February 29, 2016

Many Gay Evangelicals Are Converting to Stop Wishing to be Straight



THE anti-gay ideology that has long held sway in American evangelicalism seems to be crumbling. Conservatives’ insistence that the Bible proscribes homosexual acts and their claim that protecting gay rights infringes on their own religious liberty have depended on another assumption not found in Scripture: that homosexuality is not a biologically rooted identity but a sinful temptation, an addiction that one must control.

The noisy backlash against the Supreme Court’s legalization of gay marriage cannot mask the signs that this assumption is losing its grip. The most conspicuous indication that something is changing came in 2013 while Obergefell v. Hodges was still working its way up to the court. Alan Chambers, the president of the “ex-gay” ministry Exodus International, apologized to L.G.B.T. people for causing them “pain and hurt” and shut down his organization. 
Exodus’s collapse was a media spectacle. It was a huge blow to those who insist that same-sex attraction can be “cured,” and an encouragement to the growing number of evangelicals, particularly millennials, who support L.G.B.T. rights. But some young Christians resist the notion that embracing queer sexuality as an identity — not a disease — permits them to embrace homosexual relationships.

These dissenters proudly call themselves gay or queer or bisexual. But they have turned to ideologies outside the conventional boundaries of evangelicalism — including Catholic theology and queer theory — to argue against both conservatives and liberals. They insist that the church should welcome gay people, yet still condemn homosexual acts. They have provoked a dispute that gets to the heart of the culture wars: a debate over the meaning of vocation that reveals the tension between modern assumptions about living a full life and older ideas about the sacrifices God’s calling requires.

Lanira Postell, who attends an evangelical church in Georgia, had relationships with women for years before God “transformed not only my sexuality but my life,” she told me. I expected her to launch into a testimony of her “conversion” from same-sex attraction, but that’s not what happened. “The biggest hurdle I had to jump over was letting go, submitting my full self to the will of God, and in doing that I had to let go of my desire to be straight,” she said. Surrendering to God meant rejecting a black and white binary of sexual identity. “I’m still mentally, emotionally and spiritually attracted to women,” she said, and calls herself “bisexual with celibate same-sex attraction.”

Evangelicals — particularly millennials like Ms. Postell, who is 26 — have absorbed secular thinkers’ ideas about the fluidity of sexual expression. This is, in part, a counterintuitive legacy of traditional ex-gay ministries. When groups like Exodus promised that sexual desire could change, they pioneered queer theory in the evangelical world. Participants often acknowledged their struggles with “relapse,” and their testimonies “point to the instability and changeability of their own identities rather than serve as a testament to heterosexuality,” the ethnographer Tanya Erzen wrote in her study of ex-gay ministries, “Straight to Jesus.” 

Despite coming to terms with her bisexuality, Ms. Postell hopes for heterosexual marriage one day. But for other queer Christians, God demands a life of celibacy. In an era when the right worships the nuclear family and the left celebrates sexual authenticity and gay marriage, celibate gay Christians have no comfortable home on either side of the political spectrum. “There’s little space for them even in Christian queer communities,” said John Bagley, a board member of OneWheaton, a network of L.G.B.T. alumni and allies of Wheaton College, a conservative evangelical school. “Their decision stands as an affront to the decision a lot of people have made.”

Many celibate gay evangelicals look outside the Protestant tradition and reach into ancient history for help in thinking about loneliness and desire. Wesley Hill, an assistant professor of biblical studies at Trinity School for Ministry in Pennsylvania and a celibate gay Christian, told me he draws inspiration from Catholic thinkers like the Dutch priest Henri Nouwen, who was attracted to men.

Dr. Hill left his childhood denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, for the Anglican Communion, which emphasizes its Catholic past and has a monastic tradition. In his most recent book, “Spiritual Friendship,” he followed in the footsteps of historians like John Boswell, who argued that the medieval church was a surprisingly hospitable place for gay Christians. Dr. Hill has called on evangelicals to resurrect the ancient Christian tradition of honoring some same-sex friendships as a holy covenant. Conservatives have reacted with skepticism. “They think it would be a way of smuggling in same-sex erotic attraction, to find an acceptable way of being gay, having a lover,” he told me.

