Hip-Gnosis: April 2008: Archives
In the following video, Jon Stewart tackles the question of abstinence-only sex education (with all of the appropriate sarcasm) and the fact that it has proven ineffective in reducing teen pregnancies and the transmission of STD's.
He first offers us a look at some of the techniques used and some of the arguments being offered by those opposed to comprehensive sex education. You're bound to love the dirty toothbrush example as well as the "god stick and shame cave" analogy that Stewart attributes to the likes of Senator Brownback. It's a good thing we've advanced from more primitive deterrent strategies and adopted these advanced measures of preventing children from exploring their sexuality.
He closes the segment with a pubic service announcement promoting dry humping as a reasonable alternative to getting 'dirty'. Stewart tells teens that dry humping is safe...it avoids the need for those disgusting condoms...and it allows you to still get into heaven.
Tagged as: Abstinence-Only Education, Condoms, Humor, Jon Stewart, Pregnancy, Religion, Senator Sam Brownback, Sex, The Daily Show
Daniel DiRito | April 30, 2008 | 2:16 PM |
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I've got a different take on the focus that is being placed on the statement's of Jeremiah Wright and their relationship to the candidacy of Barack Obama. I agree that he isn't doing Senator Obama any favors by appearing at numerous events...especially since many Americans seemed willing to accept his explanations and observations on the issue of race following the first release of excerpts from Pastor Wright's sermons.
However, realizing the detrimental effect of Pastor Wright's continued presence in the spotlight ignores an essential and salient question...one that asks why Wright's ongoing remarks and the associated media attention continues to result in a strong and persistent linkage to Senator Obama...despite the Senator's lucid observations on the complexities of race in America.
As I've watched this situation unfold, I've had a nagging suspicion that something else was at play. Fortunately, as I saw today's endless coverage of the topic, I was able to connect these troubling events with a theory I previously discovered as a result of my endless curiosity with human psychology. The theory hasn't received all that much attention though I suspect it soon will.
The theory, and my related hypothesis, suggests that the incessant linkage of Obama with Jeremiah Wright is indicative of a phenomenon that has typified race relations in this country for many years. The psychological concept has it's origin in the study of "cross-race recognition deficit"...or what would be commonly known as a predisposition to conclude that "they all look the same" when attempting to distinguish individuals of a race that differs from our own. Hence we are prone to conclude that 'they' all look alike...and more importantly...that 'they' are in fact alike in ways that exceed or transcend their physical descriptions or characteristics.
The following provides a basic explanation of, and a primer on, the research that underlies the theory of "cross-race recognition deficit".
From The American Psychological Association:
WASHINGTON - Why do people of one racial group fail to recognize faces from another racial group? This so-called cross-race recognition deficit, a topic of debate within the social science community, is sometimes explained by suggesting that people have less experience seeing faces from other races. But, a new research finding by Kent State University psychologist Daniel T. Levin, Ph.D., suggests that the information people "see" when looking at the face of a person of another race is information that allows them to classify the person as White or Black but is not information which allows them to individualize the person, such as the color of their eyes or shape of their nose.
Dr. Levin's conclusions, as published in the December issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, published by the American Psychological Association, is based on experiments designed to determine the kind of information people retain when looking at cross-race faces.
In his first experiment, Levin compared how well people recognize faces of other races with how readily they locate these faces in a visual search task. He made two average faces, one derived from 16 Black faces morphed together and a second created when 16 White faces were morphed together. These Black and White faces were at either ends of a cross-race spectrum of faces.
Using these faces, Levin tested 25 participants (the participants were nearly all White, with a few Asians also included) on their ability to locate a Black face amid a series of White faces or visa versa. Next, the same participants were shown yearbook photos of 16 White and 16 Black male students. They were then shown another set of photos and asked to indicate whether any of the second set also appeared in the yearbook photos.
As expected, on the face memory test using yearbook photos, participants were better at recognizing White faces than they were at recognizing Black ones. But, paradoxically, participants who performed most poorly in recognizing Black faces in the yearbook photo test were most likely in the first part of the experiment - the visual search task -- to locate Black faces among the White faces more quickly than the White faces among Black faces.
This occurs, according to Levin, because the information people focus on when looking at a face of another racial group is information that is optimal for group classification (that's a Black man") rather than individual recognition ("that's a man with a mustache and a down-turned mouth").
"Participants who were poor at recognizing black faces appear to code blackness as a visual feature while they may not code whiteness at all," says Dr. Levin. "The problem is not that we can't code the details of cross-race faces; it's that we don't. Instead, we substitute group information, or information about the race, for information about the features that help us tell individual people apart."
I contend that Dr. Levin's work on the subject is on the leading edge of better understanding what we're witnessing with regards to the campaign of Senator Obama and thus pushing us towards our next foray into understanding the impact of race in America.
Specifically, the notion of substituting group information or information about a particular race for the discriminations needed to distinguish one individual from another are at play with regards to the remarks of Pastor Wright and the linkage being applied as a result of Senator Obama's membership in his church.
Let's look more closely at the details of Dr. Levin's research. In his follow up work, Dr. Levin provides evidence that suggests that the recognition deficit does exist but he takes it a step further when he exposes the possibility that the deficit doesn't result from an inability to identify subtle differences; rather it may well be that we simply don't or won't.
