Rep. Todd Akin is wrong about everything.

Congressman, who exactly are these “doctors” who’ve been telling you about reproductive biology? They should not be licensed.

“People always try to make that one of those things, ‘Oh, how do you slice this particularly tough sort of ethical question,” Akin said. “It seems to me, first of all, what I understand from doctors is that’s really where—if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Rep. Akin has been told by some nondescript set of “doctors” that the female body has mechanisms that prevent establishment of pregnancy in the event of a “legitimate” rape. The implication, therefore, is that if a woman is pregnant, then she couldn’t have been truly raped. She must have wanted it.

In which case, the question of abortion rights for women who were impregnated through rape is null and void, because there is no pregnancy from “real” acts of rape.

However, just in case he’s wrong, he hedges,

“Let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work, or something,” Akin said. “I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”

Congressman, we do not have to agree to your choice of words. The “child” in question is in fact an embryo or fetus, usually aborted sooner rather than later. No one suggests that an abortion is a way of “punishing” the embryo/fetus, either; it’s about letting the woman get on with her life.

Finally, the suggestion that the rapist should be punished is a big fat NO SHIT. No one suggests that abortion should be used as a substitute for prosecuting and penalizing rapists. There’s no reason why a woman can’t get an abortion while the court system prosecutes the man who forced his sperm into her. This isn’t an either/or. Most pro-choice advocates tend to think that if a woman reports a rape, and she turns up pregnant, the rapist should be prosecuted even if the woman decides to have the baby. The police and court’s actions on the rapists are a totally separate issue from the woman’s reproductive decisions.

And what else does Mr. Akin have to say?

Yet Akin, who was just nominated earlier this month, has made headlines for all the wrong reasons. Since his nomination, he’s advocated a complete ban on the morning after pill, and called for an end to the federal school lunch program. He also infamously said student loans had given America, “stage three cancer of socialism.

He wants us to be forced to make babies, but there should be no assistance in seeing that those children are fed. A post-secondary education is reserved only for those who can pay for it out of pocket. In all fairness, though, if we cut off school lunches, then the kids who are currently eligible for the lunch program will spend their school days feeling so miserable and unfocused that they won’t be able to learn anything, so they won’t even think about applying for college.

American Nuns > Vatican

I think it’s time for a new schism.

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an umbrella organization which involves 80% of U.S. Catholic sisters, is having the hammer brought down on it by the Vatican for not being a pack of bigoted assholes. I wish that were an exaggeration:

The Vatican’s assessment, issued on Wednesday, said that members of the group, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, had challenged church teaching on homosexuality and the male-only priesthood, and promoted “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”

Yeah, I’ll bet they say things like, “A mother of four should not be left to die of pregnancy-related causes.”

The sisters were also reprimanded for making public statements that “disagree with or challenge the bishops, who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals.” During the debate over the health care overhaul in 2010, American bishops came out in opposition to the health plan, but dozens of sisters, many of whom belong to the Leadership Conference, signed a statement supporting it — support that provided crucial cover for the Obama administration in the battle over health care.

Yep. Women who support universal health care need to STFU, while old guys in fancy robes, who would rather let Americans die by the millions of preventable causes than tolerate birth control coverage, are the “authentic teachers of faith and morals.”

“I’m stunned,” said Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobby founded by sisters. Her group was also cited in the Vatican document, along with the Leadership Conference, for focusing its work too much on poverty and economic injustice, while keeping “silent” on abortion and same-sex marriage.

Oh, yes. Oh fucking yes. The nuns care too much about alleviating poverty, and not enough about demonizing gays or attacking women who think they get to control their reproduction.

Oddly enough, I don’t even recall Jesus saying anything about homosexuality or abortion. This is the guy who hung out with a bunch of single men and a woman of ill-repute. He did, however, have some strong opinions about how we treat the poor.

Sisters, you all are so much cooler than your church. Break away from those ridiculous bigots. Start your own religion: the Church of Actually Giving a Shit About Humanity. All the Catholics who are horrified at the Church for their homophobia, misogyny and support of child-raping priests but who keep making noises about “social justice” and “ritual” will have a better place to give their money and time. The ones who want their religion to be more focused on persecuting gays, letting pregnant women die, and preaching against using condoms to prevent the spread of HIV, can fend for themselves.

You’re better than they are, and they’re not even trying to hide how threatened they are by that. Let those assholes rot.

3 Movies I Enjoyed, 3 Things That Bugged

Freedom Writers

Here is my problem: I like my fictional characters with some dimension. I can do without villains who are all darkness and heroes who are all light. Among the chaos and tribalism of Long Beach, LA in 1994, the character of Erin Gruwell is just too uniformly, unrealistically good. I’m sure the real-life person of Erin Gruwell is a woman of integrity, generosity and courage, but I don’t think she was ever as perfect as the character we see in the movie. There’s nuance all around; her students are both victims of the gang culture and its participants. They suffer from LA’s damaged race relations but they’re also part of the problem. Gruwell’s colleagues are sympathetic up to a point; after going through 12 years of public school in the U.S. and teaching for 2 years in Albania, I can absolutely relate to Imelda Staunton’s character stating that “you can’t make someone want to learn.”

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From the “I have no sympathy” files…

I don’t actually watch any Real Housewives shows so I don’t know the situation, so perhaps I’m not qualified to pass this judgment, but I just can’t imagine what information I might learn that would make me sympathize: if I were a rich housewife whose only income-generating work was making pretty bangles at home, I would be freaking embarrassed to be caught on national TV saying “it’s freaking hard to live in Orange County!”