Sarah and Lindsey, a celibate lesbian couple who don’t reveal their last names on their blog “A Queer Calling,” worshiped in Eastern Orthodox churches for several years. They point to the models that non-Protestant church history offers to Christians who don’t fit the hetero-normative mold, like the Beguines, a celibate spiritual movement among Catholic women in medieval Northern Europe. “Words like ‘friend’ and ‘sister’ don’t adequately describe every instance of meaningful relationship between one Beguine woman and another,” they write.

Those who seek to persuade evangelical churches to embrace gay celibacy face an uphill battle, and not only because Martin Luther wrote that “to spurn marriage is to act against God’s calling” and “against nature’s urging.” The idealized image of the heterosexual nuclear family has become the chief conservative rallying point of the culture wars. “Part of why I’ve experienced pain is that I grew up in an evangelical church that elevates the family,” Dr. Hill told me. “You’re told your whole life that it’s the summit of happiness.”

BUT does liberals’ emphasis on gay marriage effectively send the same message? “If you end up accepting the progressive position, you then have a future: Gay people, you’re supposed to get married, have romance, have children, and that’s how you get security and stave off loneliness,” said Eve Tushnet, a celibate Catholic lesbian writer who has a growing following among evangelicals. “But if you don’t change your sexual ethic, then the challenge to your cultural mind-set is very deep because you’re no longer able to offer gay people the forms of adult love that our culture recognizes.” If the ex-gay ministries ironically introduced evangelicals to more fluid ideas of sexuality, the liberal campaign for gay marriage has reinforced the grip of traditional “family values.” 

Like other gay celibate Christians I spoke to, Ms. Tushnet uses the language of vocation to explain why she sticks to a path that denies her the sexual fulfillment that most people consider so fundamental. A vocation is not supposed to be easy. “We see in Scripture that God calls people who are uniquely unsuited for the task that he sets them,” she told me.

The question of vocation is not an intramural theological debate. It reveals the essential source of the culture wars: a breakdown in the American consensus over whose demands we should live to serve, and what it means for humans to flourish.

There is a long history here. The German sociologist Max Weber famously argued that the Puritans laid the groundwork. They reinterpreted the biblical concept of vocation as a calling to fulfill one’s duty in the world, where a successful career would signal God’s favor. “The idea of duty in one’s calling prowls about in our lives like the ghost of dead religious beliefs,” Weber wrote.
But today, even Weber’s attenuated idea of vocation is an alien notion in a culture that commands us to “do what you love” and “marry for love,” a culture that celebrates the satisfaction of sexual desire as a good in and of itself. We often conflate passion and pleasure with duty.

The gay Christians I interviewed stick to an older idea of vocation: the call to obey a higher will that is not your own, one that may leave earthly desires ungratified. The idea of loving God above all else, embracing one’s identity as a “bride of Christ,” is fundamental to Christianity. It is woven into medieval monks’ erotic commentaries on the Song of Songs and saturates the lyrics of modern megachurch music. It is also wholly unintelligible to most secular people — and probably remains elusive even to many Christians. “The idea of this higher love, or that you could have a loving relationship directly with the Eucharist, is so remote from most Americans’ experience of church that it’s not hard to see why it’s unbelievable,” said Ms. Tushnet, the Catholic writer. “Lots of people go through life without ever feeling that internal contact with God in the St. Teresa Bernini sculpture way.”

In an era when gay marriage is legal and a range of gay Christians are modeling different ways to reconcile sexuality and faith, are the decisions of young believers like Lanira Postell still a result of coercion and confused self-hatred? I asked her what she thought about those liberal critics who might think so. “I understand where they’re coming from, that to them what I’m doing doesn’t make any sense,” she said. “That’s why being a Christian is not common. It’s weird. It is unnatural for me to deny myself what I desire, but I do it because of the love of God.”

New York Times

Molly Worthen is the author, most recently, of “Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism,” an assistant professor of history at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and a contributing opinion writer.

