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July 28 2017 1:26 PM

It Would Make Perfect Sense For Justin Bieber to Become the “Tom Cruise” of the Pentecostal Megachurch Hillsong

Justin Bieber abruptly canceled the last 14 dates of his Purpose world tour this week, leaving fans asking “What Do You Mean?” (Sorry.) The pop star has been vague about his reasons for pulling out, but critics said his performances on the 16-month-old tour had often been worryingly listless. “You guys ever feel like sleeping all day?” he asked a stadium crowd in Brooklyn last year, lying flat on his back on the stage. “That’s me all the time.” His longtime manager, Scooter Braun, said this week that Bieber’s “soul and well-being” have to come first.

No one know exactly what that means, but the Australian press quickly produced a rumor that was too delicious to ignore: Bieber may be planning to start his own church. “The real reason he’s come off the road is because he wants to reconnect with his faith and maybe even planning to start his own church,” entertainment reporter Richard Wilkins said on the Australian television show Today Extra. “That’s the word from an inside source.”

July 27 2017 6:22 PM

A U.S. Nonprofit Is Funding the Fight to Imprison Women for Abortions in El Salvador

A U.S. anti-abortion nonprofit is funding the fight against legal abortion in El Salvador, funneling between tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars to an organization that supports the Central American country’s punishing laws. Reproductive-rights activists are currently rallying behind a bill that would allow for abortions in cases of rape, nonviable fetuses, and life-threatening health complications. Since 1998, abortions have been prohibited by law under all circumstances in the country—by most accounts, the world’s strictest abortion ban.

The Guardian reports that Human Life International, a Virginia-based Catholic nonprofit, has financially supported Sí a la Vida, one of the major Salvadoran organizations behind the total abortion ban, since 2000. Between 2000 and 2007, according to the Guardian’s reporting, Human Life International gave Sí a la Vida $47,360; between 2008 and 2014, Human Life International sent $615,432 to “Central American causes,” which likely included Sí a la Vida, as Human Life International has identified the organization as its “representative in El Salvador” and “affiliate” in the country.

Sí a la Vida is still one of the biggest forces behind the opposition to any changes to the country’s abortion laws. Under the current policy, women are routinely jailed for miscarriages, since there’s no way to tell the difference between a natural stillbirth and a medically induced termination. In 2013, the case of a pregnant Salvadoran 22-year-old with a young son, lupus, and kidney failure made international headlines when she couldn’t get an abortion, even though her anencephalic fetus was nonviable. She was eventually given a Cesarean section when she was in critical condition, and the baby, predictably, died soon after. When Salvadoran women are prosecuted for having a miscarriage or getting an illicit abortion, they can be put away for years. Recently, a 19-year-old survivor of rape was convicted of “aggravated homicide” and sentenced to 30 years in prison for a stillbirth.

Human Life International leaders bankroll the advocates who lobby in support of this sadistic policy, but in public, they deny supporting punishment for women who seek abortions. “The woman who aborts usually does not have the knowledge about pre-born life or what an abortion really is,” wrote Human Life International leader Adolfo J. Castañeda in a 2007 piece titled “Women Who Have Abortions Should Get Help, Compassion Not Prison.” “If she is severely penalized by the law, chances are that will make it more difficult for her to come forward to be healed and reconciled.” The Guardian quotes another Human Life International leader as writing that “desperate women being pushed into abortion” should not be imprisoned for their actions.

These patronizing arguments are common among anti-abortion activists, who know that moderate women are less likely to support prosecuting women for things they do to their own bodies. But when abortion is illegal, punishment of women is inevitable. Women in the U.S. are already jailed for home abortion attempts, and abortion is legal in many circumstances in this country. Donald Trump ran up against this weird anti-abortion movement contradiction during his campaign, when he said women should be punished for getting abortions if abortion were outlawed. Mainstream right-to-lifers tugged their collars and tiptoed away from that statement, gently correcting the candidate. Still, 39 percent of Trump voters polled in December said women should be punished for abortions, and some anti-abortion organizations are trying to get abortion outlawed as first-degree murder in certain states. The El Salvador model isn’t too far from what the U.S. could expect if, say Roe v. Wade were overturned, allowing states to ban abortions within their borders.

