Random Headlines — License to Discriminate Edition

Dear people of Indiana: Most of you are great, caring people. Your governor is a jackass.
Dear people of Indiana: Most of you are great, caring people. Your governor is a jackass.

The Atlantic – What makes Indiana’s religious freedom law different?
The Washington Post
– ‘FIX THIS NOW’ says Indy Star, saying the ‘religious freedom’ law has done ‘enormous harm.’
Right Wing Watch – Indiana activist urges Gov. Pence not to clarify that the religious freedom law won’t allow discrimination.
Think Progress – The true intent of Indiana’s ‘religious freedom’ bill according to the people that helped write it.
Raw Story – CNN host exposes Indiana law backer as a gay conversion therapy promoter.
The Daily Beast – 2 states ban official trips to Indiana.
LGBTQ Nation – Top Indiana GOP lawmakers throw Gov. Mike Pence under the bus.
The Huffington Post – GOP mayor of Indianapolis signs executive order protecting the LGBT community.

Gov. Mike Pence Defends Anti-Gay Discrimination with Doublethink

Mike Pence
War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Discrimination is liberty.

Indiana recently joined a growing list of states which sanction anti-LGBT discrimination after Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”) into law. Ostensibly modeled after the federal RFRA passed by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton in 1993, these mini-RFRAs have largely been enacted in response to the massive expansion of marriage equality and several cases of Christian florists and wedding photographers who have refused to serve gay and lesbian couples.

Business owners would be able to raise the laws as a defense if they refuse to take part in activities which run counter to their deeply-held religious beliefs which, as numerous critics have pointed out, is a recipe for discrimination.

One Hoosier already praised the law on a local radio station, claiming he had already “discriminated” against gay customers in the past. “Well, I feel okay with it because it’s my place of business, I pay the rent, I’ve built it with all my money and my doing. It’s my place; I can do whatever I want with it,” the anonymous restaurateur said. “They can have their lifestyle and do their own thing in their own place or with people that want to be with them.”

In response, Indiana has been flooded with criticism from politicians, celebrities, athletes and CEOs. Actor and LGBT rights advocate George Takei voiced his support for a boycott, writing on Facebook that he is “outraged that Gov. Pence would sign such a divisive measure into law” and calling the law a “terrible blight upon [Indiana’s] reputation.” The CEO of Salesforce, a corporation valued at $4 billion, blasted the law, stating on Twitter that they would be “forced to dramatically reduce our investment” in the state. Bill Oesterle, the CEO of Indianapolis-based Angie’s List, quickly followed suit, axing a proposed $40 million headquarters expansion.

Butler University president James Danko released a statement which read in part

While I have read a variety of opinions and rationale for RFRA, it strikes me as ill-conceived legislation at best, and I fear that some of those who advanced it have allowed their personal or political agendas to supersede the best interests of the State of Indiana and its people. . . . Butler is an institution where all people are welcome and valued, regardless of sexual orientation, religion, gender, race, or ethnicity . . . Butler was the first school in Indiana and third in the United States to enroll women as students on an equal basis with men, was among the first colleges in the nation to enroll African Americans, and was the second U.S. school to name a female professor to its faculty. I strongly encourage our state leaders to take immediate action to address the damage done by this legislation and to reaffirm the fact that Indiana is a place that welcomes, supports, respects, and values all people.

To top it off, religious groups including the Disciples of Christ have also condemned RFRA as “contrary to the values of our faith.”

Gov. Pence, for his part, spoke out in defense of the law, which he maintains is merely about “religious freedom” and nothing more. Saying he never anticipated “the hostility that’s been directed at our state” following the law’s passage, Pence stated that he now sought to “clarify” the law’s purpose. And by “clarify,” I mean repeatedly stonewall when anyone mentions homophobia.

