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The Great American Bubble Machine

Saturday, June 27, 2009

From tech stocks to high gas prices, Goldman Sachs has engineered every major market manipulation since the Great Depression - and they're about to do it again

By Matt Taibbi
Rolling Stone


The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it's everywhere. The world's most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money. In fact, the history of the recent financial crisis, which doubles as a history of the rapid decline and fall of the suddenly swindled-dry American empire, reads like a Who's Who of Goldman Sachs graduates.

By now, most of us know the major players. As George Bush's last Treasury secretary, former Goldman CEO Henry Paulson was the architect of the bailout, a suspiciously self-serving plan to funnel trillions of Your Dollars to a handful of his old friends on Wall Street. Robert Rubin, Bill Clinton's former Treasury secretary, spent 26 years at Goldman before becoming chairman of Citigroup - which in turn got a $300 billion taxpayer bailout from Paulson. There's John Thain, the rear end in a top hat chief of Merrill Lynch who bought an $87,000 area rug for his office as his company was imploding; a former Goldman banker, Thain enjoyed a multibillion-dollar handout from Paulson, who used billions in taxpayer funds to help Bank of America rescue Thain's sorry company. And Robert Steel, the former Goldmanite head of Wachovia, scored himself and his fellow executives $225 million in golden parachute payments as his bank was self-destructing. There's Joshua Bolten, Bush's chief of staff during the bailout, and Mark Patterson, the current Treasury chief of staff, who was a Goldman lobbyist just a year ago, and Ed Liddy, the former Goldman director whom Paulson put in charge of bailed-out insurance giant AIG, which forked over $13 billion to Goldman after Liddy came on board. The heads of the Canadian and Italian national banks are Goldman alums, as is the head of the World Bank, the head of the New York Stock Exchange, the last two heads of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York - which, incidentally, is now in charge of overseeing Goldman - not to mention ...

But then, any attempt to construct a narrative around all the former Goldmanites in influential positions quickly becomes an absurd and pointless exercise, like trying to make a list of everything. What you need to know is the big picture: If America is circling the drain, Goldman Sachs has found a way to be that drain - an extremely unfortunate loophole in the system of Western democratic capitalism, which never foresaw that in a society governed passively by free markets and free elections, organized greed always defeats disorganized democracy.

The bank's unprecedented reach and power have enabled it to turn all of America into a giant pump-and-dump scam, manipulating whole economic sectors for years at a time, moving the dice game as this or that market collapses, and all the time gorging itself on the unseen costs that are breaking families everywhere - high gas prices, rising consumer-credit rates, half-eaten pension funds, mass layoffs, future taxes to pay off bailouts. All that money that you're losing, it's going somewhere, and in both a literal and a figurative sense, Goldman Sachs is where it's going: The bank is a huge, highly sophisticated engine for converting the useful, deployed wealth of society into the least useful, most wasteful and insoluble substance on Earth - pure profit for rich individuals.

They achieve this using the same playbook over and over again. The formula is relatively simple: Goldman positions itself in the middle of a speculative bubble, selling investments they know are crap. Then they hoover up vast sums from the middle and lower floors of society with the aid of a crippled and corrupt state that allows it to rewrite the rules in exchange for the relative pennies the bank throws at political patronage. Finally, when it all goes bust, leaving millions of ordinary citizens broke and starving, they begin the entire process over again, riding in to rescue us all by lending us back our own money at interest, selling themselves as men above greed, just a bunch of really smart guys keeping the wheels greased. They've been pulling this same stunt over and over since the 1920s - and now they're preparing to do it again, creating what may be the biggest and most audacious bubble yet....(Remainder.)

Taibbi-Goldman-Sachs

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Census Bureau: We’re Working With Bachmann To ‘Explain The Rules Of The Census’

By Amanda Terkel
Think Progress


In the past couple weeks, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) has used her public appearances to fear-monger about the 2010 Census. In a radio interview with the Washington Times, Bachmann said that she and her family would ignore most of the survey's questions and answer only "how many people are in our home. We won't be answering any information beyond that, because the Constitution doesn't require any information beyond that."

In an interview with Fox News, Bachmann suggested that the Obama administration could use the Census data for nefarious purposes — including the imprisonment of Americans in concentration camps:
BACHMANN: If we look at American history, between 1942 and 1947, the data that was collected by the census bureau was handed over to the FBI and other organizations, at the request of President Roosevelt, and that's how the Japanese were rounded up and put into the internment camps. I'm not saying that's what the Administration is planning to do. But I am saying that private, personal information that was given to the census bureau in the 1940s was used against Americans to round them up.
Yesterday, Census Bureau spokesman Steve Buckner spoke to Minnesota Public Radio and said that many of Bachmann's concerns were misguided. First, filling out the entire Census is required under federal law.

Second, Bachmann may be hurting her own constituents by not filling out all the necessary information. As Buckner said, the Census information — and the more detailed American Community Survey, which "goes to roughly 3 million addresses every year as part of a continual rolling survey" — is used to determine political representation and direct $300 billion in federal funds to state and local governments....(Remainder.)

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The 'Death Tax' Scam

America's wealthiest families are pouring millions into slashing the estate tax - and some Democrats are siding with the super-rich

By Michael Crowley
Illustration by Victor Juhasz
Rolling Stone


On a bright April day in Barack Obama's America, where equality is on the rise and greed is on the run, a Democratic senator from an impoverished Southern state took a brave stand — on behalf of the country's richest families.

On April 1st, Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, a state with the nation's third-lowest median income, sponsored a budget amendment that would sharply reduce taxes on the estates of multimillionaires after they die. Estates worth up to $7 million per couple, and $3.5 million for individuals, are already exempt from taxes — meaning that 99.75 percent of all Americans die without paying a dime to Uncle Sam. But Lincoln's proposal would raise the exemption to $10 million — and slash the tax rate on even larger estates from 45 percent to 35 percent. All told, the move would let the children of Wall Street barons, dot-com millionaires and wealthy industrialists pocket more than $90 billion in tax revenues over the next decade.

Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, was furious at Lincoln's move, calling it "so stunning, so outrageous that some would choose this hour of national crisis to push for an amendment to slash the estate tax for the superwealthy." Yet the tax cut passed with 51 votes — including 10 Democrats.

A few weeks later, during negotiations to reconcile the Senate's budget with the one passed by the House, the tax cut was undone. But the battle over the "death tax," as Republicans have shrewdly labeled it, is just beginning — and it involves one of the best-funded and most effective lobbying operations that Washington has ever seen. It is a movement that conservatives often portray as the work of a grass-roots uprising but in large measure has been propelled by a very small number of extremely rich people. "You have a group of wealthy families that are funding a very sophisticated effort," says Michael Graetz, a law professor at Yale who has studied the movement to repeal the estate tax. Over the past 20 years, those families have exerted their power in ways that can be traced, in a surprisingly direct way, to many of the Democrats who voted for Blanche Lincoln's amendment — and who are hoping for bigger victories this fall....(Remainder.)

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President Obama Weekly Address—Opening the Door to a Clean Energy Economy

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Eric Cantor Fails to Deliver RepubliCON Health Care Plan on Morning Joe


By Heather
Crooks and Liars


Eric Cantor is asked by MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan to explain just what the GOP's plan is for health care reform, and again, Cantor fails to give any details as to just what their plan is, other than saying no to a public option and offering consumers more "choice". Even Ratigan points out at the end of the interview that Cantor didn't answer his question.

As Jason Linkins pointed out at the HuffPo, Cantor had some similar trouble on the same show when asked by Mike Barnicle what the GOP's plan was for health care reform back on May 6th, 2009.

So we have the second failure on the same show within a little over a month for Cantor to actually respond in a meaningful way with details and to give them some specific answers on just what the GOP's health care plan entails. Willie Geist's response when Ratigan pointed out that Cantor didn't answer the question....we'll have him back on again to explain it.

Well if you couldn't pin him down the last two times you had him on the air to spout off Republican spin on health care reform with no specifics, what makes you think your viewers can expect anything different the next time you have him on Willie? It's a good thing you "real reporters" out there do such a fine job of holding our elected officials feet to the fire when you have the chance, unlike us "Cheetos-eating" bloggers out there you take such joy in insulting....(Remainder.)

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Total Ignorant Moron, Pat Buchanan, Thinks There's "Science" Saying Climate Change a Hoax

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Washed Up Actor, Ben Stein, Declares White House Using Czars to Empower Gays

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The White House—A Historic Energy Bill

By Jesse Lee
The White House


Today the House is slated to vote on the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. Yesterday the President weighed in heavily on the importance of passing this bill:



THE PRESIDENT: Hey, guys. Good afternoon. Right now, the House of Representatives is moving towards a vote of historic proportions on a piece of legislation that will open the door to a new clean energy economy.

For more than three decades, we've talked about our dependence on foreign oil. And for more than three decades, we've seen that dependence grow. We've seen our reliance on fossil fuels jeopardize our national security. We've seen it pollute the air we breathe and endanger our planet. And most of all, we've seen that others countries realize a critical truth: The nation that leads in the creation of a clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the 21st century global economy.

Now is the time for the United States of America to realize this, as well. Now is the time for us to lead. The energy bill before the House will finally create a set of incentives that will spark a clean energy transformation of our economy. It will spur the development of low-carbon sources of energy -- everything from wind, solar, and geothermal power to safe nuclear energy and cleaner coal. It will spur new energy savings like the efficient windows and other materials that reduce heating costs in the winter and cooling costs in the summer.

And most importantly, it will make possible the creation of millions of new jobs. Now, make no mistake -- this is a jobs bill. We're already seeing why this is true in the clean energy investments we're making through the Recovery Act. In California, 3,000 people will be employed to build a new solar plant that will create 1,000 jobs. In Michigan, investments in wind turbines and wind technology is expected to create over, 2,600 jobs. In Florida, three new solar projects are expected to employ 1,400 people.

The list goes on and on, but the point is this: This legislation will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy. That will lead to the creation of new businesses and entire new industries. And that will lead to American jobs that pay well and can't be outsourced.

I've often talked about the need to build a new foundation for economic growth so that we don't return to the endless cycle of bubble and bust that has led us into this deep recession. Clean energy and the jobs it creates will be absolutely critical to that new foundation.

This legislation has also been written carefully to address the concerns that many have expressed in the past. Instead of increasing the deficit, it's paid for by the polluters who currently emit dangerous carbon emissions. It provides assistance to businesses and families as they make the gradual transition to clean energy technologies. It gives rural communities and farmers the opportunity to participate in climate solutions and generate new income. And above all, it will protect consumers from the costs of this transition so that in a decade, the price to the average American will be about the same as a postage stamp per day.

Because this legislation is so balanced and sensible, it's already attracted a remarkable coalition of consumer and environmental groups, labor and business leaders, Democrats and Republicans.

Now I urge every member of Congress -- Democrat and Republican -- to come together to support this legislation. I can't stress enough the importance of this vote. I know this is going to be a close vote, in part because of the misinformation that's out there that suggests there's somehow a contradiction between investing in clean energy and our economic growth. But my call to those members of Congress who are still on the fence, as well as to the American people, is this: We cannot be afraid of the future, and we can't be prisoners of the past. We've been talking about this issue for decades, and now is the time to finally act.

There's no disagreement over whether our dependence on foreign oil is endangering our security; we know it is. There's no longer a debate about whether carbon pollution is placing our planet in jeopardy; it's happening. And there's no longer a question about whether the jobs and the industries of the 21st century will be centered around clean, renewable energy. The only question is, which country will create these jobs and these industries? And I want that answer to be the United States of America. And I believe that the American people and the men and women they sent to Congress share that view.

