Wednesday, December 11, 2013
This blog has previously noted the ruling against anti-gay bakery owner Jack Phillips whose Masterpiece Cakeshop refused to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple. The ruling was based on Colorado's public accommodations law that requires commercial enterprises to provide services to all members of the public. Phillips is whining that his "religious liberty" is being trampled upon. The Denver Post has piled on and slammed Phillips and by extension other Christofascists who believe that they are above the law. Here are excerpts from the editorial:
If you're going to sell wedding cakes in Colorado, you have to sell them to everyone who comes into your shop. You can't pick and choose among customers based upon your belief that some weddings are immoral.
That's the principle that administrative law judge Robert N. Spencer reinforced with his recent ruling that the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood must sell wedding cakes to gay couples. It's the right call — and not even a close one in our view.
Cake-maker Jack Phillips refused to sell a wedding cake to two gay men in July 2012, and has been arguing since that his religious objection to same-sex marriage provides him with a constitutional exemption to the state's public accommodation law.
While being attacked by the far right, Pope Francis faces another growing problem: a resurgence in media coverage of the Church's foul conspiracy to aid, abet and protect sexual predator priests. A new bombshell has exploded in Ireland where the Church is already in a free fall with the release of a report on the rampant sex abuse within the Christian Brothers religious order. Meanwhile, things aren't going well for the Church in Australia and else where as reports on the abuse and cover ups mount. As for Francis, he still has failed to hold anyone in the hierarchy accountable and no one has been drummed out of office. Here are highlights on the new report out of Ireland:
As noted, things are not sweetness and light for the Catholic Church in Australia where a Royal Commission is investigating sex abuse by Catholic clergy. Indeed, faced with the drumbeat of news of abuse and cover ups, the Archbishop of Perth felt the need to issue a public apology:
The child protection watchdog of the Catholic Church has published eight reviews of the practices and procedures in place to address sex abuse cases. The audit covers the period between January 1975 and May 2013.It examines six separate dioceses and two religious congregations.The work was carried out by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church (NBSCCC).This latest tranche of reports from the Catholic Church child protection watchdog shows that during a period of almost three decades 870 allegations of child sex abuse were made against 325 members of the Christian Brothers order.The audit shows that 12 have been convicted and describes the number of allegations as 'substantial'. It says the reviewers were in no doubt that a great number of children were seriously abused by the Brothers.The review of the St. Patrick's Missionary Society - known as the Kiltegan Fathers - says 50 allegations were made against 15 members of the order, with one conviction since 1975.In the Archdiocese of Armagh 16 priests were the subject of 36 allegations. One of the those have been convicted of child sex abuse office.
The Archbishop of Perth Timothy Costelloe has issued a public apology for the Catholic Church's failure to recognise and prevent the sexual abuse of children.In an open letter to 100 parishes and the wider community, Archbishop Costelloe says he is sorry the abuse happened and ashamed that some church leaders did not adequately respond to allegations.
"The key message of the letter is really to acknowledge the terrible suffering of people who have been victims of sexual abuse by clergy and other church workers," he said.
"I really do feel ashamed of the actions of those who betrayed everything the church stands for.
The apology comes as the Royal Commission into institutional child sexual abuse examines the Catholic Church's Towards Healing program, which was set up in 1996 to deal with complaints against it.
Let's be clear. The Church did recognize child sexual abuse. It merely sought to cover it up and throw the victims on the trash heap like garbage. The Archbishop's apology is disingenuous at best. Meanwhile, when will Pope Francis begin purging the hierarchy of those who participated in the cover up conspiracy?
While Pope Francis still has done nothing meaningful to hold those in the Catholic Church hierarchy who participated in the cover up of priestly sex abuse of children and youths, his statements that indicate a possible shift in the Church's hard line dogmatism have been enough to send the far right into spittle flecked convulsions. Far right extremists from Rush Limbaugh on down have accused Francis of being a communist and other a threat to capitalism. Some of the attacks have become so feverish that one has to wonder - if you didn't already - about the sanity of the attackers. A column in the Washington Post looks at the attacks being hurled at Pope Francis. Here are highlights:
Mindless skeptics don’t like the inclusive, nonjudgmental message of Pope Francis. But Adam Shaw, a news editor at FoxNews.com, wins the prize for stunning leaps of logic and rhetoric. The headline says it all: “Pope Francis is the Catholic Church’s Obama — God Help Us.”
