Friday, June 23, 2006


Advertisement of the Day

The surprising thing about the Crucifixion of Jesus is that it ever became a subject for art in the first place. The early Christians never drew it on the walls in the catacombs. Crucifixion is a disgusting thing, much worse than hanging, and who would represent a much-loved figure dangling blue-faced in a noose? —Unattributed story in the Daily Telegraph

Or for that matter, who could have imagined that this picture could sell shoes?

This Nike ad featuring soccer star Wayne Rooney has the British media abuzz. They're reassuring the public that the image is not that of a bloody but defiant Jesus on the cross.

Of course it isn't. It's an athlete made to look like a bloody asshole, which he probably is.

Nike doesn't care. They just want you to notice that little thingy on the right.


Thursday, June 22, 2006


Condoms 1 Right-Wing 0

Christo-Republicans have never met a sex organ they truly liked.1 In their view, genitals, including women's breasts, should never be gratuitously displayed. They should be trotted out, preferably in the dark, by heterosexuals who have submitted themselves to a Christian monogamous marriage, and only when there is a clear intent to breed. And people wishing to breed wouldn't wear a condom, would they? Therefore condoms are bad and should be outlawed.

Since the Christian Right haven't yet established a full-blown theocracy in the U.S. where contraception can actually be outlawed, they're having to settle for creating as many obstacles to condom use and safe sex as possible. Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma got his fellow Republicans to require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reexamine condom labeling. And Andrew von Eschenbach, acting head of the FDA, is doing what he can to help.

Condom wrappers currently advise that "If used properly, latex condoms will help to reduce the risk of transmission of HIV infection (AIDS) and many other sexually transmitted diseases." The FDA is mulling over the idea of requiring condom packets to tell you exactly how much the condom will reduce your risk of each and every sexually transmitted disease (STD).

Which brings me to today's topic—human papilloma virus, or HPV. HPV is the cause of genital warts and may cause cervical cancer. According to a story last night by National Public Radio (NPR), 80% of Americans will have contracted the virus by the age of 50.

NPR reported a study that found that condom use reduces HPV transmission by as much as 70%. It was a remarkable study inasmuch as the researchers managed to assemble a group of virgin college coeds and then follow their sex lives.

Until this study there had been only indirect evidence of condom effectiveness against HPV. For instance, the website of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says only this:

HPV infection can occur in both male and female genital areas that are covered or protected by a latex condom, as well as in areas that are not covered. While the effect of condoms in preventing HPV infection is unknown, condom use has been associated with a lower rate of cervical cancer, an HPV-associated disease.

What this study means to the Christo-Republicans and the FDA is that condom labels can now claim that condoms help to protect against HPV. This makes them unhappy.

NPR's Brenda Wilson, in a quest for "balance," ended her story with an interview with Linda Klepacki the "sexual health analyst" for Focus on the Family, an organization that promotes abstinence-only sex education.

KLEPACKI: What we want is consumers to know the amount of risk that they're taking. If they're using condoms as their sole means of risk reduction, they need to know how much these condoms are going to reduce the risk. And of course they have to use these condoms effectively and they have to use them every time they have sex.

WILSON: All that information on that little packet?

KLEPACKI: Yep. We need teenagers, we need young adults especially—because they have the highest risk for sexually transmitted infection—to know what risk factors they're taking by relying on condoms

WILSON: And Klepacki says if young people know that there are risks even with condoms they'll know that the only way to eliminate the risk is by not having sex until they are married. [a Simply Appalling transcription]

Wilson's story made clear that HPV may be spread by skin-to-skin contact, so sexual abstinence isn't quite the panacea Klepacki claims. But more important, Klepacki is implying that "young people" may try to eliminate risk altogether, once they learn that condoms don't offer 100% protection. This is so patently silly that you have to wonder why Brenda Wilson didn't follow up on it.

Wearing seat belts reduces the risk of injury and death in an automobile accident, but not completely. Do people stop riding in cars once they realize that fact? No one that I've met.

Likewise, wearing a condom very effectively reduces the risk of all sorts of sexually transmitted diseases, but not completely. And of course that fact is not going to stop anyone from having sex.

But if it's risk reduction you're after, you can just give up traveling by car. I don't know about you, but I'd rather have sex than ride in a car any day.

Related post
The Christian Right, STDs, monogamy and other wonders (5/30/05)



1Or so they say. Mary MacElveen has put together an excellent list of Republican sexual hypocrites. [back]

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


Vietnam's venerable phallus

Can you spot the phallus?

Vietnam is doing all it can to promote tourism, but unless you yearn to visit government ministries, what is there to see in Ho Chi Minh City? A big penis, that's what.

The newspaper of Vietnam’s Youth Association highlights this point of interest in "Phallus representing Shiva worshipped in Vietnam Indian temple." Thanh Nien News reports in the Travel section that

... [The temple] was established in the 19th century for Lord Subramaniam, also known as Karthikeya, the son of Shiva.

Some of the other deities in the temple are the elephant-headed Lord Ganesha, another son of Shiva; Vishnu, the preserver; and Shiva, the destroyer, himself in the form of the Linga....

