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    • The NYTimes Reveals More Than It Means
      Watch this video. It’s only 39 seconds. It’s worth it. What’s interesting to me about this video is NOT what Bernie says, it’s the reaction. It’s how genuinely uncomfortable the people interviewing him (The NYTimes editors) are. They really think he’s saying something terrible. Something awkward. Something embarrassing. What is he saying? “I ignore the […] […]
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The President’s Preacher Help Line

Recently, The New York Times and the Telegraph uk have published articles about five religious leaders who are advising President Barack Obama. Supposedly Obama has sought these five men’s counsel (yes, they are all men natch) because he has been without a church and pastor of his own since he threw his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright under the bus on April 28, 2008 and subsequently on June 1, 2008 resigned from Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ, presumably in return for the unearned Michigan delegates he was handed by the DNC on May 31 at the infamous meeting of the Rules and Bylaws Committee in Washington, DC.

The five men who have been chosen to attend to the President’s spiritual needs are “overwhelmingly opposed to abortion,” according to the Telegraph; and all except Otis Moss, Jr. are opposed to equal rights for homosexuals. Here is a little information about each of Obama’s “prayer circle”:

Otis Moss, Jr.

Otis Moss, Jr.


Otis Moss, Jr., whom The New York Times calls “a graying lion of the civil rights movement,” is pastor emeritus of Cleveland’s Olivet Institutional Baptist Church and a member of Obama’s White House Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. He is also the father of Jerimiah Wright’s replacment as pastor of Obama’s former church, Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago (interestingly, this connection was not mentioned in the White House press release announcing Otis Moss, Jr.’s appointment). According to the Associated Baptist Press,

As a young preacher in his native Georgia, Moss helped lead sit-ins at segregated lunch counters and fought for voting rights for blacks. He went to jail several times for participating in sit-ins and marches.

He marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, Ala., and Washington, and urged Jesse Jackson to run for president in 1983. Moss was co-chair of the National African American Religious Committee of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign…

According to the conservative Weekly Standard, Moss is close to Jeremiah Wright.

Otis Moss Jr. and Wright shared a mentor in Samuel DeWitt Proctor, who helped give rise to black liberation theology. In fact, it was the radical Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference that sponsored Wright’s now-infamous National Press Club appearance in late April 2008–which led to Obama’s break with Trinity and Wright. Less noted was the fact that the symposium’s guest preacher that day was Reverend Otis Moss Jr. Moss has publicly defended Wright and compared his preaching to that of Amos, Micah, Malachi, and John the Baptist.

Moss’s closeness to Wright is expressed most clearly in the 40-minute tribute sermon he preached from Trinity’s pulpit on the occasion of Wright’s 36th anniversary at the church in February 2008. Of Wright, Reverend Moss said: “All of us who know him and love him have been blessed by his genius, his creativity, his scholarship, his discipleship, his sensitivity as an artist, his boldness as a prophet, and, I agree, his rhythmic poetry.” This homage came long after Wright’s hit parade of sound-bites: “God Damn America”  . . .”America’s chickens are coming home to roost” .  .  . “Bill did us like he did Monica Lewinsky.” Poetry indeed.

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The U.S. government further nationalizes over religion, liberalism takes another hit

(Cross-posted from Heidi Li’s Potpourri)

The proper relationship between markets and governments in a liberal state is a debatable one. Adam Smith, generally understood to be one of the major progenitors of modern laisezz faire economic-political theory, did not advocate for the absence of the government intervention in economic affairs. Indeed he felt that the state, via law, would be required to create efficient markets because, in the era in which he wrote, professions and financial institutions were dominated by private parties who had not achieved that domination through economic division of labor and competition – the hallmarks of the Smithean classical economic theory. Rather, professions and financial institutions were dominated by guilds and churches, among other groups, who had achieved their economic position not by virtue of serving the economic interests of the community well, but as a side-effect or perk of attaining power in other ways. Smith’s economic theory qualifies as liberal not because it advocates minimal government intervention in economic affairs, but because of its egalitarianism: Smith argued that in order to create equal opportunity for individuals pursuing their economic self-interest (which he believed would have the fortuitious effect of creating an overall efficient wealth creating economy), power had to be removed from the special interest groups of his day (the guilds, the churches, etc.) that denied that equal opportunity on grounds that had nothing to do with economic interests (e.g. excluding some people from some sorts of jobs on the grounds of the religion) or with simply shoring up economic self interest that was not being exercised within a system likely to maximize overall wealth creation.

Today, President Obama has signed an executive order creating “a revamped White House office for religion-based and neighborhood programs, expanding aninitiative started by the Bush administration that provides government
support — and financing — to religious and charitable organizations that deliver social services.” (See this New York Times article, also reprinted after the jump in this post for all quotations).

This is precisely the inverse of a Smithean approach to government and the economy. Wholly apart from questions related to the constitutionality of the expanded office and its powers, this inversion must be noted on grounds of its illiberalism. What the expanded office does is to advantage certain groups – faith-based ones – not on grounds of the likelihood of their contributing to efficient wealth production, but on the grounds that the President believes they are “good” and will do “good”:

“No matter how much money we invest or how sensibly we design our policies, the change that Americans are looking for will not come from government alone,” Mr. Obama said. “There is a force for good greater than government.”

