Holy Fodder

Pope in condom capAlternate Title: Pope-phylactic

Alternate Alternate Title: Habemus Scumbag

So, our pal Pope B-B-B-B-B-Benedict XVI made his first visit to Africa since becoming the Big Catholic Cheese recently (note to Governor Palin: that’s Africa the continent, not the country). While he was in Cameroon, he made a statement about the use of condoms in the effort to slow the spread of HIV/AIDS. From an AP article:

Condoms are not the answer to Africa’s fight against HIV, Pope Benedict XVI said Tuesday as he began a weeklong trip to the continent. It was the pope’s first explicit statement on an issue that has divided even clergy working with AIDS patients.

Benedict arrived in Yaounde, Cameroon’s capital, and was greeted by a crowd of flag-waving faithful and snapping cameras. The visit is his first pilgrimage as pontiff to Africa.

In his four years as pope, Benedict had never directly addressed condom use, although his stance is not new. His predecessor, Pope John Paul II, often said that sexual abstinence was the best way to prevent the spread of the disease.

Benedict also said the Roman Catholic Church was at the forefront of the battle against AIDS.

“You can’t resolve it with the distribution of condoms,” the pope said en route to Yaounde. “On the contrary, it increases the problem.”

Huh? Wha? Let’s start off with a look at the first, and arguably lesser, of the two utterly nutso statements at the end: the claim that the church is “at the forefront of the battle against AIDS.” Just what it is it the church does in the battle against AIDS? As far as I know, it insists that people refrain from sex outside marriage. It’s abstinence training.

And how well does abstinence training work?

The number of teenagers having babies rose for the second straight year in 2007, at a slower pace than the previous 12 months, a U.S. government report showed.

The birth rate for teens increased about 1 percent in 2007 from 2006, following a 2.8 percent rise in 2006, according to the report from the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. The number of unmarried women having babies also rose, accounting for almost 40 percent of all births in 2007, the report said.

Babies born to teenage mothers are more likely to be premature and less healthy, according to the March of Dimes. Government and nonprofit programs work to provide education on contraception, encourage youth to postpone sexual relationships and promote abstinence to reduce the rate of teen births, which had declined for 14 years until 2006.

“It is clear here that one of the jobs at hand is to get back on track to where we were, and that is convincing more young people of the value of delaying sexual activity and convincing sexually active teens to use contraception consistently and carefully,” said Bill Albert, a spokesman for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy in Washington.

The reasons behind the increase in teen births are unclear. Some policy experts attributed the rising pregnancies to a lack of education about contraception as the U.S. government focused on abstinence-only programs under former President George W. Bush. Others cited an ill-advised confidence after years of progress.

Or how about this article from late last year:

Teens who take virginity pledges are just as likely to have sex as teens who don’t make such promises — and they’re less likely to practice safe sex to prevent disease or pregnancy, a new study finds.

“Previous studies found that pledgers were more likely to delay having sex than non-pledgers,” said study author Janet E. Rosenbaum, a post doctoral fellow at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “I used the same data as previous studies but a different statistical method.”

This method allowed Rosenbaum to compare those who had taken a virginity pledge with similar teens who hadn’t taken a pledge but were likely to delay having sex, she said. She added that she didn’t include teens who were unlikely to take a pledge.

“Virginity pledgers and similar non-pledgers don’t differ in the rates of vaginal, oral or anal sex or any other sexual behavior,” Rosenbaum said. “Strikingly, pledgers are less likely than similar non-pledgers to use condoms and also less likely to use any form of birth control.”

OK, so abstinence is clearly the answer.

And what can we say about Bennie’s claim that condom distribution “increases the problem” of HIV? I’m at a loss to respond with anything more than a simple “what the fuck.”

By the way, while we’re on the subject of wacky papal pronouncements, I don’t want to leave out this gem:

Benedict said that while the Catholic church in Africa is the fastest growing in the world, it faces competition from increasingly popular evangelical movements and “the growing influence of superstitious forms of religion.”

Superstitious forms of religion. As opposed to the religions that are based on the scientific method. Yeah, we’ve really got to watch out for that stuff.

Google Buzz Tags: , , , , , ,

Romney’s Big Speech

Mitt Romney with haloIf you’re a regular reader here (as if) you know that I’ve got a bit of a problem with the strategy Mitt Romney is apparently using to deal with people who have a problem with the fact that he’s a Mormon. Basically, he’s stressing that he’s a person of faith, pointing out what he has in common with the majority of people. That would be more or less acceptable to me, but the rhetoric Romney uses very clearly alienates those of us who don’t adhere to any religious faith. I’ve written about this before.

