Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Awesome Pumpkin Carvings!

These carved pumpkins are just really really cool :-) From a barfing pumpkin, to a death star pumpkin, to a firefox pumpkin, these jack 'o lanterns are far cooler than anything I ever created! Enjoy :-)

Hat tip: Strange Maps Blog

NARTH Congratulates Self

NARTH, the controversial National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, held its annual meeting last week in Dallas. A new article on the organizations website congratulates the participants for their "stellar presentations" of "convincing evidence that homosexuality is more fluid than fixed, and that indeed, individuals can make desired changes in their lives."

Wow, those are quite Narthithithtic statements! ;-)

These comments left me puzzled, especially in the face of the results of the Jones & Yarhouse study, which were discussed in Stanton Jones' plenary talk at the conference. Jones & Yarhouse reported the following outcomes for 98 ex-gay hopefuls (72 male and 26 female, 41 of whom had already participated in ex-gay ministry for 1-3 years prior to the study) over three years of Exodus ministry:
  • 33 people reported change (from homosexual/bisexual/other to heterosexual or from homosexual to bisexual/other)
  • 29 reported no change
  • 8 reported “negative change” (from heterosexual/bisexual/other to homosexual or from heterosexual to bisexual/other)
  • 3 reported uncertain change (moving from bisexual to other, or the reverse)
  • 25 dropped out of the study
source: Box Turtle Bulletin's nine-page analysis of the Jones & Yarhouse study
I am utterly baffled that NARTH could believe that these results could be accurately summarized as "convincing evidence that [homosexual] individuals can make desired changes in their lives." In my opinion, a far more accurate rendering of the study's results would go something like this: some (actually, a minority of the sample population) individuals self-report achieving desired orientation change.

In NARTH's defense, the organization presents the Jones & Yarhouse study in more accurate light later in the article--by simply adding the word "some:"
the answer to whether or not some motivated people can alter aspects of their sexual orientation through religious ministry is "Yes." (emphasis mine)
This statement seems far closer to the truth than the first--although I still question the accuracy of the word "alter." All the Jones & Yarhouse study indicates is change in self-reported orientation. No objective measures of "aspects of their sexual orientation" were used.

Two other items that caught my attention in the article:
  1. Packed inside a single sentence, I found the following strange self-contradiction regarding the Jones & Yarhouse study:
    a study that meets the high standards set by the American Psychological Association, Dr. Stanton Jones presented the results of his longitudinal, prospective study--a book just released by InterVarsity Press
    I'm stunned how NARTH can state (accurately) that the study has appeared in a book from an evangelical Christian publisher and in the same breath imply endorsement by the APA's peer-review process when the study has never been appeared in one of the APA's affiliate conferences or journals.

    Craziness! I don't oppose NARTH's stated purpose to study homosexuality and offer therapy to those conflicted gay folks who desire treatment. But I firmly oppose misrepresenting or misreporting information.

    I personally own copies of the proceedings of (that is, the collections of papers presented at) four NARTH conferences. Sadly, the credibility of their "technical" literature is not much more impressive than this article.

  2. I also found it ironic that the article lauded therapist Dr. Jim Phelan, who was publicly rebuked by Exodus the very week of the conference after he “one-two drop kicked the hell out of” (his own words) a man in the Columbus Marathon.

    Even as NARTH heaps praise upon Dr. Phelan, Ex-Gay Watch is reporting that Exodus has removed him from their referral list of therapists. The Methodist ex-gay organization Transforming Congregations has announced the resignation of Phalen from their Board of Directors, stating Board disapproval with "some of Dr. Phelan’s recent public actions and comments."
In the photo above, Jim Phalen (left) and Staton Jones (center) receive awards at the NARTH conference and pose for a picture with Joseph Nicolosi (right--or should I say, far right).

Hat tip: Ex-Gay Watch, Box Turtle Bulletin

Friday, November 9, 2007

Dobson "hearts" Huckabee

Okay, I'll confess I'm not witty enough to have contrived that title myself ;-)

Apparently Focus on the Family's James Dobson is preparing to announce his endorsement of Mike Huckabee for Republican presidential nominee. From the American Spectator:

Sources close to Dobson say that within the next ten days he is coordinating an endorsement plan with the presidential campaign of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. According to a Huckabee insider in Iowa, the event would be staged in that state at a rally, followed by a bus tour across the state, and an appearance by Huckabee on Dobson's radio show, which is heard nationally.

