Love, Don’t Fear God

Philosophy starts (and one may effectively joke ends) with a question.  Here’s one.  Why fear God?  Mike writes:

The total lack of the fear of God is what marks the ungodly. (Romans 3:18)

I’d argue that it is a transpersonal love of God and all sentient beings which marks the godly.  If it says anything, then the fear of God is the mark of the controlled.  It is control that mars organized religion.  Why was there such a backlash against The Golden Compass and The DaVinci Code?  Because both books where at their core about the control exerted by the Church.  Regarding the Golden Compass and the His Dark Materials Trilogy, Amanda (Pandagon) observes (warning, rest of review contains major spoilers):

the concept of original sin was not sexualized by accident, but instead was a tool to poison people’s intimate relationships with misogyny and shame , and cripple our collective development into better people.

You see, if one’s relationship with God is one of fear, then one acts like a child with an authoritarian teacher.  A Matilda in a Miss Trunchbull’s class.  The problem for organized religion is that God is not marred by imperfections like hate, jealously, or pettiness.  And when we step outside the confines of organized religion, and re-affirm our natural relationship to God is one of love, we become enamored of a life in which all the rich promise of religion is realized without the stunted self expression that supposedly must accompany it.  We find that the God described in scripture is at odds with the notion of a perfect being, and find that the subtle warmth in the depths of our being has been inviting us inward all along.  We leave Miss Trunchbull a quivering mess of harmless anger, and walk into Miss Honey’s waiting arms.

So don’t fear God.  God is not some thundering mountain deity who will give crops or withhold rains if we live outside narrow rules of conduct.  Humans make such rules.  God is an eternal fountain of love and light, the inner teacher who always has time to nurture, guide and comfort.

Fear of God speaks in religion’s political tongue.  Love of God is our shared language.

As far as how we should conduct ourselves, how cynical must we be to require fear of heavenly punishment to behave correctly?  We know how to behave justly, and when we are truly lost, it is not a fear of God that will guide us.  It is a love without limit.

Why Cigna’s Stance is Suspect

Cigna has apparently decided to stand by their decision to override her doctors and deny a teenager a vital liver transplant.  The teenager later died.

Initially, they reversed course at the very last minute.  It was too late by that point to save the girl.  Now they are saying their decision was the correct one:

Philadelphia-based Cigna HealthCare has a record of approving coverage for more than 90% of all transplants requested by its members, as well as more than 90% of the liver transplants, company President David Cordani said in a memo addressed to employees and distributed to members of the media.

Nataline Sarkisyan’s request was evaluated on an expedited basis using “evidence-based guidelines published by independent physician and medical organizations, as well as expert scientific journals,” Cordani said.

Funny how the doctors charged with her care thought she should get the transplant, and the bean counters using “evidence based guidelines” and “expert scientific journals” charmingly decided on denying the costly procedure.

What do we expected when we mix private corporations with public health care?  Profit at the cost of human life is an extreme, the kind of theoretical example one brings into a debate to make a point.  Not with the expectation one might come face to face with such a callous disregard for human life.  Cigna President David, by making the denial of care an official point, has made the cold, greedy nature of himself and Cigna blazingly apparent to the world.

And this is the story we heard about.  How many other patients were denied coverage, didn’t protest, and simply died?  How many were denied procedures, and continue to live with debilitating medical problems?   All for Cigna’s profit.

Removing “for profit” from Health Care, and recognizing Health Care coverage as a fundamental human right, is one of the cornerstone issues facing humanity.  For what cynical joke is the “right to life” if that right can be denied to balance a spreadsheet?

J Edgar Hoover and Giuliani

Via NewsCat, this set off some alarms:

Over the holidays there was a little noticed story published about recently declassified papers showing that in July 1950, only a few days after the beginning of the Korean War, J. Edgar Hoover wanted President Truman to round up and detain 12,000 American citizens.