Today, Romney gave a speech at the George Bush library at Texas A&M, the purpose of which was to assuage the fears of those who are worried about what it would mean to have a Mormon president — much like John Kennedy did in 1960, assuring people that as president, he wouldn’t be taking orders from the pope. You can read the entire transcript of the speech at the site of the Wall Street Journal, but I thought I’d give you my comments on a few excerpts. This is basically what I was shouting back at the eye of hell while Mitzi spoke.

Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom.

So I take it that means that those of us who don’t have a religion aren’t free, or can’t be free. Why is that?

As a young man, Lincoln described what he called America’s ‘political religion’ – the commitment to defend the rule of law and the Constitution. When I place my hand on the Bible and take the oath of office, that oath becomes my highest promise to God. If I am fortunate to become your president, I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause, and no one interest. A President must serve only the common cause of the people of the United States.

This one’s a little odd. When Lincoln gave his Lyceum Speech on January 27, 1838 in Springfiield Illinois, his point was pretty much what Romney says: commitment to the rule of law. As such, it’s really got nothing to do with the real theme of Romney’s speech. It’s about faith in something strictly secular. Here’s an excerpt from Lincoln’s speech:

The question recurs, “how shall we fortify against [mob law]?” The answer is simple. Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others. As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor;–let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the character of his own, and his children’s liberty. Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap–let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs;–let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.

Back to Romney:

Some believe that such a confession of my faith will sink my candidacy. If they are right, so be it. But I think they underestimate the American people. Americans do not respect believers of convenience.

Americans tire of those who would jettison their beliefs, even to gain the world.

I wonder if that includes all the beliefs he professed to the people of Massachusetts when he was running for office here.

There are some who would have a presidential candidate describe and explain his church’s distinctive doctrines. To do so would enable the very religious test the founders prohibited in the Constitution.

And yet he seems to be just fine with a more general religious test — if you adhere to a religion, you pass. If not, fuck off.

The founders proscribed the establishment of a state religion, but they did not countenance the elimination of religion from the public square. We are a nation ‘Under God’ and in God, we do indeed trust.

We should acknowledge the Creator as did the Founders – in ceremony and word. He should remain on our currency, in our pledge, in the teaching of our history, and during the holiday season, nativity scenes and menorahs should be welcome in our public places. Our greatness would not long endure without judges who respect the foundation of faith upon which our constitution rests. I will take care to separate the affairs of government from any religion, but I will not separate us from ‘the God who gave us liberty.’

Of course this is a reference to US currency and the pledge of allegiance, but “In God We Trust” was added to our money in 1864 and “under God” was added to the pledge in 1954, so this really has nothing at all to do with the Founders.

Nor would I separate us from our religious heritage. Perhaps the most important question to ask a person of faith who seeks a political office, is this: does he share these American values: the equality of human kind, the obligation to serve one another, and a steadfast commitment to liberty?

They are not unique to any one denomination. They belong to the great moral inheritance we hold in common. They are the firm ground on which Americans of different faiths meet and stand as a nation, united.

You wouldn’t ask those questions of a person who didn’t profess some faith? Why? Are you assuming the answers would be “no”?

These American values, this great moral heritage, is shared and lived in my religion as it is in yours.

Assuming you have one, that is. If not, fuck off.

In such a world, we can be deeply thankful that we live in a land where reason and religion are friends and allies in the cause of liberty, joined against the evils and dangers of the day. And you can be certain of this: Any believer in religious freedom, any person who has knelt in prayer to the Almighty, has a friend and ally in me. And so it is for hundreds of millions of our countrymen: we do not insist on a single strain of religion – rather, we welcome our nation’s symphony of faith.

I guess I need to break this one down a bit… “…we live in a land where reason and religion are friends and allies in the cause of liberty…” Well, in some aspects of the cause of liberty, I suppose, but not all. A lot of school boards want the liberty to teach intelligent design. Reason finds that concept either laughable or disgusting.

“Any believer in religious freedom, any person who has knelt in prayer to the Almighty, has a friend and ally in me.” If he means one has to be a member of both of those groups to be his ally, I guess that’s OK. But those could certainly be two separate groups, and the sentence doesn’t indicate to me that he’s saying one has to be in both groups. I think it would be fair to say that I believe in religious liberty, but I’m not seeking Mitt’s support for my views, and it’s pretty clear he wouldn’t support them. And there are certainly many people who have “knelt in prayer to the Almighty” but aren’t Mitt’s kind of people. Those folks for whom Mitt says he wants to double the size of Gitmo come to mind, for example.

