He's suffering from depression.  He was first diagnosed about two months ago and has been taking antidepressants and having weekly counselling sessions.  We're confident the problem is being well managed and he's not in doubt for the game".  Or whatever.  It's not shameful, and it need not be a secret, any more than it's shameful to strain your hamstring.  It just happens, it's the way humans are made. 

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Blackmore's Night

It's been a little while since I posted anything, what with being busy and all.  By way of apology here's something very pleasant.  At least I think so.


It's become fashionable in recent years for big-time stadium rock stars to venture out into more mellow acoustic territory.  Robert Plant, of Led Zeppelin fame, has teamed up with Alison Krauss to play bluegrass music.  Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder has recorded an album of songs with voice and ukulele.  Sting, already converted into a smooth jazz-fusion singer, has made an album of renaissance music with lute player Edin Karamazov.

It shouldn't surprise us.  These guys are rich enough to do what they like.  Playing the same riffs over and over again and screaming at the top of their lungs can get boring.  They love the experience of playing for small audiences and being able to hear themselves and their band-mates.  They also tend to be accomplished musicians and they like to show people that they are not just one-trick ponies.

Among all these big names, former Deep Purple guitarist Richie Blackmore is the one who has pursued his alternative bent most diligently and consistently.  Blackmore's Night has recorded roughly an album a year since 1997 plus various compilations and live DVDs.


Blackmore is famous for two things.  The first is the creation of the most recognisable riff in heavy rock music, which forms the core of Deep Purple's song 'Smoke on the Water'. The other is for being one of the more difficult people on the planet to get on with.  Some of his former Deep Purple bandmates make no secret of how much they hate him.  One of the former members of his other heavy metal band, Blackmore's Rainbow, joked that it had so many ex-members they were thinking of opening their own retirement home. 

Still, you don't get to have an enduring musical career without serious ability and Blackmore's talent and versatility are imperfectly concealed in the straight-ahead rock music for which he is famous.  He enjoys explaining to journalists that the Smoke on the Water riff is an inverted variation on the opening bars of Beethoven's 5th Symphony.  He also plays it with a surprisingly light touch, plucked with two fingers on the second and fourth strings.  Not that you'd notice with the amps turned up to 11 and the bass, drums and keyboard thumping along in unison.

Hence Blackmore's Night, in which he gets to play laid-back, acoustic, medieval and renaissance-influenced music with life partner Candice Night.  Blackmore's Night also has a long list of former members or, as their Wikipedia article puts it, former "additional personnel".  However, it seems less serious and fraught than other Blackmore bands.  The members have jokey heritage stage names, they dress in Renaissance costumes, they laugh and joke on stage - even Blackmore condescends to dress up. 

I suspect the light touch is down to Night.  Blackmore's collaborations with singers have been the most important and most difficult of his career.  Singers are expected to provide their own words as well as live up to Blackmore's exacting performance standards.  Few have lasted long, most have come out bruised from the experience.

Night, however, seems to have his measure.  In between flirting with the audience in their live performances she teases and cajoles him, complains to the audience about his "moody and difficult" personality, and commands him to the microphone when he mutters from his brooding posse at the back of stage left, the posse he has occupied in every band he has ever been part of.  But she's more than just a show pony.  She sings beautifully, plays an assortment of renaissance wind instruments, and brings to the band her own brand of slightly dippy new age fairy-loving oddness. 

Then, or course. there is nothing to say heavy metal is incompatible with light-hearted folk.  Sometimes it's little more than a question of volume.  In evidence I cite the Deep Purple classic 'Child in Time', which first appeared in 1970's Deep Purple in Rock.  This song is almost the definition of art rock, a simple two-minute song extended past nine minutes by guitar and keyboard solos and Ian Gillan's histrionic vocal improvisations.  Sure it's pretentious, but what's wrong with that?



Blackmore's Night are not afraid to exploit his back catalogue and many Deep Purple songs sound brilliantly different in this context.  Child in Time is one of them, combined here with an incongruously upbeat Renaissance tune before the pace slows to the sombre theatre of the original.  Make sure you stick with it until the backing singers take over.  Gives me goose-bumps every time.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Travelin' Soldier

Speaking of annoying songs, here's one that's really annoying.






Two days past eighteen
He was waiting for the bus in his army greens
Sat down in a booth in a cafe there
Gave his order to a girl with a bow in her hair
He's a little shy so she gives him a smile
And he said would you mind sittin' down for a while
And talking to me? I'm feeling a little low
She said I'm off in an hour and I know where we can go


So they went down and they sat on the pier
He said I bet you got a boyfriend but I don't care
I got no one to send a letter to
Would you mind if I sent one back here to you?