So let's take this opportunity to come together and meet our obligations -- to our constituents, to our children, to God's creation, and to future generations. Thank you very much.

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Keith Olbermann's Hilarious Spoof: The Real Republicans of 2012

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Commonsense Health Care Reform Infomercial

The Colbert Report Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Commonsense Health Care Reform Infomercial
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Mark Sanford

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False Health-Scare Ad on CNN

A right-wing group called Conservatives for Patients’ Rights is airing a political attack ad against the idea of a public option for health insurance by turning upside down an analysis showing that 119 million Americans would jump from their private health insurer to a government plan if one existed.

By Robert Parry
Consortium News


According to that analysis, 119 million Americans – roughly two-thirds of those now on private plans – would defect to a public option if they had a choice. But the right-wing group, in airing its ad on CNN, presents that number as a case of denying those Americans the choice of staying on their private plans.

“Experts say a government plan could result in 119 million Americans coming off their existing coverage,” a woman’s voice intones over the image of a Wall Street Journal article. “They’d end up on a government-run plan.”

However, those 119 million Americas would be “coming off their existing coverage,” according to the analysis, because many would choose a public health option over their existing private plan. In other words, what the CPR group wants to do is to deny those 119 million Americans the choice that many of them want.

In opening the ad, CPR leader Rick Scott explicitly flips the issue of “choice,” maintaining that a public option “could mean taking away your choice.”

Scott is a multimillionaire who built Columbia/HCA into the largest U.S. health-care company before being removed by the board of directors in 1997 after a fraud investigation that led to a guilty plea for the company on overbilling state and federal health plans and to a record $1.7 billion in fines....(Remainder.)

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Sen. Max Baucus and the NY Times: Profiles in Jello

By P.M. Carpenter
The Fifth Columnist at Buzz Flash


I have searched for even the slimmest thread of journalistic redemption in yesterday's elaborately cuddly New York Times profile of the "soft-spoken but tenacious" Max Baucus, who, "as [he] pursues his goal" of health-care reform in America, knows "one challenge is his own reputation." But I'll be damned if I can find one.

Not only are we treated to press-office, stenographically heroic puff such as that above, there are direct quotes of personal nobility to boot: "I think I'm the luckiest guy in the world," mused Baucus (who, we also learn to our great astonishment, "loves everything Montana"), for "I am at the point to be able to do something really significant, really meaningful, and it must be done."

Gritty, plucky, and determined. That's Max for you, the messianic reformer ridin' in from the wild and unruly West, with a Tony Curtis glint in his eye and sparkle to his teeth: Yes, the Times gives you Montana's Sen. Max Baucus, who "said he had been preparing for this role since he was elected to the Senate in 1978, and viewed this as his moment ... to make history."

But just what, from the final four words of paragraph two, is "it"?

Who the hell knows? From the Times piece we reap only cryptic coyness: "He laid down his marker after the November election, releasing a 98-page white paper on reshaping health care."

Almost literally, end of story, because from there we are led only to a brief, fawning observation from OMB director Peter Orszag about how Baucus "was intent on identifying solutions" -- "I am struck," said Orszag, "by how he describes this as fun" -- and then, quite literally, end of story.

Here and there we do gather intimations. "In more than a year of preparation" -- remember, he's gritty, he's plucky, he's determined -- "Mr. Baucus largely developed a new model for writing complex legislation, bringing in an array of interest groups, lobbyists and other experts to lay out issues and options for senators and aides."

A new model. What in God's name is the NY Times talking about? When it hails itself as the "paper of record," does it mean for Athenian democracy? -- because the legislatively whorish hauling in of an "array of interest groups, lobbyists and other experts" is at least that ancient of a practice....(Remainder.)

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Why Do Christians Want Health Insurance?

By VJack
Atheist Revolution


It was almost a year ago that I unveiled my health care plan. Now that the Obama administration is moving ahead on their own plan for reforming American health care, I have a good excuse to revisit it. Instead of merely rehashing it, I'd like to use it to inquire into whether most Christians really believe what they often claim to believe.

Do Christians Really Believe What They Claim to Believe?

One of the things that has always bugged me about Christians is that there often seems to be a massive discrepancy between what they claim to believe and how they behave. Health care offers an excellent example of what I am talking about. For the Christians who claim to believe that they have a personal relationship with Jesus and are cared for by a benevolent god, why do they need health insurance? Why avail themselves of modern medicine at all? Shouldn't prayer be sufficient?

An obvious explanation is that the Christians who take advantage of medical treatment do not actually believe what they claim to believe. They may say that they are content to trust their god, etc., but their use of the health care system suggests otherwise.

I can accept such an explanation (i.e., that many Christians do not actually believe what they often claim to believe). In fact, I find it at least somewhat encouraging. But is it accurate? And if so, why do so many continue to insist they they really believe such things?...(Remainder.)

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Fiscal Conservative? GOP Rep. Defends Wasteful Military Spending

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WaPo Discovers C Street

By emptywheel
Emptywheel at Firedoglake


Kudos to Citizen92 who first asked where Tom Coburn and John Ensign lived together, which led me to figure out that it was at "the Family's" C Street residence. Because, now that TPMM and I keep posting on the connection between a shady Christian group and the latest Republican affairs, the WaPo has decided to cover it (or at least the house, without much discussion of "the Family," and certainly no link to the blog that first covered it).

Mostly, though, the WaPo catches people trying to disassociate from the hypocritical adulterers.
First, at least one resident learned of both the Sanford and Ensign affairs and tried to talk each politician into ending his philandering, a source close to the congressman said. Then the house drama escalated. It was then that Doug Hampton, the husband of Ensign's mistress, endured an emotional meeting with  Sen. Tom Coburn, who lives there, according to the source. The topic was forgiveness.

"He was trying to be a peacemaker," the source said of Coburn, a Republican from Oklahoma.

