Thursday, December 28, 2006

Merry freaking Christmas

... and a happy winter soltice, too.

As you've figured out by now, posting will be basically non-existant while I'm away over the holidays. In the meantime, go take a look at this Mallard Fillmore cartoon (scroll down). The "War on Christmas" silliness is just getting out of hand. I'd ask the author of Mallard Fillmore to produce a single example of someone being disciplined for wishing someone a Merry Christmas, except he's probably busy right now dealing with yet another of his drunk driving arrests.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Anti-gay news OK, pro-gay news not OK

Ex-Gay Watch reports that Florida's Palm Beach County School District is blocking access to a number of gay websites like the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, while simultaneously allowing access to anti-gay sites like National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality and Focus on the Family.

The district uses Blue Coat Systems's WebFilter software to filter out websites. It seems that Blue Coat lumps any site having anything to do with being gay as part of their "Sexuality/Alternative Lifestyles" which consists of:

Sites that provide information, promote, or cater to gays, lesbians, swingers, other sexual orientations or practices, or a particular fetish.

So being gay is now the same as having a fetish.

A article says that "[The District's] computer security manager, Bob LaRocca, says the filtering software being used comply with the Child Online Protection Act and the Children Internet Protection Act." That makes no sense. COPA was blocked by the courts in 1998, ruled likely to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, and went back under trial in October, 2006. CIPA, which has been found constitutional, is very specific about protecting children from porn, not GLAAD. Therefore, the district is applying this web filtering software to comply with laws that aren't relevant.

Blue Coat has a page where you can check on the filtering category for a website. I plugged a few in. Any pro-gay site falls under Sexuality/Alternative Lifestyles. Focus on the Family falls under Religion, Education, and Health. The vehemently anti-gay Illinois Family Institute, run by Porno Pete, is classified only as "Education."

Most objectionably, Love in Action is classified as Health. You may recall from a year or so ago when a teenager named Zach was forced his parents to attend their program, which claims to turn gay teens straight. The head of the program has said that, "I would rather you commit suicide than have you leave Love In Action wanting to return to the gay lifestyle." After Tennessee sued LIA, claiming they restricted LIA's patients captives access to their own medication, LIA countersued, claiming religious discrimination. The suit was settled. LIA, whose slogan is "Finding freedom in Jesus Christ," continues their anti-gay programs, but does not need a license as a mental health facility. Clearly, their classification as a Health website by Blue Coat is inaccurate.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

A crazy thought

Just before the November elections, President Bush lied about keeping Secretary Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense for the rest of Bush's term. The very day after the election, Bush announced Rumsfeld's resignation. The conventional wisdom seems to be that this was a tacit acknowledgment that the Iraq war is not exactly going swimmingly well, and that a change was needed.

It looks like Rumsfeld reported to Bush before the election that the Gulf War II was going poorly and that something needed to change:

Prior to his resignation, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld presented a classified memo to the White House acknowledging that the administration's strategy in Iraq was not working and suggesting a major course correction.

Everything about this administration has shown that it is incapable of admitting error. After all, Bush says God Himself told him to fight this war. (If the we don't win the war, was God wrong?) Bush has also said that the conclusions from the Iraq Study Group are crap.

So is it crazy to think that maybe it was this memo that made Bush give Rumsfeld the boot? He was actually fired, rather than retired?

UPDATE: David says in the comments:

I never thought Rumsfeld voluntarily resigned. I've always believed Bush told Rumsfeld he had to go, but allowed him to say he resigned/retired. That allowed Rumsfeld to save face...

Maybe I wasn't clear. I agree with David; I don't doubt Rumsfeld was given the boot. Joe Solmonese says in this week's Advocate:

Rumsfeld is gone. So [Bush has] shown a willingness to change course based on the election results."

What I was trying to say was that there seems to be a prevalent attitude, like Solmonese's, that Rumsfeld was fired because the election went so well for the Democrats and that it was a signal that Bush accepted the need to change his attitude on Iraq.