Hillary’s got Game and It was Count down 1,2,3 for Sanders

 She’s got game. With 6-to-1 support among Black voters, who make up half the Democratic electorate, she took nearly 74 percent overall. It’s evidence that the Democratic presidential nomination will be decided in two days, when 12 states’ polls open on Super Tuesday. Republicans Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are on the offensive against seemingly unstoppable Donald Trump, releasing partial tax returns to show up the billionaire populist. Cruz must win Tuesday in his home state of Texas, notes OZY CEO and co-founder Carlos Watson, or “this thing could be effectively over.” [OZY]

Riding high after a landslide victory in Saturday's South Carolina primary, Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton has set sights on a possible face-off in the Nov. 8 presidential election with Donald Trump, the favorite for the Republican nomination.

"Despite what you hear, we don’t need to make America great again. America has never stopped being great," she told supporters in her victory speech in South Carolina, declining to mention Trump by name, but taking a jab at his campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again."

Clinton said she was not taking anything for granted after crushing Democratic rival Bernie Sanders on Saturday by 48 percentage points, likely setting herself up for a good "Super Tuesday" night on March 1, a key date in the nomination battle.

But if Clinton and Trump win big on Tuesday as opinion polls suggest, the chance of a general election matchup between them increases, adding another twist to a presidential campaign that has defied convention as U.S. voters vent frustration over economic uncertainty, illegal immigration and national security threats.

Some Clinton backers, emboldened by the heightened chance of a Trump nomination, have reaffirmed their support for the former secretary of state, saying that it is she, not Sanders, who is best equipped to take down Trump in a head-to-head showdown in November.

Rosilyne Scott, 58, of Texas, cast her vote early for Clinton ahead of Texas's upcoming Tuesday nominating contest, calling the prospect of a Trump presidency "frightening."

"I just think she has more support, and she's been doing it a lot longer," she said.

"If you get someone like Donald Trump in, I don't know. ... I think he's a joke, a bigot, a racist."

Amid Clinton's renewed momentum against Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, donors have also found resolve.

One Clinton fundraiser in California said her recent victories in Nevada and South Carolina have prompted more people to donate to her campaign and to attend Clinton events. He said he had raised $10,000 for the Clinton campaign in the past week alone.

A Trump-Clinton election would embody the outsider-versus-establishment battle in American politics. Trump has never been elected to public office, while the former first lady has been a player in Washington for decades.  South Carolina was Clinton’s third victory in the first four Democratic contests, raising more questions about whether Sanders, a democratic socialist, will be able to expand his support beyond his base of predominantly white liberals.

Exit polls showed Clinton winning big in the state with almost every constituency. She won nine of every 10 black voters, as well as women, men, urban, suburban, rural, very liberal and conservative voters. Sanders was ahead among voters between ages 18 and 29, and among white men.

When asked which candidate they thought “can win in November,” an overwhelming 79 percent said Clinton, with only 21 percent putting their faith in Sanders to defeat the eventual Republican nominee.

Sanders, who has energized the party's liberal wing and successfully courted many of the party's youth, on Sunday acknowledged he had been "decimated" by Clinton in South Carolina. He set his sights on March 1, where a win in a key state is crucial to keeping his hopes alive.

"I think we’re going to do well on Super Tuesday, we’re going to do well in many states after that and we look forward to those state-by-state struggles," he said in an interview on NBC News's "Meet the Press."

But Sanders needs to have his breakout moment sooner rather than later, warned longtime Democratic activist Phil Noble, who said that Sanders' momentum in South Carolina "fell off the table" after Clinton's solid victory in Nevada on Feb. 20.

"He's got to pull off a surprise against Clinton soon or he won't have time to recover," he said.

(Additional reporting by: Alana Wise in Washington, Luciana Lopez in New York, Emily Stephenson in Texas; Editing by Alistair Bell, Mary Milliken and Jonathan Oatis)

This article was funded in part by SAP. It was independently created by the Reuters editorial staff. SAP had no editorial involvement in its creation or production.