The Linga – which is always accompanied by a feminine base Yoni representing the vagina – is a depiction of the phallus.

Those dating from the first century BCE to the third century CE are highly phallic in shape before they progressively become more abstract.

That's modern art for you!

It is the presence of the Linga that attracts much interest among visitors to the temple.

You bet.

Shiva is the god of destruction and it is from destruction that new lives emerge, he says. Thus, in terms of creation, Shiva also disseminates the seeds of lives and benediction.

It is for the latter reason that he swallowed deadly venom spewed by a celestial snake called Vasuki to protect the universe.

We all have our reasons.

Shiva then split himself into two parts, one feminine and the other masculine. He is, thus, symbolized as half man and half woman.

(See my note on transpédégouine.)

The Linga, fountain of life, is shown in its erect form, and is usually placed in the Yoni, the source of all that exists.

But not always.

Originally the cylindrical shape represented the formlessness of creation before gradually becoming associated with Shiva until the Linga began to be worshipped as the god himself.

In Shiva temples it is usually the Linga that is the main deity unlike other Hindu gods who are all represented by idols.

I have known some Linga worshippers. Little did I realize there was a god involved.

What else the youth of Vietnam learned today

Coincidentally the Vietnamese read in the News section today a story from Reuters—"New US church leader says homosexuality no sin." The article discusses the elevation of Katharine Jefferts Schori to be the first woman ever to head a branch of the Anglican Communion and notes the controversy over the consecration of a gay bishop by the Episcopal Church in the U.S. As for the bishop's Biblical views—

Asked how she reconciled her position on homosexuality with specific passages in the Bible declaring sexual relations between men an abomination, Jefferts Schori said the Bible was written in a very different historical context by people asking different questions.

"The Bible has a great deal to teach us about how to live as human beings. The Bible does not have so much to teach us about what sorts of food to eat, what sorts of clothes to wear – there are rules in the Bible about those that we don't observe today," she said.

"The Bible tells us about how to treat other human beings, and that's certainly the great message of Jesus – to include the unincluded."

Zip it up!

And finally, some Vietnamese have been playing fast and loose with that phallus—

The Ho Chi Minh City people’s committee has decided that no official with more than two children will be nominated for any senior post under a population and birth control policy for 2006-2010.

The policy also provides for covering public officials’ birth control expenses.

I'm sure Vietnamese officials are grateful for the perk, but do they feel a little capitalist pang when they read that U.S. officials have prostitutes delivered by limo?


Monday, June 19, 2006


Running drugs from Afghanistan

Now that the Taliban have begun to set up a shadow government1 in southern Afghanistan, and heroin is again in good supply,2 you may have wondered who's handling drug export. Here's an Indian view—

According to Archis Mohan out of New Delhi, it's the Nigerians who are running the heroin out of Afghanistan, who then use the proceeds to pay for "terrorism," with a tip for the prostitutes. Specifically,

“The source of heroin is Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. West Asia3 figures for money laundering. The proceeds from these go to finance terrorist outfits. We believe it to be a network of Nigerians and many prostitutes,” a Narcotics Control Bureau official said.

Nigerians and these prostitutes have also been found to pump counterfeit Indian and US currency into the country — most of fake currency comes from Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Then there are the Israelis, who just want to get stoned—

A senior NCB officer said some Israelis were also under watch for illegal cannabis trade.

“But their involvement is limited to smuggling cannabis for consumption. Unlike Nigerians, the Israelis have not been found to indulge in other crimes,” said the officer.

I'm hopeful but skeptical that the Israelis are behaving better than usual.



1James Rupert reports,

Because of the Taliban's spread, UN agencies, which a few years ago operated freely over 60 percent to 70 percent of southernmost Afghanistan, now can work readily in only six of the region's 50 districts, or counties, said UN regional director Talatbek Masadykov. The Taliban have established parallel authorities, including courts, in wide areas of the south -- and people are turning to them to solve conflicts, say Afghan press reports and UN officials.

2Tom Coghlan on May 11 reported from Helmland province—

Two hours' drive from the Afghan city of Kandahar, "the perfect storm" is about to break in the fields of Helmand province.

Here, in the place where British troops are to spend the next three years, a combination of factors have conspired to produce what is probably the biggest opium harvest in the history of a province that, last year, produced more than 20 per cent of the world's heroin on its own.


3When the media won't name names, it makes me feel like I'm reading the Washington Post. Which country—or countries—could this be? Russia? One of the 'Stans? Turkey? [back]


Lead of the Day

KABUL: The men were on a mission, looking for mullahs, schools and a nightclub called The Pink Flamingo. —The Paktribune in "NATO to try new tactic in Afghanistan"


Sunday, June 18, 2006


Quote of the Day

I believe in the word of God. I'm just not mad about it. —Frank Page, unanticipated President-Elect of the Southern Baptist Convention, as quoted by columnist E.J. Dionne, Jr.



Male Preserve of the Day

A 22-year-old woman has accused the CFL [Canadian Football League] of discrimination for refusing to allow her to work on the football field as a member of the stick crew that measures first downs.Canadian Press


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