politics

Catholic Archdiocese of Washington thinks anti-gay bigotry more important than helping the poor

Jesus of Nazareth, that old semi-mythical Jewish mystic that Christians of all stripes claim to follow, reportedly told his followers on several occasions that they should care for the poor and hungry. For example, in Luke 3:11, "The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same." Or, Mark 10:21, "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

Nowhere in any of the gospels does he address the issue of gay marriage. Nada. Not a word on the topic.

We might then conclude that, according to Jesus (at least, as reported in the Gospels), helping the poor is much more important -- indeed, given the many-to-zero ratio of mentions, infinitely more important -- than preventing the government from recognizing same-sex unions.

Yet, the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington has decided that it is more important for them to protect their anti-LGBT bigotry than to continue their work on behalf of the poor. They are threatening to discontinue social service programs in D.C. if they aren't permitted to discriminate:

The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington said Wednesday that it will be unable to continue the social service programs it runs for the District if the city doesn't change a proposed same-sex marriage law, a threat that could affect tens of thousands of people the church helps with adoption, homelessness and health care.

Under the bill, headed for a D.C. Council vote next month, religious organizations would not be required to perform or make space available for same-sex weddings. But they would have to obey city laws prohibiting discrimination against gay men and lesbians.

...

After the vote, the archdiocese sent out a statement accusing the council of ignoring the right of religious freedom. Gibbs said Wednesday that without Alexander's amendment and other proposed changes, the measure has too narrow an exemption. She said religious groups that receive city funds would be required to give same-sex couples medical benefits, open adoptions to same-sex couples and rent a church hall to a support group for lesbian couples.

Peter Rosenstein of the Campaign for All D.C. Families accused the church of trying to "blackmail the city."

"The issue here is they are using public funds, and to allow people to discriminate with public money is unacceptable," Rosenstein said.

...

"The problem with the individual exemption is anybody could discriminate based on their assertion of religious principle," Mendelson said. "There were many people back in the 1950s and '60s, during the civil rights era, that said separation of the races was ordained by God."

health information brought to you by Coca-Cola

As if Big Pharma's constant bribery of physicians wasn't distorting health care enough, it seems we have to watch out for the junk food makers too: AOL News reports on a deal between the American Academy of Family Physicians and Coca-Cola to have Coke fund "educational materials" about soft drinks for the academy's web site.

Academy CEO Dr. Douglas Henley said Wednesday that the deal won't influence the group's public health messages, and that the company will have no control over editorial content. He said the new online information will include research linking soft drinks with obesity and will focus on sugar-free alternatives.

But critics say the Coke deal will water down the advice.
"Coca-Cola, like other sodas, causes enormous suffering and premature death by increasing the risks of obesity, diabetes, heart attacks, gout and cavities," Harvard University nutrition expert Dr. Walter Willett said in an e-mail.

He said the academy "should be a loud critic of these products and practices, but by signing with Coke, their voice has almost surely been muzzled."

...

Dr. William Walker, public health officer for Contra Costa County near San Francisco, likened the alliance with ads decades ago in which physicians said mild cigarettes were safe.

...

The Coke deal is not the only corporate alliance for the family physicians group. In 2005, it received funding from McDonald's for a fitness program. And its consumer Web site includes advertising for a variety of products, including deli meats and air freshener.
Henley said the Coke deal is worth six figures, but he and a Coca-Cola spokeswoman declined to elaborate.

...

Coca-Cola is among several corporate contributors to the American Academy of Family Physicians Foundation, a separate philanthropic group. These contributors include many drug companies, McDonald's, PepsiCo and a beef industry group.

public and private school costs

The health care debate has stirred up a lot of general discussion of government provided services. One that often comes up is public schools.

It is an article of faith among many conservatives that private schools do a better job of educating students for a lesser cost than public schools. This is what drives their argument for school vouchers: government is inefficient, so let's just give the money to private schools who will do a better job at a tuition cost that's less than public school per-student spending.

But as it turns out, this is another case where reality has a liberal bias. Private school tuition doesn't measure per-student spending, because private schools usually get grants or subsidies from other sources.

A Washington Post analysis of Education Department data and public tax records found that some of the area's top private schools spent thousands of dollars more per student than what they charged for tuition. At Maret School, for example, high school tuition was $26,820 for the 2007-08 school year. That year, the school spent $32,359 per student. At Potomac School in McLean, the gap was even larger, with tuition at $25,890 and spending at $35,665.

Secular private schools spent $20,100 on each student in the 2007-08 school year vs. $10,100 in public schools. Nonparochial Catholic schools tended to spend roughly the same as public schools. It's conservative, non-Catholic Christian schools that spend less -- $7,100.