If that happened, groups like Human Life International, which also supported Uganda’s far-reaching criminalization of gay people, would be well prepared to argue for putting “desperate women” in prison for terminating their pregnancies. “Abortion always destroys a life. There is nothing life-saving about it,” Human Life International President Shenan J. Boquet said in 2013, supporting the continued withholding of abortion care for the 22-year-old Salvadoran with lupus and kidney disease. The penal code he envisions lets women die in pregnancy, but calls them killers if they care for their own health and get an abortion.

July 27 2017 1:34 PM

What Do Rick Ross and Mike Pence Have in Common? An Inability to Platonically Interact With Distracting Women

Noted gentleman Rick Ross appeared on a New York radio show Monday morning to promote his new VH1 reality series Signed. In the series, he and two other hip-hop moguls will audition and develop aspiring artists, who will get the chance to sign with one of the three big dogs’ record labels.

“When I’m looking for an artist, I’m really just looking for something I’ve never seen, first and foremost,” Ross told the Breakfast Club radio hosts on Monday. “If it’s something that’s unique, I feel that’s something that’s in demand. After that, I want to see that hunger.”

But what if that unique, in-demand, hungry young artist is a woman? As Breakfast Club host Angela Yee pointed out, Ross’s Maybach Music Group label has no female artists on its current roster and has only ever signed one, singer-songwriter Teedra Moses. Ross shared his well-thought-out reasoning with Yee. “You know, I never did it because I always thought I would end up fucking the female rapper and fucking the business up,” he said.

“That’s awful,” Yee replied.

“I’m so focused on my business. I got to be honest with you,” Ross went on. “You know, she looking good. I’m spending so much money on her photo shoots. I got to fuck her couple times.”

What a conscientious businessman! If you cannot interact with women without having sex with them and losing your focus on moneymaking, the responsible thing to do, Ross says, is avoid contact with women in the first place.

It is exhausting to imagine the life of a man who sees every female colleague and industry contemporary as a predestined sex partner. How do you have any time for artist development, business strategy, and radio-show appearances if you’re constantly having sex, scheming about how to have sex, or being distracted by people who, because they are women, remind you of sex? How do you sit through dinner with a buddy and his sister? How do you handle meetings with female marketing executives and record distribution heads while maintaining a constant erection? How much does your life suck because you can’t have any female friends?

Those are questions many posed to Vice President Mike Pence earlier this year, when it came out that the guy refuses to break bread alone with any women who aren’t his wife. The famously chaste ‘n’ Catholic Pence initially comes off as the anti-Ross: The rapper’s promiscuity is as much a hallmark of his brand as the vice president’s condemnation of almost every type of sexual contact is a hallmark of his. One thinks you should almost never have sex, the other thinks yachtloads of sex is the way life was meant to be lived.

But these two men are a lot alike. Ross has women call him “Daddy”; Pence calls his wife “Mother.” Both are gatekeepers at the top of their respective industries. And both use their warped, semi-Biblical views of women as inevitable temptresses to keep non-men out of their inner circles. To Pence, all women—no matter how random or disinterested—represent potential detriment to his marriage. To Ross, they are poison to his business. Women already face significant structural barriers to advancement in politics and the music industry. Men like Ross and Pence, who explicitly limit their contact with women, codify sexist notions of women as sex objects who divert attention from the important work at hand. (See also: dress codes that force underage girls into bulkier clothing because their bodies are burdensome distractions for innocent, hardworking boys.)

Ross continued his Monday interview by asking Yee several times to reveal her legs to him, implying that he would have to have sex with her if she signed with his label, telling her he wants to see her twerk at an upcoming pool party, and posing for a photo while grabbing her hair and pretending to lick her face. If his goal was to keep distracting women out of the music industry—or broadcast journalism, for that matter—Ross can count this interview as a major win.

July 27 2017 12:04 PM

Rolling Stone’s Trudeau Profile Shows How a Writer Can Objectify a Hot Famous Person Without Seeming Gross

Celebrity profiles too often boil down to the same question: What if this famous person were dating a magazine writer? Since that question is only 10 words long and a feature-length magazine story is usually at least 5,000 words, readers are then subjected to confusing, vaguely creepy lines like “She is 26 and beautiful, not in that otherworldly, catwalk way but in a minor knock-around key, a blue mood, a slow dance” (that’s Margot Robbie, according to Rich Cohen in Vanity Fair), and “She seemed to be made from champagne” (Scarlett Johansson, per Anthony Lane in the New Yorker).