It was WWW and Rubio Giddy to be Slamming Trump

Image result for wrestle rubio


Until last night's debate, Marco Rubio had kept the gloves off Donald Trump. In fact, he had been so cordial to Trump that a common refrain about Rubio from The Donald was "He’s been very nice and I think I’ve been very nice to him.” Well, last night that changed with Rubio going hard at Trump for inheriting so much money, for not having actual plans and just repeating nonsense, and for the Trump University fraud case. And today on the trail, Rubio doubled down in a huge way.

It felt like less a rally and more like an episode of MTV's Wild n' Out. Rubio bashed Trump left and right. Including going after Donald, by reading from a series of misspelled tweets that Trump has since deleted and tweeted with proper spellings

Some would say that this is all undignified. To them, I'd say, this may actually be too little too late. Rubio's attacks are landing here. He looks comfortable doing it. And he seems far more compelling as an alternative to Trump when he's roasting the New York businessman for being the huge joke that he is than when he's playing nice for some weird, unknown reason. I mean, some of Marco's lines here would get "WORLDSTAR!" shouts if the crowds weren't all lame Republicans. I mean seriously, Rubio's line explaining the misspellings is pretty damning. “Either that’s how they spell those words at the Wharton School of Business where he went, or just like Trump Tower, he must have hired a foreign worker to do his tweets."

Of course, even here, Rubio couldn't just slam dunk what should be an easy slam. He also misspeaks, and says that Trump spelled "choker" wrong, which he absolutely did, but Rubio read from the wrong part of the tweet and instead read one of the times Trump spelled it right:

The good news for Marco, is that if this campaign has shown us anything, it's that screaming attacks will land even if they're not quite right. So good job, Marco. You probably should have been doing this a month ago, but better late than never.  

February 27, 2016

Trump and Christie, Rubio and Cruz Pickings for the Week

 While Rubio played with himself Christie made his move

Republican candidate Donald Trump on Friday won the surprise endorsement of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the most prominent mainstream Republican to get behind the former reality TV star’s White House campaign. Christie said the billionaire front-runner has the best chance of beating Democrat Hillary Clinton in the Nov. 8 U.S. presidential election - although Clinton has yet to secure her party's nomination. 

