Saturday, November 14, 2015

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Don't Criticize France When Bush and Cheney Ignored 9-11 Warnings

The death toll in Paris is not even final, yet many on the far right in America's chattering class and GOP politicians are already insanely laying blame on Barack Obama, french gun control laws, and any number of irrelevant things - liberals, college students, the list is nothing short of crazy.   Yet through all of this is a total failure to admit that the more serious failure to stop Islamic terrorism occurred on the watch of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney who remain darlings of the far right.  Making all of this far worse is new information that makes it painfully clear that Bush and Cheney were warned and did nothing. A piece in Salon looks at the shocking failure of Bush/Cheney and they failure to hold them accountable (and let's not forget the war crimes they committed).  Here are column highlights:

Documentarian Chris Whipple has some new bombshell revelations about how the Bush administration ignored the advance warnings of 9/11 in story for Politico, “‘The Attacks Will Be Spectacular,’” a spin-off of his documentary, “The Spymasters,” set to air this month on Showtime, in which he interviews all 12 living former CIA directors.

Whipple’s most stunning revelations revolve around a July 10 meeting that’s been mentioned by others in books before—Bob Woodward, George Tenet, Condi Rice—but always in a manner that drastically underplays the urgency of CIA’s warnings, and how much they had to go on, according to Whipple’s new information:
By May of 2001, says Cofer Black, then chief of the CIA’s counterterrorism center, “it was very evident that we were going to be struck, we were gonna be struck hard and lots of Americans were going to die.” “There were real plots being manifested,” Cofer’s former boss, George Tenet, told me in his first interview in eight years. “The world felt like it was on the edge of eruption. In this time period of June and July, the threat continues to rise. Terrorists were disappearing [as if in hiding, in preparation for an attack]. Camps were closing. Threat reportings on the rise.”
Finally, things boiled over:
That morning of July 10, the head of the agency’s Al Qaeda unit, Richard Blee, burst into Black’s office. “And he says, ‘Chief, this is it. Roof’s fallen in,’” recounts Black. “The information that we had compiled was absolutely compelling. It was multiple-sourced. And it was sort of the last straw.”
Tenet called Rice for an immediate meeting with her and her team—Bush was out of town:
“Rich [Blee] started by saying, ‘There will be significant terrorist attacks against the United States in the coming weeks or months. The attacks will be spectacular. They may be multiple. Al Qaeda’s intention is the destruction of the United States.’” [Condi said:] ‘What do you think we need to do?’ Black responded by slamming his fist on the table, and saying, ‘We need to go on a wartime footing now!’”
But nothing happened. “To me it remains incomprehensible still,” Black told Whipple. “I mean, how is it that you could warn senior people so many times and nothing actually happened? It’s kind of like The Twilight Zone.”

It was not just a failure to respond to warnings, however. There was a broader refusal to even consider thinking proactively. Along these lines, Whipple writes more broadly about Tenet and Black’s plan to “end the al Qaeda threat” with a combined military/CIA campaign “getting into the Afghan sanctuary, launching a paramilitary operation, creating a bridge with Uzbekistan.” They pitched the plan in spring of 2001, according to Whipple, “‘And the word back,’ says Tenet, ‘was “we’re not quite ready to consider this. We don’t want the clock to start ticking.”’ (Translation: they did not want a paper trail to show that they’d been warned.)”

Black chalks this up to the Bush team being stuck in the past, thinking of terrorists as “Euro-lefties,” but there was a deeper story, with more to the state of denial than Whipple discusses, since the Bush team was also actively fending off dealing with the recommendations of bipartisan Hart-Rudman Commission (officially the “U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century”). It had warned that “Americans will likely die on American soil, possibly in large numbers.”

Not only did Hart-Rudman see terrorist attacks as a possibility, it highlighted five key areas for reform, the first of which was “ensuring the security of the American homeland.” It regarded a 9/11-style attack as so likely that defending against it should be a top priority in rethinking our entire approach to national security.

" . . . EIGHT Benghazi investigations yet Bush WH sat on its hands while bin Laden got ready to kill 3K Americans,” Media Matters’ Eric Boehlert tweeted. “if this story were abt Benghazi, GOP would introduce Obama impeachment proceedings today,” he followed up. Boehlert’s point is obviously valid, but even more troubling is how the lack of accountability has made things so much worse, actually crippling our ability to win the war on terror.

The failure to hold anyone accountable for 9/11 is inextricably intertwined with the broader failure to go back and rethink fundamental questions on all aspects of national security—something that was obviously needed at the time, and that remains imperative still.

Why Is the Media Ignoring Ted Cruz's Embrace of 'Kill the Gays'?

Ted Cruz attends "Kill the Gays" gathering
Even before I learned of the horrors occurring in Paris yesterday where we have again seen the ugly finger prints of fundamentalist religion, I had planned to write about the American media's silence on the the attendance of several GOP presidential nominee candidates at the falsely named National Religious Liberties Conference where the execution of gays was called for numerous times.   Imagine if Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders attended an event where the murder of Christians (or blacks or Jews) was advocated - the media would be beside itself and the coverage would have been non-stop.   But the advocating of the murder of gays bu the "godly folk" gets almost a free pass as do the GOP contenders who attended.   Yes, the GOP candidates are all claiming that they did not know about the agenda of some of the event hosts - even though in Ted Cruz's case he had been asked about the very issue BEFORE he attended the event - but all that proves is either (i) they support the execution of gays, (ii) they are liars, or (iii) that their campaigns are so poor at vetting events that the candidates are too incompetent to ever occupy the White House.  A piece in Huffington Post looks at this disturbing near silence.  Here are highlights:
Last weekend Senator Ted Cruz, along with fellow GOP presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, spoke at a conference in Des Moines headed up by a man who advocates the execution of gay people -- per his interpretation of the bible -- and who made his call for mass extermination once again, onstage at the event, the National Religious Liberties Conference. Pastor Kevin Swanson has said in the past that Christians should attend gay weddings and hold up signs telling the newly married gay and lesbian couples that they "should be put to death." He was an advocate of Uganda's infamous "Kill the Gays" bill, which he saw as a "model."

At the confab over the weekend, where he introduced Huckabee, Jindal and Cruz to the audience -- and where Ted Cruz's father, Rafael Cruz, an anti-gay Tea Party crusader, was a star speaker -- he reiterated his death penalty call . . .

On MSNBC, Rachel Maddow, using extensive clips of video of the speech that had been posted by the indispensable Right Wing Watch, covered the conference in depth, and was rightly horrified that it even took place and that presidential candidates were there.

"This is a political event. This is a Republican presidential candidates' event," Maddow said. "It really was a 'kill-the-gays' call to arms. This was a conference about the necessity of the death penalty as a punishment for homosexuality."

