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On Pell, Pope Benedict, HIV and Condoms

I wrote about the effect of condom use on HIV infection rates in general terms about three weeks ago, but Andrew Bolt’s post this afternoon titled Pell’s Killer Argument has prompted me to add some more detail.

I noted last time that the only people whose behaviour is likely to be influenced by Catholic theology are Catholics. It is simply silly to suggest that the Catholic Church does not have a right, indeed an obligation, to advise the faithful on morality.

Second, I pointed out that the more likely people are to disobey the Church’s teaching in one area, the less likely they are to be troubled by breaking the rules in others. In other words, encouraging Catholics to ignore Catholic teaching on the use of artificial contraception is also likely to encourage them to ignore Catholic teaching on chastity. And that, of course, will encourage, not discourage, risky behaviour.

Finally I suggested that it is simply silly to believe that someone who is deliberately going to commit a mortal sin by stealing from his family to pay a prostitute or by having sex with another man in a public toilet is at the same time going to be so constrained by his conscience that he will refuse to wear a condom out of a desire to act in accordance with the faith.

All of the above seems to me to be simple common sense. Common sense may be mistaken. But as Cardinal Pell has noted, actual research seem to confirm that the Pope and the Catholic Church are right.

For example, Edward Green, writing in the Washington Post on March 29th, said:

In theory, condom promotions ought to work everywhere. And intuitively, some condom use ought to be better than no use. But that’s not what the research in Africa shows. Why not? One reason is “risk compensation.” That is, when people think they’re made safe by using condoms at least some of the time, they actually engage in riskier sex.

He also noted that when early studies found this to be so, organisations like United Nations’ AIDS programme simply refused to acknowledge or publish them. But more recently, a succession of studies published in journals such as Lancet, Science and BMJ have confirmed that promoting the use of condoms simply has not worked as an AIDS prevention programme in Africa. This is despite millions and millions of dollars being spent on publicising condom use and making condoms easily and freely available.

Note that Edward Green is not a Catholic, and supports the use of condoms. He believes that condoms have worked in places other than Africa (I do not – there are other factors at work in the Asian countries he mentions, and very low HIV infection rates in the Catholic Philippines is a strong counter-argument). But he acknowledges that what works best is faithfulness.

So when Pope Benedict, Cardinal Pell and the wider Catholic Church say that chastity outside of marriage and faithfulness within marriage is right for spiritual reasons and is also the healthiest choice, the evidence is on their side. It is not on the side of the wholesale condom sellers.

Australia To Boycott UN Hitler Birthday Celebrations

At the last possible moment, Australia has been done the right thing and said it will not be sending delegates to the UN’s Geneva Conference for Racism and Anti-Semitism (commonly called Durban II).

The conference is due to start on the 120th anniversay of the birthday of Adolf Hitler.

This means our illustrious leaders will miss words of wisdom from planned speakers like Iranian President Imanutjob.

Australia will join the US, Italy, Germany, Canada, and a number of other countries.

Some in the US have complained that by not going, President Barack Obama is losing a chance to show leadership. The truth is exactly the reverse.

Well done Obama. Well done Kevin.

I Missed The Boat On This One

But I am still gobsmacked by the suspended sentence and sympathetic hearing given to Iranian refugee Kayvan Zarei after he punched a woman in a car park and then splashed a witness with petrol and tried to set fire to him.

Zarei pleaded guilty to two counts of assault and one count of endangering life. He was given a two year suspended sentence. In other words, there was no punishment for his behaviour at all.

In his non-sentencing remarks Judge Rauf Soulio (Silly-O to his mates) said the incident had a “significant impact” on the witness and was also a “frightening experience” for the woman.

But all of that was outweighed by the fact that some people might not have been quite as nice to Zarei as he expected since he had been in Australia. Some people might even have gone so far as to ask him where he was from, or whether he was a Muslim. As a consequence he had become a depressed drug addict.

