Saturday, April 23, 2005

April 21-23, 2005

Weak-End Edition

Sissy Gates
The Microsoft Corporation withdrew its support for legislation that would have made it illegal to discriminate against gays in the state of Washington.

The move came after statements from a Seattle Christian fundamentalist minister who said if the company did not stop supporting the legislation, “I will give Microsoft a reason to fear Christians.” (Full Story)

As though we haven’t already seen and heard enough to fear Christian fundamentalists. But it worked. Microsoft dropped its active support for the legislation.

"I think people should feel betrayed," said Tina Podlodowski, a former Microsoft senior manager. "To me, Microsoft has been one of the big supporters of gay and lesbian civil rights issues, and they did it when it wasn't an issue of political expediency, when it was the right thing to do."

“Dr.” Hutcherson, pastor of the Antioch Bible Church, organized several rallies opposing same-sex marriage. He also threatened to organize a national boycott of Microsoft products. After that, "they backed off," he told reporters yesterday. "I told them I was going to give them something to be afraid of Christians about.”

Meanwhile God’s self-appointed hall monitors have been busy elsewhere as well. Evangelical Christian leaders, who have been working closely with senior Republican lawmakers to place conservative judges in the federal courts, have also been exploring ways to punish sitting jurists and even entire courts viewed as hostile to “their cause.” (Full Story here)

Stay tuned boys and girls. More fear is on the way. When these crazy bastards are done with us you will not only fear Christians but hate them as well. Then the maybe the rest of us will refuse to support laws prohibiting discrimination against “people of faith.”

Say Hey, Earth Day
President Bush is fixin’ to celebrate Earth Day.

"One of the greatest responsibilities in a free society is responsible stewardship of our natural environment," Bush said at the White House ceremony. "All of you have taken that duty seriously. You have set a clear and strong example, and you're inspiring others to do their part."

George Bush celebrating Earth Day is like Jeffery Dahmer singing the praises of PETA.

I have nothing more to say about this. It simply defies all attempts at satire, irony or ridicule.

Is It Warm In Here?
The first comprehensive survey of glaciers on the Antarctic peninsula has shown that the rivers of ice are shrinking, mostly because of warming of the local climate. Researchers from the British Antarctic Survey and the U.S. Geological Survey analyzed more than 2,000 aerial photographs dating from 1940 and over 100 satellite images from the 1960s onwards.

They calculated that 87 percent of the 244 glaciers going out to sea from the peninsula have retreated over the last 50 years and that the pace of shrinkage has accelerated over the last decade. Until now, scientists were uncertain whether the glaciers were growing or melting.

Of course, to the Bush administration this is just another example of “bad science.”

Of course there could be an upside if the scientists are right. The Bush ranch in Crawford, Texas could become valuable Gulf Coast property.

Oops, Killed the Wrong Guy
When his court got crowded frontier Judge Roy Bean used to joke, “Hang’em all and let God sort it out.” That’s pretty much been the state of mind in the state of Texas, which has the dubious distinction of having the busiest death house in the nation… maybe the civilized world. (Wait that can’t be right. Texas is not part of the civilized world, is it?)

Well, looks like one case got “sorted out” a little too late. A Texas Senate committee heard testimony Tuesday about the possibility that the state probably executed an innocent man.
Fourteen months after Cameron Todd Willingham was executed a renowned arson expert told the Senate Criminal Justice Committee that he believed Willingham was innocent but found nobody willing to listen to his evidence in the days before the executioner dropped the hammer on Todd in February 2004. (Full Story Here)

If the evidence stands up Texas will almost certainly have to apologize to Mr. Willingham. As for punishing those responsible for this little mistake – God will sort that out.

Chutzpah Alert: Muslims Sue US
Five Muslim-Americans are suing the Department of Homeland Security alleging racial profiling because they were detained and fingerprinted by border agents after returning from a religious conference.

Should I care about this? Let’s see. We have a bunch of Muslims in traditional garb, trying to cross the US border returning from a conference entitled, “Reviving the Islamic Spirit.”

For the past four years most of the non-Muslim world has developed a nervous twitch about that whole “Islamic Spirit” thing. The question at hand is whether that twitch is irrational prejudice or just plain commonsense?

After four years of open terrorist warfare against the West waged exclusively by Islamic radicals, just whom do these litigants think our border folks should focus on? Italians? Canadians? Norwegians? (The worst thing Norwegians are guilty of is Ludafish distribution.)

No. As long as nearly every person that crashes a plane into our buildings or wants to or gets caught plotting new terrorist attacks is a Muslim, Muslims will, and should, remain “the usual suspects.” Because they are.