But except for scattered online media coverage and blog posts, that was it. CNN's Jake Tapper asked Cruz if it was appropriate to speak at the conference before the event -- and Cruz dodged the question, claiming to know nothing of the pastor's views, and spinning back to religious people supposedly being under attack -- but there was no coverage I could find on CNN after the conference and focused on this evangelical leader who called for a future genocide after introducing presidential candidates who lauded him. As far as I can tell, no broadcast networks or major American newspaper covered the blood-curdling speech in which several times Swanson said the punishment for homosexuality is the death penalty. 

It's 2015 and much of the media seem to accept, still, that LGBT people can be talked about this way at an event attended by presidential candidates and that it's not news. They view it as par for the course, religious conservatives doing what they do. It's as if they have blinders on. Indeed, if Ted Cruz -- or Huckabee or Jindal -- attended an event at which the host hinted at mass murder of Jews, African-Americans or any other group it would be a massive media story. He'd be forced to answer questions about it, at debates (and it didn't come up at the last debate), in press conferences and in interviews non-stop. 

Swanson may not be Huckabee's, Jindal's or Cruz's own pastor, but they attended a hate conference organized by Swanson, who introduced them onstage, in the middle of a presidential primary race. The fact that it seems to be viewed as just another ho-hum campaign stop suggests we've not come as far on LGBT right as we all like to tell ourselves.

Hate flourishes when not challenged and condemned.  Just look at ISIS.   What is frightening about Swanson and the tacit endorsement of his views by Cruz and the other GOP candidates is that it sets the stage for some Christian fundamentalist to decide to put the call to murder into action thinking, just like the murderers in Paris, that they are doing god's work.  And most of the American media will be complicit in it because the haters were allowed to go unchallenged.  And people wonder why I hold "journalists" in low regard?

Hollande Blames ISIS for ‘Act of War’ on Paris

With ISIS now claiming responsibility for the horrific attacks in Paris yesterday that so far have taken 127 lives, in my view, it is time to treat the foul members of ISIS for what they are: savage rabid animals that need to be exterminated just like a rabid dog.  It is also time to admit that religion - and I mean ALL religion - is ultimately a great evil and that the "deeply religious" no matter their faith tradition suffer from deep and often dangerous psychological issues.  Nothing else other than psychological illness explains clinging to religious traditions that trace back to ignorant unknown authors or, in the case of "The Prophet" a likely psychotic.  It will be easy for many on the far right to attempt to single out Islam as the problem, yet just last weekend we had GOP presidential nominees, including Ted Cruz, attending a hate fest where the execution of gays was promoted repeatedly.  ISIS is an evil, but so is fundamentalist Christianity and both religious factions are rebelling against modernity itself which threatens their increasingly unsustainable fairy tale belief systems.   The New York Times looks at the horrible events in Paris.  Here are excerpts:

President François Hollande called the terrorist attacks that killed 127 people in Paris on Friday night an “act of war,” and blamed the slaughter on the Islamic State.

“It is an act of war that was committed by a terrorist army, a jihadist army, Daesh, against France,” Mr. Hollande said from the Élysée Palace, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State. “It is an act of war that was prepared, organized and planned from abroad, with complicity from the inside, which the investigation will help establish.”

The Islamic State on Saturday claimed responsibility for the attacks, calling them “miracles” in a statement released by one of its publications and distributed on Twitter — a claim that could not be independently verified.

The authorities continued to look for possible accomplices of the eight attackers known so far, all of whom died on Friday: seven by detonating suicide bombs and one in a shootout with the police at a concert hall, the Bataclan, where gunmen methodically killed at least 80 people.

Dozens of others died in apparently coordinated attacks outside the Stade de France, where the French and German soccer teams were playing an exhibition match, and four other restaurants and bars in the city. Nearly 200 others were wounded, at least 80 of them in critical condition, French television reported.

Witnesses on French television said the scene at the concert hall, which can seat as many as 1,500 people, was a massacre, describing how gunmen with automatic weapons shot bursts of bullets into the crowd.  “What you are doing in Syria, you are going to pay for it now,” one of the gunmen shouted, a witness said.

The main shooting broke out at around 9 p.m. at the Bataclan, where the American rock band Eagles of Death Metal was among those playing.  A witness told BFM television that he heard rounds of automatic rifle fire and someone shouting “Allahu akbar!” at the Bataclan.

Unlike the attacks against Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket in January, terrorism experts said, the attacks on the targets on Friday had no apparent rationale. Instead, assailants appeared to strike at random in hip neighborhoods on a Friday night when many people would be starting to enjoy the weekend.

“It’s a Friday night, and there’s a lot of people out, a lot of tourists out,” said a senior European counterterrorism official. “If you want maximum exposure, you do it like this, in the dark, when it’s scarier and more difficult for police to act.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in my view, summed up what this is really all about:
“Those who we mourn were murdered in front of cafes, in restaurants, in a concert hall or on the open street. They wanted to live the life of free people in a city that celebrates life,” . . . . . “And they met with murderers who hate this life of freedom.”
Contrast Merkel's statement with that in the purported ISIS statement:
“Today brothers from all across the world set foot in Gaul and remind the kaffir (disbelievers) in dur Al Kuffr (the land of disbelievers) that we live beside you,”
Why Paris?   Because it symbolizes everything that fundamentalist Islam (and Christianity) is not and that terrifies the fundamentalist religious extremists of both religions.  Paris is an educated, secular, multi-racial city where logic and enlightenment are respected and the ignorance of religion is increasingly disregarded and headed toward the trash heap of history where it belongs.  It is the antithesis of everything ISIS stands for, including the embrace of Medieval religious fundamentalism.  P.S. I am part French, so this is personal to me for that reason as well.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Friday Morning Male Beauty

GOP Establishment in Near Panic Over Trump and Carson

The so-called Republican Party establishment cynically welcomed the Christofascists and white supremacist crowd into the party base with the short term view of winning elections by catering to the ugliest elements of society.  Now, that same crowd is in a near panic over the fact that they may have to lie in the bed they shortsightedly made by allowing the crazies and haters to hijack the party base, driving sane and moderate voters to flee the party in droves (I and my extended family all fled the asylum).  The shortsightedness - or perhaps hubris in thinking that they could control the swamp fever addled  base - of the establishment set the stage for the candidacies of Donald Trump and Ben Carson.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the GOP establishment's belated consideration of the monster it created.  Here are excerpts:
Less than three months before the kickoff Iowa caucuses, there is growing anxiety bordering on panic among Republican elites about the dominance and durability of Donald Trump and Ben Carson and widespread bewilderment over how to defeat them.

Party leaders and donors fear that nominating either man would have negative ramifications for the GOP ticket up and down the ballot, virtually ensuring a Hillary Rodham Clinton presidency and increasing the odds that the Senate falls into Democratic hands.

