Dumbest man in the world explains his anti-vaxxing stance

30 Jan 2015 01:48 am
Posted by: Donna

Oh man, there is so much news going on in the world right now, including a noxious anti-choice bill before the AZ state legislature, but I have to deal with this jerkass first.


Dr. Jack Wolfson is a man who got a medical degree and is practicing cardiologist, which is no small wonder as he is also a flipping moron.

Despite a recent measles outbreak in California, a Valley doctor believes children should not get vaccinated and that they should be getting this kind of infection.

“We should be getting measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox, these are the rights of our children to get it,” said Dr. Jack Wolfson of Wolfson Integrative Cardiology in Paradise Valley.

Wolfson does not believe in vaccination. “We do not need to inject chemicals into ourselves and into our children in order to boost our immune system,” he said.

The cardiologist also believes the key is to have a healthy immune system. In order to have that, he says, you have to avoid chemicals, get enough sleep, exercise, take good supplements, and have proper nutrition.

“I’m a big fan of what’s called paleo-nutrition, so our children eat foods that our ancestors have been eating for millions of years,” he said. “That’s the best way to protect.”

Needless to say, after his interview on Channel 12, the doctor has received some, shall we say, gentle criticism from some members of the public. And Dr. Wolfson has now responded to those critics on a website called Health Impact News (“News That Impacts Your Health That Other Media Sources May Censor!”), which I won’t link to because I’m a well-known censorious bitch but I will quote portions of it for ridicule and rebuttal.

Now, how do you suppose that Dr. Chucklenuts reacted to people’s outrage over his advice in the midst of a measles outbreak? If you answered “like a petulant toddler”, congratulate yourself!

I want to address all this misguided anger and see if we can re-direct it where it belongs.

Oh goody. Idiotsplain on, idiot!

Be angry at food companies. Sugar cereals, donuts, cookies, and cupcakes lead to millions of deaths per year. At its worst, chicken pox killed 100 people per year. If those chicken pox people didn’t eat cereal and donuts, they may still be alive. Call up Nabisco and Kellogg’s and complain. Protest their products. Send THEM hate-mail.

Thus is the impeccable logic we’re dealing with.

Be angry at fast food restaurants. Tortured meat burgers, pesticide fries, and hormone milkshakes are the problem. The problem is not Hepatitis B which is a virus contracted by drug users and those who sleep with prostitutes. And you want to inject that vaccine into your newborn?

You want to put a prostitute virus into your baby’s veins?! What kind of monster are you?

Be angry at the companies who make your toxic laundry detergent, fabric softener, and dryer sheets. You and your children are wearing and breathing known carcinogens (they cause cancer). Call Bounce and Downy and let them know. These products kill more people than mumps, a virus which actually doesn’t cause anyone to die. Same with hepatitis A, a watery diarrhea.

Be angry at all the companies spewing pollution into our environment. These chemicals and heavy metals are known to cause autism, heart disease, cancer, autoimmune disease and every other health problem. Worldwide, these lead to 10’s of millions of deaths every year. Measles deaths are a tiny fraction compared to pollution.

Measles deaths have been a tiny number the past several years because vaccinations nearly eradicated the disease in the 2000s until an army of Whole Foods dipshits and woo peddlers led by Jenny McCarthy convinced enough credulous yuppies to opt out of vaccinating their offspring. Now measles are back. Yay.

Be angry at your parents for not breastfeeding you, co-sleeping with you, and stuffing your face with Domino’s so they can buy more Tide and finish the laundry. Breastfeeding protects your children from many infectious diseases.

By “parents” he clearly means the ones with the breasts who are usually also responsible for the care and feeding of the children in general. Just say “mothers” you sexist jagoff. You know you want to.

Be angry with your doctor for being close-minded and not disclosing the ingredients in vaccines (not that they read the package insert anyway). They should tell you about the aluminum, mercury, formaldehyde, aborted fetal tissue, animal proteins, polysorbate 80, antibiotics, and other chemicals in the shots. According to the Environmental Working Group, newborns contain over 200 chemicals as detected by cord blood. Maybe your doctor feels a few more chemicals injected into your child won’t be a big deal.