Who was he targeting?  Does anyone want to be it was suspected communists?  Think of how close we came in recent history to the mass arrest of American citizens on the basis of political beliefs.

Now, couple that with two particular notes about Rudy Giuliani:

If elected Giuliani would extend the already power mad style of the Bush administration to new levels. Glenn Greenwald has the scoop:

Over the weekend, it was revealed by National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru that Rudy Giuliani believes that, as President, he would have the power to imprison American citizens without any sort of review of any kind, and Giuliani stated he hoped to exercise that power only “infrequently”


Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do.

Some say history repeats itself.  Combine a Giuliani Presidency with that history and the rising tide in eliminationist rhetoric, and we have an instant recipe for an oppressive tyranny on a massively tragic scale.  This time there would be no President to turn down J Edgar Giuliani’s request.  Giuliani would be the President.  A President who’s view of executive power extends ever further than George W Bush.

Republicans: Eliminating Muslims

Its always startling when a nasty bout of hate breaks out close to home. There’s a lot of nastiness in Herndon, VA. I was living in Reston when this joyful little gathering took place. So again I was startled when I came across this item over at Feministe (Jill):


That’s a short metro ride away. The post itself is about the comments by Rudy’s Aide, suggesting we need to “get rid of” Muslims. Jill goes into a bit more depth:

Deady later clarified:

“When I say get rid of them, I wasn’t necessarily referring to genocide. What I was referring to is, stand up to them every time they stick up their heads and attack us. We can’t afford to say, `We’ll try diplomacy.’ They don’t respond to it. If you look into Islamic tradition, a treaty is only good for five years. We’re not dealing with a rational mindset here. We’re dealing with madmen.”

“I wasn’t necessarily referring to genocide?” That may be more telling than the original comment.

Indeed. I hadn’t caught the clarification. It is worse than the original comment, all the more so in that its unfolding in a responsibility vacuum on the part of Giuliani.

Via Jill, Ali continues:

I will leave it to each individual to determine whether the GOP’s “gaffes” are just that, or that they are part of a sustained campaign to not only lose as many American-Muslim votes as possible (you guys are succeeding!), but to further demonize Islam in order to perpetuate some kind of religious standoff consistent with Tim Lahaye’s vision.

I think we have two things going on here. The first is that the Republican field is rife with riffs on the original Southern Strategy. We see it with Huckabee’s winks and nods to hardline evangelical Christians and anti-immigrant rants, Ron Paul’s winks to the white supremacist set, and Rudy’s Islamophobe nods.

The second is a rising tide of eliminationist rhetoric on the right, targeting Women, Muslims, Jews, Blacks, Hispanics, Homosexuals, and of course, Liberals. Sometimes this speech is hidden, as in the references to “New York/Hollywood liberals” (Jews) or “San Francisco liberals” (Homosexuals). And sometimes it is right out in the open, as is the case with the Georgetown poster up above targeting Muslims. In each case, the right wing in the country is working its base into a violent frenzy. All of this virulent hate seeping into and around the mainstream is normalizing notions of inferiority and “otherness”, as well as the appropriateness of violent reactions.

We cannot stand silently by while this tide of hatred and violence rises.

UPDATE: Just a note, the poster is satirical (the actual poster, which you can see here, is arguably worse than the satire (which adheres nicely to Tom Tomorrow’s rule of right wing reality).)

Gay Rights Rhetoric

Daisy at Our Descent Into Madness has hit upon a rhetorical tactic I think can be extended to many liberal positions.  (Emphasis mine):

If he’s going to claim to support equality, he should support full equality. If he’s not going to that — and he doesn’t seem about to — I’d like him to at least have the guts to look someone like me in the face and admit that when he talks about justice and equality, he is only partially including me.

Through the youtube debates, as well as the scripted political theater run by the major news networks under the same name, there are occasions where actual liberals slip in and are allowed to frame questions at our would be leaders.  I cannot think of a more savvy approach than to make that question an immediate confrontation, a bare soul to soul meeting wherein a candidate is trapped into responding to the humanity of the questioner.