The party establishment is paralyzed. Big money is still on the sidelines. No consensus alternative to the outsiders has emerged from the pack of governors and senators running, and there is disagreement about how to prosecute the case against them. Recent focus groups of Trump supporters in Iowa and New Hampshire commissioned by rival campaigns revealed no silver bullet.

“The rest of the field is still wishing upon a star that Trump and Carson are going to ­self-destruct,” said Eric Fehrnstrom, a former adviser to 2012 nominee Mitt Romney. But, he said, “they have to be made to self-destruct. . . . Nothing has happened at this point to dislodge Trump or Carson.”

According to other Republicans, some in the party establishment are so desperate to change the dynamic that they are talking anew about drafting Romney — despite his insistence that he will not run again. Friends have mapped out a strategy for a late entry to pick up delegates and vie for the nomination in a convention fight, according to the Republicans who were briefed on the talks, though Romney has shown no indication of reviving his interest.

For months, the GOP professional class assumed Trump and Carson would fizzle with time. Voters would get serious, the thinking went, after seeing the outsiders share a stage with more experienced politicians at the first debate. . . . . None of that happened, of course, leaving establishment figures disoriented. 

“You have a lot of people who were told that if we got a majority in the House and a majority in the Senate, then life was gonna be great,” she [Nikki Haley] said in an interview Thursday. “What you’re seeing is that people are angry. Where’s the change? Why aren’t there bills on the president’s desk every day for him to veto? They’re saying, ‘Look, what you said would happen didn’t happen, so we’re going to go with anyone who hasn’t been elected.’ ”

There are similar concerns about Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who is gaining steam and is loathed by party elites, but they are more muted, at least for now.

[T]he party establishment’s greatest weapon — big money — is partly on the shelf. Kenneth G. Langone, a founder of Home Depot and a billionaire supporter of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, said he is troubled that many associates in the New York financial community have so far refused to invest in a campaign due to the race’s volatility. . . . . “People don’t want to write checks unless they think the candidate has a chance of winning.”

“I’m very worried that the Republican-base voter is more motivated by anger, distrust of D.C. and politicians and will throw away the opportunity to nominate a candidate with proven experience that can win.” 

The apprehension among some party elites goes beyond electability, according to one Republican strategist who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk candidly about the worries.

“We’re potentially careening down this road of nominating somebody who frankly isn’t fit to be president in terms of the basic ability and temperament to do the job,” this strategist said. “It’s not just that it could be somebody Hillary could destroy electorally, but what if Hillary hits a banana peel and this person becomes president?”

Angst about Trump intensified this week after he made two comments that could prove damaging in a general election. First, he explained his opposition to raising the minimum wage by saying “wages are too high.” Second, he said he would create a federal “deportation force” to remove the more than 11 million immigrants living in the United States illegally.

“To have a leading candidate propose a new federal police force that is going to flush out illegal immigrants across the nation? That’s very disturbing and concerning to me about where that leads Republicans,”

“If we don’t have the right [nominee], we could lose the Senate, and we could face losses in the House. Those are very, very real concerns. If we’re not careful and we nominate Trump, we’re looking at a race like Barry Goldwater in 1964 or George McGovern in 1972, getting beat up across the board because of our nominee.”  
These "elites" should have seen the likely consequences of allowing those detached from any form of objective reality  taking over the party based.  Instead, they merely looked at the short term.  Now they need to face the results of their own blindness and stupidity.  Karma can be a real bitch.

Christofascists Now Target Dallas Non-Discrimination Ordinance

Flush with victory in Houston where they overturned a non-discrimination ordinance that protected LGBT citizens - and many other categories of residents - the Christofascist hate merchants now plan to attack Dallas' non-discrimination ordinance.  One has to wonder if LGBT activists learned anything from their poorly run campaign to protect the Houston ordinance.  On also has to wonder where the IRS is in yanking the tax exempt status of churches that actively sought to impact legislation in direct contravention of the bans of such activity in Section 501(3)(c) of the Internal Revenue Code.  As noted often on this blog, there are few forces more evil in the world than religion be it murder and mayhem under ISIS or the systematic denigration and stigmatization of other done by the "godly folk" in America.  Note how these foul individuals equate restrictions on their ability to mistreat others as a "threat to freedom."  The New Civil Rights Movement looks at this new effort by the hate merchants.  Here are excerpts:

A week after scoring a major victory in Houston, anti-LGBT groups and Republican Texas lawmakers are threatening to try to overturn Dallas' 13-year-old nondiscrimination ordinance, which the City Council unanimously amended Tuesday to strengthen transgender protections. 

The Dallas City Council's vote came just one week after Houston voters overwhelmingly rejected an Equal Rights Ordinance, or HERO, based largely on the debunked "transgender bathroom myth" — with opponents falsely claiming the measure would lead to sexual predators entering women's restrooms to prey on victims.

In the wake of the Houston vote, LGBT advocates said they feared anti-LGBT groups would attempt to replicate their fear-mongering Houston strategy in other places across the country, and now it appears their first target could be Dallas. However, Dallas has a significantly higher bar than Houston for repealing ordinances by referendum, which would make opponents job that much harder.

The anti-LGBT hate group Texas Values, which was part of the anti-HERO campaign, issued a statement Tuesday calling the Dallas ordinance “a threat to safety and freedom.” 

“This Dallas bathroom ordinance will allow men into women’s bathrooms and that’s why the Dallas City Council is deliberately trying to avoid the people," Texas Values President Jonathan Saenz said.

The Texas Pastor Council, which was behind the petition drive and lawsuit to get HERO on the ballot in Houston, said in an email that the ordinance "removes the doors of women’s restrooms, showers and locker rooms in Dallas, as well as criminalizes businesses, employees as well as eventually, churches who attempt to keep men out.”

"We will work with Dallas pastors to determine how to appropriately respond to the wholesale catering by City Council to the radical, anti-faith, anti-family agenda of the LGBT Human Rights Campaign,' said Dave Welch, executive director of the Texas Pastor Council.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings noted that the ordinance, first approved by the council in a 13-2 vote in 2002, already prohibited discrimination against transgender people in employment, housing and public accommodations. However, gender identity was included under the definition of sexual orientation. The amendments approved Tuesday list gender identity and expression alongside sexual orientation and more clearly define the terms.

Rawlings also noted that in 2014, voters approved an amendment to the Dallas charter, by a margin of 77 percent, prohibiting discrimination against LGBT city employees.