If Muslims are tired of making everyone else nervous then they need to do a whole lot more than they have to put a lid on the spread of radical Islam within their own countries, communities and mosques. This should not be hard. A religion that has rules about such minutia as which hand to use to wipe should also be able to develop a hard and fast rule against the wholesale killing of innocent civilians.

The real message is that Islamic terrorists are not just our problem, but theirs too. A good Islamic-led self-housecleaning is long overdue. Stop whining and get on with it.

Popeus Updateus
In yesterday’s column (which you can still read below) I said that Cardinal Ratzinger had been to Pope John 23rd what Nancy Reagan had been to Ronny during his final days in office – a kind of cognitive seeing-eye dog.

That now appears to be wrong. We are now learning what really happened behind the locked doors of the Papal Conclave. It appears that Ratzinger was not Nancy Reagan at all, but the Vatican’s version of Dick Cheney.

According to leaks from reform-minded cardinals, Ratzinger, who in earlier reports was described as “surprised and humbled” when elected Pope, had in fact run an aggressive and well-organized campaign for the job. Liberal cardinals, who had backed a candidate from South America, are letting it be known that Ratzinger and his conservative supporters in the Conclave, waged a ruthless behind the scenes campaign that included attacks on potential challengers.

The Holy Spirit, which the Church says guides the Cardinals in the selection process, has been reported missing.

April 20, 2005

Religion Reporting – With a Twist

With the old Pope’s departure and the new one’s election we’ve gotten a belly-full of religion news. But have you noticed how differently the media reports on the religion than it does on politics. I have.

When covering a major political story the press goes out of its way to get both sides, the pro and the con. But when they cover a major religion story they either entirely avoid the cons or make damn sure the viewer/reader does not think the cons’ views represent anything more than a fringe opinion. When it comes to religion news we don’t get balance, we get a balancing act.

But fair and balanced religion coverage may be even more important than fair and balanced political reporting. After all, we can fix what a politician breaks a lot faster than we can fix a bad Papal Edict. When the Pope says no to something, like contraception, there is no appeal and the results – poverty, environmental degradation and over-population -- roll on for centuries.

So, the press needs to get over their squeamishness about doing their job – their whole job – when covering big religion stories.

Since they haven’t, let me add to the public record the stuff they left out of a few major religion stories published recently. The stories below are all true events, though I have taken liberties with each. You have expected nothing less (or more) from me.

Catholics Pick New Pope
The Catholic Church has elected a new CEO. The German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who now goes by the name, Pope Benedict the XVI, was elected on the second day of the conclave.

Ratziner is the cardinal often seen whispering into Pope John 23rd’s ear in recent years. Vatican insiders say that Joseph Ratzinger played the same role during the last years of Pope John’s tenure as Nancy Reagan did for Ronald Reagan during his final months in office.

While the policies of the new Pope remain to be seen, Ratzinger’s views on a number of key issues facing the Church are a matter of record.

* The priest sex abuse scandal in the US Church is largely a coordinated effort by the press to smear the Catholic Church.
* Homosexuality is a “human disorder.”
* Condom is always wrong, even to prevent transmission of AIDS.

Ratzinger takes over at a time when Vatican policies are killing more of the Church's followers than since the Inquisition.

Africa, where the Catholic Church is seeing it’s highest growth in membership, has been particularly hard hit by AIDS. HIV infection rates now surpass 25 percent of the population. In Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland, prevalence rates still exceed 30 percent among pregnant women. Life expectancy has dropped below 40 years in nine countries in the region.

The prohibition against contraception is not biblical but a rule the Vatican can change at will. AIDS experts universally agree that condom use could cut the AIDS transmission rate dramatically. Nevertheless the Vatican prefers to bury its African flock rather than allow them to wear a half-ounce piece of latex on their John Thomas during sex.

While the Church’s flock in Africa dies in grace, Latin Americans are ditching Catholicism in record numbers. Millions have left the Church in favor of Pentecostal evangelical sects. The reasons are many.

Some say they switched because they found Pentecostal services more lively and the songs easier to memorize. They also say they appreciate being able to use birth control. "We can now have a child or two instead of litters," said one former Catholic woman.

Those who hope their children will someday immigrate to the US noted that the evangelical practice of holding both hands over their heads during services also prepares their kids for dealing with U.S. authorities.

Parents who had left the Catholic Church also noticed that that evangelical ministers don’t seem at all interested in keeping their boys at the rectory for sleepovers.