Although Sanford visited the house, there is no indication that he was ever a resident; when he was in Congress from 1995 to 2000, the parsimonious lawmaker was famous for forgoing his housing allowance and bunking in his Capitol Hill office. But it is not uncommon for residents to invite fellow congressmen to the home for spiritual bonding. There, Sanford enjoyed a kind of alumnus status. Richard Carver, president of the Fellowship Foundation, said, "I don't think it's intended to have someone from South Carolina get counseling there." But he posited that Sanford turned to C Street "because he built a relationship with people who live in the house."

People familiar with the house say the downstairs is generally used for meals and prayer meetings. Volunteers help facilitate prayer meetings, they said. Residents include  Reps. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.),  Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.), Ensign and Coburn. None of the congressmen agreed to be interviewed for this article. But associates of some of Ensign's housemates privately worried that the other residents would be tarred by the scandals.

"That two fell doesn't prove that the house -- which has seen many members of Congress pass through and engage in Bible studies -- doesn't mean that the house has failed," said conservative columnist Cal Thomas, who once spoke to a group of interns at the house. "If that was the standard, the whole Congress would be corrupt." [my emphasis]
Sorry, Cal Thomas. "The whole of Congress" does not practice the same kind of sanctimonious hypocrisy. And "the whole of Congress" does not exploit moralistic platitudes to accrue power.

So while you may not think it a failure for an organization that tries to mobilize faux Christian spirituality in pursuit of power, it is a failure that "the Family" owns....(Original.)

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Theocracy

By David Horsey
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer



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Cap-and-Trade, State-by-State

By Nate Silver
FiveThirtyEight.com


Regional considerations tend to loom larger in debates over environmental policy than in other sorts of affairs. Some states consume more energy than others. Some states have more carbon-intensive economies than others. Some states are more or less likely to be negatively impacted by global warming. And some states are better equipped to take advantage of green energy development.

Today, I'm going to focus on the first of those concerns: household energy usage. The goal here is simple: the Congressional Budget Office recently put out an estimate (.pdf) of the costs of the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill. The CBO estimated that the average American household would wind up paying a net of $175 in additional energy costs in the year it benchmarked, which was 2020. But how does that cost translate to individual states?

First, here's the map, and then I'll explain how I arrived at these numbers:



Before I go any further, let me make clear that my objective is to translate the CBO's numbers, using my best interpretation of the CBO's assumptions, to the level of individual states. I don't make any other sort of judgment about the reliability of their numbers. If you don't like the CBO's numbers, you won't like mine....(Remainder.)

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Ayatollah GOP

By Mike Lane
Caglecartoons.com



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On the DNC's Gay Fundraiser Controversy: It Started With that Hateful DOMA Brief

By Joe Sudbay
AMERICAblog


Since the AP did a piece on the DNC fundraiser, we should, too. After all, AMERICAblog helped get the ball rolling on this issue.

Coincidentally, I got a phone call from the DNC today. I looked at my caller ID, which read "DEM NATL COMM" -- and, thought, that can't be. After the woman started her pitch, I said, stop. I'm not giving to the DNC until the Obama administration shows some real action on gay issues, specifically the repeal of DADT and DOMA. I told the telemarketer to put that in my record so no one else would ask. She told me it had only been less than 200 days (that's the "give it some time" argument, which might have worked a month ago) to which I responded, read the DOMA brief.

That's what really caused the rift. The DOMA brief. The hateful, vicious DOMA brief. I'll never forget reading through that document for the first time, not really believing what I was seeing. And, Robert Gibbs told us that the President stands by that brief. Fine. But, don't ask me for anything til it's fixed.

Meanwhile, a lot of gays want things from the administration -- like jobs. Mike Signorile has been asking people who are going to the DNC fundraiser why they're still going. Funny thing how both Joan Garry and Dixon Osborne have sent resumes to Team Obama at one time or another. I also bet we could find another defender or two -- or many -- who have been looking for administration jobs. I know we could. They should just be honest about their motives.

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) will be protesting at the DNC fundraiser tonight. 265 people have been discharged since Barack Obama became president. That's just wrong. And, how any self-respecting member of the LGBT community can walk right by them tonight is beyond me. But, like I've written before, self-respecting is the operative word....(Remainder.)

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Caught With Their Pants Down

By Daryl Cagel
MSNBC.com



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The Homophobic State Rep. Sally Kern is at it Again

By Rusty Surette
News 9


OKLAHOMA CITY -- An Oklahoma lawmaker is once again drawing criticism from gay and lesbian groups from across the nation.

State Representative Sally Kern, and a host of other lawmakers, civic and religious leaders, will gather at the State Capitol next month to sign the "Oklahoma Citizen's Proclamation for Morality."

The proclamation urges Oklahoma residents to acknowledge the need for a national awakening of righteousness, but critics say Rep. Kern is again mixing politics and religion.

"Instead of dealing with issues that she ought to be dealing with, it seems she's advocating her religious views once again which is not the proper purview of an elected official," said Rev. Scott Jones, an openly gay pastor in Oklahoma City.

The proclamation attacks President Barack Obama for supporting the nationwide gay pride events that are scheduled throughout the month of June.

It states: "Whereas, deeply disturbed that the Office of the president of these United States disregards the biblical admonitions to live clean and pure lives by proclaiming an entire month to an immoral behavior."

Kern said the proclamation's timing has nothing to do with gay pride festivals happening this month, but many are not buying it.

"Yes, I think it's a response to this celebration and I'm concerned about the economic issues, particularly as they relate to moral and spiritual issues as a pastor, but those issues are more people falling into poverty, millions of Americans without health insurance, more people going hungry, the exploitation of the environment. Representative Kern, a public official doesn't address any of these moral issues," Jones said.

In her proclamation, Kern also blames people outside of Wall Street and Washington for the national recession....(Remainder.)