Whether or not one agrees with President Obama’s metaphysics (if by forces for good he is referencing supernatural beings) or his confidence in the beneficence of organized religious groups (including, see article, The Church of Scientiology) has nothing to do with the illiberalism of the government funding religious groups to expand their resources for “to lift up those who have fallen on hard times,” as President Obama put it.

If one of the tasks for our society is to aid those who have fallen on hard times, we have two established, liberal ways to accomplish that task. We can entrust the job to the market, assuming that entrepeneurs will find a way to serve their own economic interest while helping others. Indeed, many mega-churches can be understood as doing just just this: they participate in the supply-and-demand cycle for charitable services, often advantaged by all sorts of tax-exemptions, not just on income but on property owned. Or we can choose to add social safety nets officiated over by civil servants acting directly on behalf of the state.

The Time article notes: “In announcing the expansion of the religion office, Mr. Obama did not settle the biggest question: Can religious groups that receive federal money for social service programs hire only those who share their faith?”

Sometimes a conspicuous lack of an answer tells us more than any answer could. The fact that this question – whether faith-based organizations who receive direct government funding to engage in economic activity may discriminate on the basis in their own hiring practices – has not been giving a resounding no tells us that there is not even aspiration to liberalism in this effort to further meld government and religion in this country. Recall, Smith specifically objected to the negative that churches had on the creation of efficient provision of goods and services because churches imposed noneconomically relevant criteria who could participate in the provision of those goods and services. President Obama’s new office flies in the face of this point.

Perhaps this is why his executive order was signed stealthily, “away from the view of television cameras or an audience”?

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Merry Almost Christmas!

I Hate You, and You, and You...

I Hate You, and You, and You...

In the spirit of the season, I’d like to take a break from my usual snark to ask this question:

Who Would Jesus Hate?

Now, if you ask Rick Warren, it’s Jews, women who have abortions and are not properly submissive to their husbands, and teh gays. (Whew – that’s a lotta hatin’.)

If you ask the pope, it’s teh gays. (Yes, homosexuality is hot! Oh, that’s not what he meant?)

I know I’m a Jooo, but so was Jesus. And if we’re going to cherry-pick the Bible to make it reflect our beliefs (as all Judeo-Christians do, since the book is full of contradictions and outdated restrictions), then why can’t we pick the most enlightened parts, the most tolerant parts, the most loving parts?

Like this one:

“If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing….

And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”

– 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

And what about this, which is directly attributed to Jesus himself?

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

Matthew 22:36-40

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Churches and Gay Marriage: Why Don’t They Mix?

(NOTE: My thoughts and prayers go out to all the victims of terrorism in Mumbai. Such a terrible tragedy. I just can’t write more about it today.)

Why Is This Scary?

Why Is This Scary?

After the passage of California’s Proposition 8,  I’ve been shaking my head over why many religious institutions are virulently against gay marriage. This interview with Richard Rodriguez, an author, fervent Catholic, proud Hispanic, and “out” gay man, has a very interesting take on the subject. According to him, it’s all about the family and the wimminz, and how the church is afraid of losing its power over them both. I have to admit that I’ve never heard of this theory before, but Rodriguez makes a convincing case for his point of view.

The first couple of paragraphs pack quite a wallop.

For author Richard Rodriguez, no one is talking about the real issues behind Proposition 8.

While conservative churches are busy trying to whip up another round of culture wars over same-sex marriage, Rodriguez says the real reason for their panic lies elsewhere: the breakdown of the traditional heterosexual family and the shifting role of women in society and the church itself. As the American family fractures and the majority of women choose to live without men, churches are losing their grip on power and scapegoating gays and lesbians for their failures.

Rodriguez goes on to say this about how the feminist movement and the gay rights movement are linked, in the minds of those who are invested in religious institutions:

American families are under a great deal of stress. The divorce rate isn’t declining, it’s increasing. And the majority of American women are now living alone. We are raising children in America without fathers. I think of Michael Phelps at the Olympics with his mother in the stands. His father was completely absent. He was negligible; no one refers to him, no one noticed his absence.

The possibility that a whole new generation of American males is being raised by women without men is very challenging for the churches. I think they want to reassert some sort of male authority over the order of things. I think the pro-Proposition 8 movement was really galvanized by an insecurity that churches are feeling now with the rise of women.

Monotheistic religions feel threatened by the rise of feminism and the insistence, in many communities, that women take a bigger role in the church. At the same time that women are claiming more responsibility for their religious life, they are also moving out of traditional roles as wife and mother. This is why abortion is so threatening to many religious people — it represents some rejection of the traditional role of mother.