Check out these excerpts from an interview between Gov. Pence and George Stephanopoulos. When asked point blank about the law’s effect on LGBT rights, Pence repeatedly shifts the discussion to government infringement of religious liberty. In fact, he does it eight times, and can’t even say with certainty whether or not he opposes anti-gay discrimination against his own constituents:

Vox Day Blames Germanwings Flight 9525 Crash on ‘Sluts’

Andreas Lubitz
Germanwings Flight 9525 Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz

On Tuesday, March 24th, the world was horrified to learn that Germanwings Flight 9525, an international passenger flight traveling from Barcelona to Düsseldorf, had crashed in the French Alps, killing all 150 passengers on board. In the days since the tragedy information about the flight and the crew has slowly trickled forth. According to the audio recording from the black box — which was found damaged and twisted from the impact — the pilot had been locked out of the cockpit while the flight’s co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, deliberately steered the plane into oblivion.

Questions have arisen as to what would have motivated Lubitz to kill himself and over one hundred innocent passengers. Was it terrorism? French officials seem to have ruled that out in short order. Depression, perhaps?

Misogynist author Theodore Beale, a.k.a. Vox Day, had a very different take on this disaster, and blamed women of course. If “sluts” had just slept with Lubitz — or, indeed, any number of male mass murderers or serial killers — perhaps thousands of lives could be saved each year:

Why he did it, no one knows yet, but it won’t surprise me to learn that Lubritch was a deeply angry and embittered Omega male. There is a reason Omegas frighten women merely by existing; they are capable of terrible and merciless acts of self-destruction. You can see Lubritch is a small and prematurely balding young man, possibly somewhat overweight, his occupation indicates that he was more intelligent than the norm, and the uncertain smile he has on his face tends to indicate low socio-sexual rank.

Now, obviously no one else was responsible for Lubritch’s actions if it indeed was Omega rage at work. He alone bears the blame. But it is somewhat haunting to think about how many lives might be saved each year if the sluts of the world were just a little less picky and a little more equitable in their distribution of blowjobs.

As a 28 year-old airline pilot, Lubritch would likely have been married in a more traditionally structured society. It’s not impossible that the Germanwings deaths represent more of the indirect costs of feminism.

We can add this “Omega male” nonsense to the long list of pseudoscientific beliefs Vox Day adheres to, including Creationism, autism-causing vaccines, gay conversion therapy, and the intellectual inferiority of women.

Random Headlines — 3/27/15

Raw Story – Texas woman throws Molotov cocktail outside Austin Planned Parenthood.
Talking Points Memo – Who is the mysterious lawyer behind California’s ‘kill all gays’ drive?
Think Progress – Retired St. Louis Cardinals player was punched and had racial slurs shouted at him at a St. Louis gas station.
Denver Post – GOP aghast at Gordon Klingenschmitt’s act-of-God comment in baby’s death.
Mother Jones – Indiana just made it easier to discriminate against gay people — and just about anyone else.
VICE – Former gang members are trying to snuff out violence in New York City.
The Guardian – Arizona law requires abortion providers to tell women the procedure is reversible.
Feministing – Report finds 80 percent of anti-Muslim attacks in France are against women.
The Nation – A rare victory for black voting rights in the South.

Sarah Silverman Hurts Folks’ Man Feelings With Humorous “Rape Prevention Tips”

Sarah Silverman
Sarah Silverman: Oppressing men everywhere.

The always hilarious comedienne Sarah Silverman is back in the news, this time for hurting the precious feelings of anti-feminist men. Silverman’s crime was sharing a list of “TEN RAPE PREVENTION TIPS” which included timeless advice such as “Don’t put drugs in women’s drinks” and “If you are in an elevator and a woman gets in, don’t rape her.” In other words, its a riff on the usual rape tips directed at women which advise them not to drink alcohol or dress provocatively in order to avoid being raped. And, for someone who’s made a living off of offensive satire, it’s odd that a joke that clearly wasn’t Silverman’s to begin with caused this nontroversy. The photo bears a 9GAG watermark and is more or less the same list of “tips” I recently shared on this very blog.