It is actually a bit refreshing, then, to read a long, romantic magazine cover story about a famous man that focuses attentively on that man’s physical charms. The man in this case is Justin Trudeau, the publication is Rolling Stone, and the result is both melancholy and sweet, a feature-length love letter. The cover line asks: “Justin Trudeau: Why Can’t He Be Our President?” Blame the Constitution for that one. But the real question raised by the profile is: Why can’t we have a normal president?

July 26 2017 7:22 PM

Trump’s New EPA Nominee Writes “Science-Bible Stories” In His Free Time, and That’s Fine

President Trump nominated Michael Dourson last week to lead the Environmental Protection Agency’s chemical and pesticides office. Dourson is a toxicologist at the University of Cincinnati and founded a nonprofit consulting company called Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment in 1995. Before that, he spent 15 years working for the EPA. But his appointment is raising eyebrows not just because of his professional qualifications—more on those later—but because of his hobby: self-publishing books he describes as “science-Bible stories.”

As BuzzFeed News reports, Dourson is the author of a series titled “Evidence of Faith,” in which he explores the science surrounding key events described in the Bible. Messiah’s Star focuses on the astronomical events around the time of the birth of Jesus. (He theorizes that Jesus was born on June 17, 2 BC. Sorry, Christmas!) The Beginning: Let there be light, focuses on the creation of the universe. And The Linen Cloths…Jesus left behind, published in February, focuses on the Shroud of Turin, a relic purported to be Jesus’s burial cloths. The books are almost trippy in tone, melding historical and scientific evidence with narrative interpretations of how, say, the three magi would have experienced the events around Jesus’ birth.

July 26 2017 7:06 PM

Ivanka Did Not Stop Her Father’s Transphobic Policy, But Look, She is Beautiful

On Wednesday morning, when Donald Trump tweeted his intention to bar all transgender people from serving in the U.S. military, one major question bubbled up on the social feeds of LGBTQ Americans: Where’s Ivanka?

Last we heard, she was wishing us a happy Pride month and boasting that she was “proud to support … celebrate and honor” her LGBTQ “friends” and other queer people “who have made immense contributions to our society and economy.” That’s a lovely sentiment to share in the party month of parades, glitter, and Babadook harnesses. But Ivanka Trump’s professed support never actually led to concrete gains.

Instead, she has stood by in public silence as queer and transgender people grappled with her father’s personal, unjustified attack on thousands of U.S. servicemembers we’re usually told we should hold in utmost reverence. She issued not even a perfunctory tweet of recognition that the administration she serves has made millions of Americans feel unworthy, less safe, and expendable today. The LGBTQ people who, in Ivanka’s words, “have made immense contributions to our society and economy”? According to Trump, they are a “disruption” to the military, which should not be “burdened” with their health-care needs. The only thing Ivanka has done today is appear on the Hill’s annual “50 Most Beautiful” list of political operatives, journalists, and advocates. And so her LGBTQ “friends” have been left hanging by their one tenuous, beautiful connection to the White House.

That’s the tough thing about allyship, from a wannabe ally’s perspective: It means nothing without vocal advocacy and meaningful action. Even if she has hounded her dad on other LGBTQ issues in private, as some have claimed, her decision to stay publicly mum on this subject is a damaging one.

This wouldn’t matter so much if Ivanka hadn’t been trying like hell to sell herself as an instrument of moderate restraint in Trump’s administration since the very beginning of his term. Trump says she is “always pushing me to do the right thing,” and in every possible interview, Ivanka portrays herself as a sane “proactive voice” amid the more radical right-wingers. Anonymous sources from within (or dispatched by) the White House have been very kind to Ivanka, crediting her and husband Jared Kushner with convincing Trump to be a bit less cruel to women, LGBTQ people, and the poor and marginalized populations that are suffering most from the effects of climate change. That hasn’t happened, an obvious fact to anyone who’s been paying attention to the administration’s actions that have condemned women, trans children, and the planet to certain indignity or physical harm.