In such a world, we need to identify the relationship between feminism and homosexuality. These movements began, in some sense, to achieve visibility alongside one another. I know a lot of black churches take offense when gay activists say that the gay movement is somehow analogous to the black civil rights movement. And while there is some relationship between the persecution of gays and the anti-miscegenation laws in the United States, I think the true analogy is to the women’s movement. What we represent as gays in America is an alternative to the traditional male-structured society. The possibility that we can form ourselves sexually — even form our sense of what a sex is — sets us apart from the traditional roles we were given by our fathers.

Continue reading

Wednesday Morning- Hunkering Down

Alright, there’s no reason to belabor the point. Yeah, yeah, courtesy of intense media fluffing Obama is ahead. But it’s not over yet. One good debate should put everything back in perspective.

Anyway, there’s more stuff for me to do today. What do these people want from me, a cure for cancer?!?! Er, Ok, I’ll try. (NOTE: I happen to be the luckiest person in the world when it comes to work. I have a job I love and I work for a woman who I admire greatly. She is fair, collaborative, professional and the best mentor I have ever had. So, I’m just kidding about the work thing. It’s actually quite fun.) In the meantime, enjoy these fine selections from around the web:

  • Terry Gross does it again with another great interview comparing the healthcare plans of the candidates. Political scientist Jonathan Oberlander is her guest. Highly recommended.
  • ghost2 pointed me to a speech that Obama gave in 2006 where we can get an idea of the roll of religion in his America:

    Democrats, for the most part, have taken the bait. At best, we may try to avoid the conversation about religious values altogether, fearful of offending anyone and claiming that – regardless of our personal beliefs – constitutional principles tie our hands. At worst, some liberals dismiss religion in the public square as inherently irrational or intolerant, insisting on a caricature of religious Americans that paints them as fanatical, or thinking that the very word “Christian” describes one’s political opponents, not people of faith.Such strategies of avoidance may work for progressives when the opponent is Alan Keyes. But over the long haul, I think we make a mistake when we fail to acknowledge the power of faith in the lives of the American people, and join a serious debate about how to reconcile faith with our modern, pluralistic democracy.

    (snip)

    This is why, if we truly hope to speak to people where they’re at – to communicate our hopes and values in a way that’s relevant to their own – we cannot abandon the field of religious discourse. …

    Senator Barack Obama

    I don’t know about you but I don’t particularly like the idea that my presidential candidate assumes that religion is an essential part of our lives and I don’t care which religion he’s referring to. If the religious want to talk amongst themselves about the value of religion in their lives, that’s just ticketyboo but must the rest of us be subjected to it? I happen to have a faith but my adolescent decided at the tender age of nine that she doesn’t believe in God. I don’t recall her saying she didn’t believe in good moral behavior and values. It was just the whole God part she had trouble swallowing. Obama gives me the impression that she’s somehow unfulfilled because she’s not a religious person, as if her moral maturity level is stunted and it would behoove her to hear about the religious values and dogmas of others. This is one of the many reasons I can’t support Obama. I don’t hear any tolerance from him regarding non-believers. Instead of telling the faithful to back off and let others have some breathing room, he takes pains to chastise his own side for daring to dissent on the necessity of faith itself. The pluralistic society he refers to contains not just many faiths but sometimes NO faith. He seems to run from unpopular faiths like Islam and he fails to acknowledge the full citizenship of the atheist. That’s just wrong, IMHO.

  • I never liked Howard Dean. There, I said it. When the whole world was going crazy for him in 2004, he just didn’t do it for me. The hype around him seemed artificial, sort of like Obama today. And whatever his message was, it didn’t resonate with me. It had nothing to do with the scream. I felt this way about Dean before the scream. He projected something that just bounced off of me. Wes Clark was more my style. But the netroots like Howard and I think the failure to get him nominated in 2004 has a lot to do with their zealous frenzy to push Obama down our throats in 2008: it makes them feel important. But it’s sort of like being rebels without a cause. Many of them know that Obama is not ready or doesn’t have their best interests at heart. That’s not the point. The point is they are not going to be told what to do. They are the new generation, blah, blah, blah. Like the rest of us are geezers. Anyway, back to Howard. If anyone is responsible for the mess that the nomination process is in right now, it’s Howard. My theory, and you can disagree if you’d like, is that Howard is an Idea Rat. In Dilbert cartoons, the Idea Rat is the one who comes to meetings and says stuff like “We need to restructure our core compentencies and maximize our values to become a worldclass organization!” And everyone says what a great idea that is (it could be something much more worthy than bizspeak, but you get the point) and they turn to him and say, “Go do it” and he says, “Oh, I can’t do it. I’m just an Idea Rat.” This is Howard. He’s got a lot of great ideas but implementation is a problem. He’s not quite sure how to pull that off. So, yes, it is a great idea that the big Democratic states finally got a say in the primary system after letting NH and Iowa pick our candidates. But it sucks that now that I’ve gotten to cast my ballot for my candidate of choice in NJ, along with my likeminded friends in NY, CA, MA, MI and FL, *our* preferences will be essentially negated by Howard’s not-very-well-thought-through decision to not seat the Florida and Michigan delegations. The disenfranchisement of a good portion of the Democratic electorate by the elimination of Florida is summed up in the following cartoon.florida chad Thanks Howard.