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U.S. Cyber Command: 404 Error, Mission Not (Yet) Found



By Noah Shachtman

Danger Room @ Wired.com


Earlier this week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates ordered the military to start setting up a new “U.S. Cyber Command.” It’s a move that’s been discussed in defense circles for more than a year. But despite the announcement — and despite the lengthy debate – no one in the military-industrial complex seems all that sure what this new fighting force is supposed to do, exactly.

Officially, the Pentagon still has a few months to figure things out. Gates told his troops in a Tuesday memo that they have until September 1st to come up with an “implementation plan” for the new command. But there’s a ton to figure out in the next ten weeks. As Gates notes, that plan will have to “delineate USCYBERCOM’s mission, roles and responsibilities,” detail the command’s “minimum requirements” to get up and running, and sort out its “relationships” with the rest of the military – and the rest of the government.

In other words, just about everything.

Let me paraphrase a series of conversations I’ve had this week with people working on this new command: Is CYBERCOM supposed to be a new fighting force, a glorified IT department, an intelligence agency, or what? Mmmmm, unclear, to be determined. If it’s a fighting force, how much offense or defense will it play? To be determined. And what does cyber defense really mean, these days? TBD. If it’s an intelligence agency, how far will the command go to protect civil liberties? To snoop on everyone, in the name of network security? TBD. TBD.

Further complicating matters is that CYBERCOM might significantly reorder how the Pentagon organizes its geek brigades. (Or not. That’s TBD, too.) Each of the armed services already employs thousands of people to keep its data and communications networks flowing. The Defense Department already has an in-house shop, dedicated to building and maintaining its networks: the Defense Information Systems Agency, or DISA. It has also has a far-flung group of cybersnoops, counter-snoops, and network attackers; that would be the National Security Agency, or NSA....(Remainder.)

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Climate Change Bill Passes Key Congress Vote

By Suzanne Goldenberg
The Guardian


America has taken historic action against climate change, with the US Congress voting to reduce the carbon emissions that cause global warming.

The house of representatives has voted 219 to 212 to bind the US to cutting carbon emissions by 17% from 2005 levels in 2020 and 83% in 2050. It will also set up a national cap and trade system.

Democrats claimed the bill – the first such measure ever to win a vote in Congress – as an important victory.

"The house has passed the most important energy and environment bill in our nation's history," said Ed Markey, one of the bill's authors.  "Scientists say global warming is a dangerous man-made problem. Today we are saying clean energy will be the American-made solution."

Even the bill's most implacable opponents acknowledged its importance in transforming US energy use. "This could be the defining bill of this Congress," said Republican house leader John Boehner.

The bill must still clear the Senate – where it faces even more daunting odds – before it can be signed into law. But the vote was indisputably an important victory for Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. For Obama, it was a first step towards redemption of one of his signature campaign promises, within six months of coming to the White House.

The vote also delivers an important boost to the prospects of reaching an agreement for international action on climate change at Copenhagen this year....(Remainder.)

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White House Watched

By Dan Froomkin
The Washington Post


Today's column is my last for The Washington Post. And the first thing I want to say is thank you. Thank you to all you readers, e-mailers, commenters, questioners, Facebook friends and Twitterers for spending your time with me and engaging with me over the years. And thank you for the recent outpouring of support. It was extraordinarily uplifting, and I'm deeply grateful. If I ever had any doubt, your words have further inspired me to continue doing accountability journalism. My plan is to take a few weeks off before embarking upon my next endeavor -- but when I do, I hope you'll join me.

It's hard to summarize the past five and a half years. But I'll try.

I started my column in January 2004, and one dominant theme quickly emerged: That George W. Bush was truly the proverbial emperor with no clothes. In the days and weeks after the 9/11 terror attacks, the nation, including the media, vested him with abilities he didn't have and credibility he didn't deserve. As it happens, it was on the day of my very first column that we also got the first insider look at the Bush White House, via Ron Suskind's book, The Price of Loyalty. In it, former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill described a disengaged president "like a blind man in a room full of deaf people", encircled by "a Praetorian guard,” intently looking for a way to overthrow Saddam Hussein long before 9/11. The ensuing five years and 1,088 columns really just fleshed out that portrait, describing a president who was oblivious, embubbled and untrustworthy.

When I look back on the Bush years, I think of the lies. There were so many. Lies about the war and lies to cover up the lies about the war. Lies about torture and surveillance. Lies about Valerie Plame. Vice President Dick Cheney's lies, criminally prosecutable but for his chief of staff Scooter Libby's lies. I also think about the extraordinary and fundamentally cancerous expansion of executive power that led to violations of our laws and our principles....(Remainder.)

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Biden Doesn't Get It

By John Aravosis
AMERICAblog


Biden yesterday about the gay brouhaha:
“I am not unaware of the controversies swirling around this dinner,” Biden said, “swirling around the speed -- or lack thereof -- that we’re moving on issues that are of great importance to you and, quite frankly, to me and to the President and to millions of Americans.”
No, it's not the lack of speed. It's the fact that you compared us to pedophiles and incest. The fact that you're still kicking out two gay service members a day, and that you have the power to implement a stop-loss order immediately.

The sad part is, it's actually possible that no one even told him what the problem actually is.

The DNC is spinning the event as a million dollar fundraiser. We've seen reports that there were 180 people there -- and not sure all of them paid. Rumors are the haul was probably closer to $250,000, which is still a lot of money. We'll have to see if today's spin matches the actual numbers. The DNC has to file FEC reports every month. The next reporting deadline is Tuesday, June 30th. So, we'll see the reports in July. Then, we'll know who gave and how much....(Original.)

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White House is Drafting Executive Order to Allow Indefinite Detention; Move Would Bypass Congress

Getty Images/AP Images/Lauren Victoria Burke/wdcpix.com

By Dafna Linzer and Peter Finn
ProPublica and Washington Post


The Obama administration, fearing a battle with Congress that could stall plans to close Guantanamo, is drafting an executive order that would reassert presidential authority to incarcerate suspected terrorists indefinitely, according to three senior government officials with knowledge of White House deliberations.