I hate to say it, but I long for the day when Christianity is a dead religion.  As for the "good Christians," they need to get off their asses and loudly condemn their toxic co-religionists otherwise their churches deserve to die as well. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Mormons Plan Mass Resignation Over Anti-Gay Policy

Homophobe - Dallas H. Oaks of the Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Perhaps Catholics can learn something from gay Mormons and their supporters.  In the wake of a cruel new policy that will bar children of gays from Mormon Church membership until they are 18 - and have disavowed their parents - many Mormons are planning a mass resignation from the Mormon Church on Saturday.  Faced with the outcry, the gathering of bitter old men who head up the Mormon Church are rumored to be rethinking their action. If one is leading a cult/clique, the last thing you want is mass resignations and the corresponding loss of funds from resigning members.  Another Washington Post story looks at the furor the mean old men in Salt Lake have brought down on themselves.  Here are excerpts:
Advocates for LGBT Mormons say they’re seeing an unprecedented uproar in the past week about a new church policy banning the baptism of same-sex couples’ children and declaring married gay couples apostates. Some longtime advocates say they know dozens of Mormons quitting over the new policy. A public group resignation is planned for Saturday and reports are surfacing that church leadership may already be preparing to tweak the controversial edict.

“I’ve seen lots of painful things, but nothing so widespread, in terms of the devastation and heartbreak. I personally talked to dozens of people who are walking away. And these aren’t people with LGBT ties. These are ardent, faithful, in-the-box believing Mormons who can’t abide this,” said Wendy Montgomery, an Arizona Mormon who has a 17-year-old gay son and who co-founded Mama Dragons, a group for church mothers with gay children.

When the group was founded four years ago it had six members. It now has more than 500. She worked to create groups like Sit With Me Sunday, a program that helps LGBT people who want to come to church but are afraid to connect with someone to take them. The volunteer running it shut it down last week after news broke of the new policy, Montgomery said. “She said, ‘It’s no longer safe to invite them. It’s better if we tell them to run.'”

Before the change, the church’s policy was that same-sex marriage might require discipline and it was usually left up to local leaders. Now that same-sex marriage is legal throughout the country, the church decided to identify those in a same-sex marriage as apostates, or people who renounce their faith. 

Rumors began this week that the church’s 15-man leadership — three in a body called The First Presidency and 12 in a lower-level unit called the Quorum of the Apostles — might change the document following the uproar.

The Salt Lake Tribute on Wednesday cited excommunicated activist John Dehlin as saying a major church governing group “sent out a memo to regional leaders, saying that ‘there will be additional clarification on these changes from the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve [Apostles] in the coming days,'” the Tribune quoted Dehlin as saying.

Former Mormons and others announced Wednesday that there will be a “mass resignation” from Mormonism Saturday at a Salt Lake City park. Critics of the church have in recent years occasionally held public “resignations,” emphasizing LDS bureaucracy that keeps people on the books until they formally quit and hoping to further their cause. 

A Utah lawyer told local station KIVI that he personally is helping more than 1,000 leave the church. You don’t need a lawyer to step away, but because the church is known for its record-keeping and keeping members on their books, some apparently enlist legal help.

Imagine if gay Catholics did the same type of mass resignations in front of  cathedrals around America and across Europe.  The media would eat it up and the PR for the Church would be devastating.  I for one would happily work to organize such events!  I hope the Mormon mass resignation effort is successful.

Homophobia and Hypocrisy at the Vatican

If one believes the Gospel stories, Christ challenged the hate, hypocrisy and self-aggrandizement of the  Jewish religious leader of his time and ultimately paid a high price on the cross. He rightly called out the self-anointed, falsely pious Pharisees and others who made the Jewish law into something ugly used to persecute and denigrate others, especially those who did not adhere to the legalism loved by the Pharisee crowd.  While by no means a Christ equivalent, Krzysztof Charamsa, a former official at Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — a/k/a the Inquisition has played a similar role and been booted from his position and attacked by the bitter old men who inhabit the Vatican, many of whom are closeted gays (or in some cases closeted until behind closed doors).  I applaud Charamsa's actions, although many gay Catholics do not.  Gay Catholics who in my view cannot let go of their own self-loathing and masochism that keeps them in an institution that despises them and denigrates them.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at Charamsa's journey with which I can identify having been brought up Catholic and having remained in the Church far longer than I should have.  Here are article highlights:
Charamsa is unbowed. The church, he said, has deployed “Nazi words” against gays, and the time has come to respond. Referring to the 1969 New York riots that became a milestone in the American gay rights movement, he said, “The church needs a Stonewall.”

When Charamsa was young, the church’s teachings on homosexuality — something it calls an “intrinsic moral evil” — led him to personal torment and self-hate, he said. Today, he blames the church’s grip on largely Catholic Poland for a powerful strain of homophobia that still lingers there.
“It was the horrible problem of my life,” he said. “It was like hell. I prayed for years for God to take away this illness.”

His thinking had not changed, he said, when he began working at the Vatican in 2003, laboring in a mid-level administrative post and analyzing doctrinal papers. There are regular, if unofficial, social meetings of gay priests in Italy, including those from the Vatican, according to one gay priest who has attended them. But Charamsa says he was never part of that crowd.

Instead, until meeting Eduardo, he led a highly closeted life that allowed him to observe homophobia close up at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — once known as the Holy Office of the Inquisition. 

Inside its halls, Charamsa said, the issue of homosexuality “is only spoken about in jokes.” He compares it to the macho climate of, say, a sports team. Modern textbooks on human sexuality are rarely, if ever, studied. He said he saw careers destroyed after clerics appeared to get soft on gays. Suspicion of being gay, meanwhile, was reason enough to bar the promotions of priests to higher ranks.

Any move toward a more accepting stance, he said, was routinely stamped out. He recalls, for instance, an “internal persecution” of Bishop Piero Marini in 2013 after the Vatican official openly called for recognition of the moral value of same-sex unions. The Congregation, Charamsa said, insisted the bishop clarify true church teachings.

On the day in July 2013 when Pope Francis responded “Who am I to judge?” after being asked a question about gay priests, Charamsa said, there was an uproar within the Congregation. Its conservative prefect, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, had “only bad things” to say about the pope in response, Charamsa said.  The Vatican declined to comment on any of Charamsa’s allegations.

Today, he calls his highly public coming out a form of “protest,” one that came together recently after he accepted himself and came to feel that the church, not his sexual orientation, was the problem. He is now on a one-man mission to challenge its teachings — something he is doing in regular media interviews, a book he is penning, even a blunt letter to the pope in which he derided the church for its “diabolical instruction.” It is a series of decisions that have come with a high price.

Charamsa was evicted by the nun running the Rome convent where he had lived for years as a chaplain, he said. His brother’s children are being bullied at school, and his mother is facing pressure at her church in his native Poland, he added. The Vatican fired him on the spot, leaving him unemployed. And his bishop in Poland suspended him, stripping him of the right to wear the Roman collar and celebrate Mass.

Charamsa says that gay Catholics advocating less confrontational methods have thus far failed to produce results. He welcomes Francis’s more inclusive approach but also describes it as mostly “words.” Rather than being a product of his coming out, the lack of a new approach at the synod is the product of entrenched church thinking that needs to be more boldly challenged, he said.

