Rape and abortion

The official Republican Party platform is opposed to abortion under all circumstances other than to save the life of the mother. There are no exclusions for pregnancy resulting from rape or incest.

There have been some high profile candidates seeking elective office who have effectively said something akin to the platform, albeit in a less-than-politically correct manner, and who have gotten into trouble because of it. Most noteworthy are Todd Akin, who is now famous for his “legitimate rape” comments, attempting to argue (incorrectly) that women’s bodies can somehow prevent a pregnancy if under enough stress, and Richard Mourdock, who said that if a pregnancy comes about as a result of a rape, it was something that god intended and, thus, it shouldn’t be aborted. Only in word is the latter declaration not a statement that the rape itself was something that god intended.

One thing I sometimes wonder about — as it’s not a knowable statistic — is how far back we each have to go, to find a direct ancestor who was conceived in what was, by modern standards, a rape. Not necessarily a violent rape (which is what I believe Rep. Akin meant when he said “legitimate”), but a rape all the same. You really only need to go back to an arranged marriage and chances are, a child of that marriage was conceived in a rape.

That doesn’t justify or excuse the rape, though.

I’ve written before about how abhorrent I consider the concept of rape. Arranged marriages still happen, and the girls often willingly go along with it because they’ve been taught that it’s their role. That teaching is just as horrible as the rape itself.

The Mourdock statement is troublesome because he is applying the opinions of his own god, to the question of abortion. It’s been said so often that I’m not sure who first said it, but you know you’ve created god in your own image when he hates the same people you do. Of course, it’s not a surprise that a lot of religious groups seem to think that abortion is morally wrong.

It comes from a straightforward interpretation of Exodus 20:13, which holds that one of the ten commandments is not to kill. Because we understand how babies are conceived (now), they are extending this rule to the unborn. Fine.

But can’t an argument be made, though, that Genesis 2:7 dictates that life begins when we first breathe the “breath of life”? If so, then life wouldn’t begin until quite literally the moment after we’re born, when the doctor slaps us to start us breathing…. Anything before that, then, could be fair game for termination since it wouldn’t be alive. Thus, it couldn’t be killed.

Of course, the other big problem with the no exceptions for rape and incest rule is Deuteronomy 22:28-29, which holds that a woman must marry the man who rapes her. It doesn’t say anything about what she should do with any babies conceived as a result of the rape.

So, if I may be totally tongue-in-cheek when I say this, the punishment for someone being raped, shouldn’t be to bear the child. She should just marry her attacker.

And then she could just pretend she’s the next incarnation of Lorena Bobbitt….

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Greatest Rock Songs Revisited

So earlier today, WXPN completed the countdown of the greatest rock songs as voted on by their listeners. A couple of months ago, I wrote about the songs I voted for and the process by which I chose them.

Now that it’s over, it looks as though four of the ten songs I voted for made the final list. In order as they got played, they were “Instant Karma!” by John Lennon, “Crazy on You,” by Heart, “Love Reign O’er Me,” by the Who, and “Piece of My Heart,” by Big Brother and Holding Company (although XPN credited it to Janis Joplin herself).

I think it’s funny that there was a minor slip-up with the playing of “Love Reign O’er Me,” in that they started out by playing the excellent cover of the song done by Pearl Jam a few years ago. Nothing against the Pearl Jam version (it’s a solid, faithful rendition of the original).

In an earlier blog entry, I had a chart of each year’s countdown, what I voted for, and how my votes panned out. Here’s an updated version of that chart:

Year Topic What I voted For How many of my items made the list?
2004 Greatest Songs
  1. “Fallen Icons,” by Delerium
  2. “Idol,” by Amanda Ghost
  3. “Wicked Little Town,” from Hedwig and the Angry Inch
  4. “Chimes of Freedom,” by Bob Dylan
  5. “Sniper,” by Harry Chapin
  6. “My Mistake,” by Marvin Gaye
  7. “Swan Swan H,” by R.E.M.
  8. “I Don’t Like Mondays,” by the Boomtown Rats
  9. “Caught a Lite Sneeze,” by Tori Amos
  10. “Hard to Handle,” by Otis Redding
None of them
2005 Greatest Albums
  1. Emmet Swimming — Wake
  2. Poe — Haunted
  3. Harry Chapin — Danceband on the Titanic
  4. Phil Ochs — In Concert
  5. Delerium — Poem
  6. Beth Orton — Trailer Park
  7. Tori Amos — Under the Pink
  8. Nine Inch Nails — The Downward Spiral
  9. John Lennon — Plastic Ono Band
  10. R.E.M. — Lifes rich pageanT
Five (Poe, Tori Amos, Nine Inch Nails, John Lennon, and R.E.M.)
2006 Greatest Artists
  1. Harry Chapin
  2. Tori Amos
  3. Delerium
  4. Phil Ochs
  5. Nine Inch Nails
  6. Portishead
  7. Idina Menzel
  8. Emmet Swimming
  9. Jen Chapin
  10. R.E.M.
  11. Marvin Gaye
  12. Def Leppard
  13. Alice in Chains
  14. The Who
  15. John Lennon
  16. Lennon Murphy
  17. Sarah McLachlan
  18. Hungry Lucy
  19. Hole
  20. “Weird Al” Yankovic
Thirteen