The fact that he quickly demonstrates that it can be done with a minimal amount of instruction suggests that we're prone to what I would characterize as 'lumping'. Essentially lumping means that once we distinguish race, we frequently go no further in order to identify or delineate for the characteristics of each individual. I would argue that this process of generalization is apt to transcend physical attributes. If so, it may well explain why the words of Pastor Wright are being indelibly attached to Senator Obama.
From Monitor On Psychology:
People are notoriously awful at recognizing faces from other races. It's a human foible often explained by the notion that we have more experience looking at members of our own race and thus acquire "perceptual expertise" for characteristics of our own kind.
One influential version of that hypothesis argues that the so-called cross-race recognition deficit can be modeled by assuming that faces of other races are more psychologically similar than are faces of one's own race. But Daniel Levin, PhD, a cognitive psychologist at Kent State University, has been unsatisfied with that argument.
"The perceptual expertise position is pretty intuitive, and it makes sense," he says. "But I'm arguing that it's not really the case. The problem is not that we can't code the details of cross-race faces--it's that we don't."
Instead, he says, people place inordinate emphasis on race categories--whether someone is white, black or Asian--ignoring information that would help them recognize people as individuals. In recent research, Levin has shown that people can, in fact, perceive fine differences among faces of people from other races--as long as they're using those differences to make race classifications.
Levin hypothesized that when people see cross-race faces, they code race-specifying information at the expense of individuating information--something they don't do when they see same-race faces.
To test the notion that people are able to perceive subtle differences among faces of people from other races, Levin next explored how readily people distinguish among cross-race faces versus own-race faces in making race classifications. Using the two average black and white faces from the earlier experiments, he created a continuum of faces that ran from black at one end to white at the other. Thirteen participants viewed pairs of faces that differed by 20 percent along the black-white continuum. For half the trials, participants judged which of the two faces was most similar to the face at the black end point face. For the other half, they judged which was most similar to the face at the white end.
He found that participants were more often accurate when discriminating between two faces at the black end of the continuum than they were for faces at the white end of the continuum. That finding demonstrates, Levin explains, that people possess the perceptual expertise to detect minute differences among cross-race faces.
A final experiment corroborated those results. As before, for faces on a black-white continuum, participants were better at discriminating between subtly different black faces than they were for subtly different white faces. But on a different continuum that had black faces at both end points, making it impossible for faces to be distinguished based on race, participants did not show such skill at discriminating between faces. That suggests that the extent to which the subtle variations convey race information, as opposed to individuating information, is an important part of the discrimination task, Levin argues.
The excerpt that follows includes remarks from other researchers on the validity of Levin's observations and conclusions. While a discussion of the data would clearly need to be more complex than the text provided below, the gist of the alternate argument contends that Levin fails to provide evidence of reversal...meaning Whites and Blacks should exhibit similar abilities to 'classify' the faces of other races.
A prior political event may help us understand why the reversal sought by others isn't necessary to confirm Levin's hypothesis. In fact, the example may actually direct us towards the additional research needed to conclusively support Dr. Levin's contention that one must look at the differences in majority and minority status to fully understand the causations and ramifications of this theory. That further body of work could also substantiate the extrapolations I'm making with regards to Reverend Wright and Senator Obama.
Back in 1960, John Kennedy's candidacy was endangered by his Catholicism despite his assertions he wouldn't be beholding to or guided by those in Rome. He, like Senator Obama, found it necessary to explain his membership and the fact that he would remain a participant in his church of choice. Skeptical voters sought assurances that he could separate the duties and objectives of his party and the office of the president from the doctrines and objectives perceived to be espoused by his clergy.
Many years later, in 2004, John Kerry met with the disfavor of a number of leaders of the Catholic Church. His support for a woman's right to choose (and other positions) was in opposition to the teachings of the Church yet his ongoing commitment to his religion of choice didn't elicit suspicions as to his allegiances or what he might do once elected. With the passage of decades, those who chose to support John Kerry were able and willing to accept that the Senator's beliefs differed from those within the hierarchy of his church. In fact, he was even able to separate his own personal beliefs on abortion from the constitutional obligations he felt came with winning the presidency.
Returning to reversal, Levin disagrees, as do I, that it is a requirement to validate his hypothesis. Instead, it likely means that further research and better understandings are necessary to explain why there may be an absence of reversal in the minority group. To that end, I suspect that minorities simply begin to internalize the categorizations that society imposes...regardless of whether they have been applied by the majority consciously or as a matter of unconscious, though ingrained discriminations.
In fact, I believe that those who feel such recognitions are applied as negative attributions would be resistant to adopt the use of similar discriminations. While doing so could be construed (by the minority) at some level to be a measure of retribution, it could also lend support to those seeking vindication for their actions and validation of their generalized, though often arbitrary, attributions. I suspect the absence of reversal in minorities is therefore accompanied by an increase in dissonance. Over time, the negative discriminations...and thus the dissonance...may well abate as assimilation is advanced.
From Monitor On Psychology:
Tim Valentine, PhD, of Goldsmiths College, University of London, also challenges Levin's interpretation. In order for Levin to support his claim that people more quickly classify other-race faces according to their race than they classify own-race faces, he says, "it is necessary to show that an effect for one race of participants reverses for the other race--for example, that black participants classify white faces faster than black faces. Levin has never shown this crossover that is critical for his hypothesis."
Levin disagrees, however, that showing such a reversal is critical. His argument, he emphasizes, depends only on having found that people who are poorest at recognizing cross-race faces are in fact best at discriminating between them on the basis of race.