I agree with him.  The Vatican needs to be strongly and aggressively challenged and efforts need to be made to convince gay Catholics, their friends and families to leave in droves, making it clear why they are leaving.  Similarly, any and all financial support of the Church and its affiliated entities needs to cease.  All of this will take time, but if one looks at the Vatican, one thing alone gets its attention and prompts change: loss of members and loss of revenues. The Millennials are leaving the Church in droves.  Others need to do likewise. The condemnation of the Church and its lies and hypocrisy also must not cease.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

More Wednesday Male Beauty

White Supremacist Cults Are all the Rage in Parts of Southern Virginia.

Robert Doyle and Ronald Chaney

The Hampton Roads area of Southeast Virginia has its problems but compared to areas of the southern tier of the state to the west make Hampton Roads look like a center of the enlightened, rational, liberal universe.  White supremacy is alive and well in many of these areas and homophobia and anti-gay bigotry is likewise off the charts.   The Daily Beast looks at  recent arrests that ought to send shivers down one's back.   Not surprisingly, one of the white supremacy groups hails from near Lynchburg, Virginia, home of the always toxic and extreme Liberty University.   While the group mentioned purports to subscribe to Nordic pagan traditions, its views on blacks and gays (and Jews) differ little from those held by the Liberty University crowd.  Oh, and did I mention that these areas vote Republican?  Here are article excerpts:
Viking-inspired white supremacists trying to terrorize black Christians in the South: not as rare as you think.

News broke yesterday that the FBI arrested two young men under the suspicion that they were planning to start a race war by bombing black churches in their home state of Virginia. The men, Robert Doyle and Ronald Chaney, allegedly ascribe to an Icelandic pagan faith called Asatru that has a disturbingly large following among white supremacists.

Its defenders say the religion itself isn’t inherently bigoted. But many white supremacists find it appealing because, unlike Christianity, it isn’t influenced by Judaism. If you think the KKK is soft on the Jews because it’s Christian-friendly, Asatru might be for you.

The SPLC [Southern Poverty Law Center] notes that Odinism, which has ties to Asatru, played an important role in some corners of Nazism. 

“Its Nordic/Teutonic mythology was a bedrock belief for key Third Reich leaders,” the group noted in a 1998 write-up, “and it was an integral part of the initiation rites and cosmology of the elite Schutzstaffel, which supervised Adolf Hitler’s network of death camps.”
And they aren’t the only young white men to target black churches in Virginia.

In 2012, Maurice Thompson Michaely pleaded guilty to arson—specifically, to charges of Unlawfully Entering Property of Another with the Intent to Damage and Maliciously Destroying or Defacing Church Property, according to the Bristow Beat. Michaely tried to burn down a historic black church, the 135-year-old Mount Pleasant Baptist Church. The fire didn’t injure anyone since the building wasn’t occupied when he attempted to burn it down. However, the fire caused about $1 million of damage, according to ABC affiliate WJLA and he was sentenced to two and a half years in prison.

According to social media screenshots on the Fools of Vinland blog, Michaely goes by the name Hjalti and is part of a group based outside Lynchburg, Virginia., called Wolves of Vinland. . . . . Matthias Waggener, one prominent member of the group, described it as an “Odinic Wolfcult.”  He also said the group practices animal sacrifice.

And at least one prominent white supremacist, Jack Donovan, is affiliated with their group. Donovan, who recently spoke at the white supremacist National Policy Institute’s event in Washington, D.C., instagrammed a picture of a dead sheep, tagged #wolvesofvinland.  “Wolves and prospects preparing to butcher the sheep we sacrificed this afternoon at moot,” he wrote.

Animal sacrifice, Norse mythology, wolf-themed weekends—it all sounds like something out of a heavy metal music video or a Live Action Role Play convention. But as yesterday’s arrests evince, viking-inspired white supremacy is alive and well and weird in Southern Virginia.
For more on this frightening rising form of white supremacy, read the SPLC report here.

Bigoted Utah Judge Orders Child Removed from Same-Sex Parents

Johansen - the face of a bigot
America continues to have a huge problem of bigoted judges who allow their own prejudices and all too often religious beliefs to impact their rulings.  Rather than impartially apply the law and defer to legitimate expert knowledge, these individuals who are unfit for the bench apply their own religious beliefs (and often racial bigotry) to the detriment of litigants whom they disfavor.  In my own divorce, the presiding judge who is still on the bench - and a total cretin in my opinion - stated that being gay was a choice and therefore sought to punish me. Now, in Utah we see the same kind of religious based bigotry in the ruling of Judge Scott Johansen of the Seventh District Juvenile Court who ordered that a foster child be removed from the child's legally married foster parents.  Laughably, Johansen claimed he had "research" that showed that children fared better with heterosexual parents.  As regular readers know, the only research that finds that result is fraudulent Christofascist financed research that has been rejected by the federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.  The foster parents need to appeal and Johansen needs to be permanently removed from the bench. The Washington Blade looks at this batshitery.  Here are excerpts:
A same-sex couple in Utah is about to lose their foster child as a result of a state judge’s determination children don’t do as well in LGBT homes.

As local CBS affiliate KUTV first reported on Wednesday, April Hoagland and Beckie Peirce of Carbon County say the baby they’ve loved and raised for the last three months will be taken from their home and moved to an opposite-sex household.

Judge Scott Johansen of the Seventh District Juvenile Court ordered the child removed in seven days. According to the couple, the judge said he has research indicating children don’t fare as well in same-sex households, but hasn’t produced his findings.

“We’ve been told to care for this child like a mother, and I am her mother,” Hoagland says in the report. “That’s who she knows. And she’s just going to be taken away in seven days to another probably good loving home, but it’s not fair, and it’s not right, and it just hurts me really badly because I haven’t done anything wrong.”

It’s hard to imagine the judge would have any accurate research showing children are worse off with same-sex parents. Major medical and psychological organizations, including the American Psychological Association and the American Medical Association, have concluded there’s no scientific basis for same-sex couples are less capable parents than straight couples, or that their children are less psychologically healthy and well adjusted.

According to KUTV, the couple is legally married, want to adopt the baby and plan to appeal the decision. The biological mother of the child reportedly has said she wants the child to remain with the same-sex couple. 
Again, Johansen needs to be removed from the bench and state judicial review boards need to make it clear that the moment a judge steps onto the bench, his or her religious beliefs and prejudices need to disappear.  Otherwise, they need to resign from the bench.  It is really that simple.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Best Moments From Tuesday's GOP "Debate"

Last night saw another circus debate between the would be GOP 2016 presidential nominees.  It was a spectacle that ought to send chills down the spines of thinking Americans and could best be described as a plan for the road to serfdom for most Americans, the mass deportation of Hispanics, and more endless, losing wars in the Middle East.  Of course, the tax policy proposals all benefit the wealthy to the detriment of the majority of citizens.   While the hapless Jebbie Bush stood up to The Donald on immigration (Trumps insists that millions of Hispanics must be deported) at one point, overall, he looked weak and proved yet again that debates, even of the GOP type, are not his strong suit.  Mother Jones looks at the disturbing batshitery.  Here are highlights:
The Republican presidential candidates met for the fourth time Tuesday night, with a slightly less crowded debate stage after Chris Christie and Mike Huckabee were demoted to the JV event. With fewer candidates competing for speaking time, a few were able to shine through with the extra breathing room: Marco Rubio stuck to his well-rehearsed talking points, Ben Carson bypassed his biographical oversights, and Rand Paul awoke from his slumber in the previous debates (while Jeb Bush did not).