The endorsement gives Trump a further lift before next week's Super Tuesday nominating contests. It comes just a day after he took a battering from his two main rivals at a televised Republican debate. 
Trump's unorthodox candidacy has stirred controversy and shaken the Republican Party at its roots, but an increasing number of senior Republicans are becoming resigned to the idea he will be their candidate in November. 
Trump is "rewriting the playbook," said Christie, 53, who until two weeks ago was himself a rival for the Republican nomination. Christie dropped out after failing to muster much support for his candidacy. 
Trump, 69, who has never held public office, has campaigned as a political outsider. He is riding a wave of voter anger at the slow economic recovery, illegal immigration and what he says is America's diminishing role in the world. 
"The best person to beat Hillary Clinton in November on that stage last night is undoubtedly Donald Trump," Christie told a news conference on Friday, a day after the last Republican candidates' debate before Super Tuesday.
The debate marked a new, more aggressive approach for U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, 44, who has emerged as the Republican establishment's challenger to Trump. The other main challenger at the debate was U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.
Trump has unsettled mainstream Republicans by winning three straight nominating contests - in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. Polls show he is likely to win big in key primaries on Tuesday.
"Since I started this whole thing I've been practically Number 1," Trump said on Friday at a rally in Texas. 
The 11 Republican nominating contests on Tuesday have a total of almost 600 delegates at stake, and could set Trump up to clinch the presidential nomination.
Reuters/Ipsos polling data on Friday showed Trump ahead nationally in the Republican race with support at 44.2 percent, followed by Cruz at 20.7 percent and Rubio in third place at 14 percent. 
› Trump backing from Christie opens access to donors, mainstream advisers
On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Clinton is battling U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Clinton and Sanders have been in a dead head over the past week, the Reuters/Ipsos data shows.
RUBIO ATTACKS                   
Trump has vowed to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border to halt illegal immigration, called for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States and promised to take a tough stance on trade against China. 
He was combative at a rally on Friday. He mocked Rubio, referred to violent Islamist militants as "these animals" and promised to defend Americans' constitutional right to bear arms.
"We're going to build up our military, we're going to knock out ISIS. We're going to knock out ISIS fast," he said, referring to the Islamic State militant group. Wielding a water bottle as a prop, Trump made fun of Rubio for an awkward incident in which the senator grabbed for a drink of water off camera during an important televised speech in 2013. 
Rubio and Cruz ganged up on Trump at Thursday's debate in Houston in a last-ditch bid to keep him from winning in states on Super Tuesday. Rubio on Friday again took aim at Trump.
"He’s a con man who’s taking advantage of people's fears and anxieties about the future, portraying himself as some sort of strong guy," Rubio told reporters in Oklahoma. "He’s not a strong guy. He’s never faced real adversity before."
PredictWise, a research project that analyzes opinion polls and betting markets, said Trump would comfortably win among Republicans in all but one of the 11 Super Tuesday states that it measured. Cruz, 45, is likely to win in his home state of Texas, PredictWise said.
Rubio's home state of Florida is not part of the Super Tuesday contests.
PredictIt, based out of Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand, on Friday gave Trump a 73 percent chance of winning the nomination compared with a peak 75 percent chance two days earlier. 
Trump's swipes at rival candidates and heated exchanges with journalists and others have for months bolstered his standing in nominating contests and opinion polls. 
In a post on Twitter, Trump took aim at Rubio, a first-term senator, for his debate performance.
"Lightweight Marco Rubio was working hard last night. The problem is, he is a choker, and once a choker, always a chocker (sic)! Mr. Meltdown." 
Republican strategist Doug Heye said Christie may have opened the door for more mainstream Republican endorsements of a man whose chances of winning the White House were seen as next to nil a year ago. 
“If you’re the Trump campaign this is obviously very good news and it gives permission for others to endorse. But it also makes it hard (for Trump) to make the outsider argument," he said. 
Glenn Hubbard, who had been an adviser to the campaign of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and was chair of the Council of Economic Advisers during the George H.W. Bush administration, said he planned to keep up steady criticism of Trump on economic issues. 
"I think it is time for serious people to stand up and be counted. The next few weeks come very quickly," said Hubbard, who published a column in the Boston Globe on Friday criticizing Trump.
Hubbard, now dean of the business school at Columbia University, told Reuters he worried Trump's comments already hurt the country's image abroad and would hobble his ability to govern if elected.

(Additional reporting by Steve Holland, Clarece Polke, Howard Schneider and Susan Heavey in Washington and Melissa Fares and Chris Kahn in New York; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Howard Goller and Leslie Adler)
This article was funded in part by SAP. It was independently created by the Reuters editorial staff. SAP had no editorial involvement in its creation or production.

Poll Average for Trump and Clinton for the General Elections


Federal Complaint calls Conversion Therapy a Fraud


 The controversial group People Can Change claims its two-day retreat “Journey Into Manhood” can curb unwanted homosexual desires through counseling, journaling, and a “safe healing touch.” But the site doesn’t warn consumers who may opt to spend hundreds of dollars on the retreat that there's no evidence gay conversion therapy is effective—and that it has been much criticized. A group of human rights organizations believe this omission constitutes false advertising.  

Human Rights Campaign, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday alleging fraud and calling on federal regulators to bar gay conversion retreats from advertising an ability to make gay people straight. 

As a governmental agency designed to protect consumers from unfair, deceptive, or fraudulent practices, the Federal Trade Commission has recently opened investigations against beauty products that pretend they can turn back the clock or online courses that say they’ll make you smarter without offering credible research to back it up. Beyond reining in companies that make false claims, the commission also has the power to establish advertising regulations for an entire industry.

“If [the Federal Trade Commission] were to investigate and bring an enforcement action and create a rule that said, ‘You can’t advertise that you can change someone’s sexual orientation,’ that would apply nationally across the board, to the entire industry,” Scott McCoy, a senior staff attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center, told TakePart. With the focus on consumer fraud, the ruling goes beyond the handful of state laws that only seek to block care for minors by prohibiting licensed professionals from offering such therapies at all.  

Proponents of gay conversion therapy—often referred to as reparative therapy—claim that they can subdue or eliminate homosexual attraction through counseling and behavioral cognitive therapies. 