I cried, never gonna hold the hand of another guy
Too young for him they told her
Waitin' for the love of a travelin' soldier
Our love will never end
Waitin' for the soldier to come back again
Never more to be alone when the letter said
A soldier's coming home

So the letters came from an army camp
In California then Vietnam
And he told her of his heart
It might be love and all of the things he was so scared of
He said when it's getting kinda rough over here
I think of that day sittin' down at the pier
And I close my eyes and see your pretty smile
Don't worry but I won't be able to write for awhile


One Friday night at a football game
The Lord's Prayer said and the Anthem sang
A man said folks would you bow your heads
For a list of local Vietnam dead
Crying all alone under the stands
Was a piccolo player in the marching band
And one name read but nobody really cared
But a pretty little girl with a bow in her hair


This isn't really my usual stuff, but then I often listen to stuff that's not my usual.  I don't mind a bit of country if it's done well, as this one is.

That's not what's annoying.

I also have a bit of time for the Dixie Chicks.  I like that they play their own instruments instead of their management hiring blokes to do it for them while they look pretty out front.  And I like that when they were promoting this song in 2003 they mentioned that they were ashamed George W Bush came from Texas - and stuck to their guns even as they were being banned from the playlists of half the country music stations in the USA. 

That's not why this song's annoying either.

The song was originally written in 1996 by US country singer-songwriter Bruce Robison, who just happens to be the brother-in-law of Dixie Chick Emily Robison, seen here stage right playing the dobro.  He was inspired by someone he knew being called up to serve in Iraq.  The Dixie Chicks polished it up for commercial airplay and released it as a single in 2003 as the US (with Australia in tow) was going to war in Afghanistan.  It shot to Number 1 in the US country charts before it was scuppered by the controversy. 

Part of what makes this song so annoying is that its tear-jerking tricks are on full display.  There's nothing subtle here, it's all right out in the open.  Country music is made for tear-jerking, with the mournful sound of the dobro and fiddle, the sugary harmonies and simple, accessible chord patterns. 

The lyric is pure fiction, its little details designed to relentlessly tug at the heartstrings.  The innocent young couple drawn together by chance, the bow in the hair, the rendezvous at the pier.  The young man who apparently has no family or friends, the young woman who may or may not have a boyfriend (the chorus is partly in her voice so I guess that's a "no").  The comforting letters and images, the wise elders trying to spare her the inevitable heartache, the lonely girl in the band uniform crying beneath the grandstand while everyone else gets on with the game as if nothing happened.  It's like Robison had a list of all the things that would make his listeners cry and checked them off one by one as he wrote the song.

But even that is not the most annoying thing about this song. 

What's most annoying is that it works.  Every time I hear it I feel like crying.  Even as I hear the tricks unfolding, bright and brazen in their jangling obviousness, the tears spring to my eyes.  These techniques did not become tricks of the songwriters' trade for no reason.  People write sad country songs because they work.  Clever comedians can send up the genre all they like, a good sad country song is a powerful cathartic experience.  Every now and then we all need one.

There's no time we need them more than a time of war.  Because if you strip out the fantasy elements Travelin' Soldier is telling you about things that really happen.  Young men really do get sent off to war.  Young women who love them really do have to stay home, fearful about what will happen.  Often these young men get killed and the young women are left weeping, whether under a grandstand or at home in bed.  Often these young women have had time to marry the young men, and they have children who grow up never knowing their fathers.  It's desperately sad and when we have finished weeping we should be angry, angry enough to join the Dixie Chicks in disowning the people who make it happen when it could just as easily have been avoided. 

The last Australian soldiers are coming home from Afghanistan this week, after ten years of largely fruitless struggle.  Forty of them have been sent home in coffins over the course of the war.  Countless people of all nationalities have died, none in greater numbers than Afghanis themselves.  Ten years on, the country is no safer than when the Americans and their allies (including us) first launched the invasion.  If I was a Texan I would disown Bush as well.  Instead I have to content myself with disowning John Howard.

Still, if I were asked to nominate a song to be played as they head for home I wouldn't pick Travelin' Soldier, much as I admire and hate it.  Instead I would pick this beautiful song by Jason Isbell, titled Dress Blues.  Not only is it a sad country song about a dead soldier (with that extra tincture of anger that Robison and the Dixie Chicks keep under wraps) it's actually a true story about his schoolmate Matthew Conley (pictured above).  His wife and the daughter he never met are still alive and as well as could be expected in Alabama.  You can read about it here

Enjoy.  Weep.  Be angry.


Friday, 1 November 2013

Misdirection

Misdirection is a technique used by people such as stage magicians and pickpockets to distract their audience, or their victim, from what they are actually doing.  They might make a loud noise, wave their hands or their wand flamboyantly, talk fast, have an accomplice distract you, while they perform their trick.  If they are a magician you will be amazed.  If they are a pickpocket you won't notice a thing until sometime later when you discover you are unable to pay for the coffee you have just drunk.

Apropos of which...

On the 15 October this year the Queensland Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie introduced three acts into the Queensland Legislative Assembly, and they were passed the same day. 

The Criminal Law (Criminal Organisations Disruption) Amendment Bill 2013 gives the Minister power to declare an organisation a criminal organisation through the Criminal Code (Criminal Organisations) Regulation 2013. This regulation, which was declared as soon as the law was passed, contains the list of supposedly illegal bikie clubs and a list of places they are said to frequent. More can be added and existing ones can be removed.  The bill also changes various other laws relating to such organisations. 