The Daily Beast quotes one “senior White House official” as saying on Wednesday that Ivanka and Kushner decided their “political capital” should “be spent elsewhere” than on maintaining the military’s current open, inclusive policy on transgender servicemembers. The rest of us are still waiting to see the returns on whatever meager quantity political capital they’ve allegedly spent on some unnamed, unknowable issue.

Even besides her Pride tweet about supporting all those hardworking LGBTQ Americans, too many of Ivanka’s social media posts look like surface-level attempts to appease marginalized demographics she is simultaneously helping to persecute. She recently posed for Instagram photos with high-schoolers in town for the international FIRST Robotics Competition. Several were Muslim girls wearing headscarves; others wore West African dashikis. In the photos, Ivanka looks so pleased and proud to meet young women from around the world. Yet she has been noticeably silent on her administration’s Muslim travel ban, inflammation of Islamophobia around the country, and decision to hold $8.8 billion in global health aid hostage in the interest of advancing anti-abortion policies, potentially cutting off vital family planning and HIV-prevention resources for people in grave need. A photo op with Afghan students whose visas Trump withheld until the last possible moment constitutes an insult to their families, friends, and neighbors who are suffering under his policies. So far, Ivanka’s allyship with queer people has consisted of self-congratulatory posts and unverified claims to political action no one can see.  

July 26 2017 3:12 PM

Why It’s So Disingenuous for Republicans to Call the Anti-Trans Bathroom Bill a Public Safety Measure

Since last week, Republicans in the Texas state Senate have been sprinting through a marathon-length list of Gov. Greg Abbott’s legislative priorities, suspending rules and cutting short deliberations to rush a handful of right-leaning bills to the House during a 30-day special session. Democrats say GOP leaders are suppressing the democratic process by depriving legislators and citizens of time to read the bills and advocate for or against them.

One such bill is a regulation on transgender people using single-gender public bathrooms that don’t match the sex on their birth certificates or state-issued IDs. The Texas Senate passed a similar bill earlier this year, but its momentum petered out in the House. Polls have found that only about one-third of Texans support the so-called bathroom bill, and more than half oppose it. Still, for more than a year, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has made keeping trans people out of bathrooms one of his pet issues. The Senate passed the bill after midnight on Wednesday morning, sending it to the House, where it will likely stall again, as Republican Speaker Joe Straus opposes it.

So do plenty of other people who know a thing or two about public safety, which Republicans have held up as the ostensible goal of the bathroom regulation. While the Texas Senate debated the bill, the police chiefs of Houston, San Antonio, and Austin held a joint press conference at the state Capitol to publicly oppose the proposed legislation. “It may be great political theater, but it is bad on public safety,” Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said. Other representatives from the police forces of Corpus Christi, El Paso, and elsewhere said the legislation would take time away from investigating violent crimes and put it into enforcing nearly unenforceable rules, endangering community safety. Chief William McManus of San Antonio, a city that passed an ordinance in 2013 protecting trans people’s rights to use whatever bathrooms match their gender identities, said he had members of his department search the succeeding years’ records for any evidence of assaults in public bathrooms by men pretending to be trans women. They found nothing. “I am a believer that if you propose a bill to address a criminal justice concern, it is important to determine if there is an actual problem you are trying to solve,” McManus said.

This is an important point that exposes the hate and discrimination that underlies transgender bathroom restrictions. Republican legislators don’t want to protect their constituents who aren’t trans—they want to keep trans people out of the public sphere altogether. There is no way to station a police officer or security guard as an ID-checking bouncer at every public restroom that would be affected by the legislation. The proposed bill wouldn’t even penalize trans people who used bathrooms that didn’t match their IDs. Instead, it would nullify laws like San Antonio’s that prohibit bathroom discrimination and impose financial penalties on schools and government entities that don’t police bathroom use based on birth certificates.