And Levin concurs with Mullen that members of minority groups are likely to respond differently than are members of majority groups. Indeed, he points out, his report discusses previous research that suggests that minority group members tend to code not only people of other races at the category level, but also do so for people of their own race.
Ultimately, suggests Alice O'Toole, PhD, a psychologist at the University of Texas at Dallas who also studies face recognition, Levin's new findings may be compatible with perceptual expertise and similarity hypotheses.
"I see less division in the ideas than he does," O'Toole says. "One consequence of the perceptual problems that we may have with other-race faces could simply be that race is just a much more salient aspect of our encoding of faces of other races than it is of faces of our own race. I think the hypotheses are compatible, but Levin's idea is at more of a social level of analysis."
Levin acknowledges, "The problem with the [perceptual expertise] models is not really that they're wrong, per se. Rather, it's a problem of focus. They're focused on this sort of reductivist analysis of similarity, when they really ought to be focused on trying to figure out why people use the features they use."
In the final paragraph of the above excerpt lies the fundamental question of interest. Understanding the phenomenon of cross-race recognition deficit and all the behaviors that may be associated with it is only the first step. Being able to dissect the underlying beliefs that lead to this type of behavior is likely to help us understand and deconstruct the dynamics that drive racial tensions and the prejudices that fuel and promote them.
In the end, Senator Obama is an individual. While many impugn the validity of his stated beliefs and refuse to accept any of the distinctions he has made with regard to his beliefs and those of his pastor, the degree of doubt that remains is likely to be more reflective of the society in which we live than it is of our ability to make informed discriminations absent the influence of race.
Barack Obama may well continue to be harmed by his linkage to the words and images of Pastor Wright. Unfortunately, I contend that connection is a manifestation of the subtle and insidious racial divisions that continue to inhabit our perplexing psyches. Much of what Wright says may be wrong...but concluding Obama is wrong for America because of what Wright has said is also wrong.
Tagged as: 2008 Election, Barack Obama, Cross-Race Recognition Deficit, Daniel Levin PhD, Jeremiah Wright, John F. Kennedy, John Kerry, Kent State University, Psychology, Race Relations, Racism
Daniel DiRito | April 28, 2008 | 11:27 AM |
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Have a seat, take a deep breath, and then watch the following video of Christian leaders assailing militant homosexuals and portraying themselves as victims of those who are seeking to undo all measures of morality. All that's missing from this piece of persecution propaganda is a wooden cross and the hammer needed to nail themselves to it. No doubt this is an attempt to demonstrate the degree to which they are being decimated by diabolical drag queens hell bent on effecting a holocaust on the holier than thou. Man your battle stations folks...the gays are coming.
I find screeds of this nature quite amusing in light of the concurrent efforts to stereotype gays as effeminate fairies who are gender challenged. Then again, why would one expect a gaggle of 'good old boys' to cease their efforts to maintain their long standing misogynistic masquerade. Apparently gays provide them with a multitude of targets. On the one hand, they can portray gays as militaristic monsters, and on the other, they can castigate them as nefarious Nelly's. Yes, these and other aspersions are an effective means of attaching antagonistic archetypes to their ardent enemy.
One things for sure, these folks are rather adept at crafting catch phrases and interjecting derogatory imagery meant to mobilize their minions. Note some of the one's they utilize in this short video - sexual politics, militant homosexual agenda, right of conscience, suppress, silenced, religious liberty, God's standard, dominance, second class citizen, clash, totalitarian regime, Nazi Germany, concentration camp, intimidation, beat into submission, discrimination on steroids, radical, hammer of the state, Taliban, authoritarian, and fascist.
Who would have thought that men of God would be so skilled at inciting anger and animosity. Then again, these megalomaniacs probably think a crusade is just what they need to advance their Christian charade...as well as making certain the cash cow doesn't dry up. Fomenting their flocks with fear reminds me of another evangelical instigator...the one ensconced in the White House.
Honestly, these people are exasperating. Their willingness to use selective comprehension to cherry pick Christ's message is not only disingenuous; it is an abrogation of his authenticity.
These rabble rousers might find themselves on the outside looking in when their magical moment of Rapture arrives. After all, whose to say God won't prefer to populate heaven with a group of gays that demonstrated the power and persistence to bring the 'good old boys' to their knees. Besides, God must already know that most of these men are a six pack of beer away from crossing over to the other side...if you know what I mean.
Tagged as: Bigotry, ENDA, Evangelicals, Gay Marriage, Gay Rights, Hate Crimes Legislation, Homophobia, Humor, LGBT, Militant Homosexuals, Rapture, Religious Right, Same-Sex Marriage, Tony Perkins
Daniel DiRito | April 24, 2008 | 6:00 PM |
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Back in 1955, Rudolf Flesch, author of the book Why Johnny Can't Read, took issue with the latest trend in teaching children to read. Rather than learning phonics, students were simply being taught to recognize words and Flesch argued that the practice left them ill-prepared for the unknown. In other words, when confronted with unrecognized words, they lacked the ability and the tools to succeed.
Under the auspices of the Bush administration, children are being similarly handicapped with regards to sex education. Rather than provide children with the knowledge and the tools to confront their emerging sexuality, the president and his faith-based followers insist upon spending huge sums of money on programs that teach abstinence-only.
New data and testimony offered to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform suggests that we're reaching the point at which we must explore "Why Johnny can't breed...without transmitting an STD or getting Jane pregnant".
