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Mormon Church Now Backs LGBT Rights – But There’s A Catch

At a press conference in Salt Lake City earlier this morning, Mormon leaders announced, in a surprising reversal of church policy, that they will now support anti-discrimination laws which protect the LGBT community they have long fought in court and from their pulpits.

Elder Dallin Oaks, speaking for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, said:

“We call on local, state and the federal government to serve all of their people by passing legislation that protects vital religious freedoms for individuals, families, churches and other faith groups while also protecting the rights of our LGBT citizens in such areas as housing, employment and public accommodation in hotels, restaurants and transportation — protections which are not available in many parts of the country.”

While this may sound too good to be true, the Mormons do want something in return. Specifically, they want the LGBT community and governmental agencies to leave them alone and call a mutual truce. This despite the fact that earlier this month the church sought to excommunicate a critic of its stance against same-sex marriage, charging him with apostasy.

Make no mistake, the LDS are still vehemently opposed to same-sex marriage, which they say is “contrary to the laws of God,” and have actively worked across the country to keep it from passing in statewide referendums such as California’s Proposition 8. But they will drop their stridency on the LGBT issue as long as they are allowed to discriminate when they see fit, provided no one makes a fuss over it.

Later in his statement, Elder Oaks declared:

“When religious people are publicly intimidated, retaliated against, forced from employment or made to suffer personal loss because they have raised their voice in the public square, donated to a cause or participated in an election, our democracy is the loser. Such tactics are every bit as wrong as denying access to employment, housing or public services because of race or gender.”

So let’s see if I have this right: the Mormon church will now support equal rights for LGBT couples, but not the right to marry, and all they want in return is a blanket protection which would make them immune from prosecution or protest when, for example, a Mormon doctor refuses to artificially inseminate a lesbian couple or a bakery owner will not bake a cake for a same-sex union because it violates his religious beliefs. Sound like progress to you?

LGBT advocates have been calling for compromise with the church for years, but it is unclear if they will–or should–be amenable to what was announced earlier today.

This article was previously published by the same author at LiberalAmerica.org

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Watch Out Fox News! Indiana is Starting It’s Own Propaganda Network

No doubt the propagandists at Fox News will be shaking in their boots when they read this: the State of Indiana, under the watchful eye of Governor Mike Pence, has announced that it will start a government-run news agency using taxpayer money.

The website, which will be launched in February, will be called “Just IN” and will offer pre-written pieces to small news agencies. It will also (surprise!) offer breaking stories about Governor Pence and his administration. Pence is considered a possible contender for the 2016 GOP Presidential nomination.

News from “Just IN” will be written by press secretaries employed by the state and will feature stories:

“(which) range from straightforward news to lighter features, including personality profiles.”

The as-yet-unanswered question about “Just IN” is whether or not it will be used to circumvent the press altogether. Jack Ronald, publisher of the Portland Commercial Review, said:

“I think it’s a ludicrous idea. I have no problem with public information services — the Purdue University agriculture extension service does a great job. But the notion of elected officials presenting material that will inevitably have a pro-administration point of view is antithetical to the idea of an independent press.”

And then there is the hypocrisy of a “small government” Republican such as Pence using at least $100,000 of taxpayer funds to bolster his own image among the press. Had a similar news site been started by a Democratic governor in a state such as New York or California, can you imagine the howling that would have taken place among talking head right-wingers such as Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity?

For his part, Pence has largely avoided the growing controversy over “Just IN” but did Tweet out the following message Monday evening:

“This is State of IN’s calendar for press releases: http://www.in.gov/activecalendar/mobile/mobilelist.aspx . The website will offer the same service with a new look.”

One wonders if we should all be amused or horrified by Pence’s attempts to play a benevolent Big Brother in a conservative suit and rep tie.

This article was previously published by the same author at LiberalAmerica.org

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Rick Perry: Unemployment Rate ‘Doctored’

Former Texas Governor and probable 2016 GOP Presidential candidate Rick Perry is peddling conspiracy theories again. His latest involves the unemployment rate, which currently stands at a nine-year low of 5.6 percent according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Speaking to the Republican Jewish Coalition in Iowa, Perry let loose with this line regarding the latest good news from the Labor Department, which he did not bother to support with any facts:

“It’s been massaged, it’s been doctored.”

Perry is hardly the only prominent Republican to accuse the Obama Administration of not being honest when it reports unemployment data. Former General Electric CEO even went as far as to call out the city of Chicago when he made his accusation, saying in 2012:

“Unbelievable jobs numbers…these Chicago guys will do anything…can’t debate so change numbers.”

