Thought of the day

I recently saw a poll showing that some crazy percentage of Republicans – 67% – believe abortion is okay in instances of rape. That’s hilariously inconsistent with the argument that a fetus is a full-fledged human life and thus deserving of protection. What the hell argument distinguishes between a fetus conceived via consensual sex versus one conceived via rape?


I don’t want to defend Todd Akin

Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin has been all over the news for saying this in response to a question about abortion in the case of rape:

People always try to make that one of those things, ‘Oh, how do you slice this particularly tough sort of ethical question. 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.

He then goes on to say that he opposes abortion in cases of rape. (Before I go on to address the big issue here – the use of the word “legitimate” – I want to note how surprising it is that this position isn’t more widespread in the anti-abortion camp. If the life of a child is what matters, then why is it important how that child was conceived? If a life is a life, then a life is a life. The argument that ‘every life matters’ doesn’t cease to be the right-wing’s cornerstone because of external reasons that do not reflect upon the innocence of the life itself.)

Anyway. The major issue at hand here is that Akin, apparently, distinguished between legitimate and, presumably, illegitimate rape. I think it is important, at this point, to listen to the actual clip from the interview:

I think this makes his words much more ambiguous. Let’s start with the first part of what he says. When quoted in writing, it sounds like he’s being dismissive and condescending to people who ‘always try to make that one of those tough ethical questions’. That is, if I had only read what he said, I would have placed his words in a context where he was practically saying that the issue is nothing more than a “gotcha question”. Listening to the video, it’s clear he’s just summarizing the nature of the argument. I think it’s clear he does think the question is a tough one. His inflection indicates that. But I never would have gotten that from just reading his quote.

Now let’s look at his use of the word “legitimate”. I think what he was trying to emphasize was a difference between consensual sex and rape. That is, he was trying to say the female body has a way of distinguishing between two types of sex acts (consensual and non-consensual). Of course, there is no way the female body does that, and I suspect he was merely repeating the all too common anti-abortion propaganda out there that has no regard for science.

To be sure, Akin used a stupid word. And to be extra sure, I think his position on abortion is just as stupid. However, I do not think that he meant to say that women who claim to be raped yet still get pregnant are lying, that their rapes were not legitimate. I think he believed, erroneously, that there is some physiological mechanism in place that prevents pregnancy in the case of rape, but he also believed that it was not 100% effective. (Again, his belief was wrong through and through, but I think that’s the position he held.)

I don’t want to defend Akin. And, frankly, part of me is glad that this has not only impacted his chance of election, but that it has placed a negative light on the Republican party all together. However, just as President Obama’s use of the word “that” did not mean he believed business owners did not build their own businesses, I do not think Akin’s use of the word “legitimate” means he thinks pregnant rape victims are liars. For me, this issue goes beyond the social concerns and the ethical issues. I very much see it as an issue of language. I’m not willing to grill someone over what I think was a slip of the tongue. Until I see evidence that Akin might actually believe that rape victims are liars – a certainly shitty position – I’m not jumping on the bandwagon.

Finally, let’s go back to what I said right before the video: “I think it is important, at this point, to listen to the actual clip from the interview.” I intentionally used the word “actual”; most people who read it likely assumed I was distinguishing between the video clip and the written quote. And I was. However, it would not be difficult to falsely interpret my sentence to mean that I think there is a real clip and a fake clip. Or, alternatively, it could be interpreted to mean that I think the written quote is somehow fabricated or quote-mined. None of that would be true, of course. All I was saying was that there is a difference between reading a quote and hearing a quote. The nature of language allows for broad interpretations, though – especially when there is an agenda-driven narrative already in place.

Curiosity: Doing it for the right reason

Mars rover Curiosity apparently has a frickin’ laser which it has used for the first time and for the right reason:

NASA’s Curiosity rover has zapped its first Martian rock, aiming its laser for the sake of science.

During the target practice on Sunday. Curiosity fired 30 pulses at a nearby rock over a 10-second window, burning a small hole.

Since landing in Gale Crater two weeks ago, the six-wheel rover has been checking out its instruments including the laser. During its two-year mission, Curiosity was expected to point the laser at various rocks as it drives toward Mount Sharp, a 3-mile-high mountain rising from the crater floor.

Oh. And it also has the goal of determining if Mars is inhabitable or something.