Mary Opens New Show
She was once a superstar who appeared at healing fountain spas and in other lush outdoor venues. But in recent years the Virgin Mary has appeared at far less glamorous venues. Her longest recent show ran on a partially eaten melted cheese sandwich, for example.

Yesterday Mary opened a new show with a surprise appearance on a cement bulkhead under the Kennedy Expressway in Chicago. It is unknown if she accepted the gig because Kennedy was Catholic or if that is just a coincidence.

While believers are sure it’s Mary, engineers at the Chicago’s roads department say the image is just a salt stain caused by this winter’s snowmelt runoff.

A transient who goes by then name "Dog," and calls the underpass home, claimed that the Mary image appeared two days after Elvis played the same wall.

“I liked Elvis better,” he said. “She may be the Mother of God, but Elvis was the King dude! Hey, got any spare change?”

Since the Mary overpass-apparition can’t be sold on Ebay, as the cheese sandwich was, it is unknown how long Mary’s show there will run. But if the overpass gig closes the faithful can still catch her famous cheese sandwich show which now runs 24 hours a day in a glass case at a casino, where the faithful can lose not only what’s left of their minds but their money as well.

News For Real Exclusive
(Caution: Satire ahead. Suspend disbelief and remain seated at all times until we come to a full stop.)

Vatican City: After denying demands by American cardinals for a recount, German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became the new Pope. Today he issued his first list of Papal Edicts, which we obtained from an unnamed Vatican source:

I) The Sign of the Cross will be replaced by a smart snap of the worshipper's heels.
II) The Communion Host will henceforth be made only of pumpernickel.
III) Note to Jews: The last Pope was just kidding. You’re still in the doghouse.
(You Muslims are not in the doghouse, but you are definitely pushing your luck.)
IV) Alter boys will henceforth be required to sign a lifetime oath of silence.
V) The only Sacramental wines allowed for Masses shall be Riesling, Elbling, or Spätburgunder.
VI) I shall be referred to as "Herr Papa."
VII) Only Wagner compositions shall be played during Mass.
VIII) Catholics can't sing in church - so stop trying.
IX) The archdioceses of Germany and Poland are to be merged immediately.
X) The Vatican will henceforth be referred to as "Der Popenhausen."

Now, back to the real news.

News for Jews:

God Hates Buggerers but Viagra is Kosher
Conservative Judaism's Rabbinical Assembly announced last Monday that a key panel has "upheld the biblical injunction against homosexual behavior."

“Circumcism is not a license to do whatever you please with that thing,” one Rabbi noted after the vote.

The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, which sets policy on application of halakha (Jewish law), also kept in place a 1992 ruling against both ordination of openly gay rabbis and commitment ceremonies for same-sex couples.

That decision came on the heels of an earlier one last month where the chief Rabbi ruled that the erection drug, Viagra, could be made kosher and taken during Passover. He advised that all the observant limpee had to do to comply with Jewish law was to slip the Viagra pill into a pure gelatin tablet before swallowing it.

Catholics may want to make note. This is the kind of rulings you get when your religious leaders do not have to take an oath of chastity.

The chief Rabbi said he was not amused by emailed jokes linking his Viagra ruling with kosher franks.

Russian Astrologer Sues NASA
“Hands off the comet!” That’s the message being sent by a Russian Astrologer Marina Bai who plans to sue NASA to stop the space agency from blowing a comet as planned.

NASA’s space probe, dubbed, Deep Impact, is scheduled to crash into the comet, Tempel-1 on the Forth of July. Bai says doing so would totally screw up the astrological mojo.

“The actions of NASA infringe upon my system of spiritual and life values, in particular on the values of every element of creation, upon the unacceptability of barbarically interfering with the natural life of the universe, and the violation of the natural balance of the Universe,” Bai said in her claim.

Bai is demanding that NASA call off the $311 million operation, with the spacecraft already in its cruise phase. She also wants 8.7 billion rubles (the ruble equivalent of the entire cost of the mission) as compensation for “moral damages.”

Houston Minister Rev. Robert Synner said the lawsuit should be thrown out.

“Astrology is not a religion,” he said, “it’s superstition. I mean, come on. Who but a complete idiot could believe that stars determine human fate? Everyone knows only the Bible can predict the future. It says so right here in Revelations.”

Astrologer Bia said not so. “That star Jesus was born under was a comet. So, padre, leave the damn comet alone.”

Reached for comment the Vatican said it had no official position on the comet flap but noted that if the NASA probe wore any form of protection during impact, that would be wrong.

By Stephen Pizzo
Raconteur at Large

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