Refugee Council of Australia chief executive office Paul Power said racial discrimination was built on fear and misunderstanding. It was crucial for people to learn about other groups. Pardon?

If society is given the message that refugees (or anyone else for that matter) who behave threateningly or violently will not be given any appropriate consequences for that behaviour, and therefore no incentive to stop that behaviour, then it is perfectly reasonable to be mistrustful and afraid.

Are these do-gooders completely nuts?

South Australia’s Road Safety Minister A Hoon

South Australia’s Minister for Road Safety Tom Koutsantonis has a good record for saying the right things: `Extreme behaviour on our roads, such as speeding, is unacceptable and won’t be tolerated.’ and ‘Unfortunately, you can’t legislate to avoid stupidity.’

You may not be able to legislate to avoid stupidity, but you can surely avoid appointing idiots to executive positions in government.

Mr Koutsantonis has been fined at least twenty-seven times for speeding, three times for running red lights, and once for driving while using a mobile phone. This is not just one or two incidents – careless moments which were out of character. This is a record of long term disregard for the law and for the safety of other road users. Tom Koutsantonis is dangerous and irresponsible.

As at this date he has unpaid fines of nearly $1000 dating back to 2007.

If the Rann Labor Government in South Australia has the slightest regard for road safety, and any respect for the people of South Australia, Tom Koutsantonis must be sacked.

Update:

As of about midday on Monday 20th, Tom Koutsantonis has resigned as Minister for Road Safety.

‘I probably should have resigned earlier,’ he said. ‘My past transgressions mean that I can’t go out and do my job properly.’

No kidding.

But we’ll still have the benefit of Mr Koutsantonis’ wisdom in other areas:

‘I will continue to my work in the areas of Correctional Services, Gambling, Youth, Volunteers and assisting on Multicultural Affairs.’

Susan Boyle Sings ‘Cry Me A River’

This was recorded ten years ago for a CD produced for a local charity. There’s no video, but her clarity, expression and accuracy of pitch make this something I will listen to over and over again.

In other Susan Boyle news, Elaine Paige, whom Susan said was her model, has offered to sing and record a duet with her.

According to Elaine, Susan is ‘a role model for everyone who has a dream.’

Very cool indeed.

Obama Greets Chavez

Well, what was he supposed to do?

Some of the criticism seems a little unfair – he couldn’t very well have refused to shake Chavez’s hand. He just didn’t have to look so jolly pleased about it.

Especially after Chavez’s recent remarks about the US during his very chummy visit to Iran:  “It’s a policy of permanent aggression, of war, of terrorism by the US empire. That’s the great guilty one, the great Satan, as they call it here,” Mr Chavez said. He also has been critical of Mr Obama, including calling him “ignorant” last month after the US president accused Mr Chavez of “exporting terrorism” and being an obstacle to progress in Latin America.

The problem is, you just can’t be chummy with everyone. You can’t be friends with everyone. And sometimes it is wrong to try, because if you are happy to be friends with the bully and the dictator, that sends a message to the bullied and downtrodden. It is not the message the US should be sending.

And Obama did look happy. Certainly happier than Bush when he met Rudd at last year’s G20.

Bush Greets Rudd

Another Philippine Hostage Free

It is not clear yet whether Swiss Red Cross worker Andreas Notter was released, or left behind after police chased a group of terrorists who tried to break through the cordon surrounding their camp. The military has been drawing closer over the last few days after months long talks failed to produce any results.

One more (Eugenio Vagni) of that group to go. Still another twenty or so being held elsewhere in the Southern Philippines.

57 Babies Mixed Up in Queensland Hospitals Last year

But it’s not our fault, says the Queensland Nurses Union.

We’re like, you know, really busy and that. Really. And really, it just looks like we lost more than twice as many as in 2006 because we’re, you know, taking the time to report these things. And getting better at reporting and that. But really we didn’t. Really.

I’m sure nursing staff having time to improve their incident reporting skills is a great consolation to parents who are given the wrong baby.