Here’s a roundup of the debate’s best moments:

No one wants to raise the minimum wageThe debate started off with Fox’s Neil Cavuto highlighting New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's promise to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for public employees. The moderator asked the current front-runners if they'd like to see the federal minimum wage—currently just $7.25—increased.

Trump, Carson, and Rubio all quickly said that they don’t think the floor on wages needs to be any higher. "We don't win anymore," Trump bemoaned, reciting one of his favorite sayings. Why is that? "Taxes too high, wages too high."

Trump calls for another "Operation Wetback.John Kasich attacked Trump’s plan to deport the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. "We all know you can't pick them up and ship them back across the border," he said. "It's a silly argument. It's not an adult argument. It makes no sense!"

But Trump defended his plan by citing an episode in American history: "Operation Wetback."
"Let me just tell you that Dwight Eisenhower...moved a million and a half illegal immigrants out of this country." Trump responded. "Moved them just beyond the border, they came back. Moved them again beyond the border, they came back. Didn't like it. Moved 'em waaaay south, they never came back. Dwight Eisenhower. You don't get nicer, you don't get friendlier. They moved 1.5 million people out. We have no choice. We. Have. No. Choice."

But the actual operation under Eisenhower in the 1950s was less than successful and very inhumane.
Ted Cruz dodges his own "oops" momentIn 2011, Rick Perry sank his first ill-fated presidential run when he failed to name the three federal agencies he would eliminate, following his painful memory lapse with his now-famous "oops."  On Tuesday night, Ted Cruz could have had a similar moment. But he dodged it. When trying to name which five agencies he would eliminate, Cruz mentioned the Department of Commerce twice. "Five major agencies that I would eliminate," he declared. "The IRS, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Energy, the Department of Commerce, and HUD."  But did he say oops? No, he kept on going as if he hadn't just pulled a Perry.
Paul and Rubio go to war on military spending.  After keeping mostly quiet at the past few debates, Paul finally got a chance to go all-in on how he diverges from the rest of the field when it comes to foreign policy. "We have to decide what is conservative and what isn’t conservative," Paul interjected after Rubio touted his conservative credentials. Paul singled out Rubio’s tax plan, which includes a refundable tax credit, as well as Rubio’s hawkish approach to the military.  Rubio fought back. "I know Rand is a committed isolationist," Rubio said. "I'm not. I believe the world is a stronger and a better place when the united states is the strongest military power in the world." Paul wanted a debate. "Marco, Marco, how is it conservative—how is it conservative to add a trillion dollar expenditure to the federal government?" he shot back.

Bush grows a spine.  Trump came to the defense of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intervention in Syria, saying that Russia is going after ISIS. . . . Trump concluded that the United States shouldn't have to take on the international crisis alone. "We can't continue to be the policeman of the world," he said. "We owe $19 trillion, we have a country that's going to hell, we have an infrastructure that's falling apart. Our roads, our bridges, our schools, our airports, and we have to start investing money in our country."  Enter Bush. "Donald's wrong on this," he said. "He is absolutely wrong on this. We're not going to be the world's policeman, but we sure as heck better be the world's leader."

Carson has a plan to make "global jihadists" look like "losers."  Carson jumped into a foreign policy conversation, veered off to discuss "global jihadists," and continued to describe what sounded like another invasion of Iraq—. . . . 'How do we make them look like losers?' Because that’s the way that they’re able to gather a lot of influence."  He continued, "I think in order to make them look like losers, we have to destroy their caliphate. And you look for the easiest place to do that, it would be in Iraq. Outside of Anbar in Iraq there’s a big energy field—take all of that land from them. We could do that I believe fairly easily, . . .
A piece in Slate summarizes the GOP contenders' lack of concern for ordinary Americans:
[T]he GOP contenders were out of step with the actual economic needs of ordinary Americans. Each candidate talked about relief for workers and families, but outside of Rubio’s child tax credit, few offered it. Instead, candidates came out against raising the minimum wage, called for a new gold standard for currency, and pushed plans for massive upper-income tax cuts. Unlike the first Democratic debate—when Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley, Jim Webb, and Lincoln Chaffee tusseled over college affordability and health care costs—there was little in the Republican debate that spoke to the challenges of ordinary people  rather than businesses.

Why Society is Responsible for the Sins of Religion

I often complain of the undeserved deference given to religion in America.  The complaint also applies to other nations as well, but of the modern industrial nations America alone has the strongest fixation of hanging onto discredited religious beliefs and institutions.  True, most of us - especially in older generations - were brainwashed growing up in pews across the country, but at some point one needs to grow up and open their eyes.  Most of us grow up being fed with the Santa Claus myth, but at some point we acknowledge that the story line is untrue and that adults have misled us.  The same needs to happen with religion in general and denominations that preach division and contempt for others in particular and demand exalted respect for themselves.  A column in the New York Times from last week looks at the horrible consequences of giving undue respect to religious and clergy.  While focused on the Roman Catholic Church, the piece could just as easily be about the Southern Baptist Convention which likewise has a huge problem of sexual abuse by clergy.  Here are column highlights:
It’s fashionable among some conservatives to rail that there’s insufficient respect for religion in America and that religious people are marginalized, even vilified.
That’s bunk. In more places and instances than not, they get special accommodation and the benefit of the doubt. Because they talk of God, they’re assumed to be good. There’s a reluctance to besmirch them, an unwillingness to cross them.

The new movie “Spotlight,” based on real events, illuminates this brilliantly.
“Spotlight” — which opens in New York, Los Angeles and Boston on Friday and nationwide later this month — chronicles the painstaking manner in which editors and writers at The Boston Globe documented a pattern of child sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests and the concealment of these crimes by Catholic leaders.

[I]t isn’t about journalism. Or, for that matter, Catholicism.  It’s about the damage done when we genuflect too readily before society’s temples, be they religious or governmental. It’s about the danger of faith that’s truly blind.

It takes place in 2001 and 2002, and that time frame itself is a remarkable reflection of how steadfastly most Americans resist any intrusion into religious groups, any indictment of religious officials. 

“Spotlight” is admirably blunt on this point, suggesting that the Globe staff — which, in the end, did the definitive reporting on church leaders’ complicity in the abuse — long ignored an epidemic right before their eyes.