Dobson's endorsement, according to the Huckabee source, could mean millions in fundraising to the campaign, allowing it to compete at the same level with the top tier candidates Huckabee has been inching toward in the polls after a series of strong debate and campaign appearances.

Tim Minnery, Senior Vice President for Focus on the Family, Dobson's organization, denied on Friday (November 9, 2007) afternoon that Dobson intended to endorse Huckabee in the coming days. Minnery's denial was submitted to the Spectator after Dobson received calls from other social conservative leaders inquiring about the leaked endorsement plans from the Huckabee campaign and Dobson associates. "Dr. Dobson isn't close to an endorsement of anyone in the 2008 race," Minnery wrote in an email to the editor denying there was an endorsement planned.

Contacted again by The American Spectator, those who initially spoke on background about the Dobson endorsement insisted that as of last night, plans were being put in place by the Huckabee campaign for an announcement and endorsement tour, and stood by their account.

Hat tips: Right Wing Watch, Bible Belt Blogger

Church provides food for non-gay famine victims

LOL This video from the Onion is so funny :-)

If only it weren't so true to life :-(

Thursday, November 8, 2007

ACLU defends Phelps

Oh the irony. The ACLU, long considered by conservative religious folks to be the posterchild of all things wrong with America, will be defending vitriolic conservative Christian Shirley Phelps-Roper in Nebraska court this coming Monday. The AP reports:
Phelps-Roper, 50, is to appear in Sarpy County Court on Monday on charges of flag mutilation, negligent child abuse, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and disturbing the peace. The charges were filed after Phelps-Roper allowed her 10-year-old son to stand on the flag while protesting at a Bellevue soldier's funeral in June.

Phelps-Roper's attorney, Bassel El-Kasaby, said he has asked that the case be thrown out because the charges are unconstitutional. El-Kasaby was hired by the Nebraska ACLU to represent Phelps-Roper.
I doubt they'll get her on flag mutilation, but I'm quite interested to see what comes of the negligent child abuse charge...

Hat tip: NPR, AP

Phelps' Appeal: Free Speech vs. Privacy

NPR has some interesting coverage of the verdict of a Maryland jury ordering Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church to pay $10 million in damages to the father of a dead marine whose funeral the church picketed. It's clear everyone hates Phelps' family and his church (check out the BBC documentary The Most Hated Family in America), but is this ruling against the church just or does it infringe on their freedom of speech?

Hard to say. NPR interviewed Rodney Smolla, Dean of the Washington and Lee University School of Law, about what's at stake. According to Wikipedia, Smolla is a well-respected First Amendment scholar who in 2002 argued Virgina v. Black before the U.S. Supreme Court, a case involving Virginia's cross-burning statute.
This issue is not whether the church has a constitutional right to express its message; it certainly does. The much tougher issue is whether it has that right at the funeral of a fallen service member. We have public spaces and private spaces in our society, and the free speech rights that we all enjoy in our public spaces don't always give us the right to intrude into the private spaces of others. A lot will turn in these cases on exactly where the protesters assemble

There is a line, and that line will be drawn in close proximity to the funeral events. That kind of division will divide the public space and the private space. Even though what the church engaged in here does appear to fall within the realm of the is hate speech, the church has a right to engage in that hateful speech unless it invades in someone else's privacy.

A jury found that it was an invasion of privacy, and the interesting question on appeal will be whether the first amendment allows us to treat what happened here as the kind of invasion of privacy that trumps free speech rights.
Check out the full piece by clicking the link below.

Hat tip: NPR

Jesus to return on May 21, 2011

...according to the book Time Has an End: A Biblical History of the World 11,013 B.C. - 2011 A.D. by Harold Camping.

Ironically, the book is the sequel to Camping's earlier work, which stated that Jesus would return in 1994.

And no, I didn't search for the weirdest photo of Camping that I could find. This photo appears on the back cover of his book.

Hat tip: Freespace

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Unexpected: Pat Robertson endorses Giuliani

I didn't see this coming. In a televised statement today, Pat Robertson stood next to Rudy Giuliani and announced his support for the former New York mayor to become the 2008 Republican presidential candidate.