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Programs teaching U.S. schoolchildren to abstain from sex have not cut teen pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases or delayed the age at which sex begins, health groups told Congress on Wednesday.
"Vast sums of federal monies continue to be directed toward these programs. And, in fact, there is evidence to suggest that some of these programs are even harmful and have negative consequences by not providing adequate information for those teens who do become sexually active," Dr. Margaret Blythe of the American Academy of Pediatrics told the committee.
These programs, backed by many social conservatives who oppose the teaching of contraception methods to teenagers in schools, have received about $1.3 billion in federal funds since the late 1990s. Currently, 17 of the 50 U.S. states refuse to accept federal funds for such programs.
Experts from the American Public Health Association and U.S. Institute of Medicine testified that scientific studies have not found that abstinence-only teaching works to cut pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases or the age when sexual activity begins.
Comprehensive sex education programs should emphasize abstinence as the best way for a teenager to avoid pregnancy or a sexually transmitted disease (STD), Blythe said.
Lawmakers cited government statistics showing that one in four U.S. teenage girls has a sexually transmitted disease and 30 percent of U.S. girls become pregnant before the age of 20.
Panel chairman Rep. Henry Waxman, a California Democrat, said, "We are showering funds on abstinence-only programs that don't appear to work, while ignoring proven comprehensive sex education programs that can delay sex, protect teens from disease, and result in fewer teen pregnancies."
"Meanwhile, we have no dedicated source of federal funding specifically for comprehensive classroom sex education," Waxman added.
Frankly, this insistence on offering abstinence-only education while resisting comprehensive sex education is another example of religious ideologues ignoring solid scientific evidence. This policy comes from the same president who is willing to pour trillions of dollars down the drain to fund a war that appears unlikely to resolve at any time in the near future. It just goes to show that the application of an absolutist template to matters of reason and rationality will frequently result in flawed judgments.
Further demonstrating the tendency of this president to apply absurd and arbitrary logic, he is seeking to cut 13 billion dollars from Medicaid spending for the poor. I guess he's seeking to assuage his legacy of unbridled deficit spending...and by all means...it's best to do so at the expense of the poor. After all, that's both compassionate and conservative, right? Fortunately, Congress rejected his efforts by what appears to be a veto proof margin.
From The Philadelphia Inquirer:
WASHINGTON - The House voted yesterday to block the Bush administration from cutting federal spending on Medicaid health care for the poor by $13 billion over the next five years.
President Bush has threatened a veto, but supporters have more than enough votes in the House to override him, and maybe in the Senate, too.
Two-thirds of the Republicans joined every voting Democrat in the 349-62 vote to impose a one-year moratorium, through next March, on seven rules changes the administration argues are needed to rectify waste and abuse in the state-federal partnership to provide health care to the poor.
Supporters of the bill said the rules would merely shift financial burdens to the states at a time of economic distress while reducing access to health care for the country's neediest people.
The governors of all 50 states, state Medicaid directors, and others oppose the rules, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John D. Dingell (D., Mich.) told the House. "They know the devastating effects these rules would have on local communities, upon hospitals, and upon vulnerable beneficiaries."
The White House, in a statement Tuesday warning of a veto threat, said the House bill would "thwart these efforts of the federal government to regain fiscal accountability and integrity in Medicaid."
I find it truly amazing that this president routinely chooses programs designed for those most in need to demonstrate his fiscal bonafides. He's willing to spend billions on unproven abstinence-only education but caring for the basic health of the poor just can't be justified. Such actions are not only hypocritical; they demonstrate the inherent lack of logical cohesion that has typified this president's tenure.
With that in mind, I thought I would have a little fun at the expense of science challenged Christian compassionate conservatives. The following graphic includes an updated book cover titled "Why Johnny Can't Breed" as well as my list of the top ten guidelines required to provide Johnny with proper abstinence-only training.
Tagged as: Abstinence-Only Programs, Faith Based Programs, Humor, Religion, Religious Right, Sex Education, STD's, Teen Pregnancy
Daniel DiRito | April 24, 2008 | 9:50 AM |
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It's not difficult to argue that the alliance of Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini was akin to two rival gangs uniting to bully the folks in the neighborhood. The long-standing constructs of thuggery remain intact today and the ransacking of Rome's LGBT Center is proof positive that rational thought is often the victim of formative fascist ideations. The degree to which these perpetrators draw some of their justifications from faith-based dogma merits exploration.
(Rome) Rome police are searching for members of a mob of youths who burst into the city's LGBT center, ransacking the building.
The attack on Mario Mieli Homosexual Cultural Circle occurred Thursday night while members were in the building.
As they attempted to confront the gang the youths yelled anti-gay and anti-Semitic slogans. As they ran off the gang yelled praises for Benito Mussolini, Italy's wartime dictator.
"We fear that this situation is linked to the electoral climate," the association said in a statement.
Rome is in the midst of a mayoral runoff between rightist and leftist candidates.
Earlier this week Silvio Berlusconi became Prime Minister when his rightwing coalition swept national elections.
Fascist and Nazi youth have stepped up their visibility since the election.
In the north of Italy this week police broke up what is described as a neo-Nazi gang arresting 16 people on charges of inciting discrimination, hatred and violence based on race, ethnicity and nationality.
Police said the gang had ties to skinhead and Neo-Nazi groups in Austria, Switzerland and Germany.
All too often the Catholic Church has given tacit legitimacy to such acts through encyclicals that condemn homosexuality and exhort its followers (especially politicians) to defend the family. The recent effort on the part of the Church to influence the elections in Spain highlight the willingness of the Vatican to scapegoat gays in an effort to reassert its relevance.