And faster than you can say “Not all men,” Silverman’s Twitter feed was inundated with semi-literate accusations of “misandry” by perpetually aggrieved male trolls. Twitter user “FTWEBK666” wrote “jesus christ wtf is this. not everybody out here raping bitches wats wrong with you.” “Zac Lee” found it “extremely offensive” because it “implies that it’s common for men to think about ways to rape girls, when that’s nonsense.” “Femibust” wrote, “‘We’ don’t want anything except for men to stop being demonized by ignorant hags like @SarahKSilverman.” He then hilariously followed up by Tweeting, “Also, I’m not an MRA, I’m an Egalitarian, which by definition actually is the equality of the sexes.” Egalitarian, my foot.

The right-wing Breitbart News also got in on the action, accusing Silverman of “paint[ing] all men as potential rapists” and “insinuat[ing] that only females can be victims of sexual assault.”

The Breitbart readership was more blunt. Commenter “Tiger McDrew” said Silverman “is disgusting and always has been.” “luceChange” replied, “Woman? What woman? Where? All I see is a loud, foul-mouth simulation of what it’s parents thought was a Daughter but turned out to be some alien life form.”

Another particularly foul response came from “Captain_America” who said that he is “[n]ot a potential rapist of her” as he would “rather rape a knothole in a tree than that loathsome Obama Yenta sow.” Who knew the guy who once punched out Hitler would turn out to be an anti-Semite?

Some, like “Phil”, got personal. “Jimmy Kimmel was lucky to escape her potential marital captivity. Other than consensual sex, why would a man want to live with that dried out soul?” One person responded to “Phil” by stating that sex with her would be “absolutely horrible” because she “probably spends two hours after consensual sex accusing her partner of rape.” Another commenter accused her of having “done it with dogs, too.” And “hootannanny” attributed Silverman and Kimmel’s breakup to Kimmel growing tired of “having his kids aborted.”

Others latched onto the horrible myth that rape is about sex and attraction, and that only young, physically attractive women are raped. (Never mind that attractiveness is completely subjective to begin with.) Someone named “Bo” wrote that Silverman “has absolutely ZERO chance of being raped.” “DIR” concurred, but added a slight correction: “Zero chances of being raped by a conservative. Liberals have strange tastes, so do flies. She might get lucky with either of those two candidates.” Yes, not only are liberal women physically repugnant, but being raped is “get[ing] lucky.”

In the end, however, Sarah Silverman still gets the last laugh. In Tweeting this innocuous joke about rape culture, she helped to, once again, confirm its existence in the form of this online backlash. And she got to have fun at the expense of overly sensitive misogynists at the same time.

Random Headlines — 3/21/15

Salon – Crisis pregnancy center tells woman her IUD is “your baby,” plus countless other lies.
AlterNet – Jeb Bush implicitly endorses Georgia bill that would legalize discrimination against gay people.
Raw Story – An LA teacher told students Lincoln was a ‘nigger-lover’ and Michael Brown ‘got what he deserved.’
LGBTQ Nation – Pope Francis to lunch with gay, transgender, and HIV+ prison inmates.
VICE – A judge decided that the Eric Garner grand jury proceedings should stay secret.
Talking Points Memo – Frat suspended over notebook with disturbing entries on rape and lynching.
Hatewatch – Court papers detail alleged threats from a Holocaust denier.
The Nation – What it feels like to be a ‘demographic threat’ to Israel.

The Ghost of Henry Hyde: The Republicans’ War on Abortion Funding

Henry Hyde

It has been eight years since Henry Hyde’s heart finally gave out at the age of 83. Eight years since mourners gathered on a frosty December day to pay their respects to the late Illinois congressman. Cardinal Francis George of Chicago eulogized him as a man who had “good instincts” about “particular children who have not been born but are alive in their mother’s wombs.” John Boehner, our current soporific Speaker of the House, proclaimed him to be a “devoted husband” who “led by treating all men and women with dignity and respect, regardless of who they were or what they believed.”