Candidates who bow to religious bigotry against homosexuals, and that’s nearly all of them, have placed themselves in a weak position.  What a brilliant way to exploit that and strike deep into the illogical heart of inequality.

Web Hosting: Allowing Spam Blogs

This post is going to be stolen.  A while back I noticed an upsurge in splogs taking content off this site (thanks to Technorati, which doesn’t really filter them out of its stats).   So I decided to notify registrars and hosts (thanks to SlightlyShadySEO‘s comment):

Dynamic Dolphin: Report SpamGoDaddy:  Spam Abuse

MyDomain:  Spam

Note that for MyDomain, they actually forward your email onto the offender!

For splogs hosted by blogspot, flagging them so far doesn’t seem to result in any discernable effect.

This had mixed results.  GoDaddy seemed to have the most straightfoward process.  Some hosts appear to periodically check (or other folks report these spammers), as “this account has been suspended” would occasionally pop up on a splog in my Technorati reactions list.

So when a particular splog (fitfanatic) really went nuts with the culling, I decided to contact their host (HostGator).  The only recourse they allow is for one to file a DMCA complaint.  While I could technically do this due to the Creative Commons license I blog under, this would mean exposing my identity to the spammer.  Not ideal:

Owning a splog that does not include stolen content is not illegal, nor is it against our terms of service.   We do not judge the merits of the sites that host with us, merely the legality.  As such, the violation that we are looking at is the stolen content.

To handle stolen content, we use the process documented by the DMCA.

In other words, HostGator allows spam blogs.  Which leads to a few questions.  Should hosting terms of service always contain anti-spam measures?  If not, then bloggers who do not want their identity shared with a known spammer have zero recourse with regards to their content.  Should search engines and blog analysis sites create a blacklist for known splog hosts, and submit them to more intense filtering algorithms?

There is a clear difference in the caliber of the hosting companies out there.

Eliminationist Rudy Aide On the Rise of the Muslims

Greg Sargent puts it best:

This has already gotten some attention, but it deserves a lot more.

So what happened?  (Emphasis mine)

The Guardian of London is conducting video documentaries up in New Hampshire. And they did a segment on Rudy in which they got a very off-kilter quote about Muslims from a Rudy campaign official in the state. The Guardian identifies him as John Deady, the co-chair of state Veterans for Rudy.

Deady — and the key here is that he is a Rudy campaign official — says that Rudy should be our President because he has what it takes to tackle one of our “most difficult problems,” which he identifies as the “rise of the Muslims.” Deady adds that we need to “chase them back to their caves” or otherwise “get rid of them.”

At the moment, there is silence from the Giuliani campaign and the mass media.

Any chance the national press will see this as newsworthy?

The Rudy campaign didn’t immediately return a request for comment. You can watch the whole video from The Guardian here.

In addition to the media question, what I want to know is:  Will the Giuliani campaign condemn this, or will they let it quietly form a new southern strategy?

Pakistan’s Tragedy: Bhutto’s Assassination

With all the talk of pain, impact, and blame, it is necessary to focus on our own role in Bhutto’s assassination (TIME):

Haqqani, now a professor at Boston University, isn’t sure what the latest bloodshed means for his country. “Will the Pakistani military realize that this is going to tear the fabric of the nation apart, and so really get serious about securing the country and about getting serious in dealing with the extremist jihadis?” he wondered. But he made clear he feels the best chance for such a policy has just evaporated. “She did show courage, and she was the only person who spoke out against terrorism,” he said. “She was let down by those in Washington who think that sucking up to bad governments around the world is their best policy option.”

In putting the “war on terror” above every other foreign policy concern, we’ve overlooked tyranny and despotism.  This is bound to have an impact.  Now it may be that Pakistan’s undemocratic leadership was not to blame for this assassination.  It may have even been the work of terrorists seeking to disrupt the country politically.

