* Beware the Ides of March ~ or when the earth was flat – Although the ides refers specifically to the middle of the month, there were a lot of bad days in March for the Vatican. First the Vatican official newspaper tells woman that a washing machine was responsible for liberating women. This week Pope Benedict declared that condoms were not the answer to the AIDS epidemic in Africa and even contributed to the problem. I was just about to toss in the trash my extra-large, fruit-flavored, lubricated, glow-in-the-dark, latex sheaths when I came across this statement by the Center for Disease Control: "Condoms, when used consistently and correctly, are highly effective in preventing the sexual transmission of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS." As much as reactionary forces in the 21st Century want us to ignore science I suggest that to avoid HIV Aids and other sexually transmitted diseases, Wrap That Rascal! For the record some 22 million people live with this infection in Africa.
Closer to home a recent study found that at least 3% of the residents of Washington D.C. are infected with the AIDS virus. “That translates into 2,984 residents per every 100,000 over the age of 12 -- or 15,120 -- according to the 2008 epidemiology report by the District's HIV/AIDS office.” Many consider this a rate of epidemic proportions since the numbers are actually much higher. The study only reflects people who have been tested.
There are numerous factors that contribute to this AIDS catastrophe in America and one is federal policy. Recall that George W. Bush used the same philosophy as Pope Benedict to address the issue of sexually transmitted diseases (STD). The program was marketed as Abstinence Only. If “only” it had worked! Virtually every study conducted since the program was instituted found it to be a failure. Teen pregnancies and STD are on the increase. Teaching responsible sexual behavior must include responsible sex education. Abstinence Only makes every date a blind date. Now that we have tried an approach that denies science and biological urges it is time to say no to the influence of the religious right as it affects national policy. AIDS is a preventable disease when approached within an intelligent and enlightened framework.
* Quote of the Week ~ by Frank Rich, NY Times columnist – “What has happened between 2001 and 2009 to so radically change the cultural climate? Here, at last, is one piece of good news in our global economic meltdown: Americans have less and less patience for the intrusive and divisive moral scolds who thrived in the bubbles of the Clinton and Bush years. Culture wars are a luxury the country — the G.O.P. included — can no longer afford… In our own hard times, the former moral “majority” has been downsized to more of a minority than ever.” A read of Mr. Rich’s column provides a historical and sociological perspective of the first decade of the 21st Century. He notes that we are entering a period similar to the 1930s which was described by author Frederick Lewis Allen in his book “Since Yesterday,” - the new American faith was the “secular religion of social consciousness.” Can I hear a secular “Amen?”
* Speaking of Rascals ~ a catastrophic failure of federal government – There is much outrage directed toward financial institutions and especially the bonuses paid to AIG executives following billions of dollars doled out by taxpayers to these goniffs (crooks). I would suggest that the greatest outrage should be directed to the Government of the United States of America. Indifference, incompetence and collusion are the operative words of how the interests of the American people were abdicated throughout the federal bureaucracy.
One lowlight of this failure was outlined in a report this week: “Banking and securities regulators identified weaknesses in how certain large financial institutions monitored risk in recent years but they failed to take strong action until after the financial crisis took hold, the Government Accountability Office found in its latest report… The report specifically focuses on how the Federal Reserve, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Office of Thrift Supervision and the Securities and Exchange Commission oversee risk management practices at large financial institutions.” A reasonable query would be, “What the hell were they doing and why?”
* Teflon-coated Congress – Many, many Americans are suffering from the torpedoed economy, disintegrating health care coverage, and imploded retirement plans. Many, many ask, “Why isn’t Congress more in tune with conditions constituents face and doing something about it?” Part of the answer is that members of Congress have over the years provided themselves with golden parachutes. They have a GOVERNMENT FUNDED HEALTH PLAN, a retirement plan that is in effect after only one term of service and they receive automatic pay increases. This year senators receive an automatic pay increase of over $4000. We all have to tighten our belts should read, most of us have to tighten our belt. The decision makers and overseers are doing just fine. It is interesting that they debate whether plebian citizens should have government funded healthcare. It is pathetic that they take no responsibility for not overseeing the financial industry that destroyed the economy, jobs and retirement plans. Speaking of rascals.
* Not so happy Anniversary – Today is the sixth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war. Like so many of its predecessors it is a war that will live in infamy, as will its initiators. As we begin to leave Iraq I was struck by the observations of Lorelei Kelly writing at The Huffington Post. “Now that America's exit from Iraq is on the horizon -- we need to begin the long overdue conversation about how we got ourselves into this war… We need to talk about the civic and cultural reasons for getting into Iraq, because it will reveal a new way for Americans to understand national security. Blame the Bush administration. Fine. Blame the media. Okay. But "we the people" need to take a few hits as well.” Sometimes it is not easy to look at oneself but it is a necessary growing pain. A reading of Ms. Kelly’s article proves an insightful guide.
* At last, Good News – I was listening to NPR this week when I heard an interview with the founder and editor of Good News Network. With so much bad news surrounding us it struck me that this is a website I should often visit. It specializes in identifying good news. Yes, there is some and it is refreshing.
* The real test for environmentalists ~ putting one’s ass on the line – When I go to the store to buy toilet paper (TP) I bear a mandate that is unequivocal and non-negotiable. It must be Charmin, it must be double thickness, it must be double rolls and it must be soft. I thought of this directive while reading about the devastating effects such intimate products are having on the environment. An article in the NY Times noted: “Fluffiness comes at a price: millions of trees harvested in North America and in Latin American countries, including some percentage of trees from rare old-growth forests in Canada. Although toilet tissue can be made at a similar cost from recycled material, it is the fiber taken from standing trees that help give it that plush feel, and most large manufacturers rely on them.”
For the most part recycled TP is rejected in the U.S. More than 98 percent of the toilet paper we use is from virgin forests - forests that soak up carbon emissions, prevent flooding and play a major role in the interconnected and inter-related world of ecology. While cogitating about the condition I characterize as “Soft TP Fixation” I decided to conduct a market research survey. I learned that females feel they need a particularly soft wipe for their uniquely sensitive area. This led me to the following solution in my effort to find environmentally friendly alternatives in our daily lives:
Recycled or partially recycled TP should be designated for use in BACK.
Virgin material TP should be designated for use in FRONT.
This idea will help our weak economy by significantly increasing the sales of TP holders (even though most holders are likely manufactured in Asia). Another suggestion would be for Americans to become tougher.
* “I think the environment should be put in the category of our national security. Defense of our resources is just as important as defense abroad. Otherwise what is there to defend?”
Robert Redford (b. 1937) actor, director, producer, philanthropist and environmentalist