Tag Archives: Ethics

Bigot of the Week Award: March 22, CNN and Poppy Harlow

22 Mar
Bigot of the Week

Bigot of the Week

Thank you to my friend Jennifer Carey for inspiring me to write this week’s Bigot story.  What a sad tale to tell — how tragic that we see patriarchy put above all else, as Poppy (a woman) bemoans the verdict of the rapists in Steubenville, OH and gives no mention of the rape victim and how the rest of her life has been impacted.

Yes, I have some empathy for the two men who raped the young girl, but I was mortified to see CNN and Poppy Harlow talking ad nauseam about “these poor young men,” and how impressive they were.  She goes on to sing their praises because they offered an apology.  Is it just me, or is this whole thing totally screwed up?  Sadly, I found CNN and Poppy to be quite loathsome.  What about the young woman who was raped? What about her life? Let us not forget that these young men — whom you fawn over — drugged the young woman, repeatedly raped her, and then dumped her body in a yard where they then proceeded to urinate on her. How dare you sing the praises of these two rapists while not giving any acknowledgement of the physical and mental anguish the victim will suffer for the rest of her life. Have you no shame?

Just like Penn State, we see hints of authority figures complicit in a cover-up to protect athletic programs while ignoring the victims. Just like too many examples, we see members of the community heaping scorn on the victim for coming forward. Is it any wonder that so many rapes and sexual assaults go unreported?

If you can stomach it, here is the video of Poppy Harlow on CNN. How sad that we see women in our culture so quick to care take of the male rapists while ignoring the victim — we are truly in the world of Todd Akin.

Hero of the Week Award: August 24, Bob Kerrey

24 Aug

Hero of the Week

In light of some of the awful excuses for humanity who are running for the Senate this year, it’s a pleasure to celebrate a quiet, determined hero who hopes to recapture his Senate seat. Bob Kerrey was Senator from Nebraska from 1989 to 2001. A centrist on many issues from a bright red state, he’s an unlikely champion for gay rights. Nonetheless, he has been a staunch supporter of LGBT equality throughout his career. He was one of only 14 Senators to vote against DOMA in 1996 and one of the few who truly risked his re-election by doing so.

Kerrey retired from politics in 2001. When Sen. Ben Nelson (who won Kerrey’s old seat) announced his retirement this year, Kerrey decided to use his statewide reputation and clout to return to the Senate and hold the seat for the Democrats. With his success far from certain, it might make sense for him to at least keep his pro-gay opinions to himself while campaigning. But he doesn’t. Not only that, he usually brings up the issue himself. Kerrey was recently profiled in the New York Times for his steadfast support.

He brings up gay marriage anyway. Not every day, but on many of them. Not in response to voters’ questions, but at the prodding of his own conscience. I got the feeling that his advisers would like him to stop — and that he knows he’d probably be wise to. But here’s the thing: he’s 68. This race to reclaim [his] Senate seat … could be his last. And if he’s going to go down, he told me, he wants to go down fighting for what’s right and for what he truly believes. That means making a pitch for gay marriage.

“What I usually say is, ‘Let me talk to you about the issue of homosexuality,’ ” Kerrey said over a drink here Saturday night. And then he indeed talks to voters about it, telling them that people are born the way they are and deserve a full complement of civil rights, including the right to marry. It’s that simple. “People who are opposed to it are going to have to be explaining to their grandkids: why, why, why was that the rationale?” he said. “We’re going to be embarrassed in 25 years.”

What delightful insight, courage, and integrity. Let’s hope this unassuming champion is rewarded with a return to the Senate and a chance to help keep moving gay rights forward. With the party platform finally conforming to his vision, this could be his year.

Rep. Todd Akin Achin’ to be the Craziest Senator

20 Aug

I don’t understand English, biology, or simple human decency.

Rep. Todd Akin (R – MO) was on tap for Bigot of the Week but has managed to produce such loathsome insanity that he needed to be exposed before Friday. The Representative from Missouri’s 2nd District recently won the Republican primary to run against Sen. Claire McCaskill. In an interview with KTVI-TV, he spouted this misogynistic idiocy:

First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. [...] Let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work, or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.

AARRRGGHHH!! Where do we start when dealing with this? The blatantly false — if often repeated — myth that rape victims can’t get pregnant, even though thousands do every year? The patronizing patriarchy that assumes women’s bodies have magical powers but that women’s minds can’t be trusted to make sound medical and ethical decisions? The concept of “legitimate rape,” which is a disgusting Republican talking point for FORCIBLE rape? The discussion of punishments without any consideration of the woman? Congratulations, Rep. Akin, you’re officially nominated for bigot (and idiot) of the year.