Such an order would embrace claims by former President George W. Bush that certain people can be detained without trial for long periods under the laws of war. Obama advisers are concerned that bypassing Congress could place the president on weaker footing before the courts and anger key supporters, the officials said.

After months of internal debate over how to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, White House officials are growing increasingly worried that reaching quick agreement with Congress on a new detention system may prove impossible. Several officials said there is concern in the White House that the administration may not be able to close the facility by the president's January 2010 deadline.

White House spokesman Ben LaBolt did not directly respond to questions about an executive order but said the administration would address the cases of Guantanamo detainees in a manner "consistent with the national security interests of the United States and the interests of justice."

One administration official suggested the White House was already trying to build support for an executive order....(Remainder.)

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Iranian Cleric Urges Executing Some Protesters

Cleric's call for executing some protesters signals harsh new turn in Iran

By William J. Kole
Associated Press via ABC News


Iranian men pray after listening to the Friday prayer sermon, delivered by the Islamic republic's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on June 19, 2009 at Tehran University. (OLIVIER LABAN-MATTEI/AFP/Getty Images)
EDITOR'S NOTE: Iranian authorities have barred journalists for international news organizations from reporting on the streets and ordered them to stay in their offices. This report is based on the accounts of witnesses reached in Iran and official statements carried on Iranian media.

———

A senior cleric on Friday urged Iran's protest leaders to be punished "without mercy" and said some should face execution — harsh calls that signal a nasty new turn in the regime's crackdown on demonstrators two weeks after its disputed election.

Hard-liners have ordered long sentences and hangings before, and some fear those awaiting trial by a judiciary whose verdicts reflect the will of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei could face the most severe punishments the Islamic system can dish out.

"Anyone who takes up arms to fight with the people, they are worthy of execution," Ayatollah Ahmed Khatami, a ranking cleric, said in a nationally broadcast sermon at Tehran University.

Khatami said those who disturbed the peace and destroyed public property were "at war with God" and should be "dealt with without mercy."

His call for merciless retribution for those who stirred up Iran's largest wave of dissent since the 1979 Islamic Revolution came as Mir Hossein Mousavi, the nation's increasingly isolated opposition leader, has been under heavy pressure to give up his fight and slipped even further from view.
...(Remainder.)

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Fox News Talking Monkey and Mental Midget Kilmeade Falsely Says Cap-and-Trade Will Raise Unemployment

By Media Matters

Teasing an interview with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on the June 26 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade asked of the cap-and-trade legislation currently being debated in Congress: "[C]ould it, in fact, double the unemployment numbers? House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer joins us next hour. We'll see if he can explain the numbers." Kilmeade did not provide any evidence that the bill would double the unemployment rate, and the Fox & Friends co-hosts did not return to the issue during the interview with Hoyer. However, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis of the bill -- which co-host Steve Doocy referenced during the Hoyer interview -- stated that "any aggregate change in unemployment would be small compared with the normal rate of job turnover in the economy."

From the CBO analysis:
CBO expects total employment to be only modestly affected by a cap-and-trade program to reduce GHG emissions. Except during cyclical downturns such as the current recession, most individuals who seek employment are able to find jobs, and a cap-and-trade program would not greatly diminish that ability. Some regions and industries would experience substantially higher rates of unemployment and job turnover as the program became increasingly stringent. That transition could be particularly difficult for individuals employed in those industries (such as the coal industry) or living in those regions (such as Appalachia). However, any aggregate change in unemployment would be small compared with the normal rate of job turnover in the economy.
From the June 26 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
KILMEADE: Have you heard of the climate change bill? Do you care? Well, you should. Some say it's just another way to get more money from taxpayers. And could it, in fact, double the unemployment numbers? House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer joins us next hour. We'll see if he can explain the numbers, and if they have the numbers in the House to pass it....
(Remainder.)

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Faux News Still Peddling Debunked Cap-and-Trade Cost Figure

By Media Matters

On the June 26 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox News advanced the conservative claim that Democrats' cap-and-trade plan will cost American families $3,100 per year, a figure based on congressional Republicans' distortion of a 2007 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) study that has been discredited by one of the study's authors. Co-host Gretchen Carlson said that "the goal of the bill is to reduce emissions by 2020, but some say it's just another way to get more money from taxpayers without them realizing it," and an on-screen graphic read, "Cold to the climate bill: Some say could cost $3,100 per household." Later, libertarian author Wayne Allyn Root -- who Carlson hosted to discuss the bill along with conservative columnist Ann Coulter and Rock the Vote former president Jehmu Greene -- said the plan is "the biggest tax increase in history" and that the "people in control now are not even liberal, they are socialist." During the segment, no one mentioned that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that in 2020, the bill would have an average cost of $175 per household per year -- a fact co-host Steve Doocy mentioned in a segment on the bill about an hour later.



According to a May 28 article on FactCheck.org, "Leading Republicans are claiming that President Obama's proposal to curb greenhouse gas emissions would cost households as much as $3,100 per year. The Republican National Committee calls it a 'massive national energy tax.' But the $3,100 figure is a misrepresentation of both Obama's proposal and the study from which the number is derived."

From the article:
Obama himself once said energy costs would "skyrocket" under his plan, but the GOP's partisan claim of a $3,100 per household cost increase is far higher than figures produced by other studies. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates the average cost per household to be between $98 and $140 per year, based on the Democratic cap-and-trade bill working its way through the House. Even the conservative, pro-Republican Heritage Foundation figures the average family would see its energy bill increase by $1,500 a year, less than half what the GOP claims. A Congressional Budget Office expert recently estimated the cost per household at an average of $1,600 a year, but that figure doesn't account for energy rebates Obama has proposed giving to consumers. If the government did use revenue from cap and trade "to pay an equal lump-sum rebate to every household," the CBO expert said, "lower-income households could be better off."...
(Remainder.)