But what we must face is that the divided country which faces this tragedy does so in a world our single minded foreign policy helped craft.

“”How can somebody who can shoot her get so close to her with all the so-called security?” said a distraught Husain Haqqani, a former top aide to Bhutto, shortly after news of her death flashed around the world. Haqqani, who served as a spokesman and top aide to Bhutto for more than a decade, blamed Pakistani security, either through neglect or complicity, in her assassination. “This is the security establishment, which has always wanted her out,” he said through tears.

And if it does turn out the Pakistani government played a role, through direct involvement or through purposeful indifference, then we have yet another bloody reason to take a look at our policy of supporting dictators who meet our short term military needs.

McCain, Still not a Maverick

As McCain eases his aching old bones into another primary, the media is at it again with the maverick label.  This is to be expected of Fox News, but even the Boston Herald is getting into the act:

I like and admire Sen. John McCain for a lot of reasons. Most of us do.

John McCain is liked, loved, even revered for his extraordinary courage in wartime, biting candor, sense of humor and fierce independence.

And that – independence – is the problem. Blasphemy, you say! How can a well-earned reputation as a maverick (it would be no surprise if polls show a majority of voters believe “maverick” is McCain’s given middle name) ever be a negative?

A more brown nosed pile of rubbish will be hard to find this campaign season.  McCain’s “well-earned” maverick status was blown to bits when he spoke at Liberty University (Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University) and raced to support Bush’s most unethical actions and positions.  McCain isn’t a rugged outsider or a principled maverick.  He’s a once proud man who gave into political pressure and became one of many Republicans vying for George W Bush’s remarkably unpopular mantle.

The media is being grossly duplicitous by continuing to spread the maverick myth.

This Ron Paul White Supremacist Thing Just Won’t Die Already

$*#@_*& Arrrrgh!  Yet in the frustration a part of me wants to just soak in all that delicious stupid just floating about.   It can’t be all bad, can it?  The cheeky optimism that looks facts right in the face, and stars with glassy eyed conviction right the fuck through.  How awesome would life be if it was viewed with the same unimpeachable faith held by Ron Paul’s supporters?

First up, via the right good General Jesus Christ (Christian, Patriot), we have this gem:

Michael Rivero
What Really Happened Radio

Dear Mr. Rivero,

Like you, I support Ron Paul to be our next president and was very upset with Bill White, Commander of the American Nazi Party, for posting about the good relationship white supremacist groups have had with him in the past. Certainly, that could not help his campaign.

Your response was perfect. It was a stroke of genius to counter the charges that Dr. Paul is a secret white Supremacist by declaring that a “Jewish cabal” is trying to frame him.

And David Duke’s posse rush to his defense as well (via the right good General JC):

Well, the Anti-Defamation League has exhibited another acute attack of foot-in-mouth disease by attacking the extremely popular presidential candidate Ron Paul. Ron Paul’s supporters come from all walks of life. They are white, black, Asian, heterosexual, homosexual, Catholic, Protestant, Wiccan and Jewish. Probably no other candidate has shown such a broad appeal, or excited such intense commitment in his supporters.  There’s a reason for this other than his good looks, of course, which we’ll explore in a minute.

From that last line, someone has an acute attack of nose in Paul’s ass disease.  I mean come on.  (And as if DavidDuke‘s website has any credibility when discussing the ADL.  It would be like expecting the KKK’s website to fairly discuss the NAACP or SPLC).  But back to the argument, if you can call it that.  Essentially they repeat the tired and broken line that having friends/supporters of a given group erases the possibility of prejudice, bigotry and hatred.  It does not.  Aside from being genuinely ignorant about Ron Paul’s racism, there are those who simply have other priorities, or who refuse to look at the facts.