In other words, there is no good way to enforce this kind of law, and there is no public interest in passing it. It’s not a public safety measure. It is a message to trans people that they are undeserving of basic dignity and comfortable participation in public life. It is a go-ahead to cis people to harass anyone in a restroom who doesn’t look like their idea of a gender-normative woman or man. And it is tantamount to emotional abuse for trans kids, who would arguably be most affected by the legislation because they spend all day in schools, which are among the primary targets of the bill. When the police chiefs of some of the state’s biggest cities are begging legislators to give their transphobia a rest, it’s well past time for the governor and lieutenant governor to rethink their priorities.

July 25 2017 6:54 PM

What Does It Mean If Sperm Count Among Western Men Has Shrunk By Half Since the ’70s?

Men in Western nations produce about half as many sperm per milliliter of ejaculate as their peers did in the ‘70s, according to a new research review published in Human Reproductive Update. Between 1973 and 2011, researchers found, the sperm concentration of Western ejaculate fell more than 52 percent, while the total number of sperm per semen sample fell by almost 60 percent.

“If we will not change the ways that we are living and the environment and the chemicals that we are exposed to, I am very worried about what will happen in the future,” co-author and epidemiologist Hagai Levine told the BBC. Those chemicals include phthalates, which recently had their 15 minutes of fame for being present in nearly all tested brands of macaroni and cheese mixes. Phthalates get into foods by way of plastics in packaging and processing equipment, and evidence strongly suggests that they disrupt testosterone production, leading to reduced sperm counts.

Previous studies of sperm count in men over time have been called into question over concerns such as known fertility problems among participants and changing sperm-measurement techniques, which may have overestimated sperm count in earlier studies. For this new study, researchers analyzed data from 185 studies that used the same sperm-count testing procedure on nearly 43,000 men, none of whom were selected for existing infertility issues or other conditions. After correcting for age and length of time since last ejaculation, the authors noted a decline in sperm concentration among Western men from 99 million sperm per milliliter in 1973 to 47.1 million sperm per milliliter in 2011. Researchers found a limited number of studies of non-Western men, but those that did exist did not indicate a similar decline sperm concentration.

The good news is that 47.1 million sperm per milliliter is still pretty healthy. A person’s sperm count is considered “low” when he has fewer than 15 million sperm per milliliter of semen, and plenty of men with low sperm counts are still able to conceive children. Future studies should examine whether there has been a corresponding increase in men clocking in below the 15 million sperm threshold in addition to a general decrease in average sperm concentration. More good news: There are research-based behavioral changes men can make to combat sperm-count decline, such as quitting smoking, eating healthy meals, and avoiding food and drink that have touched pesticides or materials containing BPA.

The bad news, according to Levine, is that the new study’s results may foretell “the extinction of the human species” if we don’t figure out what’s causing the lack of sperm and take action. Well then! I guess it’s less gruesome to imagine the human species dying out gradually because of a lack of sperm, since for the past several years we’ve been imagining the extinction of humanity via, to name a few, climate changeantibiotic resistance, and Ebola.

July 25 2017 4:02 PM

Trump’s Boy Scouts Speech Is a Reminder of How Different the Girl Scouts Organization Is

If you’d like to test whether your human capacity for shock has been overworked to the point of total ruin by Donald Trump’s presidency, watch his Monday evening address to the Boy Scouts of America’s quadrennial jamboree. Every beat more self-obsessed, petty, and hateful than the last, the speech found Trump cussing and alluding to sexual exploits in front of a crowd of children, congratulating himself and demeaning his ideological opponents at an event that has pretty much steered clear of partisanship for 80 years.

Plenty of member of Trump’s audience were right there with him. They clapped when he insulted the press and the specific videographers at the event. They booed when Trump made a passing mention of Hillary Clinton during an extended rant about how thoroughly he won the presidential election. They chanted “USA!” when he said that former Boy Scout and current Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price is “helping to keep millions of Americans strong and healthy” by getting the Senate votes necessary to start “killing this horrible thing known as Obamacare that’s really hurting us.” (If Price didn’t get those votes, Trump told the scouts, he’d fire the secretary.)