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In Same Sentence, The Baby Jesus Cites CBO Numbers on Health Care, While Ignoring CBO Numbers on Cap-and-Trade

By Media Matters

On the June 24 edition of his Fox News show, Sean Hannity selectively cited "the impact of the [Congressional Budget Office] numbers and the CBO scoring" while discussing health care reform, but not its estimate for cap-and-trade legislation. Hannity stated: "A lot of people haven't paid attention to it, and the impact of the CBO numbers and the CBO scoring, nor are people paying attention to this cap and tax, which could cost us nearly 3 million jobs and literally tax American families about $2,000 each." However, Hannity ignored that CBO estimated in a June 19 analysis of the American Clean Energy and Security Act that the net impact to households from the bill in 2020 would range between a benefit of $40 per year and a cost of $340 per year, with an average cost of $175 per year -- a figure significantly less than $2,000.

As Media Matters for America has noted, as of June 23, several media figures -- including Hannity -- had yet to report on CBO's analysis, despite advancing conservative claims that cap-and-trade legislation favored by President Obama and congressional Democrats would cost thousands of dollars per household.

According to CBO, "That net impact would reflect both the added costs that households experienced because of higher prices and the share of the allowance value that they received in the form of benefit payments, rebates, tax decreases or credits, wages, and returns on their investments." From the analysis:



(Remainder.)

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Olbermann Covers The Pig-Man's Suggestion That Obama is To Blame for Sanford's Affair

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Fox Nation on Cap-and-Trade Bill: "Treason? House Passes Direct Assault on Industrial Base of America"

Via Media Matters


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The Lying Sack of Dog Mess Cuts Up a Watermelon, and Tries to Say Cap-and-Trade is Communist

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The Savage Weiner FINALLY Let's His Gayness Come Out in Criticizing Michelle Obama's Fashion

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Anti-American and Seditionist, Beck, Calls Cap-and-Trade Supporters "Wicked," "Treasonous"

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Racist, Ranting, Retarded and Rotund Limbaugh Says Obama is "More African...Than American"

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The Savage Weiner Blames Obama for Ensign and Sanford Scandals. What an Ass.

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Raving Lunatic, Glenn Beck, Thinks the US is Developing an Indian Like Caste System

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NY Times Uncritically Reports Sessions' Misrepresentation of Sotomayor's Foreign Law Speech

By Media Matters

A June 26 New York Times article uncritically reported Sen. Jeff Sessions' (R-AL) comments on Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor's April speech on the relevance of foreign law to U.S. judges. But the Times did not note that Sessions was distorting Sotomayor's statements. The Times reported that Sessions stated in a Senate floor statement: "To submit ourselves to their political policies while pretending we are merging our law with theirs is just plain foolishness," and that, "The question is, Who does the judge serve? The people of the United States or the people of the world or some individual country with whom they agree?" The Times added: "Mr. Sessions quoted a speech that Judge Sotomayor gave to the Puerto Rico chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union in April, shortly after being contacted by the White House about the vacancy on the Supreme Court." In fact, Sotomayor did not advocate "submit[ing] ourselves" to foreign law or "merging our law" with foreign law in the speech Sessions cited. While Sotomayor advocated in favor of U.S. judges considering ideas from foreign law in the speech, she also specifically said: "American analytical principles do not permit us to use that law to decide our cases."

In the speech, Sotomayor stated, "I always find it strange when people ask me, 'How do Americans' courts use foreign and international decisions -- law in making their decisions?' And I pause and say, 'We don't use foreign or international law. We consider the ideas that are suggested by international and foreign law.' " She went on to state, "American analytical principles do not permit us to use that law to decide our cases. But nothing in the American legal system stops us from considering the ideas that that law can give us." Instead, Sotmayor advocated judges using the underlying ideas within the analytic framework of the American legal system, stating, "All of this said it is not to suggest, however, that we don't use the ideas of foreign courts in some of our decision-making." She concluded:
It is my hope that judges everywhere will continue to do this, because I personally believe that it is part of our obligation to think about things not outside of the American legal system, but within the American legal system we're commanded to interpret our law in the best way we can, and that means looking to what other -- anyone has said, to see if it has persuasive value.
(Remainder.)

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Mika Brzezinski's Double Standard

By Jamison Foser
Media Matters


In the wake of South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford's admission of an affair with an Argentine woman, MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski complained of a "double standard" in the way affairs by politicians "are judged," insisting that Republicans are treated more harshly than Democrats. Brzezinski didn't explicitly say the media play a role in that alleged "double standard," but that's the only plausible interpretation of her comments -- surely she isn't accusing the American people of bias.

Now, if Brzezinski wants to say that the media should leave Sanford alone, I won't take issue with that. There is a pretty good argument to be made that Sanford's marriage is none of our business. (There is also a pretty strong argument to be made that you forfeit privacy in your own extramarital affairs when you tell others who they can and can't wed, and when you insist that other politicians caught in affairs should resign.)

But Brzezinski's claim of a double standard in which the media make a bigger deal out of the affairs of Republican politicians than Democrats is pure bunk and cannot be allowed to go undisputed.

Nobody would expect an affair involving a senator or governor or even a speaker of the House to garner as much attention as one involving a sitting president. But nobody who was paying attention in 1998 can plausibly claim that the media give Democrats a pass. The feeding frenzy set off by the Lewinsky story that January is simply unmatched in history. It was the dominant topic in newspapers, on evening news broadcasts, and on cable news every day for a year. Nothing has come close to the sustained level of wall-to-wall media coverage the Lewinksy story was given. Not the three presidential elections that have happened since, not the war in Iraq -- nothing. Media coverage of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the 2000 recount arguably came close to that of Lewinsky in terms of intensity, but for a much shorter period of time....(Remainder.)