I think it was the exact opposite. I think Rumsfeld told Bush in this memo that things needed to change and that Bush fired him for daring to do so. They just lied and conspired so that he would leave after the election. That may have been deliberate, so people took this very impression from Rumsfeld's departure, or just so he could save face. Everything we've seen is consistent with this administration being unable to admit error. After all, Bush has said God Himself told him to go to war, so how could it fail?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Polyester being the tool of the devil, of course

Fig over at Sing a Song of Sixpence warns of a looming theological schism:

The Episcopal Church, along with the Presbyterian Church, and the United Methodist Church are probably experiencing the greatest amount of conflict over equal rights for their members who choose to wear cloth of blended fibers. More liberal Christian denominations have already largely accepted cotton/poly blends as simply another normal, natural, and morally neutral clothing choice. More conservative denominations have retained the historical Christian belief. They condemn all mixed fiber clothing, regardless of the stylishness or comfort of the garment.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A dumptruck full of stupid

This is really making the blogger rounds, so I'm probably the last person to weigh in on it and you're already probably tired of hearing about it. But, just in case you live under a rock, here it is: Jim Rutz, a columnist at World Net Daily, has written a column about how soy-based foods make you gay. Seriously. I am not making this up. The title of the article is, "A devil food is turning our kids into homosexuals." After reading it, I'm honestly surprised such a short piece of writing can contain such a high level of weapons-grade stupidity.

There has got to be at least one factual error, stereotype, or just flat-out fabrication in every sentence, if not every word of this article. His thesis is that soy products contain estrogens, and those are "feminising" and that's bad. This is basically the money quote:

Soy is feminizing, and commonly leads to a decrease in the size of the penis, sexual confusion and homosexuality. That's why most of the medical (not socio-spiritual) blame for today's rise in homosexuality must fall upon the rise in soy formula and other soy products.

Oh, Stupid, how do I hate thee? Let me count the ways.

  1. Rise in homosexuality? There are really more gay people now than previously? Based on what, he doesn't say. Maybe it was all those studies on gay people done in the 1880s that he's referring to. If there's been such a big rise in queers, that just makes it doubly frustrating that I can't find a date.

  2. Note the implication that gay men are feminine. Fags lack masculinity. We all walk around lisping, bending our pinky fingers when we drink tea, and carrying a purse. A pink purse. With sequins. Good God, someone get this man to a leather bar, quick.
  3. So soy leads to femininity, which leads to small dicks and all the faggotry, huh? The only study I've been able to find suggests that gay men have bigger dicks, not little ones. (Bogaert and Hershberger. "The Relation Between Sexual Orientation and Penile Size." Archives of Sexual Behavior. 28. 213 (1999).)

I could go on, but I'm trying not to. (Did you notice I didn't mention his claim that childhood leukemia has increased by more than one-fourth in a single year? One-fourth! Argh.) There is so much stupid in this article, it burns on contact.

This was published on World Net Daily, and there's a reason it's sometimes referred to as World Nut Daily by people with a functioning cerebellum. What I fear, is that there are people that use it (and probably FOX News) as a primary source of information, and will read this, internalize quite a bit of it, and never begin to suspect the yawning chasm of stupid that lies within it.

Others, smarter than me, have already weighed in: Sing a Song of Sixpence, Feministing, Ex-Gay Watch, Americablog, Pam's House Blend, Wayne Besen, and Pharyngula are a few.

(Just no one tell John Bambenek about this article, please. He likes to quote studies done by the Heritage Foundation and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, and calls it "research.")

Anyway, Jim Rutz is a putz.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Yeah, but what about Chip?

Wow, that was quick:

Lance Bass and his boyfriend, Reichen Lehmkuhl, have called it quits, People magazine reported on its Web site Monday.

Bass, who was part of the boy band 'N Sync, revealed earlier this year that he is gay and was in a relationship with Lehmkuhl, a former Air Force captain and winner of season four of CBS' "Amazing Race."

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

An orgy of studies

Blogging on Peer-Reviewed Research

An alternative title for this post could be "Slutty feminists, chapter III: In which my chair at the adult table is permanently revoked." For background information, there was my first response to John Bambenek's letter in the Daily Illini, and then a look at the data he used to support his statement that "99% of abortions are for sexual convenience."