Just when I thought the Religious Right was beginning to narrow its interest on Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee.

In other news, Senator and former presidential hopeful Sam Brownback will announce shortly his endorsement of Senator John McCain to win the 2008 Republican nomination.

Now all we need is for Billy Graham to announce his support for Ron Paul and then I'll be really confused.

Hat tip: Right Wing Watch

"Put Homosexuals To The Sword"

The title of this post is the title of an essay by Jim Rudd, editor of Covenant News.

His essay begins with the following sentence:
Civil officials have a God ordained duty to execute sodomites.
What follows is a tirade that sounds remarkably like the folks over at Westboro Baptist Church. There's no possible way I could misrepresent Jim Rudd by stating he has extremist views; I think he would rather appreciate that description and the association with Fred Phelps' clan. Mr. Rudd concludes:
America is a cursed nation (John 7:49) and "defending marriage" does nothing to cut off the curse... The word of God commands that sodomites are to be executed, and God gives our civil officials the sword to do the job. Until our civil officials turn from their wicked way by administering Justice, we can only be judged with the most depraved pagan nations in history.
Hat tip: Dispatches from the Culture Wars

Republican investigation of televangelists

Hallelujah! Ten televangelists are being investigated by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, for sketchy business.

From today's Dallas Morning News:

Mr. Grassley said the investigation was triggered by news reports and complaints from the public and will look at whether the ministries have abused their tax-exempt status.

"The allegations involve governing boards that aren't independent and allow generous salaries and housing allowances and amenities such as private jets and Rolls-Royces," Mr. Grassley said.

"I don't want to conclude that there's a problem, but I have an obligation to donors and the taxpayers to find out more. People who donated should have their money spent as intended and in adherence with the tax code."

This televangelists and televangelical couples are:
  • Randy and Paula White
  • Benny Hinn
  • David and Joyce Meyer
  • Kenneth and Gloria Copeland
  • Bishop Eddie Long
  • Creflo and Taffi Dollar
I am surprised to see Joyce Meyer and the Copelands on this list. Although I've always been annoyed by Mrs. Meyer's acerbic demeanor and the Copelands' myopic discussion of complicated topics, I never really wondered if they might be engaged in unethical business practices. Benny Hinn and Creflo Dollar are completely different stories--the few times that I've seen these men speak (on television) or read about them in the news, I've always felt uncomfortable. I get the feeling that they have abused a lot of poor, sick people with their "health and wealth" "prosperity gospel."

It will be interesting to see what Senator Grassley's investigation turns up. It may be that these folks are all on the up-and-up, but I'm fairly confident some of them are not. Shady dealings seems to come with the territory of televangelism.

Hat tip: Bible Belt Blogger

Friday, November 2, 2007

UAE: No such thing as rape of a man

To those of us in a post-sexual revolution culture, convictions in pre-sexual revolution culture seem crazy. As a society examines and criticizes its assumptions about genders and familial relationships, many bizarre convictions come to light.

For instance, women in Saudi Arabia are currently not allowed to drive cars.

But women aren't the only ones who stand to benefit from sexual revolution. A recent case in Dubai has highlighted an interesting conviction in that pre-sexual revolution culture: the United Arab Emirates has no legal construct for rape when the victim is male.

Try telling that to a 15-year-old French boy who kidnapped in July by three men (one of them HIV-positive) who took turns raping him while a second kidnapped boy was ordered to stand behind a sand dune.

That's not to say that the perpetrators will not be punished. Dubai does have laws prohibiting kidnapping and homosexual intercourse, however. The defendants are facing the death penalty.

Hat-tip: my boyfriend

Interesting note: the photo is of the Burj Dubai, the 156th floor of which is currently under construction in Dubai. When completed, it will be the tallest building in the world.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Wikipedia Vision

Ok, now this is just cool. Wikipedia now pours an almost-realtime RSS feed of edits to its pages into Google maps. The result? Wikipedia Vision. A marker moves back and forth across the globe, pinpointing the source of the most recent Wikipedia edit, and which article has been edited.

Awesome. Useless, but awesome.

Hat-tip: NPR