Welch was then echoed by former Florida Congressman Allen West, who chimed in, saying that what was at work were:

“Chicago style politics.”

Chicago style politics? As opposed to what? Florida style politics, in which you subvert the will of the people by stealing a Presidential election?

There is, however, one problem with all the conspiracy theories about cooking of the books when it comes to unemployment numbers: the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is organized and functions in a manner which makes it impossible for any Administration to manipulate the numbers to their advantage. Betsy Stevenson, former chief economist at the Labor Department, explained it this way:

“Anyone who thinks political folks can manipulate the unemployment data are completely ignorant of how the BLS works and how the data is compiled.”

But since when does Rick Perry need facts to back his flighty accusations? This is the same man who said he would eliminate three agencies of the federal government if elected President, and then was only able to name two of them.

One bit of good news for residents of Texas does come to mind from this latest bout of verbal inanity from Perry: he is no longer governor and has joined the ranks of the unemployed.

This article was originally published by the same author at LiberalAmerica.org

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Dr. Spite: Ben Carson Won’t Support Obamacare ‘Even If It Worked’

Speaking at the Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines over the weekend, Dr. Ben Carson, a contender for the 2016 Republican nomination for President, said he vehemently opposes the Affordable Care Act–also known as Obamacare–telling a raucous crowd of Republicans who at times rose to their feet during his speech:

“Even if it worked, I would oppose it.” 

As you probably recall, this is not the first time Dr. Carson, a Baltimore physician, has made outrageous comments regarding health care reform. In 2013, the good doctor said Obamacare was:

“The worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery.”

When confronted with the ludicrous nature of his slavery comments, Carson doubled down on his analogy while also attempting to walk part of it back due to criticism he had received. Carson remarked:

“Of course, they’re not the same thing. Slavery was much worse. But bear in mind what happens with Obamacare. We, the American people, with that program have shifted the power that was given to us by the Constitution and the Founders to the government. That’s the most massive shift in power in American that has ever occurred.”

Keep in mind this is the same Dr. Ben Carson who once compared same sex marriage to beastiality and has also fabricated quotes that he attributed to Vladimir Lenin, the leader of the Russian revolution. He seems to have an endless well of spiteful comments and false attributions he uses whatever the situation or debate. And when these hateful remarks or lies are brought to his attention, he is quick to blame “the left,” “the media,” and “the PC police.”

One would think that a doctor such as Ben Carson would be happy 15 million Americans have gained health insurance since the Affordable Care Act became law. After all, isn’t he supposed to be a healer, concerned with the health and well being of patients?

Perhaps it would be wise for Dr. Carson to look back on the Hippocratic Oath he took when he became a doctor, particularly the section which reads:

“Further, I will comport myself and use my knowledge in a godly manner.”

At the moment, Carson is presenting himself as just another hack hungry for the approval of the far right wing of his party. And it is not a pretty sight.

This article was originally published by the same author at LiberalAmerica.org

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GOP Wants to Reclassify and Retract CIA Torture Report

Having just taken control of the Senate Intelligence Committee, the GOP is now seeking to reclassify the CIA report detailing the agencies’ torture of detainees in the War on Terror. The Republicans, led by committee chair Richard Burton, also want to “claw back” all copies of the report currently in circulation. Such a move would place the 6.700 page report outside the protections of the Freedom of Information Act. Burr has sent a letter to President Obama requesting that all copies of the controversial report in possession of the White House be “returned immediately.” It is not clear what action Burr and the Intelligence Committee will take if the Administration refuses to do so.

Additionally, an internal CIA report ordered by then-CIA chief Leon Panetta in 2009, reveals that the agency repeatedly exaggerated the usefulness of intelligence acquired during so-called “enhanced interrogation” of some detainees.

One finding from the Panetta report, which has been seen by only a few people in Washington, is also one of the most damning. The CIA continually and vociferously claimed that actionable intelligence used to track down Al-Qaeda operatives and prevent imminent terrorist plots had been gained by using torture on alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. The report requested by Panetta shows that such intelligence was, in fact, gained through methods not related to the interrogation of detainees.

Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee in December 2014 when the torture report was declassified and released in a redacted version, strongly objected to Senator Burr’s requesting the White House return its copies of the CIA report, saying:

“I strongly disagree that the administration should relinquish copies of the full committee study, which contains far more detailed records than the public executive summary.” 

It seems safe to say at this point that Senate Republicans are hoping to shield the CIA from any further criticism. Despite their repeated calls for transparency from the Administration, they seem perfectly content to pretend torture never took place in the name of the American people, or with their tax money.

This article was originally published by the same author at LiberalAmerica.org