“Henry Hyde was not just a congressional hero. He was an American hero. And on a personal note, he was my hero.”

Hagiographies of this nature were so commonplace in newspapers and online articles that one could almost be forgiven for forgetting the various stains on Rep. Hyde’s record. He was, after all, the same Henry Hyde who carried on a five year extramarital affair with an attractive young hairdresser named Cherie Snodgrass; one which only ended after Cherie’s husband Fred confronted Jeannie Hyde about her husband’s philandering. Years later, while this “devoted husband” was hypocritically working to impeach President Clinton, Fred Snodgrass still blamed Hyde for having “broke up” his family. Yet far worse was the havoc his policies wreaked upon millions of women and their families.

Rep. Hyde, a devout Roman Catholic, was a vociferous foe of abortion who publicly lionized Pro-Life Action League founder Joseph Scheidler — the so-called “Godfather” of the pro-life movement whose 1985 handbook, Closed: 99 Ways to Stop Abortion, became a go-to guide for abortion opponents who wished to forcibly shut down clinics. Referring to Scheidler as a “hero,” Hyde remarked, “There are some people with more courage than others. If people had obstructed entrances to Dachau or Auschwitz, there might have been fewer people incinerated there.”

In 1976, Hyde proposed a rider to the fiscal 1977 appropriations bill for the Department of Health and Human Services which would eliminate a key source of funding for abortion procedures. Known as the “Hyde Amendment,” this provision barred the use of Medicaid funds to reimburse low-income women for the cost of an abortion, with only a limited exception for cases in which the physical health of the mother was endangered. Later incarnations of the Hyde Amendment, namely from the fiscal 1978 version onward, at least added exceptions for rape and incest, in addition to physical health. Those exceptions were still limited. The fiscal 1980 Hyde Amendment, for example, provided that an exception would be granted for rape or incest so long as the victim promptly reported the crime to “a law enforcement agency or public health service.”

The purpose of such a provision was to undercut the landmark decision in Roe v. Wade, decided three years prior, and Rep. Hyde appeared comfortable with using poor women as pawns in order to do so. When it came time to tack the Hyde Amendment to the next year’s appropriations bill, Hyde brushed aside charges of classism by telling colleagues that he “certainly would like to prevent, if I could legally, anybody having an abortion: a rich woman, a middle-class woman or a poor woman.” “Unfortunately,” he said, “the only vehicle available is the… Medicaid bill.”

There is no doubt that Rep. Hyde was motivated by his devout Catholicism while drafting the amendment, and members of the Catholic Church supported his endeavors to stop the “moral evil” of abortion. This may explain why, in 2006,  Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI named Hyde, a known adulterer, a Knight of St. Gregory. This fact did not go unnoticed by the amendment’s opponents, either. When the Hyde Amendment was officially challenged in court by Cora McRae, a resident of New York and Medicaid recipient who wished to undergo an abortion during her pregnancy’s first trimester, among her claims was that the Hyde Amendment violated our Constitution’s separation of church and state.

In Harris v. McRae (1980) the Supreme Court rejected this and several other arguments against the constitutionality of the Hyde Amendment. Justice Stewart authored the majority opinion, declaring that while a woman does have a constitutional right to terminate her pregnancy “it simply does not follow that a woman’s freedom of choice carries with it a constitutional entitlement to the financial resources to avail herself of the full range of protected choices.” Specifically addressing the religious element of the Hyde Amendment he wrote: “In sum, we are convinced that the fact that the funding restrictions in the Hyde Amendment may coincide with the religious tenets of the Roman Catholic Church does not, without more, contravene the Establishment Clause.”