Clearly the Akin campaign is attempting to create a Senator stupider than Rand Paul and far to the right of Jim DeMint. Who knew that even one of those was possible, much less both! Sadly, the Republican Party has now become the Party of Insanity and Lies.  Long past are the days of the Gerald Ford  and Mark Hatfield Republicans.  Anyone who has studied history can see the new Tea/Republican Party is Fascism.

Akin backpedalled slightly with the famous Republican nonpology “I misspoke.” But while he implied that he was wrong about basic biology, he stood firm on the “no abortions ever under any circumstance” ground.

The one upside to this blast of tea vomit is that it may help Democrats hold the Senate. McCaskill, who narrowly won her first term in the 2006 Democratic surge, is easily the most endangered incumbent in the Senate this year. She was polling down double digits against “generic Republican” before the primaries. Once Missouri knew that Akin was their other choice, she started gaining ground. Let’s hope that Akin has dug himself a hole so deep that he can’t dig out by November.

P.S. – The Romneybot / Ryandrone campaign has weighed in on Akin’s comments as well.

Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin’s statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape.

This, of course, is notable as Romney’s 5000th flip-flop of the year. And, let’s face it, if the Republicans take the Senate and hold the house, a bill that includes Rep. Akin’s ideas could easily pass both chambers. Can you really imagine Romney vetoing any anti-abortion legislation, regardless of what he says today?

Hero of the Week Award: May 25, Max Hirsh and the Southern Poverty Law Center

25 May

Hero of the Week

When you go to a professional for care, it’s very hard to deal with a betrayal, much less demand that the professional be held accountable. This week’s hero stood up for himself and found an organization committed to helping him.

Max Hirsh of Eugene, OR, went to a psychiatrist to get help with his depression and his ability to form romantic relationships. He told the doctor that he was gay (he’s 22 and has been out since he was 19) at the beginning of therapy. Over the course of the first few sessions, however, the doctor kept pushing issues like Hirsh’s athletic abilities, his teenage relationships with girls, and how many positive male role models he had in his life. These seemed like distractions to Hirsh, who was stunned when the doctor finally told him, “But you’re heterosexual.”

Realizing that the doctor’s strategy was to change his sexual orientation, a practice known as conversion therapy, Hirsh terminated therapy. After a few weeks of family pressure to continue working on his depression, he returned to the doctor, however, who assured him that he was “fine” with Hirsh being gay. Nevertheless, the stealth conversion therapy continued. Hirsh terminated again and has filed a complaint with the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and the Oregon Psychiatric Association. Helping him with the complaint is the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which has taken a strong stand against anti-gay activity in recent years.

Because the complaint is still under investigation, the doctor’s name has not been disclosed. The APA has stated, however, that they take such charges seriously. Not only would this behavior violate informed consent, the APA came out clearly against conversion therapy in 2009. Christine Sun, deputy legal director at SPLC, wants them to be even firmer, stating,

Our immediate goal is for the APA to take these allegations seriously and ultimately ban conversion therapy by its members.

That’s a goal worth fighting for.  I hope to eventually be able to publish the name of the psychiatrist because he is a danger to the LGBT community.

Of Actions and Accountability: A Tale of Two Apologies

1 May

Isn't it ironic which one we say is on the "right"?

Cast your mind back two months. Remember when right-wing millionaire bloviator Rush Limbaugh attacked a law student for speaking facts when invited to a Congressional hearing? Limbaugh grossly misrepresented the situation and avoided any factual information in his character assassination of Sandra Fluke: he called her a slut, said she wanted Federal money so she could be promiscuous, and demanded that she post sex videos online so he could see what he was paying for. When reasonable people expressed concern, rising to outrage, at his behavior, he doubled down, spending three days of broadcasts generating further lies and more hysterical behavior. Fortunately, Fluke stood her ground, public pressure cost Rush advertisers, and his eventual non-apology was too little too late. What’s telling, however, is that he thought he could use his bully platform to say whatever he wanted, shaping reality to his own ends, and suffer no consequences.

Fast forward to last week. Gay rights advocate, writer, and It Gets Better founder Dan Savage appeared at a high school journalism conference to discuss the issue of bullying. Reasonably pointing to the all-too-frequent use of religious faith to defend homophobic bullying, he pointed out the many inconsistencies between biblical teaching and modern “Christian” practice, using the robust defense of slavery in the Bible as a repeated example. His references to outmoded biblical requirements as “bullshit” outraged some attendees, who walked out of his presentation. As he transitioned from this part of his presentation to his broader theme of bullying, he commented on the walk out.