“We hold no animosity whatsoever toward LGBT communities and individuals. We simply choose to walk a different path, and to respond to our same-sex attractions in ways that are consistent with our faith and personal life goals rather than anyone’s political agenda,” Rich Wyler, founder and executive director of People Can Change, wrote in an email to TakePart. Wyler cofounded People Can Change in 2000 and asserts that he overcame his addiction to “homosexual encounters” through therapy in the 1990s.

“Their attack on us is an attack on our First Amendment rights to free speech, free assembly, and free exercise of our faith,” Wyler added. “We deserve as much respect as anyone who is ‘out and proud,’ and frankly, we deserve to be left alone to live our lives as we see fit.” 

The First Amendment protects speech and religion, but federal regulators draw the line at deceptive speech used to sell products. Along with its weekend retreats, People Can Change sells reading materials and over-the-phone coaching sessions. These services are bolstered by a website filled with testimonials from men who say the program helped them eliminate their same-sex attraction.  

The Southern Poverty Law Center has successfully shuttered one gay conversion organization by flagging it for false advertising. A New Jersey court found that organization Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing violated the state’s consumer fraud regulations in June.

Nearly every major American health organization—including the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Medical Association—has called for an end to the practice and raised concerns about its harmful effects on young people. President Barack Obama pledged his support to ban the use of conversion therapy in April following the suicide of transgender teen Leelah Alcorn.  

While the 36-page complaint states that there is no evidence conversion therapy is successful, it also argues that conversion therapy advertisements are fraudulent because they are “based on the false premise that being LGBT is a mental illness or disorder caused by a developmental deficiency, trauma, and/or unmet emotional needs.” The American Psychiatric Association delisted homosexuality as a mental illness in 1973.

If successful, McCoy and his colleagues believe that advertisement regulation would help reinforce this message to both LGBT children and their parents.

“The premise of conversion therapy is that there’s something wrong with you, that you’re broken in some way, that you’re ill, and that you need to be cured or fixed. If the FTC says that is a false statement, that is a misrepresentation, that will have a positive effect on young gay and lesbian people who are just coming out,” McCoy said. “It also says to parents, ‘You don’t need to fix your child. There’s nothing wrong with your child.’ ”

Samantha Cowan


The Most Dangerous Places in the US (Interactive map)

Although the world seems like an increasingly dangerous place abroad, with the rise of ISIS and widespread collapse of regimes, violent crime in the U.S. has continued its decline. While the U.S. is getting safer overall, high rates of crime continue to torment sections of the country, impacting people’s life decisions regarding housing, schooling, and travel. FindTheHome looked at the 2014 FBI Uniform Crime Report (latest complete data), visualizing the data and identifying the counties with the highest violent crime rates. Violent crime is defined as offenses that involve force or threat of force. This list contains the top 30 counties in the U.S. with the highest crime rates per 100,000 people. The violent crime rate is the total number of crimes reported to law enforcement agencies within a county per 100,000 people. The data analysts used population estimates from the 2014 American Community Survey. Only counties with a population greater than 1,000 are considered. 

February 26, 2016

Anyone Can Become President and Everyone is Trying to Prove it


*BBC posted this great article about looking to American presidential elections from the outside.
I think that many people inside might agree with what they had to say which in a nutshell it describes briefly the candidates (all of them) and how crazy they are and we are for allowing them to run. Yes this is a free country but just because I want to be an astronaut does not mean that the government is going to pay for my training and send me up even if I have a heart condition and weight as much as a piano. To be honest in every election cycle we have some crazies and we don’t think much of them. The system takes care of it and by the time they finish in Iowa they would have dropped out. What is different on this cycle is that it seems that all of them including the backers are crazy because they are running on platforms that come from another galaxy. 

Some of us know that we can’t afford a free college education for everyone; We can’t make Mexico pay for a wall we construct to keep people from the Caribbean, South and Central America out.
 What are we going to do, nuke them? Shouldn’t we nuke Putin first if he doesn’t stop trying to destroy the European Union and bombing and killing the people we are trying to help in Syria? that is since we are in the subject of making people do things against their will. We also know that we can’t deconstruct the social security network and other social programs that keep people alive so we can make the military bigger; And no matter what Rubio says is time we ended the embargo with Cuba.