The impact on low-income women was disastrous, and remains so to this day. An estimated 42% of women who have abortions live under the federal poverty line, and the rate of unintended pregnancies among poor women is five times higher than that of higher income women. Since the rates of unintended pregnancy and abortion are greater for black and Hispanic women, the Hyde Amendment has a disproportionate impact on women of color as well. Only seventeen states have policies which allow for their own funds to cover the cost of most or all medically necessary abortions. Women who are not fortunate enough to live in one of those states often have difficulty coming up with the money to afford an abortion while still having enough left over to cover food, rent, and other expenses.

That the cost of an abortion increases with gestational age only compounds the problem, and often forces women who cannot come up with the money to simply carry the unwanted pregnancy to term. In fact, one in four women who would otherwise qualify for a Medicaid-funded abortion give birth when funding is unavailable. Since the enactment of the original Hyde Amendment, at least one million women have been denied their right to this basic,  life-saving medical procedure.

The Hyde Amendment continues to be renewed every year, even after its namesake’s demise eight years prior. And while Hyde’s carcass lays decomposing in Assumption Cemetery, his phantom presence can still be felt. Similar funding restrictions have been placed on women whose medical insurance is provided by the federal government (e.g., federal employees, military personnel, etc.), women in federal correctional facilities, and, until President Obama lifted the restriction in 2009, women who reside in the District of Columbia.

And he continues to haunt us as Republicans successfully derailed a vital anti-sex trafficking bill. The Combat Human Trafficking Act of 2015 would force pimps and johns involved in human trafficking to pay for a restitution fund for their victims. Republicans, unsurprisingly, slipped in Hyde Amendment language which would bar those same funds from being used on abortions except in the notable cases of rape, incest and protecting the life of the mother. This would make life much harder for women and girls who have been physically and sexually exploited by making them prove they were raped (or that their life is in danger) in order to have an abortion. Democrats are now refusing to vote on the bill so long as it contains an anti-abortion provision, and far right media outlets have deliriously seized upon this in order to paint them as the real villains.

To be sure, that the Democrats skimmed this anti-abortion provision without really reading it was unimaginably stupid. But the GOP’s desire to crush reproductive rights for the most marginalized women in society is far more repugnant.

One thing remains certain, though: So long as the right robs poor women of their right to choose, and continues their “death by a thousand cuts” strategy for eliminating Roe once and for all, Henry Hyde’s abominable legacy will live on.

Random Headlines — 3/12/15

Al Jazeera English – #LetsTalkMen campaign on male victims of domestic violence backfires.

Jacobin – Fifty years after its release, the Moynihan Report is still being used to attack the black poor.

The New Civil Rights Movement – Utah legislature passes extraordinary LGBT nondiscrimination bill by a huge margin.

Talking Points Memo – Texas GOP lawmaker hangs sign identifying as a ‘former fetus.’

VICE – Did Denver police really shoot Jessie Hernandez out of self-defense?

The New York Times – Ferguson police chief, Thomas Jackson, steps down amid criticism.

Think Progress – Catholic Church claims it can refuse to pay victims of sex abuse because of religious freedom.

Random Headlines — 3/11/15

Mother Jones – Why are U.S. taxpayers subsidizing right-wing Israeli settlers?

The Raw Story – Arkansas Republican gave adopted girls to a rapist because they were ‘possessed by demons.’

SPLC – Black Hole: The most violently racist Internet content is no longer found on sites like Stormfront or VNN.

Salon – This 21-year-old woman faces decades in prison for trying to escape her abuser.

LGBTQ Nation – Nearly one in six Americans support marriage equality.

Talking Points Memo – What conservatives willfully ignore when they cry ‘tyranny.’

Right Wing Watch – Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach says it’s “not a huge jump” to think Obama could ban criminal prosecution of black people.

Politico – Former Rep. Cynthia McKinney boosts comedian with anti-Semitic history.

AlterNet – Texas frat forbids gays, Mexicans, and interracial dating.