Thursday, December 20, 2007

Sex prompts latest victim of Spears family; outrage ensues

Pardon me for even typing these words on the hallowed grounds of this blog, where I'd like to think relevant issues dominate, but: What the hell is wrong with the Spears family? And, as an extension to that query, what the hell is wrong with parents in this country?

If your morbid curiosity prods you to read celebrity news -- as it does me on a daily basis for reasons I blame on intellectual masochism -- you may have heard that Britney Spears' 16-year-old sister, Jamie Lynn Spears, announced she is with child. The father is some poor 19-year-old bastard who is now being threatened with statutory rape charges -- in two states. Dude, really? I hope it was worth it, because you're about to learn the real meaning of "rape" with the crushing reality of prison. (On a side note, see this post for my feelings on statutory rape laws). Jamie Spears is also an alleged "actress" who plays a character on some asinine "show" on Nickelodeon, much to the glee of the younger generation.

In response to the concept of being a teenage mother, Spears had this to say:

"I love babies, and I have my nephews that I love. I have a great mom and she has raised three kids, so if I take lessons from her, I think I'll be great."

Jamie Spears probably loves babies because her knowledge of them extends to holding and playing with them until they cry, and then handing them back to the parents, who do all the dirty work (clean diapers, get up at all hours to feed the child, etc.) I imagine -- and I admittedly can't speak from experience here -- that bringing up a child takes a bit more than "loving babies," like maybe some common fucking sense and somebody older than 16. Also vital to successful motherhood is the ability to see a baby for more than a novelty item to parade before the cameras, like that professional breeding machine Britney Spears. As for those lessons from her mom, I'm sure they'll come in real handy, given how well the first two kids turned out.

Hilariously, outraged parents around America are responding to the baby news by grumbling that Jamie Spears going public about her pregnancy has forced them to explain the whole sex thing to their kids, especially considering that Jamie Spears plays a wholesome, virginal, schoolgirl on TV (From The New York Times):
Parents across the country, on the other hand, commiserated over the Internet about how, thanks to Ms. Spears, they were facing a conversation with their 8-, 9-, and 10-year-olds about sex.

“Nowadays, nothing’s safe, not even cartoons,” Diana Madruga, who has an 11-year-old daughter, said as she wrapped up her shift as the manager of a Dunkin’ Donuts here in the Boston suburbs.

It's almost as if these parents are thinking: "Shit, society is running out of role models. I guess this means we have to do some parenting!" Seriously, if parents actually think plopping their kids in front of the TV so they can glean values from a make-believe, pre-teen character is the best way to raise children, I fear for the future of this society. How about taking some fucking initiative to help shape your children with values that weren't cooked up by a Hollywood screenwriter?

Also, I can't help but wonder whether there's some sort of connection between parents avoiding the "sex talk" with their kids, and their kids having sex and getting pregnant. Seems like there might be some kind of fucking link there, don't you think? Oh, and here's a hint, parents: This isn't the 1950s. YOUR KIDS KNOW ABOUT SEX. They're just looking for a bit of parental guidance on the subject, like whether or not it's a good idea at their age. Kids seem to be partaking at staggering rates, so perhaps it's time for you to weigh in? Just a suggestion.

I would blame this whole shitpile of absurdity on abstinence-only education, but I think Jamie Spears was too busy getting rich off the backs of millions of screaming pre-teen girls to actually get any sort of education. Plus, I think she's probably just an idiot.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Abstinence-only forecast: Heavy teen pregnancy with a chance of stupid

This story is hot off the presses, and by "hot" I mean I read it sometime last week. See, we had a small glitch here at Team Alpaca that involved me getting a Saturday off work and you not getting an update. Funny how that works.

Anyway, in a shocking twist of fate, it turns out that asking hormone-ravaged teenagers to ignore 6,000 years (heh heh) of instinctual mating behavior doesn't actually work (from The Associated Press):

ATLANTA - In a troubling reversal, the nation's teen birth rate rose for the first time in 15 years, surprising government health officials and reviving the bitter debate about abstinence-only sex education.