“And so it is for hundreds of millions of our countrymen: we do not insist on a single strain of religion – rather, we welcome our nation’s symphony of faith.” We do not insist on a single strain of religion, but it appears we (that is, he and those to whom he’s pandering) do insist on some strain of religion. After all, in our nation’s symphony of faith, those of us who don’t have a faith don’t even get to sit with the orchestra.

Google Buzz Tags: , ,

More Prayers to the Rain God of Dixie

Remember back in July, when Bob Riley, the governor of Alabammy, issued a proclamation calling for a week of prayer for rain? One could argue that it met with some degree of success. One would be wrong, but that never stopped anybody.

On Sunday, a series of strong thunderstorms brought torrential rain, flash floods and lightning to the area, but apparently not enough to bring much relief to the drought-stricken area.

“I don’t think it made a big dent,” said Patrick Gatlin with the National Weather Service’s Huntsville office. “… This is the most rain we’ve seen in quite some time but it definitely won’t get us back to normal.”

Sonny PerdueWith a record of success like that, it should come as no surprise that in Georgia, where they’re dealing with a drought of historic proportions, Governor Sonny Perdue would put that tried and true method to use:

Bowing his head outside the Georgia Capitol on Tuesday, Gov. Sonny Perdue cut a newly repentant figure as he publicly prayed for rain to end the region’s historic drought.

“Oh father, we acknowledge our wastefulness,” Perdue said. “But we’re doing better. And I thought it was time to acknowledge that to the creator, the provider of water and land, and to tell him that we will do better.”

Hundreds of Georgians — ministers and lawmakers, landscapers and office workers — gathered in downtown Atlanta for the prayer vigil. Some held bibles and crucifixes. Many swayed and linked arms as a choir sang “What a Mighty God We Serve” and “Amazing Grace.”

As Perdue described it, “We have come together, very simply, for one reason and one reason only: To very reverently and respectfully pray up a storm.”

And did the Rain God deliver?

Gov. Sonny Perdue said Thursday morning that he’s not gloating over the fact that it rained a day after he held a prayer vigil at the Capitol.

“This is hopefully the beginning of more,” Perdue said from Canada, where he is on a trade mission. “One rain won’t refill the reservoirs. It is great affirmation of what we asked for.”

Most of metro Atlanta got a little rain overnight ahead of a strong cold front that blew through North Georgia, and a wind advisory was in effect for gusty conditions behind the front on Thursday.

“As we do all we can from a conservation standpoint, virtually all of us know we are dependent on rain. I am just a person who believes it comes from God,” Perdue said.

While almost all of metro Atlanta got rain, most rainfall totals were only around a quarter-inch or less.

Overnight rainfall totals included .14 inch at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, .21 inch at DeKalb-Peachtree Airport and .28 inch at Dobbins Air Reserve Base.

The rain was a little heavier north of town, with Cartersville reporting .82 inch and Gainesville .75 inch.

The wind advisory for 20 mph winds gusting to 30 to 35 mph was in effect from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, the National Weather Service said.

“Such strong winds may result in weak or small trees being blown down, some possibly onto power lines,” the Weather Service said. “Loose outdoor objects such as lawn furniture and garbage cans, should be secured or stored indoors.”

The forecast for metro Atlanta calls for sunny skies on Friday, with early-morning lows in the mid-30s and afternoon highs in the upper 50s.

Lows will be in the low 30s Friday night under mostly clear skies, forecasters said.

The weekend outlook is for mostly sunny skies Saturday and Sunday, with highs in the mid-60s and lows in the low 40s.

There is a 20 percent chance of rain Tuesday night into Wednesday, the Weather Service said.

Praise be.

While we’re on the subject, what’s the deal with the names of Southern politicians? You’ve got Sonny Perdue, Trent Lott, Saxby Chambliss, and I’m sure plenty of others. I’m guessing that Lott and Chambliss carry old family names that remind their constituents of the glory days of the region, kind of like the confederate flag.

Do you think anybody with a name like that could be taken seriously up here? I mean, “Trent Lott” sounds like a name Elvis would call out in the middle of a song to introduce a bass solo, and “Saxby Chambliss” has to be the sort of effete upper-class fellow Scarlett O’Hara’s family would have tried to marry her off to, but he just wasn’t manly enough for her.