So many chemicals! Throwing everything at the wall while not substantiating his claims or addressing his critics has obviously been his strategy up to now but he really went all in with that paragraph. Also, accusations of “close-mindedness” are a good sign you may be dealing with a manipulative con artist.

Be angry with the cable companies and TV manufacturers for making you and your children fat and lazy, not wanting to exercise or play outside. Lack of exercise kills millions more than polio. Where are all those 80 year olds crippled by polio? I can’t seem to find many.

Dear Dr. Salk,

Can you please rise from the grave and smack this man, hard?

Sincerely, America

In fact, be angry with Steve Jobs and Bill Gates for creating computers so you can sit around all day blasted with electromagnetic radiation reading posts like this.

Be angry with pharmaceutical companies for allowing us to believe living the above life can be treated with drugs. Correctly prescribed drugs kill thousands of people per year. The flu kills just about no one. The vaccine never works

Well, the flu does kill more than a few people. But, to be fair, those people might have been lazy donut and pizza scarfing candy asses who did all their laundry with Tide and weren’t breastfed. Or they maybe were very young or elderly or had compromised immune systems. Whatever. The point is you don’t get to be mad at Dr. Wolfson about anything or examine his claims about vaccines closely, because:

Let’s face it, you don’t really give a crap what your children eat. You don’t care about chemicals in their life. You don’t care if they sit around all day watching the TV or playing video games.

All you care about is drinking your Starbuck’s, your next plastic surgery, your next cocktail, your next affair, and your next sugar fix!

Damn, you suck! Or maybe Dr. Wolfson watches too much Real Housewives.

This post was created with love and with the idea of creating a better world for our children and future generations. Anger increases your risk of suffering a heart attack. Be careful.

Don’t tell me what to do, you dimwitted two-bit thimblerigger. If you can stomach it, go ahead and find Wolfson’s site and read the comments to his screed, most of which are gushing over his, uh, wisdom.

My pal Bob Lord at Blog for AZ did a post recently asking readers how they evaluate the information they get and explaining how he does it. I was thinking of it when I learned about this doctor. It disturbs and sickens me to realize that some parents are carefully applying the logical and ethical steps that Bob described to make the decision not to vaccinate their children. But they are making that very wrong decision because they are being fed false information, along with a boatload of smarmy guilt-tripping, by credible-seeming people.

If you are concerned about the safety of vaccination – which you’ll notice Dr. Wolfson never really addressed in his harangue about chemicals and pizza and Starbucks – I would suggest going here for good information. Sure, it’s possible that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are a bunch of scammers trying to censor the truth about paleo-nutrition, but not likely.

Huckabee’s vapors over women cussing tell you everything you need to know about conservatives

28 Jan 2015 04:09 pm
Posted by: Donna

Those Fox ladies and their dirty mouths got me in my manfeels!

Shockingly, GOP Presidential candidate Mike Huckable continues to be a gross, embarrassing buffoon. In his latest bid for attention, he expressed his shock(!) over those New York City hoydens he worked with at Fox and their unladylike profanity. Of course such a blatant invitation to mockery has earned Huck many scathing responses in the liberal blogosphere but, honestly, my favorite reaction to it is this hilariously sincere one by the right wing site World Net Daily. It reads like a breathless Dateline exposé.

Huckabee complains of ‘trashy’ women at Fox News
‘Throw the F-bomb or use gratuitous profanity in a professional setting’

The women of Fox News might be very fair in the attractive sense, but their language is actually very foul, according to Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor who stepped down from the popular cable channel recently to consider a run for the White House.

While promoting his book, “God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy,” Huckabee told Des Moines radio host Jan Mickelson last Friday he personally experienced severe culture shock listening to “trashy” female women spew frequent obscenities.

“Six and a half years of traveling to New York every week to work – I mean it’s one thing to go as a guest, a visitor, a tourist – if you go to work and you’re in that, sort of … hotbed of the New York culture for a while, for someone like me, I thought, ‘Man, this is a different planet!’ And I came more and more to realize that the cultural divide is significant.”