From The Times Online:
Spanish bishops waded into the election campaign [...] when they effectively directed Spaniards to vote against the Government and in favour of the conservative Popular Party.
In a paper setting out the Church's "moral guidance" for voters, the Episcopal Conference attacked the Government's moves to legalise gay marriage, make divorce easier and remove religious education from the compulsory school curriculum.
Relations between the Church and the Left have been poisoned since the Civil War in the 1930s, when Communist and Anarchist irregulars burnt churches and killed thousands of priests. The Spanish Church strongly supported Franco's Fascist dictatorship and some bishops were even pictured in stiff-armed salutes.
To understand the reticence of the Church to acknowledge its duplicity in promoting discrimination and persecution, one need only recall that it wasn't until the year 2,000 that Pope John Paul II held his "Day of Pardon" mass. That historic mass, designed to atone for the misguided acts and omissions of the Church, followed its tardy and tepid apology in 1998 for remaining silent during the extermination of millions by the Nazis.
From The Guardian:
From the altar of St Peter's Basilica in Rome he led Catholicism into unchartered territory by seeking forgiveness for sins committed against Jews, heretics, women, Gypsies and native peoples.
Fighting through trembles and slurrings caused by Parkinson's disease, the Pope electrified ranks of cardinals and bishops by pleading for a future that would not repeat the mistakes. "Never again," he said.
Centuries of hate and rivalry could not recur in the third millennium. "We forgive and we ask forgiveness. We are asking pardon for the divisions among Christians, for the use of violence that some have committed in the service of truth, and for attitudes of mistrust and hostility assumed towards followers of other religions."
Defying warnings from some theologians that the unprecedented apology would undermine the church's authority, the 79-year-old pontiff asked God to forgive the persecution of the Jews. "We are deeply saddened by the behaviour of those who in the course of history have caused these children of yours to suffer, and asking your forgiveness we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood."
Wearing the purple vestments of lenten mourning, the Pope sought pardon for seven categories of sin: general sins; sins in the service of truth; sins against Christian unity; against the Jews; against respect for love, peace and cultures; against the dignity of women and minorities; and against human rights.
There was no reference to homosexuals, who had asked to be included for suffering theocratic violence.
Ironically, even those of the Jewish faith...who have been highly critical of the Catholic Church's behavior during the Holocaust...have participated in the vilification of gays. The controversy over World Pride Day being held in Jerusalem drew outrage and condemnation from within Israel as well as from the Vatican.
The fact that Pope Benedict XVI is just beginning to acknowledge and address the child molestation that has existed in the Church for decades simply places an exclamation mark on the hypocrisy that has typified its deference to silence in the face of adversity. Ever mindful of its need for power, the Catholic Church has all too often placated history's hoodlums and participating in vilifying those most in need of protection.
How the Church can justify years of stonewalling victims of pedophile priests while simultaneously assailing the acts of consenting and loving adults is beyond comprehension. While summarily destroying the lives of thousands of children and protecting their own from prosecution, they have the audacity to hold homosexuals accountable for the decay of the family.
Given the Church's stance, there is no doubt it will be a future Pope who will be forced to issue an apology for the victimization of gays. What remains to be seen is the degree to which the Church was a player in fomenting the fascist feelings that are beginning to emerge.
Perhaps I'm biased, but when I witness Pope Benedict XVI being idolized by throngs of followers at the new National's stadium and I envision the same soon happening at Yankee Stadium, I can't help but think about my visit to the Coliseum in Rome. Granted, there aren't any lions or tigers being released from cages to devour the deviants at these Papal masses...but the alarming number of attacks on the LGBT community coupled with the track record of pedophile priests diddling while Rome turned its head have all the makings of another "Day of Pardon".
As a matter of practicality, I struggle to see the merits of a monolithic ministry that makes the same mistakes over and over again. For all the assertions that the Pope is infallible, there are far more historical records indicating that he and his cohorts are run of the mill bullies who foster the fallacies of each new flavor of faith-based fascism.
Tagged as: Catholic Church, Day of Pardon, Faith-Based, Fascism, Francisco Franco, Gay, Gay Marriage, Holocaust, LGBT, Mario Mieli Homosexual Cultural Circle, Neo-Nazi, Pedophile Priests, Pope Benedict XVI, Pope John Paul II, Rome, Same-Sex Marriage, Spanish Elections, Yankee Stadium
Daniel DiRito | April 19, 2008 | 9:01 AM |
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Anyone seeking the skinny on the battle between evolutionists and creationists would be well served to watch the following presentation by Ken Miller, a biology professor at Brown University. Miller, a Catholic, maintains his belief in faith while arguing in favor of the science behind the theory of evolution.
Miller speaks in laymen's language and presents his arguments with an understanding of the political and cultural battles that underlie the conflict. He does an excellent job of describing the objective and the strategy of those who promote Intelligent Design. In fact, he contends that they seek to portray Darwin as an enemy of religion...attempting to cast him as a virtual purveyor of atheism.
Miller's treatment of the subject is one of the most comprehensive I've seen. It has the added benefit of being balanced as a result of his allegiance to both science and faith.
Ironically, many of those who support Intelligent Design aren't so inclined. I find it rather amusing that those who support the acceptance of a divine creator often do so with disingenuous or downright deceitful tactics...tactics that are contrary to the Christian teachings of his son.