Google Buzz Tags: , , , , , ,

John McChrist

I used to have a decent amount of respect for John McCain. Back in 2000, he was a Republican I could have actually considered voting for. Of course, he was pushed out of the race by the kind of dirty tricks that would later be used against quite a few Democrats.

I lost a lot of respect for him when he strongly backed Bush in ’04. This was the guy whose people had used the religious right and ugly rumors to push him out of the way four years earlier. This time around, the Democratic nominee was one of his closest friends in the Senate. There was even talk of McCain as Kerry’s running mate. But McCain stuck with Bush, Bush’s war and Bush’s alliances, clearly hoping the party would view 2008 as McCain’s turn.

Since then he’s brown nosed the right, started talking nonsense in support of a nonsensical war, cozied up to the religious fanatics he’d previously attacked, and in general tried his damnest to be just like the jack-off who cheated him out of the nomination before. And now this.

Clearly, there’s a lot of editing in there, so maybe the context of what he’s saying here might allow one to see it in another light, but I kind of doubt it. Fuck him.

Google Buzz Tags: , , , ,

Bill Maher on Religion and Politics

Have you seen this yet? Skip to about 2:30 (around 3:55 on the countdown timer) for the relevant part.

Maher makes some great points, one of which I pointed out early this year when Mitt Romney responded to someone saying he’d never vote for a Mormon.

One of the great things about this great land is we have people of different faiths and different persuasions, and I’m convinced that the nation does need to have people of different faiths, but we need to have a person of faith lead the country.

Translation: you may not like my religion, but at least I’m not an atheist.

A few of Maher’s points don’t quite work for me, however. I don’t know where he got his data, but I don’t think nonbelievers (atheists and agnostics combined) make up 20% of the voting public in the US — or to be more precise, I don’t think enough nonbelievers would admit they are to bring our numbers up to 20%.

But the main problem is that, if as he points out 70% of Americans believe it’s important to have a president with strong religious beliefs, then you simply can’t compare nonbelievers (or “rationalists,” as he prefers to call us) to other minority groups. If a politician makes a point of telling the African American community that s/he’s on their side, that does not automatically equate to not being on the side of white people. You can support women without losing the male vote. There are enough straights who support gay rights that you can come out in favor of at least some semblance of equal rights for the GLBT community without losing the support of everyone else.

But about as close as you can come to supporting nonbelievers is one of those namby pamby statements about how the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of religion includes the freedom not to have one. You can’t say that there’s nothing wrong with the idea of an atheist president, although we’ve undoubtedly had some. If a candidate dared say they weren’t religious they’d be dead. It was only this year that a single member of the House, Pete Stark of California came out as a nontheist, and that’s after being in office for some 34 years.

Sorry Bill, but supporting us means losing support from the majority. That’s just the way it is.

Google Buzz Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Did Olbermann Chicken Out?

I was watching Countdown on Friday night (I usually catch the midnight replay) and of course, it being the night of the official premiere of the Simpsons Movie, they had a story about the global hype surrounding the film. After Monica Novotny was done talking about how the CN Tower “now has a sprinkilicious view,” our boy Keith, hero of lefty bloggers all over the interweb tubies, he who fears no Bushy, came back to say (from the official transcript):

And, of course, Monica meant squishies, not slushies. The woman behind Bart Simpson will be joining us live here on Monday. Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart, dude, on COUNTDOWN at 8:00 Eastern, 5:00 Pacific. Be there, aloha.

Bart Simpson as Tom CruiseI was so excited! No, not because I was going to learn all kinds of fun stuff about the show or the movie. I was excited because Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart Simpson, is a Scientologist. We know how Olbermann feels about Scientology. There was no way he was going to interview Nancy Cartwright without one of them bringing up the Church — either he’d bravely take the interview off its planned course of plugging the movie and insist she tell the truth about Prince Xenu, or she’d at the very least demonstrate her disdain for the things he’s had to say about Tom Cruise. In either case, this was going to be good.

So I tuned in tonight at 8:00. I didn’t want to risk something big and ugly going down and having it deleted from the version I would have seen at midnight. No, I didn’t want to miss a thing.

And what did I get? An interview with Yeardley Smith, the voice of Lisa Simpson. What? It was supposed to be Bart, not Lisa. You said so, Keith!

What a disappointment. The interview was fine — perfectly infotaining. But it was not what I’d been waiting all weekend for. No fireworks. No name calling. Poo.