I invite you to take a short walk into the BBC page I posted below.
With the US presidential election just nine months away, and would-be candidates battling it out in Tuesday's New Hampshire primary, American political satirist, PJ O'Rourke casts a scathing eye over the candidates hoping to make it to the White House. 
There's an American saying: "Anyone can become president." And in the 2016 election we've been trying to prove it. 
The list of people running for president seemed to include everybody except Beyonce. And there actually was a rumour last October that Beyonce's husband, rapper Jay Z, might run. 
The US presidential field has begun to narrow at last. Although, to judge by who's left, this is not because of quality control.
To the rest of the world Donald Trump seems like a joke. And, please, let's hope he is. Trump is a prank the American electorate is pulling on the American political establishment.

Donald TrumpImage copyrightGetty Images

Like many jokes, Trump is a manifestation of discomfort and anxiety.
America is a pretty good place. By world-historical standards it's an excellent place. And yet, according to opinion polls, almost two-thirds of Americans think the country is "on the wrong track".
What has got Americans so worried? The technological revolution is unsettling. So are rapid social shifts involving everything from immigrants to gender roles and sexuality. The global economy is shaky. And America's political establishment is so bitterly divided that we can't get bipartisan agreement on whether the sun will come up. (Republicans call predictions of dawn "unproven climate change science".)
So, for a laugh, a lot of Republicans are claiming to support a cartoon character - an over-confident blustery bigot, a self-inflated one-man business boom who claims he can make a deal with the devil that will have the angels of heaven lining up to buy condos in Trump Tower Hell.
Like many jokes, it's not very funny.
Trump's Democratic Party opposite number is Bernie Sanders. Bernie repeats the pieties of the 1960s New Left with a straight face, as deadpan as Trump is clownish.

Bernie Sanders posterImage copyrightiStock

 Bernie seems a bit foggy on things that have happened since Woodstock, especially in the realm of foreign affairs. Bernie doesn't know the Berlin Wall fell and doesn't know he's still standing on the wrong side of it.

Most of Bernie's support comes from people who weren't born when his ideas were in vogue. They're too young to know that what Bernie says may sound like it makes sense during the dorm room bull session, but sooner or later you have to put the bong down and exhale.
For the rest of America what's not amusing is Bernie labelling himself a socialist. The word has a particular and peculiar meaning in the US. If you say "I'm a socialist," what Americans hear is, "I'm going to take your flat-screen TV and give it to a family of pill addicts in the backwoods of Vermont." 
Bernie is not the right man to break America's political deadlock. It would be worse than electing Angela Merkel prime minister of Greece.
Then there are the serious candidates. Chief among them is Hillary Clinton. She has been seriously trying to become president, one way or another, since 1992.

Hillary ClintonImage copyrightGetty Images

Hillary is a seasoned, pragmatic, centre-left candidate. Her nomination by the Democratic Party was supposed to be inevitable. But it turns out that "evitable" is a real word in the English language. I checked the dictionary. We should start using it.
In a year when Americans have been willing to go in any direction for the sake of change, Hillary is setting her course by the beacon of continuity, the Lighthouse of Sameness. She's pulling her oar in an opposite direction, the one rower facing the wrong way in the Viking longship.
Now that Ben Carson has faded, the seriously conservative candidate is Republican Ted Cruz.
Dr Carson is a nice man. But he seemed to have no idea why he was running for president. GOP voters wanted him to go back to work as a neurosurgeon, perhaps removing Donald Trump's ruptured silicone brain implant that is endangering Republicans everywhere.
Ted Cruz wants a 10% flat-rate income tax. The US gross domestic product is $18tn. The US federal budget is $3.8tn. Suppose Cruz somehow lops $1tn off the budget. Suppose the 10% tax is somehow applied to the entire GDP. That still leaves a $1tn-plus hole in the national pants pocket.