Why? For some of the same reasons that others did. Many journalists, parents, police officers and lawyers didn’t want to think ill of men of the cloth, or they weren’t eager to get on the bad side of the church, with its fearsome authority and supposed pipeline to God.

“Spotlight” lays out the many ways in which deference to religion protected abusers and their abettors. At one point in the movie, a man who was molested as a boy tells a Globe reporter about a visit his mother got from the bishop, who was asking her not to press charges.

“She put out freakin’ cookies,” the man says.  When the cookies finally went away, many Catholic leaders insisted that the church was being persecuted, and the crimes of priests exaggerated, by spiteful secularists.

But if anything, the church had been coddled, benefiting from the American way of giving religion a free pass and excusing religious institutions not just from taxes but from rules that apply to other organizations.

A 2006 series in The Times, “In God’s Name,” noted that since 1989, “more than 200 special arrangements, protections or exemptions for religious groups or their adherents were tucked into congressional legislation, covering topics ranging from pensions to immigration to land use.”

To cloak sexual abuse and shield abusive priests, Catholic leaders and their lawyers routinely leaned on the church’s privileged status, invoking freedom of religion, the separation of church and state, and the secrecy of the confessional. They thus delayed a reckoning.

“If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one,” says a character in “Spotlight.” Indeed it does: a village too cowed, and a village too credulous.
We all need to grow up, open our eyes and demand tat the special privileges and exemptions enjoyed by churches and religious organizations (and their often charlatan leaders) end.  If they cannot operate and survive under the dame rules and tax policies as other institutions, then the deserve to wither and die.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

More Tuesday Male Beauty

Failed Right Wing Failed Policies and White Mortality Rates

I frequently post the cartoon image above to make the point that much of the Republican Party base is being played for fools (mostly by playing on their racism and bigotry) and convinced to vote against its own best interest.  But the problem goes far beyond foolishly supporting tax cuts for the rich and the slashing on regulations that protect citizens from vulture capitalism.  It goes to cheering the dismantling of social safety net programs and the right's refusal to put America's healthcare system on a par with that of other advanced industrial nations.  The irony, however, is in the fact that many angry white voters are rallying to support Republican candidates who, if allowed to do so, would make the plight of these individuals and their families even worse.  A column in the New York Times looks at the phenomenon and the way in which right wing policies are literally killing portions of the GOP base.  Here are highlights:

A couple of weeks ago President Obama mocked Republicans who are “down on America,”  . . . .  He had a point: With job growth at rates not seen since the 1990s, with the percentage of Americans covered by health insurance hitting record highs, the doom-and-gloom predictions of his political enemies look ever more at odds with reality.
There has been a lot of comment, and rightly so, over a new paper by the economists Angus Deaton (who just won a Nobel) and Anne Case, showing that mortality among middle-aged white Americans has been rising since 1999. This deterioration took place while death rates were falling steadily both in other countries and among other groups in our own nation.
Even more striking are the proximate causes of rising mortality. Basically, white Americans are, in increasing numbers, killing themselves, directly or indirectly. Suicide is way up, and so are deaths from drug poisoning and the chronic liver disease that excessive drinking can cause. We’ve seen this kind of thing in other times and places – for example, in the plunging life expectancy that afflicted Russia after the fall of Communism. But it’s a shock to see it, even in an attenuated form, in America.

 Yet the Deaton-Case findings fit into a well-established pattern. There have been a number of studies showing that life expectancy for less-educated whites is falling across much of the nation.

But what’s causing this epidemic of self-destructive behavior?   If you believe the usual suspects on the right, it’s all the fault of liberals.. . . . But (surprise!) this view is very much at odds with the evidence.

For one thing, rising mortality is a uniquely American phenomenon yet America has both a much weaker welfare state and a much stronger role for traditional religion and values than any other advanced country. Sweden gives its poor far more aid than we do, and a majority of Swedish children are now born out of wedlock, yet Sweden’s middle-aged mortality rate is only half of white America’s.

Life expectancy is high and rising in the Northeast and California, where social benefits are highest and traditional values weakest. Meanwhile, low and stagnant or declining life expectancy is concentrated in the Bible Belt.

Most notably, Hispanic Americans are considerably poorer than whites, but have much lower mortality. It’s probably worth noting, in this context, that international comparisons consistently find that Latin Americans have higher subjective well-being than you would expect, given their incomes.

So what is going on? In a recent interview Mr. Deaton suggested that middle-aged whites have “lost the narrative of their lives.” That is, their economic setbacks have hit hard because they expected better. Or to put it a bit differently, we’re looking at people who were raised to believe in the American Dream, and are coping badly with its failure to come true.

I’m not the only observer who sees a link between the despair reflected in those mortality numbers and the volatility of right-wing politics. Some people who feel left behind by the American story turn self-destructive; others turn on the elites they feel have betrayed them. No, deporting immigrants and wearing baseball caps bearing slogans won’t solve their problems, but neither will cutting taxes on capital gains. So you can understand why some voters have rallied around politicians who at least seem to feel their pain.

But while universal health care, higher minimum wages, aid to education, and so on would do a lot to help Americans in trouble, I’m not sure whether they’re enough to cure existential despair.
Yes, the Great Recession was brutal to many.  But cutting off your nose to spite your face as angry whites rallying to the GOP doesn't solve the overarching problems.  Like the columnist, I believe that universal health care, a higher minimum wage, improved education , etc., are not the whole answer.  Other elements are needed such as ending the embrace of ignorance, ending adherence to Bronze Age religious beliefs, and walking away for GOP dog whistle racism are also needed.  The GOP and Koch brothers may malign "Old Europe" yet Europe's nations for the most part are affording their citizens a better life style without rising mortality rates. 

Vatileaks: Vatican Properties Used as Brothels and Massage Parlours for Priests

Last month the bitter old men at the so-called Synod on the Family at the Vatican voted to maintain the Church's anti-gay and anti-woman.  Now, perhaps in retaliation or to merely humiliate the  corrupt and homophobic Roman Curia, a purported mole in the Vatican has leaked information suggesting that numerous Vatican owned properties in Rome are being used as brothels and massage parlors frequented by Catholic priests.   A piece in The Independent looks at this latest scandal and again notes that the Vatican owns the property that is home to Europe's largest gay sauna.  Equally delicious are reports that the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, a/k/a The Inquisition, is involved  with some of the properties.  Here are highlights:
Vatican-owned properties in Rome are operating as seedy saunas and massage parlours where priests pay for sex, according to the latest in a series of leaked reports to embarrass the Church.

It is also claimed that Vatican officials are allowing buildings to be rented out at peppercorn rents as favours to powerful colleagues and turning a blind eye to shady property deals, as well as allowing addresses to be used as red-light establishments.

Among the properties mentioned in the document, made public by a Vatican mole, are premises in two streets close to the Italian Parliament and a solarium near Piazza Barberini, according to press reports.