Tagged as: Darwin, Dover Trial, Evolution, Faith, God, Intelligent Design, Ken Miller, Monkey Trial, Religion, Scopes Trial
Daniel DiRito | April 17, 2008 | 10:00 AM |
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If the American Family Association had their way, I suspect they would require a Bible in the glove box of every car and nonstop airing of The 700 Club in all hotels. Yes, the loons that boycotted Ford for being gay friendly have now decided to tackle the scourge of hotel porn. The AFA wants Marriott International to stop offering adult content movies to their guests and they are seeking a meeting with company officials to make their case (and view a few examples).
Several conservative groups, including the American Family Association, are asking Marriott International Inc. to stop giving hotel guests the option of ordering pay-per-view movies with strong sexual content.
AFA, based in Tupelo, said 47 "pro-family leaders" have signed a letter asking chain's chief executive, J.W. Marriott Jr., for a meeting to discuss their concerns.
Marriott was told that stopping "porn movies" would be in keeping with the corporation's position of "promoting the well-being of children and families," AFA said in a news release.
AFA announced last month that it was ending a two-year boycott of Ford Motor Co., saying the company had met most of its demands, which included ending donations to groups that support same-sex marriage.
Ford said in a statement that its principles haven't changed, but that it has reduced overall advertising and charitable spending in recent years because of losses in North America. Ford lost $2.7 billion in 2007.
Among those participating in the letter to Marriott, according to AFA, are James Dobson, chairman of Focus on the Family; Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council; Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission; Bishop Harry Jackson, chairman of High Impact Leadership Council; and Robert Peters, president of Morality in Media.
Now I'm no religious expert but isn't it the individual's responsibility to resist temptation? Since these movies aren't mandatory and they can only be viewed if one elects to see them and agrees to pay the fee, I'm at a loss to understand how this impacts the well-being of families? If daddy or mommy have a predisposition to watch porn or to engage in adulterous affairs, I doubt they need to run to a hotel to achieve either. Further, there's no reason to believe that the effort to force Marriott to cease offering porn will strengthen or save a single marriage.
I've long argued that these religious fanatics are constantly looking for rules and regulations because they simply haven't the will to resist their own wanton desires. Rather than look within for answers, they run around demanding the world erect barriers to save them from themselves...and that's a tall order. Truth be told, the newspapers are filled with examples of the lengths to which people will go to fulfill their misguided motivations.
It will take a lot more than a Bible in every Ford, a ban on hotel porn, or a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex unions to save the institution of marriage. Last time I checked, divorce rates have been increasing for years. Pardon my snark, but those numbers primarily reflect the failure of holier than thou hetero marriages. Homos have long been on the outside looking in...and from my perspective...the grass isn't all that green on the other side of the fence.
As usual, stories of this nature always seem to inspire my sarcastic side. With that in mind, I've created a new top ten list. The following are the top ten reasons hotel chains must not stop offering movies with adult content to their guests.
How would we ever catch governors in the act of destroying their political careers?
The innuendo behind "Feel the Hyatt touch" would be totally inappropriate.
Sexual intrigue sells...Watergate scandals are so passé.
It could potentially encourage a closeted minister to arrange clandestine hotel meetings with a male prostitute.
Corporate America couldn't afford to hire traveling salesman if the perks were suddenly eliminated.
Motel Six would have to change its slogan to, "You must leave the light on".
Hotel chains can't afford to alter all of their door hangers to include wholesome explanations like "Do Not Disturb - Prayer In Progress".
What would evangelical adulterers use to ready themselves for their extra-marital trysts?
It could spell the end for that popular Las Vegas ad campaign...the one that states, "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas".
It's better than allowing polygamous religious lunatics to build marriage beds in their temples.
Tagged as: 700 Club, Adultery, American Family Association, Bible, Divorce, Ford Motor Company, Gay Marriage, James Dobson, LGBT, Marriott, Pornography, Religion, Same-Sex Marriage, Tony Perkins
Daniel DiRito | April 11, 2008 | 11:58 AM |
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Well the folks at Westboro Baptist Church have really taken a liking to singing their message of hate. Two of the following videos are examples of their handiwork. The first, "There Are No Heroes" is a remake of Bonnie Tyler's Holding Out For A Hero. The second is a new take on the song Signs from the Five Man Electrical Band.
I've added a third video that the Church created in the aftermath of a 10.9 million dollar jury verdict being entered against them late last year. In the video, members of the Church thank God for the 10.9 million dollar verdict.
The amount specified in the verdict was subsequently reduced to 5 million dollars. Regardless, their rationale for celebrating the verdict in the video suggests that it is consistent with their interpretations of the Bible and they contend it brings them the worldwide attention they need to deliver their message. If I were them, I'd be hoping God has a top notch legal department.
Surprisingly, following the court ruling and their video, the Church set out to fight the verdict and the subsequent actions to force payment. Perhaps they're not as thankful for the verdict as they would have us think? I suspect it will be difficult for them to deliver their message of hate should they be forced to part with their worldly possessions. No doubt they believe whatever they do is guided by God's will. I'm betting we'll soon see how well they take to being left to their own devices.
In response to a motion to stay last November's multimillion dollar jury verdict against the Westboro Baptist Church pending appeal, a federal judge has placed a lien on the properties of the church and its founder, Pastor Fred W. Phelps Sr., and ordered two of Phelps' daughters to put up cash bonds of $125,000 and $100,000 within 30 days.