Last time I showed why Bambenek's claim in his recent Daily Illini silliness that "99% of all abortions are for 'convenience'" wasn't supported by the very Institute he cites. Now, I'll take a look at the three studies he finally cited on his blog that (he says) show sex causes depression in women. He cites three studies:

The first of these, the Heritage study, I just don't find credible. This study was never anything other than vanity published and was never peer-reviewed. Furthermore, the Heritage Institute is a conservative think tank. Their very mission statement says that they "formulate and promote conservative public policies." Of course, this study is going to reflect bad on sex; it's the job of Heritage employees to produce such studies. If the study had shown otherwise, it probably wouldn't have seen the light of day.

Because this study is so useful to conservatives, even if it is unscientific, it has been cited often in the conservative media, including World Net Daily and More importantly, it caused fellow conservative Joseph Sabia to publish an actual peer-reviewed study examining their results: "Does Early Adolescent Sex Cause Depressive Symptoms?" J. of Policy Analysis and Management. 25. 803 (2006). It's a long study and I won't bore you with the details. Here are the juicy bits from the conclusion:

[Recent] claims about the causes and consequences of early teen sex have been overstated... This study presents consistent evidence that early entrance into sexual intercourse is not the cause of depression, but rather is an observable indicator of depression... it is inappropriate to infer a causal link between early teen sex and depressive symptoms.

Turning to Bambenek's second study, actually it's a news article on the actual study, which I assume is Hallfors, et al. "Adolescent Depression and Suicide Risk." American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 27. 224 (2004). This study looked at the incidence of depression and suicidal ideation in boys and girls 16 ± 5 years old. This study did show an increase in the rates of depression and suicidal ideation in boys and girls having sex. "Ah ha," you say? "Bambenek was right, you say?" Well no. From the study's abstract:

Although causal direction has not been established, involvement in any sex or drug use is cause for concern, and should be a clinical indication for mental health screening for girls;

And from the study's conclusion:

There was some indication that substance use ... led to depression rather than the reverse, but there are other studies indicating that adolescents may become involved in risk taking in response to preexisting depression.

In other words, these fact that these teens were having sex may well have been a symptom of their depression, not the cause of it.

Furthermore, this was a study on teenagers, not the slutty college-age-and-up feminists Bambenek was berating. The study included girls and boys down to age eleven, which I don't think tend to be avid readers of Gloria Steinem.

(Also, the study showed that having highly educated parents led to a slight decrease in depression, but a large increase in suicidal ideation. Go figure.)

On to the third study. This is the most relevant study to Bambenek's assertion, in that it studies casual sex among college students and a possible link to depressive symptoms. At first glance, it seems to support what Bambenek is saying, that sex causes depression. Except that's only true for the women studied. In the case of men, casual sex actually correlated with a decrease in depressive symptoms. But the authors of this study specifically do not draw the conclusion Bambenek claims:

Perhaps depressed females may be seeking external validation from sex. They may be maintaining a vicious depressive cycle by unconsciously engaging in sex in doomed relationships. Possibly, these females' negative feelings of self-worth or isolation may increase their desire to be wanted by or intimate with another... Furthermore, the more depressive symptoms females reported, the more partners they had. We speculate this may be associated with either little sexual satisfaction or increased efforts to fill an internal void.

So, again, we see speculation from the researchers involved that sex may be a symptom of existing emotional problems, rather than being the cause of the problems themselves. The Grello study was done at a "university located within the Southern Bible Belt with a fairly conservative student population." If this university had attitudes like Bambenek's, referring to women as sluts and harlots, I don't think it's a big leap to suspect engaging in sex could lead to feelings of guilt and shame which could lead, in turn, to depression.

I wonder why Bambenek didn't find this in these studies, if he was using them to support his position. After all, the Hallfors study says that they did not find a casual link between sex and depression right in the abstract. Perhaps it's unfair of me, but I suspect it's because Bambenek started out with his conclusion, and cherry-picked studies that supported it. For an intellectual study of any subject -- and a scientist should know this -- that's exactly the bass-ackwards way to go about it.