The Tattoo Parlours Bill 2013 makes it illegal for bikies to own tattoo parlours or wear their club colours in pubs. 

The Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Bill 2013 creates a number of new classes of crime related to members of criminal organisations, the basic effect of which is to make it illegal to take part in any kind of activity related to an outlaw motorcycle club and ensure that members of these clubs are punished more harshly for various crimes than other offenders. 

This story has dominated our various news media for the past month, since a huge brawl involving members of two bikie gangs erupted outside a Gold Coast restaurant on September 27.  Each day there is a new incident, new footage of tattooed blokes on Harleys, police in bulletproof vests, grim-faced politicians, outraged judges.  The debate around these bills, if you could call it that, has lurched from hysterical to absurd.  Bikies, it seems, are the major threat to law and order in the state of Queensland, threatening the safety of every man woman and child.

 Police have been sent to raid various bikie clubhouses.  The government has promised to turn Woodford Prison into a separate bikie prison in which inmates are forced to wear pink.  The Premier has attempted to bully judges into refusing bail to suspected bikies.  The judiciary has hit back by claiming the government is interfering with the operation of justice.  The Premier claims these laws are comparable to the Fitzgerald Inquiry and its aftermath 25 years ago.  Tony Fitzgerald responds that the laws are outrageous.

Premier Campbell Newman has claimed he is just doing what the people of Queensland demand.  He is, or course, telepathic.  I don't recall anyone ever asking.  Who exactly is demanding this and why?  How is that bikie gangs, which have been operating in basically the same way for the past 50 years, are suddenly an urgent problem which requires the government to override courts and parliament and introduce draconian new laws in an all-night sitting?  What is it that makes crimes committed by blokes with tattoos, Harleys and colourful leather jackets more serious than those committed by blokes in jeans and t-shirts, or suits and ties?

The answer is of course, that no-one is demanding these laws, this is not an urgent problem and if you are beaten up it hurts just as much whether the people who did it are bikies or not.  We are watching a piece of misdirection.  While we, and half the state's journalists, are enthralled with each episode of the bikie drama, we are failing to notice other things.

Here are a few other pieces of legislation that have landed in the Queensland Parliament in the past few weeks and been buried in the landslide of bikie stories.

The Criminal Law Amendment (Public Interest Declarations) Amendment Bill 2013, introduced into Parliament on 17 October and passed the same day, allows the Governor in Council (that is to say, Cabinet) to detain someone indefinitely if they deem this to be "in the public interest".  This law was prompted by the Supreme Court's decision to release serial violent offender Robert Fardon on parole, and the failure of the Attorney-General's appeal to change this decision.  The government now no longer needs to worry about pesky judges because it can make the decision itself.  Evidence, natural justice and impartiality be damned.

The Industrial Relations (Fair Work Act Harmonisation No. 2) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2013 was also introduced on October 17 and referred to committee.  It includes a number of changes which restrict what can be covered in industrial awards and enterprise agreements, allow employers to refuse to deduct union fees from workers' pay, and change the way the industrial tribunal will work.  In other words, it will now be easier for employers, especially the government, to screw their workers.

The Workers' Compensation and Rehabilitation and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2013, introduced on 15 October and passed on the 17th, makes major changes to entitlements for workers' compensation including creating a threshold level of disability before compensation can be claimed, shifting the basis of compensation from "work-related impairment" to "permanent impairment", increasing the burden of proof for psychological illness or disability, and allowing prospective employers access to previous compensation records.  For comment, see previous paragraph.

The North Stradbroke Island Protection and Sustainability and Another Act Amendment Bill 2013, introduced on that same busy day and sent to committee, reverses the previous government's decision to phase out sand mining on North Stradbroke Island, extending leases on the two main mines to 2035 and 2040.  The Quandamooka people (traditional owners of the island) and environmentalists are outraged but what does that matter when the mining company spent $90,000 in early 2012 sending out letters urging people to vote for Campbell Newman?

Some of these things have been reported in the news media, some have not.  All of them have far-reaching effects on large numbers of Queenslanders.  All of them except the first provide significant benefits for rich people and significant restrictions or reduced benefits for poor people.  All have slipped through the current parliament, with its huge LNP majority, quickly and with minimal debate.  None have been subject to intense media scrutiny or public outcry.  All the media scrutiny, and all the outcry, has been redirected to the bikie sideshow. 

It is likely that the bikie laws will eventually be ruled unconstitutional by the High Court.  I certainly hope so.  They are blatantly discriminatory and fly in the face of the basic principles of the Australian justice system.  They are so badly drafted and poorly researched that many of their clauses are nonsensical, they outlaw organisations that don't exist and proscribe places where bikies have not hung out for years.  The government will end up looking a bit silly, which is only fair.

In the meantime these other laws will be here to stay, robbing the poor to pay the rich for years to come.  We may possibly come to view Jarrod Bleijie and Campbell Newman as the political equivalent of Penn and Teller, but I think it is much more likely we will think of them as the Artful Dodger and Fagin. 

Apropos of which...