One particular Vatican department, the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, has been highlighted in the list. It owns hundreds of high-value properties in central Rome, worth hundreds of millions of euros.

Two years ago it emerged the Vatican had purchased a €23m (£16m) share of a Rome apartment block, 2 Via Carducci, which housed the Europa Multiclub, Europe’s biggest gay sauna. Tales of visiting priests were legion, and a section of the sauna’s website promoting special “bear nights” included a video of a hirsute man stripping down and changing into a priest’s outfit.

Meanwhile, sources quoted by Ansa news agency said that Pope Francis hoped to close the leak investigation and draw a line under the affair before the Vatican’s special Jubilee Year, which begins on 8 December. Some observers believe the leaks are part of a campaign to undermine his effort to reform the Curia.

One senior figure, Monsignor Lucio Vallejo Balda, and another official have been arrested by Vatican police over the leaks, while it has emerged that four cardinals have also been questioned.
Why do I find the word "hypocrites"  on my lips? 

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty

The GOP’s Embarrassing Vetting Season

As a number of recent posts have noted, the crop of 2016 GOP presidential candidates seems to be unusually filled with pathological liars with Ben Carson being but one of the candidates challenged when it comes to truth and veracity.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the GOP's problem of dishonest candidates - a phenomenon which should come as no surprise given the party's embrace of ignorance and self-prostitution to Christofascists who lie seemingly more than any other segment of society.  Here are column excerpts:
Welcome to the vetting season, in which presidential candidates’ résumés are pumped full of air, submerged in water and tested for bubbles like an inner tube. 

None of the Republican candidates, even the few with actual governing experience, has ever suffered the level of scrutiny given to a top-tier presidential prospect. It is part journalism, part tax audit, part fraternity hazing and part, especially when it comes to Republicans, ideological hit job. Only Democrat Hillary Clinton has made a career of sailing in this hurricane.

Carson’s claim that his treatment is unique — “I have not seen that with anyone else” — is disproved by, well, just about everyone else. Marco Rubio is being called to account for questionable purchases as a state representative on a GOP American Express card, including some flooring.

For Jeb Bush, the vetting process has been more about performance. How does he distinguish himself from the wallpaper in the debates? His town hall meetings, by one media account, are “charmingly anachronistic,” apparently because political discourse is better served by Twitter sarcasm. The real question: Is Bush’s stated refusal to be an “angry agitator” disqualifying in a political party that seems to view angry agitation as the sum of the political enterprise?

All the while, Donald Trump lobs sarcastic tweets, appears on late-night television and leads the RealClearPolitics average of polls. Trump is somehow enjoying the presidential vetting season as a spectator instead of a target. For about a quarter of the Republican electorate, there is apparently no scandal that could rock their high regard.

[W]hat does it mean that a significant portion of prospective GOP voters are seriously considering a leader who can’t be embarrassed because he is incapable of shame? A leader who can’t be disgraced because expectations are already so low?

The choice of a president, at least in theory, should have something to do with character, policy views, temperament, governing record and political philosophy. Trump is judged by his followers on an entirely different set of standards, imported from reality television. Is he entertaining? Check. Is he angry? Check. Does he demolish political correctness and political convention? Double check. Is he authentic? Ah, here is the rub.

By one definition, political authenticity is defined by the impulsive expression of everyman instincts. By another definition, authenticity means taking serious things — such as rhetoric and political ideas — seriously. The former unleashes and rides political passions. The latter channels passions into useful public purposes through political and governing skill. The former culminates in the cutting tweet. The latter in Lincoln writing and rewriting the Gettysburg Address or his second inaugural, which were made authentic through thought and craft.

So far, this is the sad, overall summary of the 2016 campaign: They took unserious things seriously.

Unfortunately, the column's author fails to  acknowledge that the party leadership welcomed the crazy and extreme elements into the GOP and that they are now reaping the whirlwind that they put into motion.

Mormon Church Wages New War Against Gays and Their Children

Like the Roman Catholic Church, the Mormon Church is more or less run by a bunch of bitter old men who take supreme joy in flexing their power over those in the pews and in punishing those who fail to adhere to their fairy tale beliefs (If the Bible is based on myth, the Book of Mormon is truly based on fairy tale).  Having lost the battle to stop civil law same sex marriage, the gaggle of old men at the top of the Mormon Church have decided to punish gays by attacking their children and barring them from participation in the Mormon Church until they reach 18 years of age and with the proviso that they dishtowel same sex marriage and, by extension, their parents.  Once again we see the least Christian conduct on display by those who most loudly proclaim their own piety.  Hopefully, what these bastards achieve will turn out to be an acceleration of the exodus Church members.  The New York Times looks at this ugly new tactic.  Here are highlights:
The changes to the Mormon handbook — disseminated last week to church leaders around the world — say that being in a same-sex marriage warrants ousting from the religion and that children of gay parents must wait until they are 18 and disavow homosexual relationships to be baptized.

The revisions set off a wave of anger, confusion and sadness for a growing faction of L.G.B.T.-supportive Mormons who were buoyed in recent years by church leaders’ calls for more love and understanding for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members.

In a video interview posted Friday night on a church website, a Mormon leader, D. Todd Christofferson, said the changes had been prompted by questions that arose after the United States Supreme Court in June made gay marriage legal throughout the United States.
The church, he said, considers same-sex marriage a particularly egregious sin that requires mandatory church discipline.

“There was the need for a distinction to be made between what may be legal and what may be the law of the church and the law of the Lord,” said Mr. Christofferson, a member of the religion’s governing Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “It’s a matter of being clear. It’s a matter of understanding right and wrong. It’s a matter of a firm policy that doesn’t allow for question and doubt.”

The new rules stipulate that children of parents in gay or lesbian relationships — be it marriage or just living together — can no longer receive blessings as infants or be baptized at about age 8. They can be baptized and serve missions once they turn 18, but only if they disavow the practice of same-sex relationships, no longer live with gay parents and get approval from their local leader and the highest leaders at church headquarters in Salt Lake City.

The handbook revisions also for the first time list being in a same-sex relationship as an offense that can lead to being ousted from the religion. This is a category known as apostasy, which until now has been reserved primarily for people who practice polygamy, teach inaccurate doctrine or publicly defy guidance from church leaders. 

Ms. Montgomery said news of the new rules left her son sobbing and forced her and her husband to consider leaving a religion they have been desperately trying to stay in, despite a harsh reception to their son’s coming out.

Ms. Montgomery echoed a response shared by many on social media: She can somewhat understand the hard stance on same-sex marriage, but she can’t comprehend singling out gay couples’ children.
“We just put a scarlet letter on these kids,” she said. “This isn’t my church. I don’t see God in it. I don’t see divinity it. It just feels evil.”

It is pure evil and sadly it reflects religion's main contribution to the world: hate, division, and the desperate attempt of the few to control the lives of the many.  A religion free world would be a better place.