Huckabee then gave Mickelson a specific example about working in the Big Apple.

“It’s one those things where in a business meeting that you might have in the South, or in the Midwest there in Iowa, you would not have people who would just throw the F-bomb and use gratuitous profanity in a professional setting,” Huckabee explained.

“In New York, not only do the men do it, but the women do it,” he said. “My gosh, this is worse than locker-room talk.”

And in the comments section are several gems, including this one from a poor chap called jldewitt:

This is par for course of a society that is blind to sin and has fallen into a Godless moral sewer. At least MH is a man who has a sense of honor and integrity unlike those who would give this type of behavior, especially for a women, a free pass just because they are good looking or because it is a norm in the present day.

I don’t know what he and Huck are going to do when they learn that women also belch and fart.

Huckabee’s theatrics since the release of his book and announcement of his Presidential candidacy reveal much about the true motives of conservatives where women are concerned. For all their bleating about how much they love and care about women (the excuse given for every single one of those bullshit TRAP laws) it often doesn’t take much to set off the misogynistic rage that seethes barely below the surface toward women who can’t or won’t conform to their exacting standards of proper femininity. Right wingers divide women* into two groups:

1) Saintly virgins/wives/mothers
2) Filthy whores

Theoretically, men are also supposed to save themselves for marriage wherein they will only have procreative sex and refrain from “vulgar” behavior like swearing but men are not defined by adherence to those things like women are in the conservative worldview. Indeed, men who do adhere, like Huckabee who very pointedly doesn’t swear in public, are exceedingly proud of themselves for it**. Thus, it’s worse for women to swear and it makes us “trashy” – a word that has never been applied to, say, the famously potty-mouthed Rahm Emanuel.

Huck is obviously not going to win the GOP nomination but I do want him to stay in the race for as long as he can, both for the lulz and for him to keep revealing how conservatives are still the same uptight, woman-hating prigs they’ve always been, recent “outreach” efforts notwithstanding.

*Yes, of course there are right wing women too and they feel the same way. About other women, that is. Hence the ability of female Fox news employees to act outraged over indecent women bringing down society on the air while swearing like sailors behind the scenes.

**Which just goes to show how right wingers know they don’t really expect men to follow the same rules they put on women.

The Koch Brothers don’t care about your constituents, Senator Kavanagh

28 Jan 2015 02:22 am
Posted by: Donna


It’s not often that I’ll praise AZ Sen. John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills) for something, but he appears to be engaged in a good faith effort to address a complaint that people in his district have brought to his attention numerous times. Per Howie Fischer:

Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, has introduced legislation to create a political “do not call” list available to all Arizonans. Those who don’t want the automated spiels could sign up to opt out.

Politicians who ignore the list could end up being hauled into court by the Attorney General’s Office.

But under SB 1196, the most a court could do is issue an injunction – one he conceded a politician could ignore without fear of additional penalty. The measure contains no financial penalties for violators.

Kavanagh said, though, he believes most politicians and the consultants whom they hire will honor the law if for no other reason than they really don’t want to tick off voters.

“The last thing they want to do is send their candidate’s robocall to somebody who hates them,” he said. “Then that person votes against their candidate.”

The legislation is designed to supplement the National Do Not Call Registry which applies to any program to sell goods or services through interstate phone calls. But it does not limit calls by political organizations, charities or pollsters.

I think it’s actually possible to implement something like this without invoking empty prosecutorial threats of any kind. Simply allow voters to opt into the list and make the list available to candidates. It would be on them to abide by it or not. I agree with Kavanagh that some candidates might not want to antagonize people who hate robocalls.

But Fischer notes that the bill would not apply to out-of-state groups doing robocalls.

Kavanagh acknowledged his proposal has a huge loophole: It would not apply to the dozens of out-of-state special interest groups that already have shown they seek to influence Arizona elections. Kavanagh said, though, there’s little he can do about it, any more than the state has been able to force those out-of-state groups to disclose their donors.