Ted CruzImage copyrightGetty Images

In American politics, you mustn't say that hardline conservatives don't count. But you may say that they can't count. 
Cruz is also a hardline cultural conservative, vehemently opposed to gay rights, drug law reform and so forth. He's still fighting the Culture Wars. He's up on the front line bravely firing away without noticing that the other side has gone home to celebrate victory with legalised marijuana at same-sex wedding receptions.
The remaining candidates - all Republicans - are "The Muddle in the Middle."
Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Jeb Bush and Chris Christie are seasoned, pragmatic centre-right candidates. And Carly Fiorina is the same, plus being a woman, minus the seasoning.
They all face the same problem as Hillary Clinton would, if Hillary were competing with five of herself.
Jeb Bush is the "Great American Failure Story". Here's Jeb with all the Bush influence, all the Bush political connections, all the Bush campaign funding, and he can't get out of single-digit polling numbers. This would be almost impossible for the son of an oligarchic family anywhere else in the world. Isn't America a wonderful country?

John KasichImage copyrightGetty Images

John Kasich is the very popular conservative governor of Ohio, a not-very-conservative state.
Ohio is a microcosm of American conflicts - labour v management, nativists v immigrants, blacks v whites, Occupy Cincinnati v the 1%. They all hate each other, but they don't hate John.
Kasich beat an incumbent Democratic governor and was re-elected by a landslide. Before that he served nine terms shovelling important manure in the Augean stables of the House of Representatives - 18 years on the House Armed Services Committee and six years as chairman of the House Budget Committee.
No wonder he's so far behind. Republicans are in no damn mood for competent, experienced politicians with broad popular appeal. Marco Rubio may emerge as the moderate Republican choice. He has a couple of things going for him pro *and against but at least he doesn’t use profanity and he doesn’t talk about the crazier things he went to do.

SeaWorld Had Employees Posing as Animal Rights Activists

SeaWorld spied on animal-rights activists
Amusement-park operator SeaWorld admitted Thursday that employees have posed as animal rights activists and that the company will end the practice.
The acknowledgment came after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals last year accused San Diego park worker Paul McComb of spying on the organization's anti-SeaWorld protests.
It also comes less than a week after SeaWorld announced a shakeup in its executive ranks, including the departures of the company's chief parks operations officer, chief zoological officer and San Antonio park director.
SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby told analysts on a conference call Thursday morning that the company's board has "directed management to end the practice in which certain employees pose as animal rights activists."
He said McComb had been transferred to another department and returned to work after a period of administrative leave.
"All personnel matters pertaining to those involved have been handled internally," he said. "We recognize the need to ensure that all of our security and other activities align with our core values and ethical standards. As always the security and well-being of our employees, customers and animals remains at the forefront of our business practices."
The company (SEAS) said it would not comment further on personnel issues.
"SeaWorld's latest report confirms not only that the company has employed more than one spy to infiltrate and agitate at PETA but also that it values its spies more highly than the executives who have had their heads chopped off in droves, as at least one of the spies is still working at the company," PETA said Thursday in a statement.
The group added: "SeaWorld's finances continue to flop as animals continue to be found dead in its tiny tanks, with one death every single month since November. If SeaWorld had business savvy or common sense, it would modernize its business with coastal sanctuaries and virtual reality displays instead of building more roller coasters and dolphin prisons."
SeaWorld said in a statement that it had hired consultancy Freeh Group International Solutions, LLC to "evaluate current controls and develop new policies and standards to ensure best practices company-wide."
The announcement also comes amid a tumultuous financial period for SeaWorld, whose stock plunged 11.6% to $17.53 at 11:41 a.m. as the company struggles to rebrand itself in the wake of a 2013 documentary that damaged its reputation for how it treats marine life and trainers.
Manby, who joined the company last year, decided to end live-orca shows at the company's San Diego park following regulatory pressure. He has approved new exhibits and rides to jolt attendance, authorized a marketing campaign to boost the company's image and ordered a simplification of pricing.
The company's revenue rose 1% in 2015 to $267.9 million. Net income fell 1.6% to $49.1 million.
"It will be a bumpy road. It’s not going to be a straight line, but I think we’re making progress,” Manby told investors.

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