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In some ways, the Boy Scouts represent a perfect slate onto which Trump can project his fantasies about authoritarian rule and a bygone era of white men saying and doing whatever they wanted. As Amanda Marcotte wrote in Slate in 2011, the Boy Scouts were founded in 1910 in response to a “crisis in Anglo-American masculinity.” The growth of U.S. cities had parents worried that their sons were turning into soft, urbane sissies—the cucks and betas of yesteryear. Scouting was supposed to hone a kind of pioneering, colonialist sensibility in these young men, toughening and roughening them up through outdoor excursions and wilderness skills-building. Trump won the 2016 election in part because of a related panic over the slow-declining supremacy of white men in the U.S. There is reason to believe that the proudest misogynist in public life could not have won over anyone but a woman, and that the most openly racist candidate in modern history could not have succeeded any president but a black one. Building campfires and tying knots soothed the masculinist anxieties of the last turn-of-the-century; a Manhattanite heir to a real estate fortune has soothed the masculinist anxieties of this one.

Trump’s speech to the Boy Scouts, and the scouts’ demoralizing response, makes one wonder what a parallel Girl Scout event would have looked like. The Girl Scouts of the USA have jamborees, too, after all, and the organization was founded just two years after the boys’ group. Unlike their male counterparts, though, the founders of the Girl Scouts championed a more forward-thinking conception of their gender. Girls were, and still are, encouraged to embrace outdoor adventure just as the Boy Scouts did and do. “The Boy Scouts had previously backed another girls’ organization, the Campfire Girls, which incorporated some elements of scouting, but with more of an eye towards domestication,” Marcotte wrote in 2011. “Not so surprisingly, the national leadership of the Boy Scouts reacted poorly to the Girl Scouts, which had girls acting more as the Boy Scouts imagined boys should act.” Girl Scouts of the USA is still more welcoming and broad-minded than Boy Scouts of America. In 2015, weeks before the Boy Scouts decided to start accepting gay leaders, one regional branch of the organization returned a $100,000 donation after the donors demanded that the group stop serving transgender girls. For more than a century, Girl Scouts leaders have advanced a generic brand of women’s empowerment that teaches girls they can do and be anything they want—just today, the organization introduced 23 new STEM-related badges—while keeping neutral on political matters.

That hasn’t stopped right-wing organizations from casting the Girl Scouts of the USA as a band of radical leftists indoctrinating young girls into some kind of sex cult. Family Research Council head Tony Perkins has gone after the Girl Scouts for years, suggesting that money from cookie sales goes to Planned Parenthood and accusing leaders of “leaving the door wide open at the chicken coop for the fox” by hiring LGBTQ staff members. (He recommends girls join the Christian-based American Heritage Girls instead.) Some conservative groups once concocted a completely false rumor that the Girl Scouts gave a “graphic sex guide” prepared by Planned Parenthood to a group of girls at a United Nations conference. In 2014, anti-abortion activists signal-boosted by Megyn Kelly boycotted Girl Scout cookie sales after the organization tweeted a link to a Huffington Post discussion of “incredible ladies” who “should be woman of the year for 2013.” The discussion included a mention of pro-choice Texas legislator Wendy Davis, leading right-wingers to accuse the Girl Scouts of endorsing Davis and, thus, abortion rights.

Because the actual curriculums of Girl Scout troops are laughably benign—girls earn badges for first aid skills, pottery, and researching family history—the right-wing fixation on the Girl Scouts as some kind of socialist abortionist training ground seems based in the idea that a group that emits any faint scent of women’s empowerment must, by definition, contain the seeds of a misandrist revolution. Their frenzied boycotts betray the idea that any gathering of women not explicitly devoted to patriarchal ideals, as the American Heritage Girls are, is a threat. On the other end of the ideological spectrum is Trump’s address to the Boy Scouts: a speech akin to any he’d give at a rally of supporters, comfortable in the knowledge that he would not be challenged, that his audience would play along. If a group of empowered, confident girls represents a threat to oppressive systems of power, to Trump and his supporters, a group of young, mostly white men trained to be obedient represents their comfort zone: an insulated, impressionable boys’ club.

It’s no wonder some people find it hard not to politicize the very act of girlhood—female bodies are on the docket in every state and federal lawmaking body, in every legislative term. But the Girl Scouts are not inherently political, and they’re far from a political monolith. I know one Trump-supporting Girl Scout troop leader, and I’m sure there were at least a few Boy Scout troops that boycotted Trump’s speech or sat horrified through the whole sickening thing. If there had been a different outcome in last year’s presidential election, perhaps President Hillary Clinton might have addressed the Girl Scouts and attracted criticism for poisoning members’ young minds with feminist propaganda—or, in other circles, for declining to do so.