I’m not sure what the exact ratio of local to out-of-state robocalls in Arizona is but my own experience is of a lot of calls in recent years coming from national groups, such as several calls our household received this last cycle from an education reform group urging us to vote for both Eric Meyer (D) and Mary Hamway (R) for State Rep in LD28. (Uh, no sorry, we single-shotted Meyer.) National robocalls tend to be more issue-driven and obnoxiously push poll-y than local ones.

Which is not to say they don’t always work! Voters claim to hate political messages (ads, mailers, calls, etc.) in the same way they claim to hate all forms of consumer advertising and sales contacts. But telemarketers fought the Do Not Call list vigorously precisely because they were raking in billions by having telemarketers smile and dial or with pre-recorded messages. Similarly, the Club for Growth, which has been robocalling Republican primary voters for years, has never been bothered by the prospect of annoying them. It’s all about getting their words into enough ears and there’s no real law barring well-funded political groups from doing that.

This is why, assuming Sen. Kavanagh could even get his nice gesture for his constituents passed, that national loophole probably renders Kavanagh’s efforts meaningless since 2016 promises a deluge of national money, at least some of which will be directed to a barrage of robocalls in addition to endless TV ads and other sorts of propaganda. In case you missed this big story, read it and let the wave of nausea wash over you:

The Koch brothers’ operation intends to spend $889 million in the run-up to the 2016 elections — a historic sum that in many ways would mark Charles and David Koch and their fellow conservative megadonors as more powerful than the official Republican Party.

The figure, which more than doubles the amount spent by the Republican National Committee during the last presidential election cycle, prompted cheers from some in the GOP who are looking for all the help they can get headed into a potentially tough 2016 election landscape.

But while the leaked details seemed in part a show of defiance to Democrats, who had targeted the brothers as bogeymen, the spending goal also appeared to be a show of dominance to rival factions on the right, including the RNC…

…In the run-up to 2012, the RNC spent $404 million, while it dropped $188 million during last year’s midterms. To be sure, the RNC’s spending was supplemented by congressional campaign arms, but one reason the Koch operation has an edge over the traditional party apparatus like the RNC is that the Kochs and their operatives don’t have to spread cash across the entire GOP political landscape.

Rather, they’re able to pick their spots, funding initiatives targeting specific slices of the electorate — such as Hispanic voters, veterans or millennials — or specific issues that jibe with the libertarian-inflected conservatism of the billionaire industrialist brothers.

From what I understand, much of the Koch money will be devoted to the upcoming Presidential election but several million will also be going to Congressional, state, and local elections. So I’m sorry to tell you this, Kavanagh constituents and everyone else, but you had better brace yourself for a whole bunch of robocalls.

How committed are anti-choicers to forcing pregnant women to give birth, under any circumstance? Very.

27 Jan 2015 02:15 am
Posted by: Donna

Look at this rose! How can you say we’re not nice people? We like roses!

Last week was the 42nd anniversary of the Roe v Wade decision and, of course, the annual pilgrimage of anti-choicers from all over the country to descend upon the nation’s capital to show what loving, compassionate, and totally-not-obsessed-with-punishing-women-for-sex people they are. Emily Crocket of RH Reality Check reported on some of the, shall we say, slightly disturbing things said by anti-abortion activists at the March for Life:

“Rape and incest are awful things, and there’s already so much hurt and pain in those situations, but adding more hurt, more pain [from an abortion] isn’t going to help anybody,” said David Held of Purdue Students for Life.

“I personally believe that it’s pretty selfish of them to go and kill that person” by having an abortion after a rape, said a young man from a Catholic high school near Lafayette, Louisiana, whose priest asked that the students not be named. “It’s probably going to hurt the whole time, but it’s a sacrifice that you have to make.”

For some, the idea of “sacrifice” went even further.

Madeline Wadlinger, a young woman attending the rally with her West Brandywine, Pennsylvania, parish, said she doesn’t think there should be any exceptions for abortion, including life endangerment of the pregnant person.

“I think you have to give the baby a chance to live. She [the pregnant woman] has had a chance too.”