Like Obama, Francis is unable to see the problems that are really endangering his people. Like Obama he mistakes the faithful for the enemy, the enemy for his friend, condescension for respect, socialism for justice and capitalism for tyranny.Once upon a time, Christian leaders were deemed above reproach by social conservatives. And if said leader were the pope, then heaven help the person (read liberal) who criticized him, his pronouncements or the tenets of the Catholic Church. Not anymore. Shaw’s astonishing post shows that not even the pope is off limits to the fury of the far right. The pope’s words against the downside of capitalism, not to mention his exhortation to not “obsess” over social issues at the expense of the church’s greater message, make him sound more like a follower of the teachings of Jesus Christ than many of his holier-than-thou critics.
Reza Aslan and Mary Curtis hammer away at the Pope’s critics here and here. Michael Gerson does so more obliquely today here.
“Limbaugh is right. Somebody did get to Pope Francis,” Aslan wrote last month referring to radio right-winger Rush Limbaugh. “It was Jesus.” After a gem like that, there’s nothing more I could add to his critique.
Again, my verdict on Francis is still out, but it is entertaining to see the far right underscoring just how opposed to the true Gospel message it really is. Greed, hate, bigotry and callousness towards the needy are the tenants of the far right.
GOP senators have aggressively tried to keep their conservative base at bay to ensure there’s virtually no space on their right for a primary foe to emerge. That didn’t work so well.
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
There seems to be no limit on what lengths the NSA will go to in order to spy on would be terrorists - and law abiding citizens. In stories filed jointly by the New York Times, The Guardian, and ProPublica, it is reported that the NSA has been secretly using online video games to spy and recruit informants and gather data. Between sifting through our e-mails, listening into our phone calls, tracking the location of our cell phones, even monitoring porn site visits, and now spying on us through online games, there seems to be no realm in which American citizens can safely assume that they have a shred of privacy. Adolph Hitler and the Nazis and Joseph Stalin and his thugs would be envious indeed of what the NSA is doing to citizens. The larger question is when will Americans wake up to what is happening. Here are highlights from the New York Times article:
Not limiting their activities to the earthly realm, American and British spies have infiltrated the fantasy worlds of World of Warcraft and Second Life, conducting surveillance and scooping up data in the online games played by millions of people across the globe, according to newly disclosed classified documents.
The spies have created make-believe characters to snoop and to try to recruit informers, while also collecting data and contents of communications between players, according to the documents, disclosed by the former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden. Because militants often rely on features common to video games — fake identities, voice and text chats, a way to conduct financial transactions — American and British intelligence agencies worried that they might be operating there, according to the papers.Online games might seem innocuous, a top-secret 2008 N.S.A. document warned, but they had the potential to be a “target-rich communication network” allowing intelligence suspects “a way to hide in plain sight.” Virtual games “are an opportunity!” another 2008 N.S.A. document declared.
The documents, obtained by The Guardian and shared with The New York Times and ProPublica, do not cite any counterterrorism successes from the effort. Former American intelligence officials, current and former gaming company employees and outside experts said in interviews that they knew of little evidence that terrorist groups viewed the games as havens to communicate and plot operations.Games “are built and operated by companies looking to make money, so the players’ identity and activity is tracked,” said Peter W. Singer of the Brookings Institution, an author of “Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know.” “For terror groups looking to keep their communications secret, there are far more effective and easier ways to do so than putting on a troll avatar.”The surveillance, which also included Microsoft’s Xbox Live, could raise privacy concerns. It is not clear exactly how the agencies got access to gamers’ data or communications, how many players may have been monitored or whether Americans’ communications or activities were captured.One American company, the maker of World of Warcraft, said that neither the N.S.A. nor its British counterpart, the Government Communications Headquarters, had gotten permission to gather intelligence in its game. Many players are Americans, who can be targeted for surveillance only with approval from the nation’s secret intelligence court. The spy agencies, though, face far fewer restrictions on collecting certain data or communications overseas.