The expensive private schools do a good job of educating students, but what about less expensive ones? They don't do so well. Rutgers University associate professor Bruce D. Baker has conducted the first extensive study of public and private school costs and quality:

“On average,” Baker explains, “the private schools studied spend more than public schools in the same metropolitan areas (and nationally), although some spend much less. Some private schools have lower pupil-to-teacher ratios than public schools, while others have comparable ratios. Some have comparable teacher salaries, and some pay their teachers much less. And, some have teachers with stronger academic qualifications than public school teachers, while others have teachers with weaker academic qualifications.”

What’s “most striking” about such patterns, Baker observes, is that they are largely explained by religious affiliation alone. Christian Association Schools have the lowest spending, the lowest salaries, teachers with the weakest academic records, and the highest pupil-to-teacher ratios. Moreover, earlier research concludes that these schools have the lowest student test scores. Catholic schools tend to approximate public schools in all these areas. Hebrew schools and independent day schools (generally not religiously affiliated) have higher spending – often substantially higher – and this is reflected in these resource categories.

CBS: most "swine flu" cases not even flu

The H1N1 insanity continues: CBS News reports that the CDC advised states to stop testing for H1N1 flu and stopped counting individual cases back in July.

While we waited for CDC to provide the data, which it eventually did, we asked all 50 states for their statistics on state lab-confirmed H1N1 prior to the halt of individual testing and counting in July. The results reveal a pattern that surprised a number of health care professionals we consulted. The vast majority of cases were negative for H1N1 as well as seasonal flu, despite the fact that many states were specifically testing patients deemed to be most likely to have H1N1 flu, based on symptoms and risk factors, such as travel to Mexico.

...

With most cases diagnosed solely on symptoms and risk factors, the H1N1 flu epidemic may seem worse than it is. For example, on Sept. 22, this alarming headline came from Georgetown University in Washington D.C.: "H1N1 Flu Infects Over 250 Georgetown Students."

H1N1 flu can be deadly and an outbreak of 250 students would be an especially troubling cluster. However, the number of sick students came not from lab-confirmed tests but from "estimates" made by counting "students who went to the Student Health Center with flu symptoms, students who called the H1N1 hotline or the Health Center's doctor-on-call, and students who went to the hospital's emergency room."

California, for example, looked at 13,704 specimens from "swine flu" patients -- and found that 86% did not have influenza, 12% had non-H1N1 flu, and only 2% had H1N1.

We've previously mentioned how only a small percentage of "flu" cases are actually influenza, and how the CDC's figure of 36,000 flu deaths a year is fantasy.

anti-gay bigotry makes woman die alone

It's bad enough that many institutions in our society won't recognize a loving relationship unless you have a permission slip from the state, but when the state refuses to issue those permission slips to same-sex couples, here's what happens: Lisa Pond died alone in a strange city while bigoted hospital staff kept Janice Langbehn, her partner of 18 years, and their kids away from her. And despite the fact that Janice had durable Power of Attorney and Living Will documents showing her legal authority to make end-of-life decisions for Lisa, the courts have approved Jackson Memorial Hospital's actions.

Louisiana justice of the peace refuses to marry interracial couples

Just another reminder that no, we're not "post-racial" quite yet: Louisiana justice of the peace Keith Bardwell refuses to issue a marriage licenses to interracial couples.

"I'm not a racist. I just don't believe in mixing the races that way," Bardwell told the Associated Press on Thursday. "I have piles and piles of black friends. They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom. I treat them just like everyone else."

Bardwell said he asks everyone who calls about marriage if they are a mixed race couple. If they are, he does not marry them, he said.

Bardwell said he has discussed the topic with blacks and whites, along with witnessing some interracial marriages. He came to the conclusion that most of black society does not readily accept offspring of such relationships, and neither does white society, he said.

"There is a problem with both groups accepting a child from such a marriage," Bardwell said. "I think those children suffer and I won't help put them through it."

If he did an interracial marriage for one couple, he must do the same for all, he said.

"I try to treat everyone equally," he said.

Bardwell estimates that he has refused to marry about four couples during his career, all in the past 2 1/2 years.

The Atlantic: "Does the Vaccine Matter?"

Outstanding article from The Atlantic on the controversy about whether the vaccine (and anti-viral drugs) are the most effective way to combat the flu:

When Lisa Jackson, a physician and senior investigator with the Group Health Research Center, in Seattle, began wondering aloud to colleagues if maybe something was amiss with the estimate of 50 percent mortality reduction for people who get flu vaccine, the response she got sounded more like doctrine than science. “People told me, ‘No good can come of [asking] this,’” she says. “‘Potentially a lot of bad could happen’ for me professionally by raising any criticism that might dissuade people from getting vaccinated, because of course, ‘We know that vaccine works.’ This was the prevailing wisdom.”