Father Andre Melancon of the Houma-Thibodaux diocese in Louisiana spoke of women who have been elevated to sainthood for dying after giving birth after knowing they had risky pregnancies.

“There is heroism in sacrificing life for another,” he said…

…But Choices4Life, which aims to “promote and restore honor and dignity to women and children of rape conception,” also advocates against abortion with “no exceptions.”

A 15-year-old girl in the audience was asked to stand, and given a standing ovation, for being a “hero mom” who gave birth at age 13 to her rapist’s child.

“Even young women, it’s better for them to have those children,” Myers said.

It is remarkable how anti-choicers laud girls and women who continue pregnancies that result from rape or that endanger their lives as heroes and martyrs on the one hand while demanding that all such pregnancies be compelled by law to go to term on the other. Make up your minds, anti-choicers!

While these activists are still (sigh) dismissed as a lunatic fringe by a lot of people, the truth is that they are a relentless and organized force exerting a lot of influence over our laws. The March(ers) for Life were in DC to lobby members of Congress, many of whom are either sympathetic to their cause or afraid of them (and I submit that the former group is larger), for the same thing they have been demanding since 1973 – a full national ban on abortion. The 20 week ban bill that was pulled by GOP leadership was seen as an incremental step toward that.

As long as a Democrat is President these attempts to ban abortion by Congress have no chance of succeeding. The substantive successes for anti-choicers are happening in the state legislatures. But these efforts at the federal level, however futile now, are important for keeping the movement laser-focused on the prize: a United States where safe, legal abortion is unavailable to the vast majority of women. Even if they were raped or the pregnancy may kill them.

On that note, I want to let it be known that I have no patience for the “but…but…it doesn’t matter who wins the Presidency!” bullshit. Whomever gets elected in 2016 will either sign or veto bills and will be appointing Supreme Court Justices. It matters!

AZ Legislature is trying to exempt all properties used by churches from taxes

26 Jan 2015 02:24 am
Posted by: Donna

I hate gay people. You should therefore pay all my property taxes!

Arizona HB2128 is becoming a zombie bill, meaning that it will come back year after year. Here’s what it does:

The bill provides that a nonprofit property owner can file for the exemption with an affidavit from the nonprofit religious assembly or institution stating that the property is being leased primarily for the purpose of religious worship. A subsequent affidavit is not required as long as the property has the same owner.

“This helps small churches,” Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, who sponsored the bill, said on the House floor during Thursday’s vote. “Currently, churches that can afford to own their own building, they pay no property taxes because they are exempt, but small churches that do the same function sometimes cannot afford all of the money up front to buy the church, so they have to lease the church. This [bill] would allow small churches to have similar tax advantages as large churches.”

She said that the language in the bill mirrors what the state has already done for charter schools.

Under the HB 2281, a specific parcel of the property leased for nonprofit religious purposes can still classify for the exemption. However, property owners are required to show that the religious organization using the property is the only one benefiting from the tax exemption and that lease rates are consistent with the market value.

A friend of mine calls it the Pastor Stephen Anderson Tax Break, after this guy, who preaches from this strip mall. Pastor Anderson can’t afford his own church building, which is weird, since he is a proponent of these lofty ideals:

Colmes: Define “predator.” What do you mean by “predator”?

Anderson: A predator as in someone who tries to molest other people, to force people into things that they don’t want to do …

Colmes: So, let me get this straight, every homosexual in the world forces other people to do be gay?

Anderson: I believe that every homosexual in the world is a deviant, is evil, and is a predator that is out to recruit others through molestation, through rape. It’s in the news.

After some discussion whether someone like Rep. Barney Frank was a “predator” and “molester” the conversation turned toward Anderson insistence that every gay person he has ever known has been a predator and molester and that being gay is a cLast night, Alan Colmes interviewed Steven L. Anderson of Faithful Word Baptist Church who has recently achieved fame for his sermons preaching that gays are out to rape children in order to recruit them and declaring that the only way to stop them is to kill them.

Anderson did not back down:

Colmes: Everybody who is gay is a predator?

