Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sacred Places

If you are like us, by this time of year you've reached the saturation point with all the gasping of conventional religionists about "sacred" spots and "sacred" places. The recent BS about a house found in "Nazareth" is just the latest gasper, one more example of a manufactured tourist trap. It's no better than the "graves" of Arthur and Guinevere, "discovered" when a big ol' church had a fire and decided to bait a lot of tourist/pilgrim revenue. Don't lose sight of the fact that Nazareth itself is an invented town; no such town existed in What's-His-Name's purported time.
Anyway, the question now is : What spot is sacred to you, and why aren't you (and we, for that matter) putting pictures and descriptions of pagan/Wiccan sacred sites on the web? There are hundreds of thousands of them. The Wells (Red and White) of Glastonbury, the Bend of the River Boyne, the tombs of Brittany ... everywhere you go there are places eligible to be called sacred. In fact, of course, the tree in your front yard or the one growing alone in the forest is also part of a sacred place. The very grass and foliage all make up the Sacred.
Think only of Britain's New Forest, site of the Rufus Stone; Glastonbury; the whole peninsula of Cornwall. The tombs of France; Carnac with its stone alignments; Gavr'inis; Beziers and Montsegur, where Cathars died in their thousands for their spiritual beliefs. In North America Yucca Mountain and Illinois' Cahokia, just for starters. Peru's Machu Picchu and the Nazca Lines.
What occurs to you? Where have you felt connected to the spirituality of times past?
Recently we saw the film Avatar and were pleased at the tremendously powerful message it portrayed from beginning to end, of a people who held their natural environment sacred in every way. How vividly their mindset contrasted with that of those who would destroy the planet to get at deposits of an important metal, here called unobtainium.
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As you know, we Frosts are continually criticized for our honest and basic real-world attitude to gender relationships. Of course the majority of people can think of "deviant" relationships only in terms of the pejoratives applied to sex by the culture in which we life. How about considering that those relationships should be sacred and that sex done to produce children should in fact be a sacrament carefully thought out and reverently performed?
Identify for us your favorite sacred sites. We'd love to learn about them.
Blessed be those who hold themselves open to the sacred. Gavin and Yvonne

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Politicizing Science

Important people are gathering in Copenhagen just now to discuss global warming. We have learned that scientists doing real-world work on the topic have exchanged e-mails that discuss altering their respective findings. Who knows what those scientists now believe about the effect that greenhouse gases have on global warming? A firestorm has erupted as various interests horn in with strenuous efforts to (a) manipulate or (b) discredit the findings.
The hot air over global warming (all those portentous utterings themselves are surely contributing to the total output of hot air) is very frustrating. Global warming is an obvious fact. Polar ice and vanishing glaciers bear witness to the reality. The ice has never in any recorded history been so scant. The question then becomes : Whether greenhouse gases cause global warming. Are they simply parallel events, or is there a cause-and-effect scenario here?
Most mysteriously of all, the thing no one is willing to talk about is the finding on
global dimming.
This seems to be a deep, dark secret. It was first noted when air traffic was halted abruptly after 9-11, when all civilian air traffic was grounded. In those two days of silent skies, temperatures rose in the northern hemisphere by an average of 3 degrees. Other scientists had quietly been working on the problem for many years, and now there seems to be a veil of secrecy and a world-wide conspiracy of silence on the topic. Without the particulate absorption in the upper atmosphere, there would probably be no polar ice at all.
The efforts are only the latest in a long string of gradually intensifying situations in which hard science is being manipulated for the good of Big Business, Big Pharma, or Big Government. Attempts persist to get genetically modified food into Europe; though we can be grateful that resistance too persists.
Sometimes these attempts go sadly awry.
Because Big Business thought it could buy off a British investigatory panel, bribes were offered, bribes were taken, and the bribes were revealed. The hard science is there. Professor Arpad Pusztai of Edinburgh University unequivocally proved that GM soy led to brain damage in young rats. He was politically fired for his work--but then was hastily rehired when other universities, to which he had sent his findings, backed his position.
In other places politicized science has won the day.
Today in the United States we can buy hardly a product that is free of some GM content. Is the stuff safe? Probably not.
Millions of bottles of tap water (no, that's not a misprint) are sold despite the fact that mold-release chemicals in plastic bottles cause cancer. And we haven't even mentioned BPA that keeps the bottles flexible and soft. The water in the bottles is not separately tested. The bottlers shrug that off, claiming that they use just ordinary tap water from a municipal supply, which they say has been adequately pre-tested.
Two recent cases of immunization drugs are enlightening. (a) One drug is claimed to reduce incidence of cervical cancer--even though tests showed that it had little or no effect, and indeed could be deadly. (b) Recent tests of the H1N1 vaccine* revealed that it contains formaldehyde, antifreeze, and mercury. (There is strong evidence connecting mercury to autism. We have yet to learn what formaldehyde [an embalming fluid] and antifreeze can do down the road.) All this quite apart from the fact that the vaccine is grown in eggs and consequently is an allergen to some individuals.
More recently, the United States government came out with a new recommendation: Women should avoid mammograms. When they said this, they gave no reason; naturally enough, there was a tremendous outcry. When pushed to the wall, the panel admitted that, yes, mammograms cause cancer. They quoted quite high numbers for the number of cancers caused; yet the statistics are very suspicious. It looks as if the panel took the numbers for women who are genetically disposed to getting breast cancer with the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. British studies of 2004** showed lower numbers than the US on the number of caes of breast cancer--but they still strongly urged that mammograms be replaced with sonograms, or, if really necessary, with an MRI.
The industry that manufactures mammogram equipment and processes mammograms is hanging on tooth and nail. It is a multi-billion-dollar industry and they don't want to lose their income. We believe they will lose this struggle, especailly since if a mammogram does show a shadow, the next step is often a sonogram. Why not skip the mammogram entirely and go directly to a sonogram? Would that be too rational? Insufficiently dramatic for the bragging rights and the hanky-twisting of the woman involved? Would it cause discontent in the stockholders?
As with all these matters, we look to science for the impartial, objective truth. We look to them to tell us the tradeoffs. Does the autism-causing mercury in the H1N1 vaccine negate the thousands of lives that it would save? Yes, the labs used the mercury because they had to make the vaccine hastily, but does that justify making it dangerous?
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* GlaxoSmithKline H1N1 According to the package insert itself, the influenza vaccine contains formaldehyde, polysorbate 80, squalene, thimerosal, mercury, egg protein, sodium deoxycholate, and DL-a-tocopherol.
** Lancet, 1 February 2004