Shirley L. Phelps-Roper and Rebekah A. Phelps-Davis, members of the Topeka, Kan.-based church, argued to the U.S. District Court in Baltimore that their financial circumstances prevented them from posting the full $5 million bond.
But U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett, who in February quartered the punitive damage component of the jury's $10.9 million award, said the rights of the non-appealing party, Albert Snyder, must also be considered.
Snyder's son, Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder, 20, was killed in Iraq in March 2006. Westboro members demonstrated at his funeral, held a week later in Westminster, with placards that said "Semper Fi Fags" and "You're Going to Hell," prompting Albert Snyder's successful suit for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
They had planned to picket in front of the federal courthouse in Baltimore and at the nearby Marriott hotel where Mark Castillo of Rockville allegedly drowned his three young children last weekend. But church members cancelled their trip to Baltimore when they learned they could participate by phone.
I find it interesting that they can make instantaneous plans to protest funerals all over the country but in this case they chose to participate in the hearing via telephone. Suddenly, they lack the motivation or the wherewithal to purchase plane tickets? Maybe God told them to hunker down until they can find a way to save their assets.
In the meantime, I decided to offer the Westboro Baptist "Hummers" a new song. Mine isn't divinely inspired...but it's a lot more fun.
Tagged as: Albert Snyder, Bible, Bonnie Tyler, Five Man Electrical Band, Fred Phelps, Funerals, God, Holding Out For A Hero, Homophobia, LGBT, Matthew Snyder, Religion, Shirley Phelps-Roper, Signs, The Drifters, Topeka, U.S. Military, Under the Boardwalk, Westboro Baptist Church
Daniel DiRito | April 10, 2008 | 11:22 PM |
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Since I'm feeling rather sarcastic today, I found the following story irresistible. A new Harris Poll suggests that fiction is numero uno when it comes to Americans choosing their favorite books.
Topping the list is none other than the Bible...which certainly helps explain why many Americans reject the science behind evolution and insist that the earth is 6,000 years old. It also underscores the willingness of many individuals to ignore the abundant evidence that supports the former and negates the latter.
When it comes to literary pursuits in the United States most people agree on at least one thing -- the most popular book is the Bible, according to a new survey.
It came in first in a Harris Poll of nearly 2,513 adults but the second choice in the survey was not as clear cut.
Men chose J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" and women selected Margaret Mitchell's "Gone With the Wind" as their second-favorite book, according to the online poll.
But the second choice for 18- to 31-year-olds was J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, while 32- to 43-year-olds named Stephen King's "The Stand" and Dan Brown's "Angels and Demons."
Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code," "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee, "Angels and Demons" by Dan Brown, "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand and "Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger rounded out the top 10 favorites.
Despite choosing the Bible as their favorite book, low comprehension levels suggest that most Americans are woefully unaware of the precepts contained in it.
From USA Today:
Sometimes dumb sounds cute: Sixty percent of Americans can't name five of the Ten Commandments, and 50% of high school seniors think Sodom and Gomorrah were married.
Stephen Prothero, chairman of the religion department at Boston University, isn't laughing. Americans' deep ignorance of world religions -- their own, their neighbors' or the combatants in Iraq, Darfur or Kashmir -- is dangerous, he says.
His new book, Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know -- and Doesn't, argues that everyone needs to grasp Bible basics, as well as the core beliefs, stories, symbols and heroes of other faiths.
Scholars and theologians who agree with him say Americans' woeful level of religious illiteracy damages more than democracy.
"You're going to make assumptions about people out of ignorance, and they're going to make assumptions about you," says Philip Goff of the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture at Indiana University in Indianapolis.
Goff cites a widely circulated claim on the Internet that the Quran foretold American intervention in the Middle East, based on a supposed passage "that simply isn't there. It's an entire argument for war based on religious ignorance."
Clearly, the assumptions many Americans make with regards to other religions has the potential to foment conflict. Should there be any doubt, take a look at the recent statement of Pat Robertson with regards to Islam. The certainty with which many of these religious leaders speak is not only inaccurate; it is offensive and inflammatory.
In the end, when we seek to promote fiction as fact, the transformative powers of literature have been corrupted and we run the risk of reverting to the decrees and the deceptions that dominated the Dark Ages. Reading may be fundamental...but it needn't and mustn't become fundamentalism.
Tagged as: Angels and Demons, Atlas Shrugged, Bible, Creationism, Evolution, Fiction, Fundamentalism, Gone With The WInd, Islam, Literature, Reading, Religion, The Catcher in the Rye, The Lord of the Rings, The Stand
Daniel DiRito | April 9, 2008 | 11:22 AM |
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In a recent presentation, E.J. Dionne discussed the waning influence of the religious right and the general shift in the focus of religious organizations to include issues that have been relegated to the back burner for the last thirty years. Dionne's presentation is included in the video below.
Dionne offers insights into the politics of faith and how religious organizations are undergoing a sort of reformation that includes a dismantling or reworking of the political alliances that have made them a formidable voting block.
Dionne points out that much of the ideology embraced by evangelicals would not be compatible with the teachings of Jesus. Dionne posits that the agenda of these organizations includes a reconnection with some of the issues that might have garnered the attention of Jesus.
Dionne calls it a "whole bird" mentality...meaning that some religious organizations are moving away from the left-right view of politics and attempting to embrace all of the Jesus' values and not simply the issues that became their link to the GOP and served to blindly unite evangelicals behind Republican candidates.