Anderson: Well, if you disagree with that, that’s fine. But every gay person in the Bible was a predator, from Genesis to Revelation.

Colmes: Well, I don’t know about the Bible, but do you believe that every gay person in the world is a predator?

Anderson: That’s what I believe, yes. And every gay person that I’ve ever known personally has been a predator …
hoice they have made. When Colmes asked Anderson when he chose to be straight, Anderson replied that nobody chooses to be straight because everyone is “born normal” and that it is “only people who go against nature and become more and more sick” and get into “weird, sick, deviant things” like homosexuality or bestiality which, in Anderson’s views, are all the same thing.

Oh, and he also believes that those who commit adultery should be stoned to death.

In the second segment, Anderson defends his prayers for the death of President Barack Obama while repeatedly insisting that he would be in no way responsible if one of his followers went out and tried to kill him.

Do you really want to be subsidizing Pastor Anderson and his strip mall Elmer Gantry outfit? He is, after all, the cutting edge of fundamentalism.

UPDATE: Edited to remove a misinterpretation of current property tax laws on churches and to note that Robbie Sherwood of Arizona Progress Now, who is the one who coined this the Pastor Steven Anderson Tax Break says that Center for AZ’s Cathi Herrod, who is behind the bill, will not testify in favor of it. My guess is she’s smart enough to know that anything she touches instantly becomes unpopular.

GOP caucus pulls 20 week abortion ban bill.

22 Jan 2015 01:41 am
Posted by: Donna

Photo: AP

Wednesday evening brought the surprise announcement that Republicans were withdrawing their bill for a federal 20 week abortion ban scheduled for a vote on the 42nd anniversary of Roe v Wade:

A vote had been scheduled for Thursday to coincide with the annual March for Life, a gathering that brings hundreds of thousands of anti-abortion activists to Washington to mark the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion.

But Republican leaders dropped those plans after failing to win over a bloc of lawmakers, led by Reps. Rene Ellmers (R-N.C.) and Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.), who had raised concerns.

The House will vote instead Thursday on a bill prohibiting federal funding for abortions — a more innocuous anti-abortion measure that the Republican-controlled chamber has passed before.

Gosh, that oughtta make things awkward at Thursday’s march!

In my last post I described both the 20 week bill itself (which would be vetoed by President Obama) and Ellmers’ and Walorski’s “leaked” arguments from their supposedly “closed-door” caucus meetings as empty political theater gestures, designed to both advance the anti-choice agenda and soften the images of the two Congresswomen and the GOP on women’s issues. I still stand by that assessment, though even I didn’t expect them to actually pull the bill on the eve of the March for Life.

I don’t buy the explanation that GOP leadership was swayed purely by this:

In recent days, as many as two dozen Republicans had raised concerns with the “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” that would ban abortions after the 20th week of a pregnancy. Sponsors said that exceptions would be allowed for a woman who is raped, but she could only get the abortion after reporting the rape to law enforcement.

My guess it was the result of the combination of President Obama delivering a sick burn to them in the form of “I won both times” at the State of the Union address and the realization that an abortion ban with a controversy over what rape exceptions may or may not be in it could lead to a situation allowing the likes of Trent Franks and Steve King to flap their gums indiscriminately on the floor of Congress about rape victims and abortions this particular week.

And the GOP definitely does not want that, when the President has already embarrassed them and SNL, Daily Show, Bill Maher, all the late night network hosts, etc. are not on hiatus. Hence the shift to the safer empty gesture – yet another tiresome ban on federal funding for abortion.

I do hold out hope that Franks will go for it and say something stupid anyway. I think he might be mad enough now to do it.

Empty gestures

21 Jan 2015 03:43 am
Posted by: Donna

While it true that most politicians of any stripe engage in empty gestures – mainly symbolic votes and proposals – modern conservatives have raised the empty gesture to an art form. Examples of this include anti-choice Republicans in the 2014 midterms pretending to support the sale of over-the-counter birth control, despite having long records of support for “personhood” measures that would lead to many forms of contraception being banned. That was an empty gesture that went a long way toward helping Republicans like newly sworn-in CO Senator Cory Gardner(R) to persuade credulous pundits and voters who would normally be alarmed by their actual positions and voting records that they were not as threatening as they really are.