Nonetheless, in 2004, Jackson and three colleagues set out to determine whether the mortality difference between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated might be caused by a phenomenon known as the “healthy user effect.” They hypothesized that on average, people who get vaccinated are simply healthier than those who don’t, and thus less liable to die over the short term. People who don’t get vaccinated may be bedridden or otherwise too sick to go get a shot. They may also be more likely to succumb to flu or any other illness, because they are generally older and sicker. To test their thesis, Jackson and her colleagues combed through eight years of medical data on more than 72,000 people 65 and older. They looked at who got flu shots and who didn’t. Then they examined which group’s members were more likely to die of any cause when it was not flu season.

Jackson’s findings showed that outside of flu season, the baseline risk of death among people who did not get vaccinated was approximately 60 percent higher than among those who did, lending support to the hypothesis that on average, healthy people chose to get the vaccine, while the “frail elderly” didn’t or couldn’t. In fact, the healthy-user effect explained the entire benefit that other researchers were attributing to flu vaccine, suggesting that the vaccine itself might not reduce mortality at all. Jackson’s papers “are beautiful,” says Lone Simonsen, who is a professor of global health at George Washington University, in Washington, D.C., and an internationally recognized expert in influenza and vaccine epidemiology. “They are classic studies in epidemiology, they are so carefully done.”

The results were also so unexpected that many experts simply refused to believe them. Jackson’s papers were turned down for publication in the top-ranked medical journals. One flu expert who reviewed her studies for the Journal of the American Medical Association wrote, “To accept these results would be to say that the earth is flat!” When the papers were finally published in 2006, in the less prominent International Journal of Epidemiology, they were largely ignored by doctors and public-health officials. “The answer I got,” says Jackson, “was not the right answer.”

The history of flu vaccination suggests other reasons to doubt claims that it dramatically reduces mortality. In 2004, for example, vaccine production fell behind, causing a 40 percent drop in immunization rates. Yet mortality did not rise. In addition, vaccine “mismatches” occurred in 1968 and 1997: in both years, the vaccine that had been produced in the summer protected against one set of viruses, but come winter, a different set was circulating. In effect, nobody was vaccinated. Yet death rates from all causes, including flu and the various illnesses it can exacerbate, did not budge. Sumit Majumdar, a physician and researcher at the University of Alberta, in Canada, offers another historical observation: rising rates of vaccination of the elderly over the past two decades have not coincided with a lower overall mortality rate. In 1989, only 15 percent of people over age 65 in the U.S. and Canada were vaccinated against flu. Today, more than 65 percent are immunized. Yet death rates among the elderly during flu season have increased rather than decreased.

from Crooks and Liars: "10 Lessons for Tea Baggers"

From Jon Perr at Crooks and Liars:

Back in April, the Daily Show's Jon Stewart offered some sound advice for frothing at the mouth Tea Baggers, "I think you might be confusing tyranny with losing." Now five months after their Tax Day outburst, thousands of vein-popping Obama opponents descended Saturday on Washington for Tea Party II. But while Glenn Beck's furious followers alternately slandered the President as a "fascist," a "communist" and worse, they remained unencumbered by either the thought process - or the truth.

Here, then, are 10 Lessons for Tea Baggers:

1. President Obama Cut Your Taxes
2. The Stimulus is Working
3. First Ronald Reagan Tripled the National Debt...
4. ...Then George W. Bush Doubled It Again
5. Republican States Have the Worst Health Care
6. Medicare is a Government Program
7. Barack Obama is Not a Muslim
8. Barack Obama was Born in the United States
9. 70,000 Does Not Equal 2,000,000
10. The Economy Almost Always Does Better Under Democrats

Read the story for the details behind each of these points.

the madness continues...

I miss the days when there were sane folks speaking for the conservatives, I really do. I want there to be some good fiscal conservatives out there, some bean counters with green eyeshades making sure we get the best value for our tax dollar, and I want some reasonable small-government types to counterbalance the unfortunate tendency towards overreaching regulation. (Though as a libertarian socialist, I'd like even better some small-government types who understand that smaller government should start by removing the attributes and powers of government that support capitalism and aristocratism, rather than those that attempt to ameliorate its deleterious effects.)

But instead, we've got this sort of outright madness:

teabagging 4 Jesus

On my net wanderings I found this image of a woman holding a "Teabagging 4 Jesus" sign.

This is the first firm example I've come across of the teabaggers actually using the term "teabagging". I've been using it and find it appropriate due to the presence of teabags and the pathetic nature of the participants in the act (when the best you can do to express your political views is throw teabags around, you deserve to be the butt of jokes), but up until now I've regarded it as a term that Rachel Maddow and other pundits stuck on them -- appropriately, but still not one of their own selection.

To see this confused, flag-waving woman claim to be "Teabagging 4 Jesus", though, well, res ipsa loquitur.

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - politics