The birth rate had been dropping since its peak in 1991, although the decline had slowed in recent years. On Wednesday, government statisticians said it rose 3 percent from 2005 to 2006.

The reason for the increase is not clear, and federal health officials said it might be a one-year statistical blip, not the beginning of a new upward trend.

However, some experts said they have been expecting a jump. They blamed it on increased federal funding for abstinence-only health education that doesn't teach teens how to use condoms and other contraception.

Some key sexually transmitted disease rates have been rising, including syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia. The rising teen pregnancy rate is part of the same phenomenon, said Dr. Carol Hogue, an Emory University professor of maternal and child health.

Let me say first that in celebration of this news, I'm officially updating the top four things that should never be mixed with religion. Usually lists like this would have five elements, but I just finished Season 1 of "Dexter" and I really want to start Season 2, so I'm on a timetable here, people. Also, five-element lists mean the terrorists win.
Official, Scientific Top 5 Things That Don't Mix With Religion:

1. Politics

2. Civil rights

3. Heavy drinking

4. Sex education (formally, just "sex")

All kidding aside, the real problem with abstinence-only education is that it relies solely on faith. Faith is great for Christians. Faith allows Christians to say "I can't see God, but I know he's there because it's faith." And that's fine with me, because I'm all about spirituality and open-mindedness and all that crap. I'm also cognizant of the fact that crossing my fingers about God could arguably be better than going to hell if it turns out he was here all this time and I refused to cross my fingers. Then again, if I want a sure shot at heaven, I probably can't pretend to believe in God just to hedge my bets. I just have to take the plunge. And that's faith (I think).

But here's the crushing blow of reality: Faith really sucks with domestic policy. Crossing your fingers is generally a bad idea when it comes to real issues, and especially when it comes to teenagers. The good news is the government doesn't have to rely on faith in domestic policy, for two reasons: science and money. Science tells us that condoms, when used properly, are extremely effective in preventing pregnancy and the spread of STDs. Money, when used property, gives us the ability to spread that contraceptive knowledge to every young person in the country. When you put these two together, you have something mind-boggling that is rarely found in this society. The nuts call it heresy; I call it progress.

The argument against informing teenagers about condoms and making them readily available is that they might have sex. For some reason, religious zealots look at the condom like some magical aphrodisiac. Any mention of its existence apparently bombards a teenager's psyche with the overwhelming urge to procreate. Personally, if it's a choice between hoping a teenager won't have sex and hoping a condom will be effective, I'll lay my bets on the condom. Look at it this way: Pretend we're playing a hand of poker. My hand is condoms will prevent pregnancy, and your hand is crossing your fingers that teenagers will refrain from bumping uglies. Then look at the odds:
1. According to to the Centers for Disease Control, the number of 12th-grade U.S. students having sex was 60.5% in 2001.

2. According to the World Health Organization, the chance of pregnancy while using condoms (perfect use) is 3% at 12 months.

3. Conclusion: I should bet against religious zealots more often.

Supporters of abstinence-only education live a fantasy world. They cling to the futile idea that they can influence teenage behaviors through veiled religious teachings and misguided hope. Unfortunately, faith is simply no match for the crushing pressures of a sexualized society, peer pressure and biology.

It's sad, but it's fucking reality, and you can't face reality with ignorance. Sometimes reality has to kick you right in the balls before you see the light. And believe me, here in America we have some really sore balls.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Mitt Romney (p. noun): 1. Idiot

Sometimes a quote really speak for itself:

"It is as if (non-believers are) intent on establishing a new religion in America – the religion of secularism. They're wrong."
-- Mitt Romney

With that in mind, consider:
sec·u·lar·ism /ˈsɛkyələˌrɪzəm/

1. Secular spirit or tendency, esp. a system of political or social philosophy that rejects all forms of religious faith and worship.
2. The view that public education and other matters of civil policy should be conducted without the introduction of a religious element.
3. Religious skepticism or indifference.