(Harry Chapin, Tori Amos, Phil Ochs,
Nine Inch Nails, Portishead, R.E.M.,
Marvin Gaye, Def Leppard, Alice in Chains,
The Who, John Lennon, Sarah McLachlan,
and “Weird Al” Yankovic)
2007 Most Memorable Musical Moments I didn’t vote N/A
2008 Essential XPN songs I didn’t vote N/A
2009 Desert Island Songs
  1. “The Blue Tree,” by Silverman
  2. “There Only Was One Choice,” by Harry Chapin
  3. “Don’t Follow,” by Alice in Chains
  4. “Wolves,” by Josh Ritter
  5. “Bus Mall,” by the Decemberists
  6. “Yes, Anastasia,” by Tori Amos
  7. “Swan Swan H,” by R.E.M.
  8. “Crucifixion,” by Phil Ochs
  9. “Crushing,” by Tapping the Vein
  10. “I Am the Walrus,” by the Beatles
1 (“I Am the Walrus”)
2010 Road Trip Songs
  1. “Daylight,” by Delerium
  2. “Out Here at Sea”, by Karen Kosowski (this includes the untitled hidden track after this song on the album
  3. “Glory Girl,” by Amanda Ghost
  4. “Danceband on the Titanic,” by Harry Chapin
  5. “Gimme Shelter,” by the Rolling Stones
  6. “River,” by Jen Chapin
  7. “Yes, Anastasia,” by Tori Amos
  8. “Float Away,” by Marah
  9. They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back From The Dead!! Ahhhh!” by Sufjan Stevens
  10. “Idiot Wind,” by Bob Dylan
1 (“Gimme Shelter”)
2011 World Cafe Artists I didn’t vote, although I vaguely remember doing something about Fisher’s performance N/A
2012 Greatest Rock Songs
  1. “Love, Reign O’er Me,” by The Who
  2. “Filthy Mind”, by Amanda Ghost
  3. “Holiday,” by Green Day
  4. “Coma White,” by Marilyn Manson
  5. “Change (In the House of Flies),” by the Deftones
  6. “Breathing,” by Kate Bush
  7. “Piece of My Heart,” by Big Brother and Holding Company
  8. “Instant Karma!” by John Lennon
  9. “Crazy on You,” by Heart
  10. “No One Like You,” by the Scorpions
4 (“Instant Karma!”,
“Crazy On You”, “Piece of My Heart”,
and “Love Reign O’er Me”)

Pulpit Freedom Sunday

Assuming I can complete this essay before midnight, today (October 7, 2012) was Pulpit Freedom Sunday, a day championed by conservative Christians in a bold-faced attempt to defy the law and actively endorse a political candidate in their Sunday sermons.

Just to level-set this issue, the law in question is the Johnson Amendment, the 1954 change to the Internal Revenue Code, which prohibits tax exempt organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates.

Assuming you agree that it’s reasonable for the government to collect taxes (and even if you don’t agree, the Sixteenth Amendment gives the right to collect taxes to the congress…), and assuming you further agree that there are organizations out there that deserve not to be subject to taxation, the Johnson Amendment is not unreasonable.

The legal definition of a tax exempt organization — which includes but certainly is not limited to churches and religious institutions — is outlined in Internal Revenue Code section 501. There are reasons why organizations deserve to be exempted from taxes, and the separation of church and state is, for the most part, a reasonable one.

A study earlier this year estimated that religious tax exemptions cost taxpayers (on all levels) approximately $71 billion every year. And the authors of this study were conservative in their estimates, omitting any monies they could not actually quantify.

There are some small congregations that openly concede that they would have to close their doors were it not for their tax exemption. And I’m not trying to make any arguments that say all churches should lose all of their tax exemptions, but some of the exemptions don’t really make any sense: take investment income as an example. If I invest in a stock or a mutual fund and a church invests in that same stock or mutual fund, then we should both be taxed on the earnings I make from those investments…

So to get back to Pulpit Freedom Sunday, these pastors are going up in front of their congregations and explicitly telling members of their congregations to go out and vote either for a particular candidate or against a particular candidate. The pastors have every right to their own opinions; don’t misunderstand me. Just like any other citizen, they have the right to vote either for or against any candidate as they wish… They can even let their vote be influenced by what they believe.

But when the First Amendment was passed, and further, when Thomas Jefferson coined the phrase “Wall of separation between church and state” in his Letter to the Danbury Baptists, this is overt political campaigning from the pulpit is exactly what he hoped to avoid.

Now. I can respect why an event like this is taking place. It is not uncommon for a person with a tax grievance to knowingly break the tax law in order to challenge the law itself. The arguments made by the proponents of a day like today basically say that the pastors’ free speech rights are being infringed, by not being allowed to endorse a candidate for office.

Except that they’re not. They’re already getting enormous benefits by being tax exempt. And in response for the granting of those benefits, the government simply asks that the organization not have an official position on an election. It’s why trade organizations and unions aren’t tax exempt. Or, for that matter, Political Action Committees.

Or to quote George Carlin, “I am sick and tired of these fucking church people… If these guys want to be part of the political process, you know what I say? Tax them! Make ’em pay their fucking admission just like everyone else!”

Now if only the IRS would allocate the resources to doing exactly that…