I want to know who blinked, and under what circumstances. Did the brave Sir Keith turn coward on us, afraid of things getting less than fun in his final segment of the night, when he normally gives us his powder-puff soft celebrity news? Did Cartwright refuse to speak with the heretic? Did MSNBC wise up to what was likely to take place and decide to play it safe? Somebody clue me in.

Update: I just noticed, in the repeat broadcast of the interview (hey, there’s nothing else on, ok?) that Keith makes a point early on about how the entire cast seems to enjoy working together, and he reels off a list of names: Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Harry Shearer… but not Nancy Cartwright! Freudian slip, or spiteful omission?

Google Buzz Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

The Drama in Alabama

Bob RileyHey, it almost rhymes.

The happy, grandfatherly, Reaganoid gent over there is Governor Bob Riley of Alabama. I won’t bother mentioning his party affiliation. Just dig his ‘do and you’ll know.

Alabama has been dealing with a bit of a drought, but Governor Bob knows what to do about that:

With the state’s weather forecasters not delivering much-needed rain, Gov. Bob Riley on Thursday turned to a higher power. The governor issued a proclamation calling for a week of prayer for rain, beginning Saturday.

Riley encouraged Alabamians to pray “individually and in their houses of worship.”

“Throughout our history, Alabamians have turned in prayer to God to humbly ask for his blessings and to hold us steady during times of difficulty,” Riley said. “This drought is without question a time of great difficulty.”

I’ve heard tell that if the prayer doesn’t do the trick, Governor Bob has invited all the state’s virgins to join him on the lawn of the Governor’s Mansion the following Saturday to get naked, cover themselves in mud and dance for the pleasure of the Rain God. Goats and oxen will be sacrificed and deep-fried twinkies will be served. Come one come all (virgins)!

Apparently, Barry Lynn of Americans United is none too pleased with the plan. “He shouldn’t do these things that raise the specter of government promoting a particular religion,” Lynn said. “It’s just a bad idea.” But what’s he know? Get him a deep-fried twinkie and then ask him what he thinks.

Blogs Against Theocracy

The preceding has been a slightly less than serious contribution to the July 2007 edition of Blogs Against Theocracy, with a tip of the hat to Crooks and Liars.

Google Buzz Tags: , , , , ,

Democracy, Not Theocracy

First Freedom FirstI’ve mentioned First Freedom First a couple of times already, but Blue Gal posted this video today, and it’s really good. Without further comment, this is the message:

Google Buzz Tags: , , , , , ,

Does Mitt Know the Lord?

Mitt RomneyI found this at Crooks and Liars.

Mitt Romney was chatting up a group of people (I don’t know where this happened, but based on the pronunciation of the word “god” I’d say it has to be the Midwest, maybe Chicago) and one man indicated how important it was to him that he vote for “a man who stands for the lord Jesus Christ.” He then went on to say that he’d never vote for Romney because, as a Mormon, Mitt just doesn’t “know the lord.” He’s identified in the title of the video as a “heckler,” but as far as I can tell he was polite in the way he said what he said, whether you think the message was pleasant or not. The crowd booed. They’d have none of this religious persecution.

Romney’s response was so… American. Mitt understands that you don’t have to be a Methodist, a Congregationalist, a Presbyterian or some such thing to be President of the US of A. Why, we’ve got freedom of religion! It brought a tear to my eye.

One of the great things about this great land is we have people of different faiths and different persuasions, and I’m convinced that the nation does need to have people of different faiths, but we need to have a person of faith lead the country.

Translation: You may not like my religion, but at least I’m not some filthy atheist.

I love you too, Mitzi.

Google Buzz Tags: , , , , ,

CNN Bashes Atheists

I’ve written before about a story on that implied that atheists aren’t repulsed by extremist religious views. It was the sort of badly-worded statement that clearly wasn’t intended as an attack on atheists, but that showed a general lack of consideration:

His extremist views may be repugnant to the vast majority of muslims — in fact, anyone who believes in God.

Well, that was nothing. How about some overt atheist bashing?

This is just astonishing to me. They run a story that clearly shows that this family was discriminated against, and follow it up with a panel discussion that backs up just about everything that town did to the family. Where was the atheist on the panel, or at the very least, where was somebody who actually has an understanding of the first amendment? Freedom of religion doesn’t include freedom from religion? Yes, it fucking well does. Or at least it’s supposed to.

Google Buzz Tags: , , , , , ,

Next Page »