Facebook is not your living room

I’ve written on this general topic in the past, but I want to emphasize it once again: Your Facebook page, your blog, and whatever other discussion-facilitating website you use and/or control is not your living room. It seems as though I see someone somewhere claim that the two are one in the same just about every other day. “Why, this page is just like my living room. You’re my guest, so you must only say what I find appropriate.” That’s horseshit.

A person has the right to censor and be a general douche as much as he or she wants when it comes to Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc, but that does not mean doing so is ethical nor, more importantly, that the right to do so is the same as it exists in one’s living room. First, I can tell someone to leave my blog all I want, but I cannot have that person charged with trespassing. The law does not recognize the comment function of social media platforms as anything like the couch in my living room. Second, no one invites hundreds or thousands of people into his or her living room. It just doesn’t happen. At best, your email or private inbox is like your living room. At best.

It’s legally fine is someone is sensitive to criticism or some sort of discussion and, as a result, decides to insulate him or herself from it all. But that doesn’t mean said critics and others were sitting in front of anyone’s fireplace having a chat over a cup of tea. It’s just a stupid comparison.

Richard Mourdock: States aren’t people

As we’ve learned over the past few years from Republicans, corporations are people. You see, any time people get together to do things, they have the same rights as individuals. It makes one wonder how we’re allowed to regulate any business at all. But that’s another topic for another day. You see, while corporations have been given person-status because they are no more than collections of people, some members of the GOP apparently don’t think that the states are also collections of people:

In 1913, the 17th Amendment was passed to override part of Article 1, Section 3, of the Constitution, which designated that state legislatures, not the people, select two people per state to serve as senators…

Today, [Pete] Hoekstra and some other GOP members couch the argument of a 17th Amendment repeal in the concept of giving states back their full rights under the Constitution.

The Roll Call article lists four other GOP members who’ve made remarks about repealing the amendment since 2010: Representatives Jeff Flake and Todd Akin, Indiana state treasurer Richard Mourdock, and Senator Mike Lee.

Mourdock, a Senate candidate in Indiana, said earlier this year that the 17th Amendment hurts the states.

“The House of Representatives was there to represent the people. The Senate was there to represent the states,” Mourdock said in February.

Got that? The House is there to represent the people. In contrast, the Senate is there to represent something that is not the people. Specifically, it is there to represent the states. You know. Those things that aren’t people. Because only corporations are people.

Thought of the day

Paul Ryan and other Republicans have been saying that President Obama is incredibly partisan and has changed the atmosphere in Washington more than anyone in recent memory. When asked if they thought it was really fucking stupid and a sign of an inability to ever compromise to sign a statement pledging to never raise taxes, blank faces filled the room.

Stop assuming men want to rape and molest everything

I understand the concerns of Schrodinger’s Rapist. I think a lot of it is a reflection of paranoia, but I understand any person, man or woman, having safety concerns when out and about. However, that does not justify the shitty polices like the ones on the airlines Virgin Australia and Qantas:

Are all men potential pedophiles? If you’re a passenger on a Qantas Airways or Virgin Australia flight, the answer is yes, as both airlines have policies forbidding adult men form sitting next to unaccompanied minors. Dismayed at being so negatively stereotyped, men are speaking out down under to protest this profiling. Daniel McCluskie, the second 30-something man in a week to come forward, told The Age, “It seemed I had this sign I couldn’t see above my head that said ‘child molester’ or ‘kiddie fiddler.'”

It’s one thing to be concerned for unaccompanied children, but it’s another thing to call out a random person for sitting next to one on an airplane. The pilot may as well come over the speaker and declare that the passenger sitting in seat 18A is not to be trusted. “Watch that guy’s zipper!”

I’m somewhat on the fence with the whole “assume everyone wants to rape me” attitude reflected in the initial link in this post. I understand that there are plenty of dangerous situations out there*, but that does not mean any man who dares speak to a strange woman should have to carry with him instructions on how best to deal with the face full of pepper spray he might get. That’s no different than clutching one’s purse because a black man walked into the area. Besides, most sexual assault victims know their attacker. Does that mean no man is to ever be trusted?

*I once acknowledged this fact when in a debate with feminists. Despite it being a cornerstone to the Schrodinger’s Rapist argument, I was chastised for assuming women were too stupid to know that certain situations are dangerous. So remember, if you establish basic facts in any argument, you must think your opponent is stupid.