Perhaps you’d like a trip to Appalachia some time? Or maybe south central LA? How about rural Alaska? Small-town Indiana? Hell, I’ll show you the chicken factory in Salisbury, Maryland and then we’ll talk about how tough you have it! And that’s only in the US; come take a gander at Albania–which, as the developing world goes, is pretty cushy.

In the words of Angie Tempura: “Biiiiiiitch, pl-ease!”

Assholes to the right of me…

…and I suppose there are also assholes to the left, but they’re not drawing a lot of attention to themselves lately.

Think Progress brings us these charming remarks from South Carolina Lt. Governor Andre Bauer:

“My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed. You’re facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that. And so what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to curtail that type of behavior. They don’t know any better,” Bauer said.

Comparing poor people to stray animals! Real classy, Mr. Bauer! I won’t blame his grandmother for teaching him that the way to cut the cycle of poverty is to let people starve. That’s a much bigger problem than one grandparent could have solved.

Later in his speech, Bauer said, “I can show you a bar graph where free and reduced lunch has the worst test scores in the state of South Carolina,” adding, “You show me the school that has the highest free and reduced lunch, and I’ll show you the worst test scores, folks. It’s there, period.“

What’s that you say? There’s a positive correlation between family income and academic achievement? Color me astonished! It looks like no one ever pointed out to Mr. Bauer that poverty creates problems for education, so he thought it was totally new information when he saw the correlation on a bar graph. I suppose it’s because of that previous ignorance that he thinks the way to make poor children do better in school is to punish them for their parents’ immoral decision to breed, and let them go hungry.

I can’t fully explain how poverty gets in the way of schooling, and I don’t know if anyone can really explain it all that much better, but I’ve worked with enough children to know that hunger doesn’t make their little brains function any better.

According to the comments, Mr. Bauer is also a pro-lifer. He wants to make sure every child gets a chance at life, just as long as xe doesn’t expect to eat.

But, you know, it wouldn’t be fair of me to assume that, just because he’s a pro-life Republican, he’s apathetic or hostile to family planning. I’ve checked his website, and…

Health Care: nothing about family planning.

Empowering Our Youth: nothing about family planning.

Right to Life: Two sentences. Nothing about contraception. Nothing about any efforts to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Let me see if I have this straight:

–He has nothing to say about contraception, whereas

–Every fetus deserves a chance at life, however

–If you can’t provide for your children, you shouldn’t have any.

Seriously, Andre Bauer: what?

Giving women real choices, but only if they choose life.

It appears that She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Given-More-Attention is enjoying the sound of her own voice on Facebook again, this time to promote the March for Life and shoot her mouth off about how the pro-life movement is so very empowering to women. I won’t name names, as this is SWMNBGMA, after all, and I won’t provide a link for the same reason. We need to ignore this woman. She leases far too much space in our national consciousness as it is. So I won’t contribute to her page hits, but I will shoot my own mouth off on the subject.

Perhaps because its leaders cottoned on to the fact that telling women to suck it up and suffer their lot made them look like ogres, the pro-life movement has been billing itself for some years now as pro-woman, and framing abortion as something dangerous, traumatizing and uncaring to the women who suffer through it.

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The social costs of the failure to accept reality

Andrew Sullivan explores the relationship between Christian fundamentalism and meth:

Well, since I’m not a Marxist, I do not believe that rigid fundamentalism is a simple by-product of poverty. But I do agree with my reader that economic decline, unemployment and cultural alienation undoubtedly fuel meth and probably contribute to fundamentalism’s growth. But the interaction is almost certainly complex and two ways, creating a mixture of economic despair, collapse of self-confidence, bewilderment at modernity and the lack of a traditional Christianity that, at its best, really did help people confront the ordeal of living.

Fundamentalism’s failure to encourage genuine, humble and humane faith that can finally come to terms with science and history is critical to this, which is why, increasingly, I think a reform of Christianity is central to preserving the liberal constitutional state. What has replaced real faith is, in fact, a form of neurotic attachment to literalism in Scripture (effectively debunked by scholarship), to authority figures who enforce order, if not coherence, onto otherwise chaotic lives (think Dobson or Ratzinger or Warren), rigid attachment to untruths in human history (as in denial of evolution), or the insistence of maintaining the appearance of Godliness to avoid confronting real human sin (think Ted Haggard or the countless child-abusing priests). None of this helps anyone actually cope with modern life, because it is too opposed to modern life. And so fundamentalism as a coping mechanism in fact makes it all much worse, as rising rates of dysfunction, family breakdown, illegitimacy, abortion, HIV transmission, and drug abuse in the Christianist states reveal – just as the sexual dysfunction in Islamist societies cripples and immiserates them. If you want to find Ground Zero for this confluence of poverty, isolation, Christianism and meth, take a trip to Wasilla, Alaska, whence the new Esther has emerged.

First of all, I agree with most of Mr. Sullivan’s analysis.

The part that gives me pause is his reference to a “traditional Christianity” that “really did help people confront the ordeal of living.” It sounds a lot like the “good old days” reminiscing from traditionalists about a golden era that never really existed. That said, I won’t dispute the accuracy of the remark on traditional Christianity. I don’t claim to be an expert on religion, and perhaps this era really did exist at some not-too-distant point in time, and at that time, having faith in God really did make people’s lives better than they would otherwise have been. I will assume, for the purposes of this entry, that this analysis is accurate.

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