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PA Homophobic Hate Merchant, John Eichelberge, Says Homosexual Relationships are Dysfunctional


By John Amato
Crooks and Liars


Isn't it always the same with these homophobes? They say that their words are taken out of context when they are criticized for their remarks.

WJAC-TV has the news:
Abby: Marty, Sen. Eichelberger tells me his radio debate over same sex marriage was taken out of context and he adds that the group that's demanding an apology is making it difficult for people on both sides of the issue to have a proper discussion.

Host: But are you saying Sen. Eichelberger that by their very nature, homosexual relationships are dysfunctional?

Eichelberger Um, yes, I guess I would say that.

Nice try with the out-of-context canard. PA's (R) John Eichelberger really has people mad over his radio debate and rightly so. (h/t Ben)
Sen.John Eichelberger, R-Pa., is making headlines after a gay rights advocacy group claims he made some controversial comments.The Keystone Progress claims Eichelberger called same-sex couples "dysfunctional" and "we're allowing them to exist."  Eichelberger debated Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Pa., on WHYY radio Friday.Both senators have dueling bills on same-sex marriage in the State Legislature.  Leach wants to amend the Pennsylvania ban on same sex marriage to give same sex couples full and equal rights.

Eichelberger says his bill will define marriage between a man and a woman."There's no reason to encourage that kind of behavior in Pennsylvania," Eichelberger said. "That's my whole point. We don't have any reason to change the way we do business here. There is no evidence that this will be good for our society."...read on.
He plays the "destruction of society" card. They never tell you how gay marriage will destroy society though, do they?...(Remainder.)

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Totally Insane Michele Bachmann Says Census Was Used to Put Japanese In Camps


By Heather
Crooks and Liars


Michelle Bachmann once again proves to America that she's downright insane. TPM and Think Progress have more debunking Bachmann's fear mongering.
Bachmann: Take this into consideration. If we look at American history, between 1942 and 1947, the data that was collected by the census bureau was handed over to the FBI and other organizations, at the request of President Roosevelt, and that’s how the Japanese were rounded up and put into the internment camps. I’m not saying that’s what the Administration is planning to do. But I am saying that private, personal information that was given to the census bureau in the 1940s was used against Americans to round them up and put the Japanese in internment camps.
(Original.)

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Feds Indict White Supremacists in Arizona Bombing

By Larry Keller
Hatewatch at SPLC


One of two brothers indicted this week in connection with the bombing of a Scottsdale, Ariz., diversity office was a former Klansman and leading skinhead recruiter  with a predilection for explosives.

As part of a sweeping undercover investigation that led to the indictment, federal agents also raided the Indiana home of longtime white separatist Tom Metzger on Thursday, removing computers and other items, but not arresting him.

In another related move, a man described as a white supremacist with expertise in weapons and the making of napalm was arrested on his rural property in Missouri and charged with being a felon in possession of firearms.

Dennis Mahon, 58, and his twin brother, Daniel, were arrested Thursday following the search of a home in Davis Junction, Ill. A federal grand jury indictment in Arizona charges them with conspiring to damage and destroy buildings and property. “The object of the conspiracy was to promote racial discord on behalf of the ‘White Aryan Resistance,’” the indictment states. WAR is a white supremacist organization founded by Metzger more than a quarter century ago.

The Mahons each face up to 40 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if they’re convicted of conspiring to damage buildings and property by means of an explosive. Dennis Mahon also has been charged with two additional violations: malicious damage of a building by means of an explosive, which carries up to 40 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and distribution of information related to explosives, which carries up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine....(Remainder.)

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Christian Groups Defend Abusive Ex-Gay "Exorcism"

By Jim Burroway
Box Turtle Bulletin


This video documents severe abuse, pure and simple:
It shows church members standing the youth on his feet by holding him under his arms, and people shouting as organ music plays. “Come out of his belly,” someone commands. “It’s in the belly — push.” Later, the teenager is back on the floor, breathing heavily. Then he’s coughing and apparently vomiting into a bag. “Get another bag,” a participant says. “Make sure you have your gloves.”



Manifested Glory Ministries in Bridgeport, Connecticut, posted a twenty-minute video on YouTube, but took it down amid mounting criticism of its abuse of the sixteen-year-old boy. (Other copies of that video are now available on YouTube.) This sort of abuse is not that uncommon:
It’s nearly impossible to say how often similar exercises occur in churches nationwide. But Kamora Herrington, who runs a mentoring program at True Colors and has worked with the youth, said she believes it’s fairly common. “This happens all the time,” she said. “This is not isolated.”

Robin McHaelin, executive director of True Colors, an advocacy group for gay youths, said her organization is aware of five cases in recent years in which youths in her program were threatened with exorcism.
At least one Christian dominionist group, Gary Cass’ Christian Anti-Defamation Commission pulls the religious exemption card — along with the race card — on this abuse, saying  that no church should be “maligned” for abusing teens....(Remainder.)

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Ireland Grants Rights to Same-Sex Partnerships

By Padraic Halpin
Reuters


DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland recognized the legal rights of same-sex couples for the first time Friday in a civil partnership bill that gave people in long-term relationships many of the statutory rights of married couples.

But it stopped short of recognizing civil marriage. There are strong rights conferred to marriage under the constitution of the traditionally Catholic country, which was amended to lift a ban on divorce in 1995.

"This bill provides legal protection for cohabiting couples and is an important step, particularly for same-sex couples, whose relationships have not previously been given legal recognition by the state," Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said in a statement.

The legislation provides a range of previously denied rights including maintenance obligations, protection of a shared home and succession. "Balance is achieved by maintaining material distinctions between civil partnership and marriage, in particular between the rights attaching to both, while at the same time reflecting the equality rights protected by the constitution," Ahern said.

The legalized sale of contraceptives caused controversy upon its introduction in 1979 in Ireland, where abortion still remains illegal....(Remainder.)

Red=Same-Sex Partnerships          Green=Marraige

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