I hate to say it, but the only safe assumption is to take the approach that everything you do is being watched through some means - because it's probably true at this point. America has joined the ranks of Russia and China in terms of spying on its citizens.
I noted this morning how the Richmond Times Dispatch has raised the specter again of Mark Obenshain trying to steal the Virginia Attorney General election by throwing the election into the Virginia General Assembly where apparently Obenshain thinks the GOP majority would give the election to him regardless of the voter of the Virginia electorate. The conservative blog Bearing Drift - the leading Virginia conservative blog in the minds of some politico junkies - slams Obenshain for perhaps heading down this deceptive road. Unlike too many in today's GOP, the folks at Bearing Drift worry about the long term viability of the Republican Party and winning future elections. Here are some of the highlights:
A good lawyer will keep every possible option on the table for his or her client and that’s exactly what Mark Obenshain’s legal team is doing in advance of the recount of the ballots cast in the attorney general race. Among those options? Contesting the possible outcome of the recount before the General Assembly.
The basis for a contest appears to rest upon how ballots were handled in Fairfax county, where our own Brian Schoeneman was in the thick of the action in his role as an election official. Brian has been very open about the process the county used to count, canvass and secure its ballots. He has done, and continues to do, a fine job in that capacity. But none of that may prevent a contest.
The assumption is that given the partisan make-up of the General Assembly, Mark Obenshain would be able to win a contest without much problem. Republicans would hear whatever evidence is presented and, regardless of its quality, hand the AG’s office to one of their own.
That would be a fatal mistake. Wooly-eyed partisans would cheer such an outcome . . . The real damage, though, comes afterwards. Anointing a winner — even if it is allowed under Virginia law — carries with it the real possibility that the party selecting the new incumbent will suffer at the next election. Worse, whatever patina of cooperation exists between the parties today would be erased for good. There are those who prefer such an outcome, even yearn for it. But Virginia loses if that happens as the political class would descend into an orgy of destruction.
Mark Obenshain would do himself an immense deal of good by making sure that doesn’t occur. He is already well position to run for statewide office in 2017 if the recount does not go his way.
Accept the recounts results and then get on with it. There will be plenty of fights to come in the next session.
In a speech at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama found an opportunity to support LGBT equality and to challenge the world - especially African nations to which America Christofascists are exporting homophobia and hatred - that stop persecuting gays. No doubt Obama's remarks will only intensify the hatred he faces from white Christofascist/white supremacists in America. Here are excerpts from his speech:
For the people of South Africa, for those he inspired around the globe - Madiba’s passing is rightly a time of mourning, and a time to celebrate his heroic life. But I believe it should also prompt in each of us a time for self-reflection. With honesty, regardless of our station or circumstance, we must ask: how well have I applied his lessons in my own life?
It is a question I ask myself - as a man and as a President. We know that like South Africa, the United States had to overcome centuries of racial subjugation. As was true here, it took the sacrifice of countless people - known and unknown - to see the dawn of a new day. Michelle and I are the beneficiaries of that struggle. But in America and South Africa, and countries around the globe, we cannot allow our progress to cloud the fact that our work is not done. The struggles that follow the victory of formal equality and universal franchise may not be as filled with drama and moral clarity as those that came before, but they are no less important. For around the world today, we still see children suffering from hunger, and disease; run-down schools, and few prospects for the future. Around the world today, men and women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs; and are still persecuted for what they look like, or how they worship, or who they love.
We, too, must act on behalf of justice. We, too, must act on behalf of peace. There are too many of us who happily embrace Madiba’s legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality. There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people. And there are too many of us who stand on the sidelines, comfortable in complacency or cynicism when our voices must be heard.