The problem is not that Ron Paul has racist blowhards for supporters.  The problem is that Ron Paul has actively pandered to these groups, and has worked to bring their malicious rhetoric of bigotry into the mainstream.   The problem is Ron Paul’s positions, even when they don’t actively appeal in and of themselves to hate groups, provide the exact same arguments, excuses and loopholes sought by those who opposed every shred of dignity and every step of progress we took together as a nation during the civil rights movement.

It would be so easy for Ron Paul to deal with this White Supremacist skeleton once and for all.  He could come out and condemn these groups.  He could take responsibility for and apologize for the articles he wrote and the groups he supported, and promise not to do so again.  He could stop using the insane rhetoric surrounding his ideas about who controls the banks and other bits of hate group grist in his speeches.

He could recognize that maybe, for some fundamental rights, federal level protection is desirable.  Hell, he could even realize that for human rights, we need world level action.  But that’s a bit progressive for most these days, especially a modern day isolationist.

So in the meantime it looks like we’ll keep hearing about these little messes, and his supporters will continue to cover their eyes and ears, and shout desperate things in our general direction.

But until Ron Paul takes the right stand on bigotry and hate, he isn’t even a viable candidate.

Republicans Might Want Huckabee After All

The hand wringing(Auguste, Pandagon) about how Huckabee “isn’t a true conservative” has been going on so long I’m beginning to see some shifty eyes were before I saw blushing cheeks only.  MeThinks the Elephant doth protest too much.

Huckabee is the heavy breathing sweaty dream of every repressed Christ-o-fascist in this country.  His election would start a chain reaction that would not stop until it turned the rhetoric of a “Christian Nation” into an oppressive reality.

Maybe there are some pure-bred economic conservatives out there, the corporatists who don’t want to see Huckabee sing his populist bread and circus song.  But I think there are some who vote on issues like abortion and evolution first, and they want nothing more than for this country to see Huckabee as an electable moderate.  He is not.

If he gets the nomination, there is no way liberals will swallow the Huck-friendly crap being slyly peddled.  The only thing that might happen is a few “its the economy stupid” Republicans might get freaked out by all the spin and steal a few longing glances over at the Democratic candidate.

HuffPo Misses the Point on Edwards

In discussing the 527 group “controversy”, Sam Stein of the Huffington post writes:

In 2004, ironically, Edwards was on the opposite side of the 527 debate, criticizing President Bush for not personally stopping Swift Boat Veterans for Truth from attacking John Kerry’s Vietnam service.

“There’s one person, one person who can put an end to this today if he had the backbone, the courage, the leadership to do it. And that person is George W. Bush,” he said back then. “Every day that this goes on and the president refuses to say ‘stop these ads,’ we’re learning more and more about the character of George W. Bush.”

The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth were lying.  Period.  That was why Edwards spoke so passionately against them, and correctly called Bush out for smirking in the background while they spun in the foreground.

Of course, beyond the implications of a candidate meddling in 527 affairs, there are virtually no similarities between the Swift Boat episode and respective 2008 ads. The Alliance for New America has a policy agenda – the group has been hired by six local branches of the Service Employees International Union. And while it touts only Edwards as the candidate to solve health care, energy, and campaign finance issues, the group does not make individual political attacks in its advertising campaign.

In other words, Stein’s tenuous comparison fails.

The point of the 527 dust up is the very existence of these groups, and how they allow cash flow and advertising that benefits candidates without being subject to the same campaign regulations.  Obama, the loudest candidate to critique Edwards, has a nonsensical position on the use of 527’s (which is a very silly thing to do when it is the 527 groups themselves, and not the content, one attacks).

Now we can either restrict speech during a campaign season, which makes my spine crawl just thinking about it, or we can let 527 groups be.  If there were to be any regulation, then I would say regulating the amount or kind of funding these groups get would be the way to go.

But the thing that roils people is Edward’s past advisor heading up the reigns of the 527:

The Alliance for New America, the 527 behind the ads, has been at the center of controversy for several days after it was revealed that Nick Baldick, a former high-ranking Edwards’ adviser, headed the organization.