Of course, all this analysis on my part was pretty much a waste of time, because Bambenek's main assumption, that feminists think women should be slutty, is ridiculous. Just to check that my belief was correct, I went looking. At the website for the National Organization of Women (and what bigger group of man-hating, inner-slut-mentality-having feminists could there be?). I couldn't find anything relevant when searching on "sexuality," "casual sex," or "hooking up." Unable to think of any more search terms, I went to their "Issues" page, where there really isn't any information about sex. Economic equality, women's health, rights for mothers, sure, but nothing about living in slut-dom. The closest thing I found was in their Health section, on how to prevent STDs. What's the first method they suggest for not contracting an STD? "Do not have sex."

Obviously, they're not very good harlots.

(Wow, you read to the end. I'm impressed. Hope you're not too bored.)

Update (2007-10-30): Added icon.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Finally, some data

After insulting the intelligence of anyone who dared question him, John Bambenek has updated his anti-feminist tirade at his blog to include the studies he used in his DI editorial. So lets take a look at what he's basing his opinions on.

His first point was that "99% percent of all abortions" are for "sexual convenience." Unfortunately, the link he posted is broken, so it's hard to judge that. But, he said that he used the Guttmacher Institute for his data. Instead, lets take a look at an article they list in their Abortion section: Lawrence Finer, et al. "Reasons U.S. Women Have Abortions: Quantitative and Qualitative Perspectives" Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health. 2005, 37(3):110–118. The reasons that women have abortions are varied and complicated, but the largest reasons are that a child would interfere with the mother's education, job, or their ability to care for their current children. Seventy-three percent said they wouldn't be able to afford to care for a child. (Respondents could select more than one answer.)

Bambenek wraps all of these up in the petty-sounding description of "convenience," as this reason is not listed anywhere in the study. It's a term that he's invented, he's defined, and which he can use to over-simplify this complicated into a nice, tidy sound bite. I'm not sure how in anyone's mind "I can barely feed the children I have now, and I'll get fired if I have to take off time from work to have another baby" can reasonably be called a matter of "convenience." Obviously, Bambenek concern here is to trivialize the reasons women have abortions to make them sound petty and selfish.

The Guttmacher paper also says that 25% of women cited concerns with their health or the health of the fetus as a consideration. Bambenek casually disregards these concerns with:

Now I don’t regard "health" of the mother as particularly indicative of anything because pregnancy is, by definition, a HUGE factor for the health of the mother and comes with no small share of risk. It’s used flippantly in debates and I have no reason to see the same crowd doesn’t use it flippantly in research.

Wait, what? First he says that pregnancy is a "huge factor for the health of the mother" and then disregards these concerns as "flippant." In other words, there's this huge issue, which one in four women consider when having an abortion, and Bambenek is just going to ignore it because he finds it inconvenient.

Well, next time my cousin in lying in the hospital with pre-eclampsia, pumped full of steroids to where she looked like a balloon so that the baby's lungs would develop enough that he would be able to survive when they delivered him prematurely, I'll make sure to tell her to stop whining because she's being "flippant."

Actually, it looks like Bambenek's choice of the word "convenience" may be part of a tactic of the anti-choice movment as a whole. Quoting from the Guttmacher paper:

Yet some broad concepts emerged from the study. A crosscutting theme was women’s responsibility to children and other dependents, as well as considerations about children they may have in the future. Most women in every age, parity, relationship, racial, income and education category cited concern for or responsibility to other individuals as a factor in their decision to have an abortion. In contrast to the perception (voiced by politicians and laypeople across the ideological spectrum) that women who choose abortion for reasons other than rape, incest and life endangerment do so for "convenience," our data suggest that after carefully assessing their individual situations, women base their decisions largely on their ability to maintain economic stability and to care for the children they already have.

(I was also going to look at the studies he offers showing how women become emotionally "devastated" if they have sex, but I just don't have time tonight. More later.)