Sometimes the empty gesture is not even a strategic vote or policy stance. It can be pure political theater, such as the GOP having a Latino Congressman deliver Sen. Joni Ernst’s exact response to President Obama’s State of the Union speech in Spanish.

Curbelo’s office confirmed that he will not be delivering his own remarks.

By the way, Ernst has endorsed English as a national language and once sued Iowa’s secretary of state for offering voting forms in languages other than English. Her office did not respond to requests for comment.

Curbelo has broken with his own party on immigration to support a path to citizenship for undocumented residents. Ernst has repeatedly expressed opposition to “amnesty.”

After that embarrassing report, the GOP changed its tune and allowed Curbelo to make his own remarks. Not that it mattered since the whole point of the endeavor was probably not to impress Hispanic voters anyway. It was more likely aimed at moderate white voters, to assuage any guilt they may feel about voting GOP.

Another recent empty gesture by Republicans is a pair of Republican Congresswomen withdrawing their support for a 20-week abortion ban bill (an empty gesture in itself since it will be vetoed).

On Tuesday afternoon, during the House’s session, Reps. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) and Jackie Walorski (R-IN) requested to remove their names from HR 36, the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.” The exchange was recorded on C-SPAN.

HR 36, which has passed the House twice in recent years, was expected to be approved by the full GOP-controlled Congress this year, particularly since the Republican leadership has turned to restrictions on later abortions as a top policy priority. It was introduced on the very first day of the 114th Congress’ session and is scheduled for a vote in the full House this Thursday, which marks the 42nd anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.

But at the end of last week, the National Journal reported that Ellmers was raising concerns about the proposed abortion ban. In a closed-door meeting of Republican lawmakers, Ellmers reportedly said that focusing on a national abortion ban so early in the session threatens to alienate young female voters, a demographic that the GOP has been vying to attract. The congresswoman also expressed concerns about the legislation’s narrow exception for rape victims, which currently requires them to report their assault to law enforcement officials in order to have access to later abortion services.

Things don’t get out of closed-door caucus meetings and become national news unless people want them to. It looks like the GOP is trying to both help Reps Ellmers and Walorski (both Republicans in swing districts) and to appear as thought they’re still committed to that “outreach to women” thing. Think of this as a play-within-the-play. The symbolic 20 week bill is is pitched at the culture war conservative base and the meaningless revolt by these two Congresswomen is an empty gesture calculated to appeal to “moderates”. Man, they are really getting good at this!

But the conservative politician who has most perfected the art of the empty gesture has to be Pope Francis (what, you don’t think he’s a politician?), who has managed to convince a lot of people, including liberals, that he represents a shining new era of tolerant Catholicism. Upon closer examination, however, there are reasons to be skeptical of this.

He thinks atheists are okay!

In comments likely to enhance his progressive reputation, Pope Francis has written a long, open letter to the founder of La Repubblica newspaper, Eugenio Scalfari, stating that non-believers would be forgiven by God if they followed their consciences.

Responding to a list of questions published in the paper by Mr Scalfari, who is not a Roman Catholic, Francis wrote: “You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don’t believe and who don’t seek the faith. I start by saying – and this is the fundamental thing – that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience.

As an atheist, I appreciate the vote of confidence in my ability to be moral, I guess. But the Pope’s assurance that I might go to heaven means exactly nothing to me since I have seen no credible evidence that such a place exists. It’s about as empty a gesture as it gets, though fairly harmless on its face. It earned him a bunch of cool points from the likes of Bill Maher, though.

He thinks gay people are okay!

Erm, not really.

Speaking to reporters on a flight back from Brazil, he reaffirmed the Roman Catholic Church’s position that homosexual acts were sinful, but homosexual orientation was not…

…His remarks on gay people are being seen as much less judgemental than his predecessor’s position on the issue.