You can tell the Bible guys in the hall that they can come back now, because I’m done beating up the Bible. It’s funny, as someone who’s on the receiving end of beatings that are justified by the Bible, how pansy-assed some people react when you push back.

Cue the right-wing outrage machine. Savage was attacked for his use of language and for belittling the faith of his audience. Now for the real point of contrast between his story and Limbaugh’s. Rather than react immediately to the furor, Savage took the time to reflect on the situation. He then crafted a smart, careful response, addressing all the nuances of the situation. He accepted responsibility for the name-calling use of the term “pansy-assed” and apologized to the students who had walked out while making an excellent point

I wasn’t calling the handful of students who left pansies (2800+ students, most of them Christian, stayed and listened), just the walk-out itself. But that’s a distinction without a difference—kinda like when religious conservatives tells their gay friends that they “love the sinner, hate the sin.”

Nicely done, Mr. Savage. He then wittily stood by his thesis

I didn’t call anyone’s religion bullshit. I did say that there is bullshit—”untrue words or ideas”—in the Bible. That is being spun as an attack on Christianity. Which is bullshhh… which is untrue.

It’s an interesting study in contrasts isn’t it? On one side: lies, hyperbole, and false outrage defended and compounded for days on end; on the other: a careful analysis of the situation, a reasonable (if somewhat unnecessary) apology and a careful restating of the thesis.

Sadly, this contrast plays out all too often. Calling out bigoted actions and unreasonable behavior by people ranging from right-wing pundit Juan Williams to narrow-minded “celebrities” results in their digging in their heels, counter-calling for apologies, and refusing to take responsibility for their actions. Vice President Biden reminds Americans that Mitt Romney said going into Pakistan after Bin Laden would be a horrible mistake and Romney adopts a “how dare you repeat exactly the words I said!” attitude. Yet Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen, who caught hell for merely repeating Ann Romney‘s own claim that she did not work, looked carefully at what she said and how she said it, then responded to the criticism directly and honestly.

I apologize. Working moms, stay at home moms, they’re both extremely hard jobs… I’ve fought my whole life for women to have the choices that Ann Romney talked about. What I meant was that Mitt Romney is using his wife as an economic surrogate. He himself said it. And I just thought that that was off-base.

Denial, finger-pointing, lying, and dodging responsibility for one’s own actions or thoughtful responses and personal accountability — it shouldn’t be hard to determine which of these is the more desirable approach from our leaders, role models, and commentators. Looking at the examples sure makes the gridlock in Congress snap into focus, doesn’t it?

Ayn Rand and Paul Ryan: He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not?

28 Apr

The Love Song of Paul Ryan

It appears that Mitt Romney is not the only major liar in the GOP. With statements from Rep. Paul Ryan like:

“The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand.” – 2005

AND

“I give out ‘Atlas Shrugged’ as Christmas presents, and I make all my interns read it. Well… I try to make my interns read it.” – 2003

It is surprising to see Rep. Ryan say this recently in an interview with the National Review discussing Ayn Rand:

I reject her philosophy…It’s an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview. If somebody is going to try to paste a person’s view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas. Don’t give me Ayn Rand.

When I first read this on Think Progress I did a double take and assumed this must be an attempt at being like The Onion. I’m afraid that is not the case. Even though he has now dissed his hero, and appears to be going for a more “Godly” approach, we should notice that he has not dissed his budget cuts plan (inspired by his hero Ayn Rand) that would cut important social programs like Medicare and Food Stamps, and give trillions in tax cuts to corporations and the rich – thus shifting more tax burden onto the poor.

What I find amusing about all of this is that Rep. Ryan calls Rand’s selfish philosophy an “atheist” philosophy despite noting that as a Christian he followed her philosophy and admitted to getting into politics because of her. Obviously, the “virtue” of selfishness, as Rand referred to it, is not exclusive to atheists, but can be found in any walk of life.

The big question is, what is the catalyst for his change of mind? The answer could be videos like this from The American Values Network.

The video is clearly designed to clarify, “Look, the GOP are following an ATHEIST! That does not reflect the values they should have as Christians.” Rep. Ryan was even asked recently why he based his budget plan on Rand and not on Biblical principals like sharing and caring for everyone. His bizarre claim that his budget is based on his Catholic faith has been demolished by numerous groups of Catholic leaders and scholars.  He has not answered the question or the criticism; this pressure could be another reason why he has lied.

I do not believe that Rep. Ryan had any sort of epiphany or his budget would have also changed. We all know that you can follow a person’s philosophy without adopting the religion (or lack of religion) that person has. For example, I am a non-believer but I can still appreciate Biblical views of a loving nature without having to claim Christianity…By TSM Contributor James Queale

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