Dionne closes with an argument that social justice may be reemerging as the defining value and is in many ways a return to the principals that made the movie, It's A Wonderful Life, such a success.
Tagged as: Abortion, E.J. Dionne, Evangelicals, Faith, Gay Marriage, God, Jesus, Politics, Religion, Religious Right, Rick Warren, Values
Daniel DiRito | April 7, 2008 | 11:22 AM |
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Abortion opponents are an interesting lot. For years, they have argued that all abortion is wrong as it involves the taking of a life. An inability to sway the public to embrace laws that would ban all abortions seems to be leading pro-lifers to adopt an incremental approach. South Dakota appears to be the battleground of choice.
In 2006, the residents of South Dakota rejected a ballot initiative that would have banned virtually all abortions except for those necessary to save the life of the mother. The measure was soundly rejected by 56 percent of South Dakota voters.
A new initiative appears to be headed for inclusion on the 2008 ballot in November. However, this new measure provides exceptions for rape, incest, and to protect the health of a woman.
When the 2006 initiative was drafted, many felt anti-abortion advocates were attempting to craft a law that would eventually reach the newly constituted...and presumably more conservative...U.S. Supreme Court.
Abortion opponents in South Dakota filed petitions this week that are likely to put an initiative on November's ballot calling for a near-ban on abortion, renewing a contentious fight over a similar proposal in 2006.
The new language was drafted by South Dakota Attorney General Larry Long, state Rep. Roger W. Hunt ® and 20 other lawyers. As with the 2006 initiative, passage would probably trigger a lawsuit that could end up before the U.S. Supreme Court and provide an opportunity to reconsider its 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.
"My job is to protect the women of South Dakota," said Leslee Unruh, VoteYesForLife.com executive director. If abortion rights advocates "follow what they've done in the past, suing, they'll probably sue on this one, as well. We're prepared for that; we've done due diligence in the preparation for this law."
The sponsors said their polls show that a majority of South Dakotans support the initiative with the exceptions.
A woman would have to report rape or incest to police before seeking an abortion to qualify for that exception. "A woman who is the victim of incest and is 13, being raped by her father, is highly unlikely to report that," said Sarah Stoesz, president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota.
Opponents also said the definition of a health risk to the woman is too narrow because the language implies a doctor would have to be certain the woman's health was threatened and excludes mental and emotional issues as health exceptions.
While I understand the arguments against abortion, I can't help but find fault with intentional efforts to promote vague and misleading ballot measures. In their zeal to protect the unborn, their actions often punish those who have been born. For example, previous studies indicate that many women never report being raped and the same is often true for cases of incest.
Requiring these women to file a police report in order to abort a fetus that results from such heinous acts seems insensitive, if not unconscionable. It could also place children at risk should they report an incestuous assault that didn't result in some form of protective custody or jail time for the perpetrator. Never mind that the incest victim might be in danger...by God we must protect that fetus.
What troubles me most is that these activists are frequently the same people who throw out terms like 'the nanny state' or rail against laws that would close loopholes that allow criminals to obtain handguns. Unfortunately, many of them believe the definition of freedom is relative or open to selective interpretation.
If I follow their tortured logic, a daughter who is raped by her father should find it easier to obtain a gun to shoot her dad than to consult in confidence with a physician about her options to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. Similarly, the strategy suggests that a rapist should find it easier to have a weapon to commit his crime than for his victim to abort the resulting pregnancy.
Why not just require victims of unwanted pregnancies to face two trials...one involving the prosecution of the perpetrator...and one to present their case for terminating the pregnancy. Let's take it a step further. Let's require that the second trial be conducted by the victims church complete with a jury of fellow parishioners and the pastor as the presiding judge. That way they can apply God's law and Biblical interpretation to the situation.
As to dealing with the health exception, that could be more complicated. Maybe we could revive some of the methods utilized to identify witches. Perhaps if the pregnant woman can swim across the nearest river (during the spring runoff, of course), she is healthy enough to have the baby. If she doesn't make it (and drowns), she would have been entitled to abort the child. Yes, that sounds reasonable.
Look, I'm all for protecting the innocent. I simply think it ought to include the ones who have already been birthed...and not just the ones who believe their second amendment rights are sacred. In the meantime, I'm still watching and waiting for that pro-life gun show protest...the one where they read from the Bible and hold up ghastly pictures of murdered people.
Tagged as: Abortion, Gun Control, Incest, Planned Parenthood, Pregnancy, Pro-Choice, Pro-Life, Rape, Religion, Roe V. Wade, Second Amendment, South Dakota, Supreme Court
Daniel DiRito | April 2, 2008 | 12:21 PM |
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The Onion has some fun with the work of Christian charity groups in foreign countries. In the following faux video, the Onion anchor interviews, Josephine Bates, founder of "God's Hands", a Colorado Springs based charity. They proceed to discuss the merits of providing for the needy...so long as they aren't gay, Muslim, or in favor of abortion.
I love it when Miss Bates assures the Onion that there isn't a litmus test for charity...and then goes on to note who is excluded from the group's acts of charity. That sounds about right for many of these fundy groups. After all, heaven is a segregated community that is only open to the holiest of the holy. Clearly, they can't be expected to embrace these heathens.
Tagged as: Abortion, Africa, Christian Charity, Evangelical, Heaven, Humor, LGBT, Muslim, Pro-Choice, Religion
Daniel DiRito | April 2, 2008 | 9:01 AM |
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