Perhaps if you are planning on having a baby in a Queensland hospital you should take your own luggage labels, or laundry marker, or tattooist.

Kutcher out-Tweets CNN

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a hoot. Or whatever it was.

Ashton Kutcher of ‘That 70s Show,’ husband of Demi Moore, has beaten CNN to be the first Twitter ‘microblogger’ to reach 1 million followers.

For all that I prefer real blogging to that other kind, it is still a pretty remarkable achievement for one person against the massive publicity power CNN can muster.

But the reason I am mentioning this at all is that when he hit 1 million followers Kutcher gave $100,000 to Malaria No More. This will buy 10,000 mosquito nets.

A child dies from Malaria every thirty seconds, so this is a big deal.

You can help.

Peter Carey Tipped To Take Literary Hat Trick

According to the Man Booker Prize website, ‘The Man Booker International Prize recognises one writer for their achievement in fiction.’  Arrgh!

Bizarre that such a horrible gramatical blunder should be sticking out on the front page of a website for a prize dedicated to quality in writing.

One writer cannot be ‘their’. ‘Their’ is plural.

It is an increasingly common error. I suspect because people want to avoid appearing to be sexist, as they would if they wrote ‘one writer for his achievement.’ And quite right – there are as many brilliant female writers as male.

So write ‘for his or her.’ It’s not rocket science.

I saw something similar recently in a newsletter from an expensive Queensland private boys’ school. ‘Your son must wear their hat…’ Not even the wanting to avoid sexism excuse applied in that case. A son could not be ‘her’ by definition. ‘Your son must wear his hat…’ could not have offended anyone.

But back to Peter Carey. He has already won twice – for Oscar and Lucinda, and True History of the Kelly Gang.

The only other two time winner is also a Australian – J.M. Coetzee, who was born in South Africa but lives in Adelaide.

Carey is the bookies’ favourite this year. If chosen, he will be the first three-time winner. On ya mate!

Facts On Antarctic Ice Reported In Mainstream Media

Like I said a few days ago, the times, they are a changing.

The facts were always there, but it is hard to imagine this news would have been reported this fairly a year or so ago.

Minister for Pussy Cats Peter Garrett still claims that ice in Antarctica is melting because, you know, the world is getting warmer and everything, and it’s all our fault and everything.

But measurements of ice and temperatures show this is a load of cobblers.

The Australian reports that ‘The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research report prepared for last week’s meeting of Antarctic Treaty nations in Washington noted the South Pole had shown “significant cooling in recent decades”.’ And incidentally, that over most of Antarctica ice is denser and more extensive.

via Andrew Bolt

US Environmental Authority – CO2 A Dangerous Pollutant

It’s a health risk, and endangers public welfare. Where did they read that – Dolly Magazine?

Carbon dioxide is not poisonous, and it is not a pollutant. It is as necessary to plant life as oxygen is for us, and vital for all life on the planet.

Contrary to some advertising claims, the trees will not thank you for reducing CO2 output, any more than we would be thankful for reduced levels of oxygen.

When most modern trees and flowering plants evolved, levels of CO2 were as much as ten times higher than they are now. Most plants now struggle in what from their point of view is a seriously CO2 depleted atmosphere.

Lower carbon dioxide in the atmosphere means less green, not more. More CO2 means more green, more forests, more productive crops.

We are warned that increasing levels of CO2 will turn the seas acid and destroy coral reefs. Coral reefs evolved and thrived during the Mesozoic Period, when atmospheric CO2 levels stayed above 1,000 parts per million for 150 million years and exceeded 2,000 parts per million for several million years, compared with 380 ppm now.

There is no evidence of any correlation between changing CO2 rates and changing temperatures in the 20th Century. And historical records show changes in CO2 concentration follow changes in temperature, not the reverse.

For more detail, with graphs and pretty pictures, read my Introduction to Global Warming Science.

And more science, less politics, please, you EPA guys.