Pope Benedict XVI signed a document in 2005 that said men with deep-rooted homosexual tendencies should not be priests.

But Pope Francis said gay clergymen should be forgiven and their sins forgotten.

So being a closeted gay priest is fine but being a gay person with a love life is still “sinful”. Not much of an improvement, really, but the “who am I to judge?” empty gesture is the one that made it around the world.

He thinks the theory of evolution is okay!

Delivering an address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Pope Francis continued his habit of making provocative, seemingly progressive statements. The pontiff appeared to endorse the theory of the Big Bang and told the gathering at the Vatican that there was no contradiction between believing in God as well as the prevailing scientific theories regarding the expansion of our universe.

“When we read about creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so,” Francis said. “He created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one so they would reach their fulfillment.”

Yawn. The Church has accepted evolution for decades. Do you really think they’d allow their prestigious universities around the world to be tarnished by teaching Creationism, or any iteration of it, as science? They keep that stuff in theology classes where it belongs.

He thinks women are okay!

So this is where it gets really gnarly. As someone who was raised Catholic, I get that Francis reminds you of that chill priest who played the guitar and cracked jokes during Mass. I loved that guy! And I want to give Pope Francis the full benefit of the doubt that he is trying to act in good faith where women are concerned. Sadly, however, his efforts fall short. On the ordination of women as priests, nope.

On the role of women in the Church, he said: “We cannot limit the role of women in the Church to altar girls or the president of a charity, there must be more.

“But with regards to the ordination of women, the Church has spoken and says no… That door is closed.”

Okey doke, Pontiff. That is something more concerning to people still practicing the faith, though, and not something I’m losing sleep over. The Church’s positions on reproductive rights, however, are another story since Catholics actually wield a lot of power in global health policies, including here in the US. The Church’s stances take on a particular importance in that light and the Pope has been in the news quite a bit lately pontificating (pardon the pun) on them. Here he is sharing his jazzy modern thoughts on family planning:

“Some think, excuse me if I use the word, that in order to be good Catholics, we have to be like rabbits…but no,” he told reporters at a Monday news conference, according to Reuters. The pope said some Catholics who have many children don’t promote “responsible parenthood,”…

That’s an ironically judgmental statement, since those Catholics are following what is widely held as Church doctrine, no? But wait, it gets worse:

…and specifically mentioned a woman he had encountered previously who put her life at risk to have a seventh child by cesarean section. He called her decision “an irresponsibility.”

Oh right, she alone put her life at risk! No mention of the father and not the slightest inclination of awareness on his part that the woman may not be in a position to say no to her husband when he wants sex. The Pope simply assumes that she drives everything and is, somehow, following Church dictates out of pure wanton selfishness. Wait, what? It gets still worse:

“Does she want to leave seven orphans?” he said. “This is tempting God.”

Orphans? Note the complete erasure of the father again! Leaving aside the Pope’s disturbing implication that his God is a capricious monster who would inflict the most horrific punishment upon a family merely following His edicts – but apparently not with the precision that He and the Pope require – what does he really expect this woman to do? Here’s a hint:

Although the rabbit analogy may seem to suggest contraception, more realistically it probably implies that the pope regards Natural Family Planning to be a reasonable solution. The Catholic church considers birth control pills, devices, and condoms to be “artificial contraception.”

Yes, definitely a poor woman with seven children should master a complicated regimen involving constant temperature taking and mucus measurement or just insist upon celibacy with a husband who may or may not agree to any of that! Good plan, Pope! So much better than an IUD or a tubal ligation.

This was clearly meant to be an empty gesture by a conservative politician (what, you STILL don’t get that the Pope is a politician?) but it inadvertently revealed more about the retrograde motives of the Catholic Church than the Pope probably intended. He was trying to assure the world that the Church is aware of overpopulation and of their own image problems on women’s rights but he simply could not constrain his own thoughtless misogyny. Oops.

That’s the thing with empty gestures. They often expose more about the people doing them and what they’re after than they intend. And I wish people would pay a lot less attention to the public gestures and more to what is lurking behind them.