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Teenage Baby Problem

The self-styled pagan/Wiccan community has severely criticized us Frosts, we hear, for (among other activities) advocating sex education and the introduction of teenagers to (oh gasp) sex. Indeed, at one point the right-wing fringe elements of the Wiccan community threatened to burn us in effigy (gasp again) because of our beliefs. Despite such foot-dragging, we still firmly believe that this nation is in deep trouble because of its head-in-the-sand attitude to realistic sex education for teens.
So guess what. That attitude of denial has come to bite authorities and all the abrahamic fundamentalist religionists firmly in the ass. Teenagers have rebelled against the just-say-no paradigm, which they (rightly) view as absolute hypocrisy. They can see for themselves adults or near-adults enjoying sex in TV and on the web.
We learn that the lowest recent teen birth rate occurred in 2005. In 2008 it was up an average of 7 precent. That may not sound like much--but it means over 40,000 extra actual live birth to teens. Nearly 90 percent of teen girls are now single mothers. Apocryphally, from talking with high-school teachers, we suspect that the birth rate will climb another 10 percent in 2009--meaning almost 100,000 extra teen births. Of course this does not include twice that many abortions.
You may not be aware of some recent trends in teen attitude to sex.
* Pregnancy parties - Groups of boys and girls meet and do all the sex they can stand. The girls' aim: to get pregnant without being able to attribute the pregnancy to a single partner.
* Sexting - The use of cellphones to receive and transmit sexually explicit pictures and to arrange copulation dates and pregnancy parties.
* Juicing - This expression may be less crude than the f-word; however, it has an additional dimension: It means totally unprotected sex. At today's teen pregnancy party, we are given to understand, the girls try to get juiced by several different partners.
Of course juicing also means that American teens have the highest level of STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) of any developed country in the world. The rate is some 30 times higher than in Germany and 20 times the level of EU nations as a whole.
* Babydaddy - Today's expression for the unknown father of the child--not lover, not fiance, not even steady or boyfriend--and never by name. With this approach the pregnant young woman cannot tell Social Services who the father is. Everybody gets a free ride.
Questions arise. Why are teens engaging in these activities? What creates this mindset in them? They know full well that they can have protected sex and get most of the enjoyment without the resultant baby. It seems, though, that it is not raging hormones; instead
1. Many of the girls do it for simple and straightforward economic reasons. Their family, and they themselves, are often starving, or at least living on the breadline. Fortunately for them, many high schools are now running baby-sitting services; and HUD will provide an apartment, medical care, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program--SNAP.
2. It may be also that some of the pregnancies are jailbreak pregnancies--anything to get out of the repressive family context. Even though they are in dire economic straits, many parents, including some who call themselves pagans, will have nothing more to do with teen daughters who have "sinned".
3. Sociologists tell us too that some of these pregnancies--pregnancy as revenge--are to shame the parents. Revenge for what? Maybe for perceived wrongs, or for the "gratitude" the daughters feel they have never received.
So long as there is stubborn silence, there can never be anything like a full and satisfactory resolution of the reasons.
The highest ratio of births is in the southern tier of "red" states, where fundamentalism rules. The top state, by the way, is Nevada, running 77 births per 1,000 teenage girls. These births are highest in non-hispanic whites.
The situation is dire. Apart from encouraging what might be called a French attitude to sex, in which contraceptive measures, abortion, and the morning-after pill are all available and free without tattling to parents, we can see that the situation will not improve if the root cause is economic. It looks as if we are going to have to face up to some kind of a federal allowance for teenagers.
Do you have feelings about these topics? We'd like to hear from you.
Yes, apple pie and motherhood are an essential part of the Norman Rockwell-type American dream. But (here comes Yvonne's reality smack--you knew it was coming, didn't you?) even when the babies have lost their entertainment value, even when the Cute Factor plummets to zero,

you can't take 'em to the pound.