Baldick, whose firm was on the Edward’s payroll as recently as the campaign’s second quarter

Would this have been any less of a problem if it was someone not directly involved in the campaign?

President Huckabee: Theocratic States of America

Imagine this scenario. In a close primary, Hillary takes the nomination. The up for grabs “we don’t really want any of them” Republican field collapses and Huckabee emerges with his bloody cross held triumphant.

Disgusted with a Lieberman Democrat as the candidate for the general, boatloads of Dems stay home and protest the vote. Meanwhile, lusting to abolish the wall between Church and State, Republican evangelicals flock to the polls in record numbers.

Even before the outcome is made into a self fulfilling prophecy with exit polls, we feel the coming theocracy bolt up our spines and settle in the pits of our stomachs.

President Huckabee is sworn in for four years, and will wield power for eight. He appoints more Supreme Court Justices. He overstuffs the courts with “Bible-Belt Christianity before the Constitution” judges and attorneys. Every federal agency he can get his hands on pushes the last pre-Bush era stalwarts out into the street, while street preachers with “God hates Fags” signs crowd in.

This is the America we face if we do not act. An America of the People, by Christians, and for Christians.

Bush set us all up, but it is Huckabee who would knock us all down.

Obama’s Big 527 Mistake

Barack Obama is criticizing Edward’s connection with a 527 group that plans to run an ad in his favor (ABC Political Radar, via The Huffington Post).  That in itself is a pretty normal move to make during a campaign season.  The problem is in Obama’s own attitude towards 527 groups:

Obama would not definitively answer if he would accept 527s in the general election, but said during the primary season he would tell them to stop.

So magically, 527’s would be ok in the general?

“What I hope to do is to get Republicans to come up with some sort of agreement in terms of how we are going to operate,” Obama said, “You know, I’m not going to endanger the Democratic party’s ability to win races by letting the other side outspend us by two or three million dollars.”

Ah, now we come down to it.  In the primaries its all about staying away from those nasty 527 groups.  But once the general hits, we’ve gotta stay competitive against the Republicans, and out go the ethics:  win at all costs!  Moves like this edge Obama ever closer to Hillary in the public eye.

Either 527 groups are acceptable, or they are not.  If they are not, then he is keeping an option open he never intends to use, when closing that door would have an immediate and lasting political benefit.  If they are acceptable, then he is offering the Republicans a cheap shot come the general and making himself look foolish during the primaries.

In fairness to Barack, he’s probably trying to setup public pressure on the Republicans in a novel way.  If framed as a mutual decision on 527’s, then the prohibition against using such groups would hold greater weight in the public’s eye.  However his attack on Edwards comes across as the most oddly unprincipled sort of “Do as I say, not as I do” politics.  He seems to be all about keeping his options open, even when he himself finds those options improper.

Mitt Romney IS Martin Luther King Jr

Apparently some creepy liberals caught Mitt Romney being modest (Kagro X, Daily Kos):

Yeah, it’s getting more ridiculous by the minute. George Romney never marched with Martin Luther King, but Mitt says he was speaking “figuratively.” That his father marched at some other time, in some other place, with King elsewhere, but that the march was in solidarity with King. And therefore, in Romney’s mind… “with” King.

Of course, he never “saw” it either, as he’d claimed, because he was in France at the time.

But now it turns out he’s been telling people he marched with King.

I’m sure that’s “figurative,” too.

Actually, Mitt Romney IS MLK. As was his father before him. The man is just being modest by merely claiming to have marched with King in Detroit. Is modesty a crime now? For shame Daily Kos and Boston Globe. You haven’t caught a bishop and stake president of the Mormon faith in a desperate lie trying to balance his religion’s problems with black people. Its just a man who led a generation to greater freedom and equality trying his very best to say “awww, shucks”.