So I ask: Can you have a religion that inherently rejects religion? I'm confused, Mitt. Please clarify.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Huckabee: Is he insanely principled or principally insane?

I think the scariest thing about Mike Huckabee is that I don't always develop an impending feeling of doom when I read about him. It's freaking me out because I know I should be panicked by the prospect of him becoming the next president. I know that when I read stories from fawning media outlets exploring his boyish charm, unlikely success and rabid southern religious convictions, I should get that feeling in the pit of my stomach like the whole fucking world is about to collapse. Or maybe I just hate Rudy Giuliani so much that I can't fathom a worse candidate. But guess what: There is one.

Part of the problem is many people believe that if Huckabee weren't anti-abortion and anti-gay-marriage, he might be a pretty middle-of-the-road politician. One of those fabled statesmen who makes decisions based on his convictions, logical reasoning and, fuck it, maybe even what's best for the country. You know, the kind of lawmaker who doesn't really exist. Consider some of his political accomplishments:

* In 2005, Huckabee, then the governor of Arkansas, fought to kill state legislation that would have denied public benefits to illegal immigrants. Huckabee cited his Christian values (some nonsense about loving your fellow man), saying "I drink a different kind of Jesus juice."

* Also as governor, Huckabee supported various tax hikes on everything from cigarettes to gasoline. One tax increase generated over $400 million, which was used to build a massive conservation center, upgrade parks, and meet other environmental needs for the state.

* Introduced successful legislation in Arkansas that greatly expanded government health insurance for children. As a result, the percentage of uninsured kids dropped from 22 percent to 9 percent between 1997 and 2004. Similar legislation at the national level has been systematically destroyed by Republicans who can afford health care for their children.

* Raised in a blue-collar family. Fan of rock music.

What a stand-up guy, a real fucking savior of our disillusioned world, the dark horse riding neigh. Oops, but I almost forgot. Huckabee is not just insane, he's ludicrously insane. To wit, I give you a better sample of his political repertoire (from the absolutely essential Web site,
* Opposes tax funding for any organization that supports abortion.

* Anti-abortion (sanctity of life) but pro-death penalty ("It's a necessary part of our criminal justice system for those crimes for which there is no other alternative.")

* Opposes stem cell research.

* Opposes civil unions, gay marriage and adoption rights for gays.

* Has an erection for Wal-mart ("Wal-Mart is a case study in the genius of the American marketplace.")

* Supports the historically flawed "abstinence-only" sex education.

* Supports tax credits for religious-based schools.

* Equates the moral decline of society with banning prayer in schools.

* Believes setting moral standards outside of religion is flawed ("But if integrity and character are divorced from God, they don't make sense. If you try to set your own moral thermostat, chances are that a lot of people will be uncomfortable. Integrity, left to define itself, becomes evil because everyone ends up choosing his own standards.")

* Supports denying student visas to people from nations the U.S. considers to be supporters of terrorism.

* Believes George W. Bush has done "a magnificent job."

* Supports Internet sales tax.

* Supports attacking Iran even without consent of Congress.

Most of Huckabee's appeal stems from his ability to project this sense that all his beliefs are based on core values. He can do this because, until now, he had nothing to lose. Nobody was really expecting him to get very far in the presidential race, and as a result he was able to ignore the political pitfalls that accompany saying insane shit to the public. Conversely, Giuliani must maintain a toned-down rhetoric, mostly because he's got this false image to protect and moderates to woo. He doesn't want to show his true colors.

But Huckabee is living his own reality. He's extremely religious, which is the basis for everything he believes in, and he's not afraid to admit it. It empowers him, and people like that he can be painfully candid. He doesn't change his mind a whole lot, and he's genuine. The voting public clamps onto that ideal like flies to cow dung because voters are mostly incapable of smelling bullshit.

At any rate, he won't be getting my vote. But it's a testament to his abilities at charm when I say that I kind of feel bad saying he's a bit out of his mind.