The Boy Scouts of America have defended Trump’s speech by reminding observers that his appearance was not politically motivated, since they invite every sitting president, regardless of party, to address their jamboree. Imagine hypothetical President Clinton accepting that invitation, a woman audacious enough to believe she has something to say that men and boys should hear. Would the scouts and troop leaders who cheered on Monday when Trump criticized a sitting female Republican senator, Shelley Moore Capito, have chanted “lock her up” when Clinton took the stage? Or is it Trump’s victory—a triumph of man over woman—that’s begun to erode the Boy Scouts’ capacity for nonpartisanship, respect, and common decency? Under better leadership, a single-gender group of service-minded Boy Scouts could do a lot of good. In the hands of a spiteful misogynist, a crowd of pliable young male minds goes to dangerous waste.

July 24 2017 5:27 PM

Republican Congressman Would Totes Duel With These GOP Lady Senators if They Weren’t Ladies

A congressman from Texas has caught a belated case of Hamilton fever, suggesting that female opponents of the Senate GOP’s plan to repeal Obamacare have narrowly avoided an “Aaron Burr–style” showdown with him.

In an interview with a conservative Corpus Christi AM radio station, Rep. Blake Farenthold blamed “some female senators from the Northeast” for standing in the way of a move just 13 percent of Americans support. The four-term congressman said that if those senators were not women but “a guy from south Texas,” he might “ask him to step outside and settle this Aaron Burr–style.” For readers not following along in their history books, that means a duel in which two political opponents spin around really quickly and try to shoot each other, leading to one participant’s tragic death, the other’s political downfall, and the centuries-later creation of a hit Broadway musical only fancy people get to see.

Farenthold is right that three Republican women in the Senate recently blocked a vote on Obamacare repeal, protecting health care access for tens of millions of Americans. But he is mistaken about their geographical provenance. Only one, Sen. Susan Collins, is from the Northeast—Maine, as it were. The other two hail from West Virginia (Shelley Moore Capito) and Alaska (Lisa Murkowski), the latter of which happens to be the westernmost state in the union. To be fair to Farenthold, it is also the northernmost. And if the International Date Line were straight instead of squiggly, Alaska’s Near Islands and Rat Islands would cross it, making them very, very far east of Farenthold.

The fact that a sitting congressman just came a nosehair’s breadth from threatening to murder three women in his party with a gun should be disturbing. Unfortunately, have you seen Rep. Blake Farenthold? The guy who goes around in public wearing duck-printed footie pajamas? He hasn’t exactly made front-page news for the kind of agility and cunning that might help him in an Aaron Burr­–style shootout. His headlines read more like “Former Staffer Lawsuit Accuses Congressman of Hitting on Her, Generally Being a Total Creep,” a 2014 ditty published after an ex-employee of Farenthold’s congressional office sued him for flirting when he was drunk, suggesting that they might have a sexual relationship, telling staff that a lobbyist had asked him for a threesome, and admitting that he had “wet dreams” about the staffer.

Farenthold also made news last October in the wake of the leaked Access Hollywood tape that showed Donald Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women, when the consummate gentleman said on television that he’d “consider” continuing to endorse Trump even if a hypothetical video showed the then-candidate saying, literally, “I really like to rape women.” In simpler terms: To Farenthold, m’ladies Collins, Murkowski, and Capito are too womanly to be subject to Farenthold’s punishment (death) for having the wrong opinions, but other women who might be raped by the president can go ahead and fend for themselves, because it would be better to have an admitted rapist in the White House than Hillary Rodham Clinton. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

It’s very convenient that Farenthold has identified his enemies as “some female senators,” since he believes a man’s moral code precludes dueling with women. That way, he never has to actually duel anyone! With the caveat that we do not condone political violence, Slate would like to suggest that Farenthold take up his Senate beef with Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, who has said he would vote against Obamacare repeal. If Farenthold is as manly and murderous as he would have the public believe, he will take his anti–health care rage out on someone he’ll allow to return fire.

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